Top Scoops

Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | Scoop News | Wellington Scoop | Community Scoop | Search

 

Ivan Eland: Kill Missile Defense Now

Kill Missile Defense Now


By Ivan Eland *
December 20, 2004
From: http://www.independent.org/newsroom/article.asp?id=1440

The most recent among many testing glitches of the Bush administration missile defense program should remind us that this exorbitant and heavily politicized effort should be scrapped. Until September 11, in the eyes of conservatives, the litmus test for patriotism was support for missile defense. Now they have moved on to view backing for the troubled Iraq War as the badge of armchair courage. Yet the 9/11 attacks demonstrated that the missile defense program did not address the most severe threats facing the United States.

The most serious threats to the U.S. homeland won’t arrive by missile. They’ll likely be attacks using either conventional means—as on 9/11—or nuclear, biological or chemical weapons smuggled into the country by ship or delivered by small aircraft. Terrorists are unlikely to have the technology to develop the long-range missiles that a missile defense system is designed to intercept using other missiles or lasers.

Missile defense could be a back-up in case deterrence fails against rogue states, such as Iran or North Korea, that have both long-range missile and nuclear weapons programs. Nuclear deterrence usually works against even radical states because, unlike terrorists, they have a home address that can be incinerated with the large and powerful U.S. nuclear arsenal. Alternatively, missile defenses could act as a shield in the unlikely event of an accidental nuclear launch from one of those nations. But missile defense systems are very complex and expensive to build. In fact, missile defense is the most complicated weapon system ever designed by man. The U.S. government has had a few successful test intercepts, but these tests did not resemble actual battle conditions and were rigged for success. In the most recent failed test, the interceptor missile could not even get off the ground. Furthermore, hitting a missile with another missile (“hitting a bullet with a bullet”) is not the toughest aspect of development—the biggest challenge is integrating the interceptors, sensors, and battle management computers.

The Missile Defense Agency has spent $80 billion since 1985 and has very little to show for it. Over the next five years, the U.S. government will dump another $50 billion into missile defense programs. Yet rogue states probably will be able to come up with cheap countermeasures to foil costly defensive systems.

Although the Pentagon claims the systems will defend against potential missile attacks from Iran and North Korea, some conservatives have the hidden agenda of using them to counter China. China now has only about 20 aging long-range missiles that could deliver nuclear warheads to the United States. Unlike the relatively poor rogue states, however, wealthy China—which already has programs to modernize such missiles—could simply build more offensive missiles to overwhelm the defenses. In fact, the conservative fable—that is, during the later years of the Cold War, President Ronald Reagan’s Star Wars program struck so much fear into the hearts of the Soviets that it helped collapse the East bloc—was belied by Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev’s dismissal of Reagan’s dream by saying that he could build offensive missiles faster and more cheaply than the United States could build pricey missile defenses. Today’s missile defense programs are a mere shadow of Reagan’s scheme, and Russia can already saturate even the most ambitious of them with thousands of long-range missiles.

So if missile defenses don’t counter the greatest threats and are not cost-effective why are the Bush administration and its conservative allies so gung ho on them? The answer is primarily politics. Even after a failed test in December 2002, President Bush, for electoral purposes, ordered the premature initial activation of a rudimentary system by September 2004 (which is running many months behind schedule because of development problems and scrapped tests). Although Reagan’s Star Wars program was grandiose and a financial black hole for taxpayers, many conservatives have used modern-day missile defense programs to rally the faithful around their hero’s legacy. At every turn, President Bush compares himself to Reagan, and the continuance of missile defense has been a concrete manifestation of that phenomenon.

But, these days, instead of vanquishing incoming missiles, too many conservative pundits are intent on destroying new monsters—terrorists and Iraqi guerillas. Winning one for the Gipper is no longer needed to fire up conservatives. The Bush administration should take advantage of that to reduce the yawning budget deficit by killing the grotesquely wasteful missile defense programs.

***********

*Ivan Eland is Senior Fellow and Director of the Center on Peace & Liberty at The Independent Institute in Oakland, CA., and author of the book, Putting “Defense” Back into U.S. Defense Policy: Rethinking U.S. Security in the Post-Cold War World. For further articles and studies, see the War on Terrorism and OnPower.org.

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
Top Scoops Headlines

 


Julian Assange: A Thousand Days In Belmarsh
Julian Assange has now been in the maximum-security facilities of Belmarsh prison for over 1,000 days. On the occasion of his 1,000th day of imprisonment, campaigners, supporters and kindred spirits gathered to show their support, indignation and solidarity at this political detention most foul... More>>

Binoy Kampmark: The Mauling Of Novak Djokovic
Rarely can the treatment of a grand sporting figure by officialdom have caused such consternation. Novak Djokovic, the tennis World Number One, has always had a tendency to get under skin and constitution, creating a large following of admirers and detractors. But his current treatment by Australian authorities, and his subsequent detention as an unlawful arrival despite being granted a visa to participate in the Australian Open, had the hallmarks of oppression and incompetent vulgarity... More>>

Binoy Kampmark: Voices Of Concern: Aussies For Assange’s Return

With Julian Assange now fighting the next stage of efforts to extradite him to the United States to face 18 charges, 17 of which are based on the brutal, archaic Espionage Act, some Australian politicians have found their voice. It might be said that a few have even found their conscience... More>>



Forbidden Parties: Boris Johnson’s Law On Illegal Covid Gatherings

It was meant to be time to reflect. The eager arms of a new pandemic were enfolding a society with asphyxiating, lethal effect. Public health authorities advocated various measures: social distancing, limited contact between family and friends, limited mobility. No grand booze-ups. No large parties. No bonking, except within dispensations of intimacy and various “bubble” arrangements. Certainly, no orgies... More>>

Dunne Speaks: Question Time Is Anything But
The focus placed on the first couple of Question Time exchanges between the new leader of the National Party and the Prime Minister will have seemed excessive to many but the most seasoned Parliamentary observers. Most people, especially those outside the Wellington beltway, imagine Question Time is exactly what it sounds... More>>



Gasbagging In Glasgow: COP26 And Phasing Down Coal

Words can provide sharp traps, fettering language and caging definitions. They can also speak to freedom of action and permissiveness. At COP26, that permissiveness was all the more present in the haggling ahead of what would become the Glasgow Climate Pact... More>>