The coronavirus crisis is a reminder that catastrophes sometimes befall civilization with little or no warning. U.S. policymakers can be forgiven for not realizing how quickly the virus would spread, but they have had plenty of warning about other dangers that could cause widespread suffering.
Foremost among these is the threat of nuclear attack. A single nuclear warhead aimed at a major U.S. city could kill more Americans than all 675,000 men, women and children lost during the Spanish flu outbreak of 1918 (the worst pandemic on record).
Recognizing the danger, Washington is modernizing every part of its strategic arsenal to assure deterrence of nuclear aggression by Russia or China. However, other nuclear actors such as North Korea are emerging that may not be deterred by the threat of massive retaliation.
The only real solution Washington has to cope with threats from such rogue states—Iran’s future behavior looks unpredictable as well—is to build active defenses of the American homeland. The word “active” in this context means being able to track and intercept nuclear warheads approaching U.S. territory, rather than merely threatening retaliation.
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