Thursday, March 19, 2009

Star Wars

...of the Reagan kind, not the George Lucas kind.

The Council on Foreign Relations has a nice article about the evolution of Missile Defense from the 50s until the present. I've been an opponent of Missile Defense since I first heard about it when I was about 6 years old. During the Cold War, it had the potential to destabilize the Mutual Assured Destruction theory that kept the US and USSR from launching a few thousand nukes at each other. More importantly, outside Tom Clancy's The Cardinal in the Kremlin, there's never really been a Missile Defense system that has actually worked. Hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars have been--and are being--spent without significant progress.

Barney Frank is a bit pejorative when he refers to it as "protecting the Czech Republic from missiles from Iran", but he is right in pointing out that the money certainly could be better spent elsewhere. In these days of trillion dollar deficits, programs that don't work (and never have) should be cut. Thankfully, it seems that President Obama is not a huge fan of Missile Defense either. The persistent rumor is that he is using it as a bargaining chip to get Russia to step up sanctions on Iran. If he can pull that off, he'll be able to reduce the defense budget by a significant amount without affecting the troops in Iraq or Afghanistan while simultaneously waving a stick at Iran to go with his carrots.

Here's hoping that Missile Defense is on the way out.

1 comment:

  1. Forty years ago I was a student doing an independent study term in Washington, D.C. The subject of my independent study was lobbying efforts against the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) system.

    At the time, either the U.S. or the Russians could lob two nuclear-tipped missiles at the other for the projected cost of shooting down one. So the best way around the opposing side's ABM's was to build more missiles than they built ABM's. I can't imagine that 2:1 equation has improved in 40 years. Lobbing missiles is old, proven technology and costs next to nothing, compared to threading a needle, which shooting down a missile might equate to.

    GWB's withdrawal from the ABM Treaty with Russia in 2002 was bone-headed, and immediately made them suspicious of our intentions. Our relations have been destabilized since then.

    For domestic consumption, the problem is -- if you don't look into it too closely -- having a defense against incoming missiles sounds so reasonable. And it sounds more reassuring than Mutually Assured Destruction, doesn't it?

    All of which is a way of saying: good post!