The Bush administration has been very assertive in pushing its plan to build a National Defense System (NDS). Not one day passes without the bourgeois media mentioning this issue, and during the second week of June, George W. Bush made his first diplomatic trip to Europe, trying to persuade the "allies" that the American missile defense system would help the US protect them from potential missile attacks by rogue powers. What's going on? Why does the US want to scrap the 1972 Antiballistic Missile Treaty (ABM) -the treaty made with the old USSR in the height of the cold war? What's new in the imperialist, geopolitical scenario of the post-Cold War period?
First of all, it is is important to point out the Reagan administration had already posed the question of trashing the ABM treaty and building a space shield in what had come to be known as the Star Wars project during the 1980s. In continuity with this long-term design, the Clinton administration started the remodernization of the US military and went on with the testing of the technology necessary for the actual building of NDS. Clinton did not push the issue because of the repeated failures during tests of the military technology involved. But already in September 2000, Le Monde Diplomatique, a French bourgeois publication, concluded that Clinton's hesitations did not count much, since the choice of whether to go ahead or not rested ultimately with the new administration to be elected in November. Bush, then, is merely reviving a project that the American bourgeoisie has had for a long time. The question is, why right now?
If we are to believe the ideological justifications we find in the bourgeois press, NDS is a strategy that aims first and foremost at arms cuts. According to the bourgeoisie, NDS would discourage the production and use of nuclear arms. As a result, the working class is supposed to feel good about it, safe, and supportive of the project. The 1972 ABM treaty explicitly banned the building of a national defense system, reflecting the bourgeoisie's commitment to maintaining a "balance of power" as part of the doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). According to this doctrine, neither the US nor USSR would risk initiating a nuclear attack, because such an attack would prompt a retaliatory nuclear strike, that would lead to the destruction of both sides. A nuclear shield, or missile defense system, capable of shooting down the other side's missile, would have nullified the mutually assured destruction that was supposed to maintain the peace. Today the American bourgeoisie insists that the ABM treaty is outdated. What the US government is saying in essence is that they are no longer interested in a "balance of power." In fact, the existence of a US national defense system that can knock out another nation's missiles effectively destroys the concept of a "balance of power" and would establish an American military hegemony over the rest of the world.
Of course, the ABM treaty did not really provide for a safer world, and the US and Russia continued their arms race. Just like its predecessor, the NDS won't stabilize the world or provide safety. Quite the contrary. In the period of capitalist decadence, no nation is spared from having an interest in developing ever more sophisticated means of destruction with the hope of being up to the imperialist challenge of redividing the world and getting a slice of it for themselves. Today, the US uses the fact that nuclear weapons have or may spread to very unstable regions, especially so-called "rogue" states like, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, North Korea, as an excuse to justify the implementation of NDS. In reality, NDS will help the US assert its control and hegemony all over the world.
The Bush administration correctly points out that the world has changed. What they are lying about is the reasons. The threat that the US faces is not just from the "rogue" states, but above all from the challenge to its domination by its former allies. Since the collapse of the Eastern bloc, the US has remained the sole superpower in the world. Its domination of the world, however, has remained uncontested. Starting from the Gulf war, down to the implementation of the various "rapid reaction forces" to "take care" of mulitiple smaller conflicts breaking out at the same time, to the "humanitarian" interventions, it's clear the US is facing not only a much more unpredictable and unstable world, but all, contestation. Such contestation, however, does not worry the American bourgeoisie so much when it springs from minor imperialist powers as when it is voiced by its European "allies." It is essentially in response to such a situation that the US is pushing NDS.
At the same time as the ruling class has cut social benefits, as the economic crisis deepens leaving hundreds of thousands jobless and hopeless, as the decomposition of this rotting system spreads epidemics, desperation, and wars, the bourgeoisie proposes to spend billions of dollars on new military systems of mass destruction. The working class needs to denounce the total irrationality of NDS, or any imperialist project of this bankrupt ruling class, even as ruling class propaganda will tell us that this new round of militarization of society will help the working class by creating jobs.