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This dissertation seeks to answer the question of why the United States is pursuing the deployment of a national missile defense (NMD) system at the present time. The explanation most often given by national security policy makers is that it is being constructed in response to the weapons programs of “rogue states.” States such as North Korea, Iran, and Iraq are seen as actively developing weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and the capability to deliver these weapons to the U.S. mainland. However, the proposal of this system poses problems. First, it has made many U.S. allies fear that its foreign policy has taken a unilateral turn. Second, it has prompted the United States to withdraw from the ABM Treaty. Without the restrictions on missile defense systems imposed by the ABM Treaty the fear has arisen, whether justified or not, that a new arms race between the United States, Russia, and China will result. Third, given these costs, there is no guarantee that the system will work as advertised. Thus, this is an important issue worth examining. This paper argues that the rogue state explanation alone does not sufficiently explain the pursuit of NMD. It will explore the potential of three models: strategic (realist), cognitive, and domestic politics. Each explanation looks uniquely at the question of NMD and it is hoped that they will provide insight into what has become a rather complex issue. The purpose is to find out which model (or models) best explains the U.S. pursuit of NMD. This study will hopefully add further to the international relations literature that discusses not only realist and cognitive sources of foreign policy, but domestic political sources of foreign policy as well.