Missile defense test succeeds

— 12:29 AM on July 16, 2001

In a move that dismayed lefty luddites everywhere, the U.S. conducted a successful test of a missile defense system this past weekend. This was a ground-launched "kill vehicle" that took out an ICBM with a dummy warhead by ramming into the thing 144 miles above the earth's surface. The interceptor didn't include any explosives or frickin' lasers or anything; it just rammed into the missile.

Accounts from U.S. news agencies have been short on detail and long on low-quality political analysis. One component of the political "analysis" has centered on the feasibility of such a system; a popular argument says a missile defense system just can't be done. News analyses about this issue rarely pause to consider the technical realities involved here, despite parroting the "it can't be done" line. I'm mystified by this argument, because it's so wildly different from the American attitude about past challenges which were, quite frankly, much greater—from World War II to the Apollo missions. I don't doubt there are substantial obstacles to building a successful missile defense system, but tests like the one this past weekend are heartening. They pinpointed and rammed a frickin' ICBM in outer space, for goshsakes.

No defense is going to be 100% effective, but if you lose Cincinnati while saving Cleveland, isn't that better than losing them both?

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