It is the nature of all human beings — and certainly the nature of women — to protect whom they love and what they value. On that premise our society has spawned whole industries to help us play it safe, and women take these precautions seriously. Because no man or woman would willingly leave a family vulnerable to danger, we assume that we are safe in our homes.

Yet every home in America is lacking a crucial level of security. We have no protection against foreign and hostile missiles. Missiles, whether deliberately or accidentally launched, can enter our air space unimpeded, carrying weapons to destroy homes, families, and cities. Today, we can’t stop them.

Now the Bush Administration has joined members of both parties who want to build a national missile defense shield for ourselves, our neighbors, and our allies. When women know the facts, they will insist on this protection.

The threat is real. More than 30 countries now have ballistic missiles, and more than a dozen are well along in developing chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons. Many of those countries, including China, North Korea, Iran, and Iraq, are hostile to the United States and could use these weapons to hold an unprotected America hostage. To illustrate such blackmail, China bragged last year that the U.S. would not protect Taiwan for fear of a Chinese attack on American cities. North Korea has already shown us, through missile testing, its growing capability to deliver missile-borne weapons to the United States.

Those weapons may be sent to destroy people and places, or to knock out entire electrical, telecommunications, and computer systems. All of these threats go beyond our borders to our neighbors, allies, and troops overseas. In 1998, the bi-partisan Rumsfeld Commission warned Congress that ballistic missile threats to the United States could come within five years with “little or no warning.” The CIA and others have confirmed those findings. Indeed, the threat is real.

The technology is available. In 1999, the U.S. Senate agreed to employ a national missile defense as soon as technologically feasible.”

This is rocket science; intercepting a missile in space is difficult, but it is not impossible. America has now moved beyond the research into the testing and deployment stage, and has successfully tested intercepts of ballistic missiles numerous times, most recently on July 14.

The first systems, coming this year, will work at short range. Later systems will cover wider areas and target longer range missiles. Remember, the earlier we can shoot down an enemy missile, the farther from the U.S. it will be. Farther is better; and our technology is moving quickly in that direction.

There is entrenched opposition. In light of real threats and available technology, it is baffling that some question the need for America to defend itself. Their arguments ring hollow. Some decry the cost, which has been described as half the money Americans spend annually on video rentals. These skeptics do not speak of the cost of the obliteration of an American city.

Compared with the loss of Los Angeles, missile defense is a bargain. Others believe arms control treaties alone are enough to deter rogue attack. But arms control did not stop Saddam Hussein from firing Scud missiles at American barracks during the Gulf War, killing 28 young Americans. And signing the Non-Proliferation Treaty has not dissuaded Iran, North Korea, and Iraq in their efforts to build a nuclear bomb. Treaties alone do not restrain hostile intentions.

Still others claim that the obsolete Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty signed in 1972 with the then-USSR forbids us to defend ourselves, and that to do so “will kindle an arms race.” Wrong. Defensive weapons are designed not to kill people, but to save them. When the ABM treaty was signed, there were only nine nations with ballistic missile capability. Today over 30 countries have missiles, and all our counter-proliferation policies have not stopped that. Rather, the defenselessness of the United States has encouraged proliferation.

Finally, critics argue that the greater threat comes from terrorism. Yet ballistic missiles carrying the means to harm innocent people are terror weapons. Americans must be protected against all possible dangers, including “suitcase bombs,” weapons of mass destruction, cyber-war, and ballistic missiles.

We now have a President who recognizes the severity of the threat, the promise of the technology, and the government’s obligation to shield the nation. He is ready to abandon the policy of Mutually Assured Destruction — in which civilian populations’ only security is the prospect of annihilation — in favor of real protection.

On July 12, the Administration revealed its missile defense policy. In a test performed two days later, a rocket-launched interceptor successfully shot down a mock warhead over the Pacific Ocean. Now is the time for women to say that when it comes to the safety of our loved ones, we won’t accept anything less than the best — a strong national missile defense.