Star Wars Revisited

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A bipartisan push for a national missile defense system will not lay to rest U.S. concerns over attacks by rogue states such as North Korea and Iran. "If I'm a bad guy, would I attack the U.S. with the only weapon that has a return address on it?" asks TIME Pentagon correspondent Mark Thompson. "Even if [the missile defense system] is perfect and it works, then the bad guy, if he's serious, will just come at you in another way. This only takes care of a small part of the problem."

And problems there are aplenty. Russia claims that the missile defense legislation, sponsored by Senators Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), violates the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Defensive Missile treaty, which restricts implementation of defense systems. Cost is another sore point. Says Thompson: "Clinton would like to have you believe that this system will cost around $11 billion, but if you believe that, I've got a $1,000 Porsche for sale." It looks as if Vice President Al Gore could be the only person left smiling from of the deal: President Clinton has decided to delay making a decision about a national missile defense system until June 2000. That would provide a Gore campaign with a timely response to charges from Republicans that Democrats are soft on defense.