Skip to comments.Going on Offense for Missile Defense Defending ourselves has never made more sense.
Posted on 08/01/2006 5:11:35 AM PDT by Paul Ross
Going on Offense for Missile Defense
Defending ourselves has never made more sense.
by Fred Barnes
08/07/2006, Volume 011, Issue 44
SENATOR CARL LEVIN of Michigan had a grim and unhappy look on his face. For years, he had led Democrats in an effort to slash funding for missile defense. He had planned to seek a cut of $68 million. But with North Korea poised to launch missiles and Iran's relentless drive to go nuclear, the situation had changed. So much so that Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama proposed to boost spending on the missile defense program, now more than two decades old, by an extra $45 million. Even Levin voted yes as it passed 98-0 in late June.
There are two lessons here. One is that Democrats, having kept spending for missile defense at anemic levels during the Clinton years, and having sought to block deployment of an effective system under President Bush, are vulnerable on the issue. And this is an election year in which Republicans, embattled and minimally popular, need every issue they can find. The other lesson is that an election campaign, with the American people paying attention, is the perfect time to debate missile defense and generate national support for a system on land, at sea, and in space. At the least, Democrats would be put on the defensive.
There's no doubt about either the popularity of missile defense or the urgency in deploying a full-blown system to protect America. In a 2004 poll by Princeton Survey Research, 62 percent approved of President Bush's plan to build a missile defense system. A year earlier, in a Gallup Poll, 61 percent said they would be "upset" if money were not being spent on such a system. And in a survey last year sponsored by a pro-missile defense group, 79 percent voiced support for missile defense and 70 percent said it is an "important part" of homeland security.
The need for an antimissile shield was underscored this summer not only by North Korea's missile tests and Iran's race to build nuclear weapons, but by the potential emergence of a worldwide threat. North Korea is believed to have a small nuclear arsenal and is an exporter of weapons. Iran, the world's leading sponsor of terrorists, is developing long-range missiles as well as nukes. If it produces a nuclear weapon, other Middle Eastern nations are likely to follow. Pakistan, an Islamic country with a fragile pro-West government, plans to build more nuclear weapons. And the United States would have no defense in the unlikely event that China or Russia, onetime enemies, unleashed a missile attack.
Bush boldly cleared the way for deploying a missile defense system by withdrawing, in December 2001, from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with Russia. A year later, he ordered Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld "to proceed with fielding an initial set of missile defense capabilities" by 2004 or 2005. These, the president said, "will include ground-based interceptors, sea-based interceptors, additional Patriot (PAC-3) units, and sensors based on land, at sea, and in space."
In 2004, a handful of antimissile missiles were deployed in Alaska. And six Navy ships have been equipped to bring down missiles. The head of the missile defense program at the Pentagon, Lieutenant General Henry Obering, insists these systems would have been able to destroy the one long-range missile fired by the North Koreans on July 4. That missile failed and fell in to the Sea of Japan.
But Obering is only guessing. And the widely held view in the defense community is that the deployment of anti-missile assets by the United States is not keeping pace with the growing missile threat. The war in Iraq, for one thing, has forced serious cuts in funding for missile defense. Planned deployments were delayed and the number of actual antimissile units was reduced. This year, House Republicans have sought to cut spending further.
There's a compelling case for re-engaging missile defense as a top priority of the Bush administration. A comprehensive upgrading of the ship-based Aegis system, which has been successful in eight out of nine tests, makes enormous sense, as ships can be deployed off the Korean coast and near Iran. Expanding the number of antimissile ships would be the fastest way to get near-global coverage at the least cost. Destroyers could probably be equipped for $100 million or less.
For many Americans, ground-based interceptors are the heart of missile defense. But these interceptors have not performed as well in tests as the ship-based ones. The next ground-based test will be crucial in gaining congressional support for missile defense in general.
But the future of missile defense is in space. And Senator John Kyl of Arizona, the savviest advocate of missile defense, is ready to lead an effort next year in Congress to add this strategic element. It would have global reach and not depend, for instance, on where a ship was deployed.
Critics claim this would bring about the militarization of space, but their argument is specious. Space is already militarized. Intercontinental missiles, such as the one North Korea tested, travel through space. Military satellites are already in space.
The midterm election on November 7 will play a critical role in the advancement of missile defense. If Democrats capture either the House or Senate, funding may be dangerously curtailed and deployments postponed. Kyl says Democrats favor a policy of "test forever, deploy never." Democrats have voted to cut spending nine times in the past five years. When they controlled Congress, they slashed billions from missile defense.
To avert this, missile defense must become a major issue in the campaign, addressed by Republican candidates and, especially, the president. The issue can be laid out very simply: We need robust missile defense for the safety of America; Democrats are standing in the way; vote Republican. Under pressure, Democrats might cave and endorse a vigorous missile defense program. But, given their record, don't hold your breath.
Fred Barnes is executive editor at THE WEEKLY STANDARD.
Our new THAAD system works so well that they should begin being deployed this fall, only weeks or months from now:
There is one thing I would change about the article. The first and second sentences should be combined to read:
SENATOR CARL LEVIN of Michigan had a grim and unhappy look on his face, for years.
Once again "leading" Democrats prove they cannot be trusted with our country's defense.
One of President Bush's greatest accomplishments was his withdrawal from the ABM Treaty in 2001. Not even Ronald Reagan, who saw it as "fatally flawed," could bring himself to do this.
As noted here:
On the Fourth of July, North Korea's Kim Jong Il tested a series of ballistic missiles. Two days later, when questioned about the test, President Bush acknowledged that America's missile defenses were "modest and new."
That they are new is understandable, since only in the last year has America begun to field missile defenses. The modest part, however, is of greater concern, since they are likely to remain modest by design throughout the administration's tenure.
With the crisis in the Middle East and the growing boldness of North Korea and China, citizens must ask why.
Most Americans would be quite surprised to learn that America does not have a national missile defense. Only the most rudimentary land-based system is being built and deployed in Alaska and California and it lacks the full complement of radars and satellites to ensure its success.
More effective sea-based defenses are woefully underfunded despite several successful tests. The most effective and necessary component of layered defense-space-based interceptors are but wishful thinking and not even scheduled to receive any serious support for the next decade.
The simple reality is missile defense was never built under Ronald Reagan and George Bush Sr. despite the now-acknowledged lesson that the mere proposal of building a missile defense helped precipitate the demise of the Soviet Union.
Missile defense was actively opposed by the Clinton administration, which killed or crippled any serious program. Only after intense pressure in 1998 by congressional Republicans did Clinton begin the modest land-based system designed to deal with a handful of missiles launched at the U.S. Bush is continuing the effort.
The most charitable explanation for our lack of a missile defense is the failure by Republicans and Democrats to think beyond the corrupt Cold War mentality that nuclear war is somehow inconceivable and that the threat of mutually assured destruction can by itself protect us.
Because no nation would risk a nuclear exchange and the resulting loss of life, the thinking goes, no missile defense is necessary and indeed may lead to an arms race or pre-emptive nuclear war. Just five years ago it was unthinkable that terrorists would fly airplanes into our buildings. It is important to heed the admonition of the 9-11 commission: We failed to prevent that catastrophe in part by a "failure of imagination."
Although it is still largely inconceivable to most U.S. policymakers, is there any scenario in which North Korea would launch a nuclear missile against the U.S.?
It's certainly easy to dismiss Kim Jong Il as a madman. And yet, even with his pursuit of or actual possession of nuclear weapons, this seems insufficient in encouraging a robust missile defense.
More likely, he's a cold, ruthless dictator. He has proved willing to starve his own people to obtain the fear and respect afforded a world leader in possession of intercontinental nuclear missiles.
What missiles do not afford is any special insight into preventing the sort of miscalculation that was the hallmark of 20th-century dictatorships.
Imagine Kim Jong Il calculated that he could launch a nuclear missile against Seattle well within range of his Taepodong-2 missile. He would first recall that the U.S. did not use nuclear weapons during the Korean War, Vietnam War, Iran hostage crisis, bombing of Marines in Beirut, terrorist attacks by al-Qaida throughout the 1990s or the 9-11 assault.
In each case, measured military action was taken, great effort was made not to endanger civilians and a central concern was not provoking hostilities with China or Russia. Second, Kim Jong Il might be convinced that China will defend the North Koreans as it has in the past. So what would happen?
Assume China does move to protect the North Koreans in their folly. Chinese President Hu Jintao calls President Bush and declares that the North Korean attack on Seattle was an awful crime, but that any nuclear retaliation will be seen by the Chinese as an attack on China itself. He pledges to help the U.S. rebuild Seattle and promises to deal harshly with the North Koreans.
Likewise, President Vladimir Putin calls to second his Chinese counterpart: Russia, too, will assist in rebuilding and offers to help negotiate a cease-fire claiming that the last thing the world needs is a nuclear attack by the U.S. on North Korea.
In the meantime, as Bush plans his response, civil defense procedures begin in Beijing and in Moscow. Cities are evacuated, militaries are put on high alert, offensive nuclear forces are readied. The cautions by the Chinese and the Russians are meant to be taken seriously.
There is no "trip wire" that forces a U.S. president to deploy our nuclear arsenal. A rational assessment will be made as to how best to respond.
It is possible, perhaps likely, that the U.S. would launch a counterattack using nuclear weapons. This would fulfill the premise of mutually assured destruction, and require a large-scale nuclear attack to destroy the North Korean regime and its military capabilities especially since the prospect of a North Korean invasion of the South would become a real possibility under such uncertain circumstances.
But would the U.S. attack if it meant a possible nuclear war with China and Russia? Bush is a courageous and patriotic man. But to avoid a full-scale nuclear war and the annihilation of millions of Americans, is it possible that a U.S. president might not retaliate using nuclear weapons and instead accept such an attack as an unfortunate catastrophe that might lead to the unthinkable nuclear war between the superpowers?
Of course, all this may be fanciful the stuff of movies and doomsayers. The sheer horror is perhaps why policymakers seem reluctant to concern themselves with developing these horrible nuclear weapons and a ballistic missile defense.
But because we have not eliminated human evil or human error and miscalculation, a missile defense is precisely what is needed and well within our technological capability.
We ought to be working around the clock to make such defenses a reality, but we proceed as if time is on our side. It's reasonable to ask the president and Congress to report back to the American people and let us know when our missile defenses will no longer be simply "modest." Common sense requires as much.
Kennedy is president of the Claremont Institute think tank and a member of the Independent Working Group on Missile Defense, missilethreat.com.
The debate over BMD reached its climax in 1969, when the Nixon administration sought Senate approval of its proposed Safeguard BMD system. Although supporters of BMD won the debate, and funding for Safeguard was approved, it proved to be a Pyrrhic victory, when the administration agreed to the ABM Treaty, which effectively killed Safeguard.
One Safeguard facility became operational in 1976, only to be shut down after a few months when Congress cut off its funding and the Ford administration declined to put up a fight. Fore the rest of the century, the US would have no BMD.
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