Muqtedar Khan's Column on Global Affairs

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Dr. Muqtedar Khan is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Adrian College in Michigan.  He earned his Ph.D. in International Relations, Political Philosophy, and Islamic Political Thought,  from Georgetown University in May 2000.

Dr. Khan's column has appeared in The Daily Telegram, San Francisco Chronicle, Detroit Free Press, Detroit News, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Muslim Democrat,,,,, MiddleEast Online,, Arabies Trends, Al-Mustaqbal, and many other periodicals world wide.

For a comprehensive resume click here
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Muqtedar Khan

Fighting terrorism and preparing to defend against imminent attacks of colossal proportions from “rogue states” is the new mantra of the military-industrial complex. The end of the Cold War deprived the military-industrial complex of its greatest ally – the Soviet Union and its communist legions. The communist challenge and the Soviet threat and the ever-present danger it posed to the US justified the enormous amount of public resources that were spent on defense, sustaining a huge arms industry and scores of multi-millionaires.

The US still outspends the rest of the world on war making machinery and a large segment of the American elite has come to depend on this defense budget to become rich and powerful. In order to justify such enormous outlays, often in the vicinity of $300 billion a year, it is essential that American taxpayers be frightened into opening their valets and sending bigger and bigger checks to the Feds.  With the decline of the Soviet Union, terrorism has become the new ally of the military-industrial complex. I believe that the present administration that has close links to the arms industry is exaggerating the threat to the US from terrorists in order justify the anti-missile shield.

By the way remember that the huge tax reduction that Bush is currently proposing does not reduce defense expenditure. It will merely cut several programs that were implemented to deliver public services.  In fact the missile shield program that Bush is proposing will add another 200 Billion dollars in the next few years to the defense budget. I can visualize the smiles of glee and greed on the faces of several members of the arms industry jostling to get a chunk of the pie.

The claim that terrorism, conventional as well as biological, chemical, nuclear and technological is the number one threat to the US is highly exaggerated. First of all a close scrutiny at the annual report on Patterns of Global Terrorism, published by the State Department will reveal that most of the attacks use very simple conventional devices. Most terrorist groups do not have access to funds or technology like the Pentagon to really launch a sophisticated and sustained military attack using missiles and strategic weapons against the US.

So far the most successful attacks by terrorists have used surprise as their main weapon and their greatest assets has been their ability to outsmart US intelligence agencies. Riyadh, Dhammam, Nairobi, Darussalam, USS Cole, all these attacks were just variations of a powerful car bomb. And in most cases it has been human lapses, such as failure to act quickly on the decision to extend the perimeter in Riyadh or follow security protocols of not allowing boats within a few meters of the ship in the case of USS Cole, have been responsible for the success of the terrorists. It is not a lack of technology or missile shields that led to the devastating result from these attacks.

The missile shield program in its scope as an anti-terrorist defense is basically envisaged to protect the US from attacks by terrorists, who “somehow” procure ICBMs and nuclear weapons “from somewhere” and launch them at the US from some unknown destination.  

The military rationale for this program identifies threats from middle powers like Iran and North Korea.  While North Korea has a reasonably developed missile program and may be capable of building a couple of nuclear weapons, it still lacks the capacity to reach the US. Iran, according to US military sources, is at least 15 years from building a nuclear weapon and its missiles can barely reach a thousand miles. Iran’s strategic weapons as essentially designed as deterrence against Saddam Hussain and the nuclear and chemical arsenal of Israel. It is not a threat to the US.

Even if one were to smoke several joints at once to stretch their imagination and assume that somehow Iran will achieve a technological break through and develop an ICBM and a nuclear device over night, will it fire them at the US? At the US, which can in response obliterate Iran from the surface of the Earth in matters of seconds? Highly unlikely.

So what is the purpose of this extravagant missile shield whose technological prospects are rated as very dim at the present?  Even in Russia and China were added to the list of potential threats to the US, the launch of the missile defense project will only start another arms race rather than ensure security.

Where Was George Bush when his professor was lecturing on the security dilemma? Every time a state takes incremental measures to ensure its own security, it heightens the insecurity of others prompting them to respond in kind, which again makes the first state more insecure than before.

Ask the rich barons, what they think of another hi-tech arms race. They will smile and say, Kching! Kching!

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