Posts Tagged ‘missile defense’

Defending a country against an attack by ballistic missiles is very difficult. That was clearly demonstrated during the first Gulf War when Saddam Hussein started firing ballistic missiles at Israel.  Remember that? The U.S. quickly moved in Patriot antimissile systems and they did a fine job of hitting and destroying the missiles that were in ballistic flight towards Israel.  However, the failed to stop the warheads. The warheads, which were also in ballistic flight, just kept coming and they hit their targets.  Very few, if any, warheads were intercepted.

Remember when Ronald Reagan began the “Star Wars” missile defense program?  The idea was to shoot interceptors at the (presumably Soviet) warheads while they were out in space, in ballistic flight.  It was termed “hitting a bullet with a bullet”.  It’s not an easy thing to do. The U.S. has spent a lot of time and effort to try to develop such a capability, and it appears that we now have some capability with the Navy’s new system.  This system, however, is not the one that President Bush wanted to position in Eastern Europe on the border with Russia – much to the consternation of Vladimir Putin.

The question one might ask is why was Putin so upset?  Wasn’t it a good idea to protect the U.S. from long range Iranian nuclear missiles? Maybe. The problem is that Iran has neither nuclear weapons nor long range missiles.  On the other hand, Russia does.  So what? Well, until now the nuclear peace has been preserved by a sort of understanding between the super powers. It’s called Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD).  It has worked because each side knew that if it attacked the other, a return attack would be on the way in moments.  Each side would be incinerated.  Thus was the peace kept.

The problem with the Bush plan was that placing missile interceptors so close to Russia might also allow the U.S. to shoot down Russian missiles when they are launched. So what? Isn’t that good? No.  Not if we are still playing by the rules of MAD, because that might allow the U.S. to launch a first strike against Russia and then intercept the missiles that the Russians launch in reply. This would destroy the balance of power.  Clearly, this made Mr. Putin very unhappy, while President Bush pretended not to understand the issue.  This effort to place a very sophisticated missile tracking radar and interceptor missiles on the Russian border, while Iran had absolutely no capability to launch a nuclear attack against the U.S. was a very dangerous and destabilizing policy.  Bush was a madman to pursue it.  What was President Bush thinking?

The latest move by President Obama to cancel President Bush’s plans and to position U.S. Navy interceptors near Iran to protect Israel makes much more sense. These are not a threat to Russia, but they do provide credible protection for Israel.  It will undoubtedly make Iran unhappy; however, if Iran truly means no harm to Israel then it won’t affect them.  On the other hand, if it defeats their plans for a massive attack on Israel, so much the better. The fact that these missiles can also provide a shield for other Middle Eastern countries is also a great, stabilizing benefit.

Besides the benefits that will accrue to peace loving countries in the Middle East, President Obama’s move will also pave the way for the restoration of more friendly ties with Russia, a move that will certainly be welcomed by the sane citizens of America.  Until President Bush made the awful mistake of attempting to place short range interceptors on Russia’s border, the world was enjoying a relative period of peace and detante – not good news for the defense contractors and their lobbyists, and the U.S. lawmakers who get rich on the “contributions” from the lobbyists, but good news for everyone else in the world.

President Obama made a very sensible decision based upon the scientific facts and capabilities of all the countries involved.  He also made a courageous move towards creating a friendly relationship with Russia.  Remember when we were all afraid of “Red China” and the possibility of nuclear war with that country?  It wasn’t all that long ago.   Now China is a major trading partner of the U.S.  Our economy probably couldn’t function without our interaction with China.  Perhaps the same thing may happen some day with Russia too. At least this is a start.

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