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A Vote for Missile Defense -- And Gay Marriage

By Ed Koch

North Korea has threatened both Japan and the United States by test firing missiles. Those whose ranges are capable of reaching Japan may also be capable of carrying nuclear warheads. The single long-range missile which misfired is theoretically capable of reaching Alaska, Hawaii and perhaps even the West Coast of the U.S. But, in the opinion of experts, it is presently too heavy to be able to carry a nuclear warhead. That may change as weapons systems miniaturize.

According to the White House, the U.S. tracked the North Korean rocket that could have reached the U.S. and was in a position to attempt to intercept it if it approached U.S. territory. It fell into the sea, instead. The ability to destroy incoming missiles comes under the rubric of President Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) announced in March 1983, thereafter referred to by the skeptical media as "Star Wars." Reagan at that time according to Wikipedia.com "suggested that the Russians would be given access to the SDI technology."

That SDI program was made operational by the current President Bush who, on December 13, 2001 terminated the anti-ballistic missile treaty which had been signed in 1972 by the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. The treaty was terminated to allow the building of needed radar and other installations in Alaska and elsewhere which were barred by the treaty. President Bush, like Reagan, was derided by the left for pursuing an ABM defense system. My recollection is that the opponents questioned the feasibility of such a system being able to shoot down a missile directed at us, and predicted that it would set off a new arms race with Russia. I am unaware of any new arms race resulting from our development and deployment of an ABM defense system.

Whether or not the defense system is currently able to shoot down incoming missiles with the necessary proficiency, I have no way of knowing. I believe that the tests to date have been inconclusive. Some experts believe the technical problems encountered to date could be overcome with additional outlays for research and development. Based on our ability to engage in space flight, it is reasonable to conclude that our aerospace engineers are capable of creating a useable anti-ballistic missile system. Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld on December 3, 2001, put it best: "I think (building something perfect) is an unrealistic expectation, nor do I think it's necessary that things be perfect...Nothing we have is perfect. Your cars aren't perfect, your bikes aren't perfect, our eyeglasses aren't perfect. We live with that all the time. If you cannot do everything, does that mean you should not do anything? I think not."

Are there still Americans who oppose the development of an anti-ballistic missile system? The argument in favor of such weapons is that there are rogue states that might someday have the power to launch a missile directed at us or directed at our allies, e.g. Japan and Israel. That day, we now see, is here. The argument that rogue states might give nuclear bombs and delivery systems or the know-how to make them to terrorists is surely closer to reality than in the past. Why not ask those in Congress, heretofore opponents of anti-ballistic missile safeguards, what they think about that issue today?

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Same-sex marriage, having been rejected by the New York State Court of Appeals, will now be the subject of a broad effort at a legislative solution. The argument in support of a change in the law to allow same-sex marriage is overwhelming -- fairness.

Supporters of same-sex marriage believe there are a myriad of rights that same-sex partners are deprived of by not having the right to marry, e.g., a surviving spouse's right to Social Security or company pensions, medical plan coverage for a living spouse, and a surviving spouse's right of election upon death (to one-third of the deceased spouse's estate). Domestic partnership legislation was passed during my administration and domestic partnership rights have been expanded by Mayors David Dinkins and Michael Bloomberg. However, many supporters of same-sex marriage say domestic partnership, even if it provided federal and state tax benefits, is not enough. I agree. In 1967, the Supreme Court struck down the prohibition against interracial marriages. If it was wrong to prohibit interracial marriage, it is just as wrong to prohibit same-sex marriage. I have no doubt that the New York state legislature will ultimately accept same-sex marriages, as it should.

Ed Koch is the former Mayor of New York City.

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