Star Wars and Threats

by Ronald Bleier (rbleier@igc.org)

NOTE: The following letter (with minor changes) was emailed to The New York Times on 5.18.96 but apparently the editors have decided not to print it.

To the Editor:
While Representative Curt Weldon's (R-WA) letter (5.17.96) advocating increased funding for a missile defense system undoubtedly emanates out of a partisan political context, the legislator hits on the awful truth that the world is indeed becoming a more dangerous place. Any number of indicators point to an era of increased tensions and rumors of war.

Nevertheless, even while the world is becoming more dangerous, deploying missile defense systems cannot be the answer. Not only are they unlikely to work effectively in real world situations, but the y will exacerbate the situation by heightening the arms race and by increasing international apprehension about U.S. policy.

More importantly, throwing even more money at the military diverts scarce resources away from the more fundamental issue of population growth colliding with an ever diminishing amount of critical resources. According to Worldwatch, an organization that tracks resource issues, we are in the midst of a decline in per capita arable and irrigable land; our grain stocks have hit an almost 50-year low and we have dangerously depleted virtually all the world's major fisheries.

Mr. Weldon is correct to point to North Korea as a country liable to lash out. He neglects to mention, however, that millions of North Koreans are currently threatened by starvation, in part because of the devastating floods there last August. Unfortunately this has occurred at the height of donor fatigue. After recently contributing $2 million worth of grain (of a world total of $10million) to the Koreans, the U.S. has refused more food aid and none is in the pipeline.

It's not unlikely that our fatigue is due in large part to the fact that world grain stocks are so low. Policy planners here may be concerned about the upward pressure more grain donations to North K orea might have on grain prices which have more than doubled in the last six months and which are increasingly becoming a serious concern.

We may be entering an era where tightening food supplies are having a discernable effect on security issues. Ironically, increased military spending, especially of the kind Mr. Weldon advocates, can only make things worse.

Yes, the world is becoming more dangerous but instead of hastening to military solutions, we would be better advised to direct scarce resources at maintaining our food and water supplies by controlling population growth, and by preserving arable lands, wetlands and forest areas which must be our ultimate source of wealth and security.