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Missile defense: like bats eating mosquitoes

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Today we present a "Q and A" on President Bush's plan for a national missile defense, so that you, as a citizen, can decide whether to support it, or oppose it, or (this is our recommendation) not think about it ever again.

Q. What will President Bush's missile defense do?

A. It will detect incoming missiles and destroy them, unless they are heading for states that, in the 2000 election, voted Democratic.

Q. Is this the same thing as President Reagan's "Star Wars" plan?

A. No. This is based on solid science, whereas the "Star Wars" plan was based on a Hollywood movie that turned out, when studied by Pentagon analysts, to have a lot of things in it that were not militarily realistic. Take the light sabers. As one Pentagon analyst put it: "Are you telling me that a highly advanced civilization — a civilization that can build robots with human intelligence, design spaceships that travel through hyperspace, and make Mark Hamill look like a stud muffin — are you telling me that this civilization would fight with FLASHLIGHTS??"

Q. What about Jabba the Hutt?

A. He is real.

Q. Why does President Bush support a national missile defense?

A. He decided to support it following an Oval Office briefing in which his advisors demonstrated the system via a realistic simulation involving a BB gun, six lawn darts and a Hostess Twinkie (representing Cleveland).

Q. And the simulation worked?

A. Flawlessly, except for some puncture wounds to Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld.

Q. Who is opposed to the missile defense system?

A. Russia, China, Europe, the United Nations and Ralph Nader.

Q. So it's probably a good idea?

A. Yes.

Q. How would a national missile defense work?

A. It would rely heavily on initials. The key element would be the Incredibly Early Warning System (IEWS), which would detect an enemy missile attack in the very early stages. Like, say Saddam Hussein is lying in bed, and suddenly he says to himself, "Hey! I think I'll launch a missile at the United States!" The IEWS would detect this.

Q. How is that possible?

A. For security reasons, we cannot reveal that information, except in secret code (WOLLIP ENOHPORCIM).

Q. What happens when an enemy missile launch is detected?

A. The missile would be tracked by a geometric locational tracking system (GLTS), which transmits high-frequency signals (HFS) that strike the target, bounce off and return to the transmitter, which, utilizing the cosine (COSINE), calculates the exact target trajectory (ETT), plots a target interception course (TIC), intercepts the target, swallows it, and flies back to the cave.

Q. Wait a minute! Isn't that how a bat catches a mosquito?

A. We are not at liberty to discuss that.

Q. Has the missile defense concept been successfully tested?

A. Yes. On July 14, a Minuteman missile launched from California was destroyed by an interceptor missile launched from the Marshall Islands.

Q. Why would California attack the Marshall Islands?

A. There is bad blood between those two.

Q. How much will the missile defense system cost?

A. The current official Defense Department rough ballpark estimate (RBE) is $300 billion, which covers installation, dealer prep, gratuities and plastic surgery for Secretary Rumsfeld, but does not include the service agreement (strongly recommended).

Q. Are there any cheaper options?

A. For $149, Sears sells a system that protects just your house.

Q. What is the timetable for building the national missile defense?

A. Work was supposed to begin three weeks ago Monday, but the contractor didn't show up. He called the Pentagon Wednesday and said he had a flat tire and would definitely start Friday, but he didn't, and he didn't call until the next Tuesday, when he said that he had been bitten by a dog, but he would definitely be there the following Thursday, which of course he wasn't, and the Pentagon, which has rearranged its ENTIRE SCHEDULE for this guy, is getting fed up, but you know how hard it is to find anybody who can do this kind of work.

Q. Until we get the missile defense working, what can I, as a citizen, do to help?

A. You can keep a sharp eye out. If you spot anything, advise us immediately. We'll be in the Marshall Islands, which know how to defend themselves.

Dave Barry is a humor columnist for the Miami Herald. Write to him c/o The Miami Herald, One Herald Plaza, Miami FL 33132.