Attention [is] so focused on missile defense and its polarizing political debate, that this one issue has eclipsed all others - and the battleground over missile defense has obscured common ground on other issues.
Judging from the debate following President Bush's speech last month at National Defense University, one would think missile defense was the only subject he addressed. It was not. He did, indeed, state his Administration's intention to deploy missile defenses, but he also pledged to "change the size, the composition, the character of our nuclear forces in a way that reflects the reality that the Cold War is over."
Obviously, both highly-charged politics and legitimate policy differences on missile defense complicate the search for common ground. Let me suggest, however, that the search for common ground is further complicated because the Administration has been slow to address by word or deed the missing link - the link between changes in our offensive and defensive systems and the essential cooperation required to prevent the proliferation of weapons, missiles and materials in the first place.
Diplomacy and cooperation are our first line of defense against the spread of weapons of mass destruction. Missile defense is our last line of defense…. At present the Administration seems to be more highly invested in developing our last line of defense and under-invested in the diplomatic and cooperative efforts which are essential to protect us….
The Bush Administration is now … reviewing nonproliferation, offensive force posture, and missile defenses, as elements of the U.S. response to the threats of weapons of mass destruction. These reviews should not and must not be formulated into separate policies; they need to be parts of an integrated defense against the full range of threats. This notion was embedded in President Bush's speech last month, where he said: "Today's world requires a new policy; a broad strategy of active nonproliferation, counter-proliferation and defenses."
But a "broad strategy" cannot mean merely to address each threat; it must mean an effort to provide a comprehensive defense against weapons of mass destruction…. It must give the most weight to threats that are the most immediate, the most likely, and the most potentially devastating. The cost incurred should be proportionate to the threat deterred. And it should reflect the fact that today's greatest threats are not from nuclear warheads loaded on missiles and launched from a rogue state, but from warheads in the belly of a ship or the back of a truck delivered with no return address. In sum, the strategy should be the result of a carefully thought-out strategic effort to assess each risk, rank each threat, compute every cost, and confront the full range of dangers in a way that defends against one without making us more vulnerable to another. This will not be easy. But … the development of such an integrated, risk-based strategy is an essential pre-condition to the development of an enduring political consensus on a new national security framework.