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Sunday, December 03, 2006

The Only Purpose of Missile Defense is to Waste Money

Taylor Dinerman writes a piece at Pajamas Media telling us that we and our planet are doomed -- doomed! -- if dems make Bush stop pouring your money down the rathole that is missile defense.

Unfortunately, the argument is down soon after it's launched -- much like a North Korean missile.

Democratic leaders are poised to gut America’s missile defense - at the same time North Korea and Iran are testing long-range missiles that can strike the U.S. and its allies, including Israel, Japan and Britain.

Meanwhile, sources inside the missile-defense community tell Pajamas Media that the Bush administration is planning to ask Congress to begin funding development of an “orbital battle station.”

Someone needs to point out that there's a big difference between 'can strike' and 'fails to remain aloft for more than a minute.' Well, the N. Korean missile anyway, Iran's isn't as advanced.

The problem is that our missile defense system doesn't work any better. It has failed test after test, before enjoying some success with a target missile carrying a GPS beacon -- I don't think we'll be able to talk 'rogue nations' into sticking a targeting device into their missiles. At a press conference in 2002, Donald Rumsfeld was asked if deploying a missile defense system that was still being tested was a good idea. "I think that it is certainly better to have that capability than to not have it," Rumsfeld said. In other words, "It's better than nothing."

Of course, something that doesn't actually work is exactly the same as nothing. In fact, according to the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, the current system is spectacularly bad.

One of the problems with all missile defense concepts tested since the 1950's is that Pentagon scientists have never been able to overcome decoys and countermeasures that an attacking country may deploy. While the Pentagon had planned to test the current system with up to 10 decoys, the tests conducted thus far have included only three decoys that were designed to be easy to avoid.

According to a September 1999 National Intelligence Estimate, any country that could develop long-range ballistic missiles can either develop or acquire decoys and countermeasures. Furthermore, the report said, China and Russia already possess the technology for such countermeasures, and may be willing to sell the technology to interested states.

Thus the Bush Administration is intent on deploying a system that cannot cope with the most likely missile attack, should it come.

The problem here is that the people behind missile defense have a cold war mindset. They tell us we need to safeguard against a nuclear 9/11, while hoping you don't realize that even a perfect missile defense would've done absolutely nothing to prevent the non-nuclear 9/11.

So, do we need a non-operational missile defense system to save us from a non-existent missile threat? This is just a guess, but probably not. So far, we've blown $95 billion on missile defense and it isn't any farther along than it was when Reagan jotted down his Star Wars notion on the back of a napkin. It's expensive, it doesn't work, and the threats it would protect us from don't exist.

So why is the Bush administration pushing this? Did I mention that we've spent $95 billion on it? Throwing pots of cash at defense contractors is what Bush does. It doesn't make any difference whether or not it works -- a failed test is exactly as expensive as a successful one -- the only thing that matters is that it allows people who are already unbelievably rich to reach into your wallet and grab your tax dollars. Who cares if it works?

Another reaganite notion is the theory of 'starving the beast.' The idea is that you use tax cuts and budget deficits to make future social spending impossible and cuts in current social spending necessary. In order to create budget deficits, you spend -- it doesn't make much difference what you spend it on, just that you spend. That's why americans were paying defense contractors thousands of dollars for a hammer back in the '80s. It doesn't make any difference where the rathole goes, all that matters is that you fill it with cash. It's an ideology that invites corruption.

And, boy, did we ever get that. Missile defense is the US version of the Maginot Line. But, where the line was expected to work, none but the most starry-eyed care much whether missile defense works or not. The only thing that's important is the price tag.


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1 comment:

BG said...

One question:

(I'm not anything like a hawk, by the way).

What if they aren't telling us the truth about how powerful the space based technology is and how well it works?

I, for one, would be much more comfortable making an argument not to spend money on it because we don't need it, not the argument that it does not work well.

Just going on a hunch that they are much further along than they say publicly.