21, No. 5, Sept. 6, 2001
Missile defense system wouldnt
deter foes, game theory shows
Mitchell, News Bureau Staff Writer
(217) 333-5491; email@example.com
As Congress ponders a $3 billion increase in funding for a national
missile defense system, UI professor Julian Palmore is looking at the
programs prospects for success from a mathematicians perspective
To predict whether deployment of a proposed NMD system against an intercontinental
ballistic missile attack makes sense, the UI mathematics professor and
a colleague applied basic insights drawn from a mathematical model known
as game theory. Their conclusions were detailed in the August issue
of the journal Defense Analysis, in a paper titled "A Game Theory
View of Preventive Defense Against Ballistic Missile Attack."
The papers co-author is Francois Melese, a professor of economics
at the Defense Resources Management Institutes Naval Postgraduate
School in Monterey, Calif.
Palmore is a faculty member in the UIs Program in Arms Control,
Disarmament and International Security and teaches a course called "Technology
and Security Preventive Defense Against Weapons of Mass Destruction."
Last May, he was tapped by the Union of Concerned Scientists to present
an award to Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., and former Pentagon chief tester
Philip Coyle for their efforts to promote sound science in national
security policy. Palmore recently was chosen to serve as guest editor
of an upcoming special issue of Defense Analysis on ballistic missile
defense; the journal will publish another paper by the UI professor
on related topics later this year.
Regarding the feasibility of the proposed NMD, Palmore and Melese write
in the current issue that "the underlying assumption is that the
objective of the administration is to minimize overall risk to the nation
(or to maximize deterrence) at the lowest cost to taxpayers. Game theory
asks us to place ourselves in the shoes of our adversaries as we assess
alternative measures in light of potential threats, hostile intent and
In one scenario described in the paper, Palmore and Melese consider
the outcome of two-player games in which one player is the United States;
the other, an adversary. The object of the game, as stated, "is
to drive the adversary to use weapons other than ballistic missiles
without the U.S. deploying a national missile defense."
The logic is this, Palmore said: "If we build a defense which everybody
including ourselves believed to be 100 percent effective against any
single or small number of ICBMs launched with any warheads, then obviously
one group is not going to spend money trying to launch an ICBM. Theyre
going to do one of the many other things. Thats the point that
we raise in the paper: that protection is a placebo."
Because the proposed defense program is largely unproven and carries
such a steep price tag, Palmore favors a go-slow approach over the rush
to deployment one that focuses on research and development and
the examination of other credible alternatives.
"Everyone I talk to who thinks about these things is all for research
and development," he said. "Its the deployment issue
which is the main sticking point."
ACDIS faculty members
active in ongoing dialogue
Pres. George W. Bush vigorously promotes plans to develop and deploy
a National Missile Defense system, professors in the UIs Program
on Arms Control, Disarmament and International have been playing a more
quiet, yet vital, role in the ongoing dialogue on national security