Doing something because somebody else is doing it, not doing it, planning to do it or even failing to do it, is a juvenile way to behave--a sign that the person is unsure of what is wanted, undecided and fearful of making a mistake. I think of such people as "I'll have what you're having" friends, slightly annoying but predictable. At least, one can calculate how much lunch is going to cost ahead of time.
But when this attitude informs more weighty issues, like whether or not a nation should dedicate a significant portion of it's intellectual and material wealth to arming itself with missiles because some other nation is maybe, possibly considering getting one for themselves, keeping up with the Joneses (or North Korea or Iran or Pakistan or Cuba) can quickly turn into an expensive and dangerous game.
Which is why the assertion by General Norton Schwartz, who's being considered as the new Air Force chief of staff, that if Russia were to base nuclear -capable bombers in Cuba, he would
"... certainly offer the best military advice that we engage the Russians not to pursue that approach," ... adding that Russia would cross a "red line" if it did.
is concerning. As is the fact that this Russian suggestion was obviously being floated in response to the United States' persistence in planning to plant components of its ground based missile defense systems in Poland and the Czech Republic and has, so far, been undeterred by the initial response:
Over the past year, Russia has revived long-range strategic bomber patrols in the Pacific and north Atlantic.
Until now, US officials have shrugged off the stepped up Russian military activity, while insisting that a radar in the Czech Republic and 10 missile interceptors it plans to install in Poland pose no threat to Russia.
While, on the one hand, the Russians sending bombers on patrol in response to installations that aren't slated to be installed for several years down the road seems somewhat unrealistic, the U.S. claim to be responding to something Iran hasn't yet done is not credible either. More likely the U.S. objection in the United Nations to the designation of the Central Asian Nuclear Weapons Free Zone, on the grounds that this might prevent the U.S. transporting nuclear weapons through the air space of the participating nations carries more weight. To the most objective observer, this rationale can't but suggest that, if it's not doing so now, the U.S. has plans to introduce nuclear weapons into the Asian arena. If the U.S. were acting in good faith, one would have expected an enthusiastic embrace of the CANWFZ, (as China and Russia have done) along with a call for its expansion to include Egypt and the nations bordering the Persian Gulf.
But, that's clearly contrary to the United States agenda, if some of the proponents of missile defense are to be believed. As William R. Hawkins, writing in Frontpagemagazineopines:
China should also be added to the equation. During their meeting in Beijing May 23, Chinese President Hu Jintao and Russian President Dimitry Medvedev issued a joint statement criticizing the U.S. plan to establish "global missile defense systems." The statement claimed such defenses "harm the strengthening of trust between states and regional stability." Though Moscow and Beijing have long opposed the U.S. missile defense program, this was their first formal joint declaration. Both countries have been giving material and diplomatic support to North Korea as well as Iran. What all these regimes have in common is the desire to have the freedom to intimidate others in a defenseless world.
It's always amazing how easy it is for the pot to call the kettle black. It is still a matter of fact that the United States is the only nation that has actually used nuclear weapons to kill a large civilian population and intimidate the government of Japan into surrender. And, it's still a matter of fact that the use of depleted uranium munitions by the United States in Iraq has permanently contaminated much of that benighted land. We need look no further to determine where neighboring Iran might have got the idea that it needs to protect itself with missiles.
Moreover, though it's not clear to whom it was directed, a recently published paper by the French suggests a slightly different attitude.
On June 17, France published a new White Paper on defense and national security, the first since 1994. It states, "As we look to the 2025 horizon, France and Europe will fall within the range of ballistic missiles developed by new powers; new risks have appeared." In his remarks attending the release of the white paper, President Nicolas Sarkozy said, "you must have chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear protective equipment. This is why we must develop advanced ballistic missile launch detection systems."
Rather than try to intercept and blow up a missile, a rather tricky proposition that might well cause more damage than it prevents, the French still plan to make sure they know where and against whom to retaliate. While recent tests of the mid-flight intercept have claimed some success, blowing up a missile with a nuclear warhead before it reaches the stratosphere (within 50 seconds of a launch) risks injury to innocents under the flight-path.
US fires long-range missile in defence test
Sat, Jul 19, 2008
WASHINGTON - THE United States fired a long-range target missile over the Pacific on Friday to test an array of radars and other sensors in its missile defence system, the Pentagon said.
The test was supposed to have involved an attempted intercept, but that was delayed until December following the discovery of a flaw in a device used to gather telemetry and other data from the interceptor missile, the head of the Pentagon's Missile Defence Agency said earlier this week.
The target missile was fired from Kodiak island in Alaska at 2247 GMT (6.47am Singapore time) with a mock warhead and countermeasures, the agency said in a statement.
In other words, it didn't work.
The agency said command centres were able to successfully generate an intercept solution, and operational crews simulated the launch of an interceptor missile from Vandenberg Air force Base in California.
US navy operators also simulated an intercept using an SM-3 missile fired from a US Navy ship, the agency said.
And it's all President Clinton's fault. Since I have no reason to doubt the accuracy of Mr. Hawkins historical recitation, let me just quote a portion.
The U.S. Missile Defense Agency estimates that Tehran could develop a long-range missile capable of striking the United Sates by 2015.
In December 2002, President George W. Bush directed the Department of Defense to begin fielding ballistic missile defenses to meet near-term threats to the American homeland, deployed forces, and allies. The Missile Defense Agency responded and by late 2004 fielded a system to provide a limited defense capability to intercept any ballistic missile launched from North Korea or Iran before it could strike the United States. There are currently 24 ground-based interceptors based in silos in Alaska and California, and 21 sea-based interceptors on Navy warships. The MDA plans to broaden and deepen this defensive network by deploying more sensors and interceptors in forward locations. There are already advanced radar stations serving the MDA network in Japan and England.
OK, to counter a threat that's scheduled to be realized in 2015, the U.S. took two years to field "a system to provide a limited defense capability." While this seems rather useless on its face (never mind that the system is still being tested and doesn't work), the importance obviously lies in the phrases "near-term threats" and "deployed forces"--i.e. we have gone to a lot of expense to "protect" the forces that are sitting, like ducks, on the bases in Iraq, Afghanistan and wherever else their deployment isn't welcome. Which suggests that advanced radar stations have also been set up in Iraq and that's what Russia's strategic bombers are checking on as they patrol.
But to get back to the history--
In 1991, President George H. W. Bush had announced a deployment plan called Global Protection Against Limited Strikes (GPALS). The following year, in the wake of Saddam Hussein’s use of ballistic missiles in the Gulf War, a Democratic Congress approved GPALS. President Bill Clinton, however, canceled both the SDI program and the Bush plan to defend America. The budget for missile defense was cut by about 80-percent. Also canceled were key technology development and demonstration programs important to assuring the viability in the face of enemy countermeasures. In particular, all space-based defenses were abandoned by the Democratic administration. Programs to build theater missile defenses to protect troops fighting overseas were continued, but with smaller budgets.
Do let's recall that NONE of the missiles fired during the Gulf War hit their intended targets. Though they did account for a couple of "friendly fire" incidents, which, during the present conflict seem to have been replaced by wedding parties. Anyway, Hawkins goes on to speculate:
The 2008 presidential election may bring another setback to the defense of the American homeland and overseas allies as in the Clinton years.....
"Ballistic missile proliferation is not an imaginary threat," (Secretary of State) Rice said. "It's hard for me to believe that an American president is not going to want to have the capability to defend our territory, the territory of our allies – whether they are in Europe or in the Middle East – against that kind of missile threat."
and finds support for his position on the McCain for President web site:
"Effective missile defenses are critical to protect America from rogue regimes like North Korea that possess the capability to target America with intercontinental ballistic missiles, from outlaw states like Iran that threaten American forces and American allies with ballistic missiles, and to hedge against potential threats from possible strategic competitors like Russia and China. Effective missile defenses are also necessary to allow American military forces to operate overseas without being deterred by the threat of missile attack from a regional adversary."
While it seems about as useless to argue with someone who aims to protect us from threats as it is to claim protection from terror, at least McCain is being honest in mentioning "potential threats from possible strategic competitors like Russia and China" and gives us an opportunity to ask how it happened that competition came to be redefined as a threat?
Which then brings us to the answer that the fear of competition and the tendency to resort to military force to "level the playing field" provides evidence of the serious condition into which the U.S. has fallen. Instead of being able to compete, American enterprise has morphed from an industrial base that relied on some military production to smooth out the economic cycles, to one that relies on military production as a back-up to intimidate the competition. Why would we do that to ourselves?
Hawkins ends with a quote from President Kennedy:
"Domestic policy can only defeat us; foreign policy can kill us."
and concludes that,
Whatever other problems may be facing America, the only thing that could actually devastate the country would be a barrage of nuclear missiles striking major urban areas. There are people in a number of foreign capitals thinking about how to launch such attacks, and putting resources to work to acquire the means to carry out such attacks.
To which one can only ask, why would he think that and why would anyone want to do that? Why would anyone waste their time keeping up with the U.S. on a missile defense system that, even if it were to work as intended, spells disaster for anyone living under the trajectory?