Son of Star Wars: Stepping up the nuclear arms race

Son of Star Wars: Stepping up the nuclear arms race

ANTI-NUCLEAR protesters and millions of working-class people will oppose George Bush’s new defence strategy, based on the National Missile Defence system (NMD – dubbed ‘Son of Star Wars’).

Chris Newby

Some government heads also oppose it. They fear that George W “Dysfunctional” Bush could rekindle the nuclear arms race.

Last summer, under Clinton’s administration, the government’s top analyst on missile proliferation said that NMD would set off “an unsettling series of political and military ripple effects… including a sharp build-up of strategic and medium-range nuclear missiles by China, India and Pakistan and the further spread of military technology in the Middle East”.

This new initiative (estimated cost $240 billion) will virtually double US defence spending, delighting the US defence industry.

The top four missile contractors have given more than $7 million in donations and contributions since 1997 to key members of Congress, and spent an estimated $18 million on lobbying.

Bush’s defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld has close links with missile defence contractors. He’s an adviser for the Centre for Security Policy (centre of the Star Wars lobby).

NMD is unreliable as well as expensive. It’s failed two of its previous three intercept tests. The system at this stage will combine satellite warning systems with ground or sea-based interceptor missiles. The technology doesn’t yet exist to destroy missiles from space and probably won’t do so for at least eight years.

Bush also wants to tear up decades-old arms treaties, claiming that the main threat now comes from such states as Iran, Iraq or North Korea, not Russia and China.

A 1998 US congressional report said that within five years North Korea and Iran could acquire a ballistic missile capable of reaching the USA. A key person on this panel was Donald Rumsfeld – coincidence?

Meanwhile Bush has slashed hundreds of millions of dollars of aid to nuclear safety projects in Russia, which try to secure nuclear stockpiles against theft and retrain Russian nuclear scientists.

Bush claims that NMD is a defensive strategy but if it can neutralise other states’ nuclear weapons, this allows free rein for the US’s own offensive capability. Other states, notably China, seem to view it in this light and talk of increasing their nuclear arsenal as a result.

The NMD project will involve upgrading Fylingdales early warning system in Yorkshire (at a cost of billions). Is New Labour’s recent support based on promises of lucrative defence contracts as well as its slavish support for US imperialism?

Wasted resources

Even if NMD was stopped, working class people can have no faith in nuclear arms agreements between capitalist governments which regularly support repression of workers’ rights and living conditions.

The Socialist Party condemns all such spending as a huge waste of resources that could otherwise be used to develop the living conditions of everyone on this planet.

A socialist society would turn the skills of all workers and scientists in the defence industry to socially useful projects such as new developments in healthcare.