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Monday, May 14, 2007

Fighting Russia Over a Missile System That Doesn't Work

Condoleezza Rice is in Moscow today, trying to ease relations between Russia and the US.

Associated Press:

"I don't throw around terms like 'new Cold War,'" Rice said on her way to Moscow for a visit amid growing tensions underlined by President Vladimir Putin's increasing criticism of the United States. "It is a big, complicated relationship, but it is not one that is anything like the implacable hostility" that clouded ties between the United States and the Soviet Union.

"It is not an easy time in the relationship, but it is also not, I think, a time in which cataclysmic things are affecting the relationship or catastrophic things are happening in the relationship," Rice told reporters aboard her plane. "But it is critically important to use this time to enhance those things that are going well and to work on those things that are not going well."

Last week, in a speech commemorating the defeat of the nazis, Putin alluded to the US while denouncing it for "disrespect for human life, claims to global exclusiveness and dictate, just as it was in the time of the Third Reich." When someone thinks you're like the freakin' nazis, things aren't really going very well.

The Iraq war has a lot to do with this, but it's mostly US plans to place missile defense systems in NATO countries. Not surprisingly, Putin's not a big fan of parking these systems on his borders.

"The Russian side does not believe American statements that these ballistic missile facilities will not be directed against Russia, but are a safeguard against rogue nations which seek nuclear weapons and missile technology to attack the United States and their allies," Voice of America quotes Yevgeni Volk of the Heritage Foundation in Moscow as saying. "So, I believe both sides can hardly find common ground, because the perceptions of ballistic missiles in Europe are quite different."

When you're getting this sort of analysis from Heritage Foundation flack, it means things are pretty bad. Russia's trust in the Bush administration is parallel to everyone else's in the world -- he doesn't trust them any farther than he can throw them. Russia also has a closer relationship with Iran than the US does, so the Bush hypocrisy of freaking out about Iran getting nukes while sprinkling Europe with weapons systems probably isn't lost on him.

But here's the real fun part -- the systems don't work. Although Rice says she doesn't like to use the term 'cold war' here, there's little doubt that this is one of the risks. So why on Earth are we risking it to place systems that don't actually work?

Fred Kaplan wrote in Slate after yet another failed missile defense test back in February:

A question for the overseers in Congress: Is it time now for a serious look at this program? Missile defense consumed $10.7 billion of this year's military budget -- far more than any other weapon system. About $80 billion has been spent on it since Ronald Reagan stepped up research and development for the mission 20 years ago. Another $80 billion is scheduled to be spent before the decade is out. It may be time to ask: Why?

The question is even more pressing now. We've got Russia comparing the US to nazis and Rice denying that we're on the cusp of a new cold war (and you know what a Bushie denial means) -- why the hell are we doing all of this for something that has failed and failed and failed? Why are we planning to blow a total of $160 billion on this reaganite fantasy on one hand and haggling about funding war in Iraq on the other? If we can afford to throw funding down the missile defense rathole, then we've got money to burn -- literally. We might as well launch semi trailers filled with quarters at the missiles of rogue nations. Not only wouldn't it any less effective, it's probably be cheaper.

Donald Rumsfeld once justified deploying the failed missile defense systems as being better than nothing. The problem with this reasoning is that something that doesn't work is nothing -- no one argues that a bridge that only goes halfway across the river is better than no bridge at all. Half a bridge is no bridge at all.

Here's an offer I've made before -- give me a mere $10 million a year and I'll sit out in my backyard with a shotgun. If I see a missile, I'll take a whack at it. It's just as effective and it's one helluva lot cheaper. It might freak out my neighbors a little, but I can guarantee that Putin won't have a problem with it.

Think about it; what I'm proposing is no less ridiculous than what the missile defense hawks plan to do. In fact, their plan is more ridiculous in that it's much more expensive, in more ways than one. It's costing us an amazing amount of money and it's costing us global goodwill at a time when we need it. I don't really see the logic behind a defensive system that doesn't defend and only increases enmity. It seems to me that it's worse than nothing.

Still, if you think that spending tens of billions on a system that doesn't work and only antagonizes other nations is a good deal, I've got half a bridge to sell you.


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