Brennan, D.G.
April 1969
Foreign Affairs;Apr1969, Vol. 47 Issue 3, p433
This article examines the reasons for favoring the Ballistic Missiles Defense (BMD) deployment in the U.S. in 1969. The subject of defense against ballistic missiles probably occupies a unique position among strategic issues of the nuclear era. It has been more intensely debated in the U.S. than any other weapon system selected for deployment such as the air-defense system or Polaris or Minuteman, or any other arms-control measure adopted to date, including the ban on nuclear tests. In an important sense, the key issues in the debate about BMD are not technical. Within the community of people who have carried out the BMD development, certain estimates have been made as to the plausible range of technical and economic effectiveness of systems that can be achieved in the near future. These estimates are subject to some controversy, yet even if the uncertainty and controversy concerning these estimates were wholly removed, most of the articulate critics of BMD would remain critical: their objections are rooted in other concerns. The most common way of characterizing the effect of a BMD system is to estimate the number of lives it might save in various specified circumstances. It is possible that a BMD system might perform in an actual war much less well than expected, because of some unforeseen technical failure. It is, however, about equally likely that the opposing offensive forces will perform much less well than expected, which is to say that the defenses may perform much better than expected.


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