Star Wars: The Next Generation

Get ready for a new round of "Star Wars" stories.NMD1.jpgWithin the next couple of weeks, the Missile Defense Agency is scheduled to test its national missile defense system, again. If there's a successful intercept, expect the Bush administration and its backers to talk it up as another sign the system is ready to go. But if they miss, there's an out: It's not officially an intercept test, see, so while a hit would be nice, it's not officially what they're trying to do. Missing, in other words, is perfectly OK.Regardless, you can be sure the results will lead to the usual spate of "will Star Wars work?" coverage.It's been more than 20 years since Ronald Reagan made his so-called Star Wars speech, kicking off his grandiose plans for a global missile defense shield that came to naught. Yet we still can't shake the Star Wars moniker for missile defense of any kind, even the shorter-range programs that bear almost no resemblance to the old Strategic Defense Initiative.Star Wars, the name, most often crops up in attacks on the system, as in here (to use just one recent example), but it still has mainstream media cachet, too. To wit: this Aug. 15 Reuters story.Missile defense backers have long hated the name, feeling (quite correctly) that it is a derogatory dismissal of the whole premise behind missile defense, or at least the idea that ICBMs can be shot down effectively by other missiles. It's a science fiction movie; get it?I also think the name's insulting. To the Star Wars movies, that is. (And I'm not even a fan.)shatner1.pngThink about it: Star Wars was a smash hit from day one, and remains the most popular movie franchise ever. But Reagan's SDI vision was roundly decried as too far-out and too costly from the start, and those criticisms proved accurate. And while reviews may be mixed on the current crop of missile defense systems, they haven't exactly been big hits in testing.If critics and reporters need a dismissive science fiction movie handle for missile defense, maybe they should try Star Trek. Like SDI, the original Star Trek show had an inauspicious start -- canceled in just its third season and seemingly relegated to history. Only a hard-core band of supporters kept the flame alive until movies and, later, new TV shows made it a hit again.And just like the Trekkies, a group of star warriors kept Reagan's Star Wars dream alive throughout the administrations of George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. Once George W. Bush took over the White House, he brought along with him quite a few of those diehards -- Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and Dick Cheney, to name just three -- giving missile defense its best friends in power since Reagan. The next generation, if you will.And while I don't want to belabor the analogy -- I'll leave that kind of thing to the Trekkies at The Corner -- let's not forget the nickname Bush's national security advisers picked for themselves during the 200 campaign: The Vulcans!-- Dan Dupontp.s. Can't resist: Go watch this.

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