The problem with projects likeStar Wars is that it fails to address the real danger from nuclear weapons: nuclear terrorism. It is actually relatively easy to build a nuclear bomb (instuctions can be found here) and several terrorist organisations have the money and resources to buy weapons grade uranium or plutonium, from countries such as Russia, and to smuggle it to the required location. The missile shield would do nothing against such a threat. On the other hand, it is considerably more difficult to build an ICBM, which is also easier to trace and less accurate. Also, no country will launch an overt attack (i.e. using ICBMs) on America because enough of America's forces will remain to wipe out any "rogue state" (the basis of MAD), whereas it is very difficult to retaliate against a terrorist group, and there are groups fanatical enough to risk it.
September 16th 2002
Looking at this node now, unchanged since I originally wrote it, I scare myself with what could have happened on September the 11th: the Al Queada decision not to fly the planes into nuclear power plants. The truth was frightening enough. Let us hope that we succeed in preventing a repeat, because next time we may consider September the 11th a small attack.