An open letter to the President of the United States


Dear Mr. President:


Last night, CNN carried a report about an MIT professor who asserted that the proposed antiballistic missile system was not feasible.  The story centered on the difficulty in tracking decoy missiles in space.  This difficulty is in fact the major reason why the original “Star Wars” system proposed by President Reagan in 1983 was abandoned.


This entire discussion is misdirected.  The problem of tracking and discriminating among decoys is in fact a difficult one to solve, but it is irrelevant.  Once the attacking missiles are in space, it is too late.  An even more serious threat is the so-called “ladder-down” attack.  With this tactic, an initial nuclear blast is set off in space to disrupt communications and radar.  A second missile – now safe from detection and tracking – soars through the fireball, comes closer to the target, and is itself detonated.  This process is continued until a missile finally reaches its target.


Effective nuclear defense is virtually impossible to accomplish once the attacking missiles are in space on a ballistic trajectory toward their targets.  A defense strategy that does work, however, is to destroy ALL foreign missiles upon launch.  This strategy avoids all of the complications associated with trying to destroy missiles in space in the presence of decoys, chaff, and other penetration aids (such as those associated with the ladder-down attack).  Under the destroy-on-launch strategy, the US simply destroys every foreign missile as it is launched from the surface of the planet.  This strategy is technically feasible and very effective.  The only missiles allowed to be launched from anywhere are US missiles (or, perhaps, non-US missiles under on-site launch inspection by US military personnel).


While the destroy-on-launch strategy is feasible and effective against space-based attacks, it offers no protection against a so-called “suitcase-bomb attack,” in which nuclear bombs are simply hand-carried to target locations by human beings.  This type of attack requires no missiles, bombers, or other launch vehicles.  For more discussion of this threat, refer to the book, Can America Survive? at the Internet web site, .


I hope that this letter clarifies the antiballistic missile situation.  If you desire additional information, I shall be pleased to provide it (e-mail address




Joseph Caldwell

Gaborone, Botswana

May 20, 2000

Permission to copy granted.