Guest Note from James Pinkerton: America Needs a Defense that Defends

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american flag twn.jpgThis is a guest note, exclusive to The Washington Note, by James P. Pinkerton — a contributor to the Fox News Channel and frequent poster at FoxForum.com. Pinkerton is also fellow at the New America Foundation, and contributing editor at The American Conservative magazine.
AMERICA NEEDS A DEFENSE THAT DEFENDS
I. Whose Defense Is It, Anyway?
When are we going to have a Defense Department that defends?
For the last few decades, US “defense” policy has oscillated between two ideological polarities, neither of which have much to do with the actual physical defense of America. On the left hand, we’ve had an emphasis on arms control, disarmament, and spending reductions, mostly without regard to the military designs of other countries. And on the right hand, we’ve had “wars of choice,” “regime change,” and “nation-building” — and, of course, as an obvious consequence of such ambitious policies, a fixation on counter-insurgency.
But what’s been lost in this left-right back-and-forth is a steady focus on actually defending America, and its allies, from attacks on their homelands. Those attacks have come, are coming, and will continue to come — but Uncle Sam has decided, in effect, not to prepare much for any such attack.
In this polarized political climate, few are willing to speak up for the simple non-ideological proposition of defense. That is, to protect this country, as well as other countries. That’s the commonsensical middle ground that neither party’s ideological wing has chosen to occupy.
If another country threatens you, and you can’t adequately defend yourself, what’s the best course of action? Issue a stern statement? Take your case to international organizations that obviously have little or no heft? Pretend the problem isn’t really real?
In regard to the North Korean weapons programs, both atomic and ballistic, the Obama Administration has taken all of those non-action actions. But in fairness, it must be noted that the Obamans have merely continued the Bush administration’s Korea policy — although in war, of course, nothing is fair. And if North Korea could nuke America, or one of our treasured allies, then we should be able to do something about it. And fast.
Unfortunately, effective action is not being planned. This weekend, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, a holdover from the previous administration, threatened “painful” sanctions against North Korea if it continued on its current course of firing rockets and detonating a-bombs. Then he added, “At the end of the day, the choice to continue as a destitute, international pariah, or chart a new course, is North Korea’s alone to make. The world is waiting.”


In other words, according to Gates, the world will wait to see what North Korea does. And if North Korea continues on its current aggressive and threatening course — a course to which it has held steadily for most the last decade — then sanctions, and other efforts, such as the US-led Proliferation Security Initiative, will undoubtedly be ratcheted up a bit. And for their part, the North Koreans will ratchet up, too: On May 27, the Pyongyang regime renounced the 1953 armistice that ended the Korean War.
pinkerton.jpgSo it’s not impossible to imagine a real war erupting yet again on the Korean peninsula. But if such a real war were to come again, could the Department of Defense defend America from spillover?
The answer is a firm “maybe.” But don’t take my word for it. Take the word of Dr. Charles E. McQueary, outgoing Director of Operational Test and Evaluation at the Pentagon, who for the last three years has been the Senate-confirmed top adviser to the Secretary of Defense on weapons testing. McQueary told Bloomberg News on Friday that it’s “likely” the US could shoot down a North Korean missile; “I believe we have a reasonable chance,” he said, of a successful interception.
Well, isn’t that just a little bit disconcerting? Isn’t it disconcerting that a mouse, North Korea, could roar and the US could suffer a possible city-cataclysm? The United States has a population of more than 307 million and a gross domestic product of over $14 trillion. By contrast, North Korea has 23 million people and a GDP of $40 billion, or 1/350th of ours. Indeed, the Pentagon’s budget alone is 13 times the size of the North Korean economy. So why are we the least bit vulnerable to a missile attack from such a tiny country?
The answer, of course, is that we are vulnerable because we haven’t prepared. We have had other priorities. Even during the Reagan years, when the Strategic Defense Initiative was launched, missile defense was never more than a tiny fraction of America’s defense budget. Today, at around $9 billion, missile-defense expenditures are less than two percent of all military spending.
And if we aren’t sure we’re ready for an attack from pipsqueak North Korea — and indeed, it looks to the world as if we have acquiesced to Kim Jong Il’s membership in the “nuclear club” — then how strong do we look against Iran, which is a much larger and wealthier country? Or Russia? Or China? Surely any nuclear power, or would-be nuclear power, finds it comforting to think that the US won’t bother to defend itself against nuclear saber-rattling or blackmailing.
Somewhere in our national future, an enemy — state or non-state — will develop a nuclear strike capacity to be used against us. And that enemy will not be stopped by stern words, sanctions, or even deterrence. Sometimes, the only way to stop a threat is simply to stop the threat. Since first-striking is no longer a plausible option (if it ever was), then we must be able to stop threats in mid-flight. Yet that’s what we can’t reliably do, as the Pentagon’s Dr. McQueary has just reminded us.
Since 9-11, the cliche has held that the US is ready for “conventional” wars, but not for “asymmetric” warfare, such as terrorism. But today, we are much more prepared for asymmetric warfare, as opposed to conventional fighting, because that’s what we’ve been focusing on these past eight years — even if we had to create a Department of Homeland Security to do what the Defense Department was originally created to do. We are getting good at twilight warfare; we can fire drone missiles into houses in Pakistan, we can “turn” insurgents in Anbar, we can squelch the opium trade in Kandahar. But what we can’t do is defend our own country, or our own military assets.
In March, the US Naval Institute, based at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, assessed the Dong Feng 21, a Chinese anti-ship ballistic missile: “Because the missile employs a complex guidance system, low radar signature and a maneuverability that makes its flight path unpredictable, the odds that it can evade tracking systems to reach its target are increased. It is estimated that the missile can travel at mach 10 and reach its maximum range of 2000 km in less than 12 minutes.” In other words, China could sink any and all of our aircraft carriers within range in rapid time. As the Naval Institute further notes, Dong Feng 21 “marks the first time a ballistic missile has been successfully developed to attack vessels at sea. Ships currently have no defense against a ballistic missile attack.” [emphasis added]
So again, what have we been doing? We’ve been warned, but what are we doing to stop the threats? And in the meantime, what will the Chinese be doing, other than extending the range of their various missiles?
It’s been said before that our vaunted supercarriers are like so many medieval knights at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415. That is, they look great, and they are great on the attack against similar-type enemies, but they are no match for a single projectile — back then, the English longbow. But in fact, our whole country looks more and more like a French knight in shining armor. Not because we don’t know about the emerging threat of ballistic and cruise missiles, but because we have chosen to ignore the threat.
Yes, of course, we have nuclear deterrence. And that should work fine against China – unless, of course, the Chinese figure out how to blind all our satellites and perfect a missile-defense system of their own. But even absent such a Chinese breakthrough, nuclear deterrence theory is challenged, even abrogated, by a multiplicity of potential foes, regular and irregular.
And if we can’t defend ourselves against ballistic and nuclear threats, then every tinhorn dictator can potentially use a nuke to elevate his status, from reviled and sanctioned pariah to respected, or at least feared, negotiating partner.
Today’s military analysts might laugh at France’s wildly overoptimistic Plan XVII, launched at the beginning of World War One, calling for offense a outrance — offense to the utmost. Yet zealous French infantry and cavalry attacks against German machine guns failed, because Marshall Joffre wrongly presumed that elan and cold steel could substitute for strategy.
And at the same time, of course, the Germans outflanked the French by going through Belgium. Only later, and only in the nick of time — after suffering hundreds of thousands of casualties in futile offensives during the first few weeks of fighting — did the French wake up and realize the need to defend their capital, Paris.
II. So How Did We Get Here?
As noted, American defense policy has oscillated between two extremes:
On the one extreme is the neoconservative doctrine that the US should, and could, transform the world. Channeling the “roll back” ideology of the early Cold War, neocon dogmatists declared that America should seize the “unipolar moment” to spread the blessings of democracy and neocolonialism to others, like it or not.
Unfortunately, these neoconservatives “regime changed” President Bush’s mind in the days after 9-11, thereby setting his presidency on a course toward ruin in Iraq. And so a President — and a Defense Secretary, Don Rumsfeld — who had championed missile defense during the 1990s suddenly lost interest in the basics of homeland security. And by 2005, while Bush was busy being “mayor of Baghdad,” a city in the US, New Orleans, was engulfed by disaster and slow response. Meanwhile, today, a trillion dollars later, we are publicly hedging on the question of whether or not we can defend the US against North Korean threats — threats that sprang up on Bush’s watch.
Yes, the Bush administration was always for missile defense, but it was always a low priority, overwhelmed by higher priorities, including the need to stay on good terms with at least some Democrats, as well as by the need to cut some spending somewhere.
Now, for its part, the Obama administrations seems determined to a) clean up the messes it sees left over from the Bush era, and b) pursue its own vision of the transformation of the world. So defense will be downgraded, and cooperation on foreign aid, as well as environmental goals such as greenhouse-gas reduction, will be upgraded.
But if the Bush plan of rolling back Islamism did not work, one has to wonder about the Obama plan of conciliating enemies.
Certainly the North Koreans haven’t gotten the message, and it’s not at all clear about Iran. Yet even so, the new administration projects cutting defense spending down to three percent of GDP by 2019, down from the current 4.7 percent. That’s the lowest level since the 1930s. And so we might ask: Has the world really become that safe? Or do the Obamans, like the Bushies before them, have other priorities that rank higher than defense?
In fact, Obama put his personal ideology on the table in his April 5 speech in Prague, in which he proclaimed a commitment “to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.”
Obama’s speech was regarded by Washington veterans as harmless pie-in-the-sky, a left-wing version of “boob bait for the bubbas,” words intended to excite one-worlding college professors, not words to guide future military policy. But the problem is that while such utopian talk might not cause the elimination of America’s nuclear arsenal, it could cause the elimination of any serious effort at nuclear defense for years to come.
Why? Because the left still seems hypnotized by the experience of the Cold War, which taught liberals that the balance of terror, while not a good alternative, is the best available alternative. And yet confidence in deterrence is based on a tiny data set — the singularity of the US-Soviet relationship over barely more than 40 years.
By contrast, the next few years will see many nuclear powers confronting each other in various faceoffs — the geopolitical equivalent of a Quentin Tarantino movie where the gangsters all have guns pointed at each other — bringing a more difficult test for the calm logic of deterrence.
And all the while, if present trends hold, America will be mostly defenseless. We have various air defense programs ongoing, including some that might (or might not) save us from a North Korean nuke, but their budgets are being flatlined, as mainstream media reporters cheer.
Today, nobody in the military, or in the military-industrial complex, thinks that strategic defense is any sort of priority for the White House or the Congress. The message is clear: If you want to get ahead in today’s military, figure out ways to secure foreign cities; American cities are on their own.
III. Israel Faces An “Existential” Threat From Iran — and Redoubles its Defenses Against the Palestinians
But surely, one might say, the steely-eyed “never again” Israelis are free of ideological blinders, right or left, that might impede their own national defense. Knowing they face threats from every direction, they have taken prudent no-nonsense steps to defend themselves, right? Wrong.
Mostly thanks to the US, the Israeli Air Force boasts 600 combat aircraft. But all that airpower notwithstanding, the Israelis don’t have the power to defend their own airspace.
During the 2006 Lebanon war for example, Hezbollah fired approximately 4000 missiles and rockets into Israel, killing 44 civilians and injuring another 1500. And even after the 2008-9 Israeli incursion into Gaza, when Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was visiting Washington in May, Hamas fired a number of rockets into Israel.
Yes, the Israelis can retaliate for each and every strike with multiples of force, but, for optical-political reasons, they choose not to retaliate. And what they most definitely cannot do is prevent the rocket firings in the first place, or even interdict the rockets in flight.
Tel Aviv University defense analyst Reuven Pedatzur recalled recently:

Hezbollah launched 4,000 rockets from South Lebanon during the Second Lebanon War, and their effect on northern Israel has not been forgotten: Life was nearly paralyzed for a whole month. Since then the Lebanese organization’s stockpile was replenished and enhanced, and it now has some 40,000 rockets. Israel does not have a response to those rockets. The rocket defense systems now being developed (Iron Dome and Magic Wand) are still far from completion, and even after they become operational, it is doubtful they will prove effective against thousands of rockets launched at Israel.

Could little Israel afford to build a missile-defense system on its own? Probably not. But like the Americans, the Israelis have chosen to make other objectives a higher priority. So AIPAC uses its lobbying muscle to persuade three-fourths of the Congress to sign a letter supporting the status quo in the West Bank. And one cost of focusing on the settlers in the territories is a neglect of the technology that Israel will need to survive in a hostile region.
And so we come to Iran. It’s said that Tehran poses an “existential threat” to Israel; indeed, a Google search using the words “Iran existential threat to Israel” yields up more than 261,000 hits.
But why, exactly, is Iran such a threat? After all, the two countries are 600 miles apart. The answer is that Iran could fire a missile, today, that could probably hit the Israeli nuclear reactor at Dimona, causing enormous devastation. And if the Iranians could put a nuclear weapon on such a missile, a strike could cause the end of the Jewish state.
And so what is Israel doing in response to this dire threat? Even as it is agitating against American action on the Palestinian question, it is agitating for American action against Iran. If George W. Bush didn’t agree with this Israeli line, it’s obvious that Barack Obama likes it a whole lot less. So the likelihood is a stalemate: The Israelis won’t do anything about the West Bank, and the Americans won’t do anything about Iran.
But if Middle East politics are thus frozen, technology is not — and so the nuclear magma is flowing, first through North Korea and soon, undoubtedly, through Iran. Under the headline, “World War III has started,” Eitan Haber, a former aide to Yitzhak Rabin, wrote recently, “One needs to be deaf, blind, and an idiot at this time in order not to understand that the nuclear bomb tested in North Korea two days ago also exploded in the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem.”
Furthermore Haber added:

The North Koreans blatantly disregarded the Americans and publically presented them as a meaningless power, yet officials in Jerusalem are still reciting the “Road Map” and making note of the evacuation of some minor West Bank outpost. The world is changing before our eyes, yet here we see Knesset members earnestly explaining that the Americans will agree that we stay in Judea and Samaria if we only evacuate some tin shacks.

In other words, Israel is gaining, tactically, and losing, strategically. AIPAC’s Capitol Hill letter-signing campaign may insulate Netanyahu’s government from another Camp David-type arm-twisting session, but it can’t defend Israel against a nuke. And which is more important?
Long before the Bush 43 administration, Israel put most of its strategic chips on the doctrine of preemption, as seen, most spectacularly, in the Israeli air raid on Osirak, Iraq, back in 1981, or the equally successful attack on a Syrian nuclear facility in 2007. And maybe the Israelis will yet bomb Iran.
But they haven’t yet, and many analysts think that they won’t, for the simple reason that they can’t. And if that’s the case, then the Israeli version of offense a outrance will have hit the same brick wall that American overoptimism hit in Vietnam, and then in Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan; eventually, the people being bombed figure out effective counter-strategies.
So perhaps Israel, as well as the US, should figure out how better to defend itself. If Israel can’t attack Iran, at least it ought to be able to defend itself against Iran. And defend itself, too, against threats from Lebanon or the Palestinian territories. If it seems absurd to think that Israel could stop a volley of rockets from coming across its frontier, it’s worth recalling that it was once absurd to think that a rocket could even be fired in the first place, from anywhere. But the Chinese figured out how to do it, many centuries ago, and then the Europeans got hold of the idea — and the rest is bloody military history. If aerial offense can be made to work, then aerial defense can be made to work.
And if it’s expensive? If it takes a huge commitment from America? Well, then that’s a good persuasion mission for AIPAC to undertake, not only on behalf of Israel, but on behalf of every country that values the skyline of its national capital in its current configuration.
So enter, we might hope, a new emphasis on missile defense, for the US and its allies. Israel is all for it, albeit, as we have seen, at a tragically low level of priority. The Pentagon is for it, even if the hot DOD careers are in counter-insurgency, or in traditional glamour missions, such as combat aviation.
But Obama and top Democrats are most definitely not for missile defense. Why? One reason is that they still link missile defense to Ronald Reagan’s much-criticized SDI program.
For his part, President Obama, looking to the success of his own foreign policy, should realize that in the absence of such a comprehensive defense — a virtual wall, if that’s what it takes, between Israel and the Palestinians — then the Israelis will likely never agree to a real deal for an independent Palestine. Today, the Palestinian Authority can’t prevent Hamas from hitting Israel with rockets from Gaza; what if tomorrow Hamas could hit Israel from the West Bank as well? Since a 20-foot wall has stopped almost all suicide bombings over the past few years, then maybe what’s needed for the future is 20,000 foot wall, however virtualized, to stop missiles and rockets.
And if missile defense is a good idea for Israel, then surely it’s a good idea, too, for America.
IV. America: This We’ll Defend
In his 2006 book, The American Way of Strategy, Michael Lind makes the valuable point that America has usually been wise to fight “stand off” wars, far away from home, to keep the fighting and devastation away from our own population. For this and many other reasons, it is advantageous to have allies, and to protect them.
But when new technology makes moot the advantage of distance, allowing the enemy offense to reach the American homeland, then a new commitment to better defense is needed.
Some will argue, of course, that in the age of terrorism, there’s more to homeland defense than missile defense. And they certainly have a point. We might ask: Who controlled the skies over America on 9-11? The answer: Not the US Air Force. On that day, four airplanes were hijacked, and three of those airplanes crashed into buildings, as the Air Force merely watched. Later, it was pointed out that Al Qaeda’s suicide-flight scenario was lifted from a 1994 Tom Clancy novel, Debt of Honor. Indeed, insofar as Clancy is one of the best-selling authors in the country, it’s a depressing commentary on military intelligence that Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, could say a month later, “You hate to admit it, but we hadn’t thought about this.”
Champions of the air-power status quo — leaning, as they do, toward silk scarves and spiffy flight suits — might argue that such counter-terrorism is someone else’s job. That’s buck-passing, bespeaking a narrow and parochial vision of defense, but for the most part, the jet-jockeys, like the aircraft carrier drivers, have been following the lead of civilian leadership.
But the time for blameshifting, and turf-battling, is past. If the confident and offense-minded language of “force projection” and “nation building” is now mostly inoperative, except for a few places, we need to learn a language of defense, dealing with all threats, wherever they come from, however they come.
And we can’t leave such national defense to civilians, who must also worry about earthquakes and hurricanes and floods. We need our men and women in uniform to confront the challenge posed by other countries’ men and women in uniform.
We all need to remember, and live by, the motto of the US Army: “This We’ll Defend.”
Having failed to make America safe by transforming the world, we need to make America — and its allies — safe by transforming our own defense.
That’s a costly proposition, to be sure. But recalling the way that the Cold War played out for the US, we can take some comfort in the likely economic impact of a profound and far-reaching missile defense program. If we could invest as wisely in the 21st century as we did in the 20th century — on such spinoff-rich defense-funded wonders as radar, the integrated circuit, and ARPANET — then we could be safer in the 21st century, and enjoy, too, an economic boom.
Some will argue that missile defense simply doesn’t work. But all of history argues that a defense can work if there’s a persevering commitment to making it work. As the late science-fiction visionary Arthur C. Clarke observed toward the end of his long life, “When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.”
In decades past, a mutant version of the right has sought offense a outrance, while the orthodox left has demanded defense de minimis. As a result, not only is the US inadequately defended, but so is South Korea, Japan, and Israel — and every other civilized country.
So much work must be done. The whole world has the same problem; our cities, indeed our civilizations, were built as soft targets. That is, they were either built before the advent of air power, or built in spite of the danger from air power. But now the great conurbations of the world are intensely vulnerable, like so many USS Arizonas, sitting ducks at Pearl Harbors all over the planet. As an aside, the residents of those population clusters stand ready, ultimately, to reward, politically, those who would safeguard them — and to punish those who neglect them.
Thus a huge opportunity beckons. A centrist political movement could form around missile defense, as part of an overall recommitment to the essential idea of defense.
That’s a necessity for the nation and the world: A Defense That Defends.
— James P. Pinkerton

Comments

61 comments on “Guest Note from James Pinkerton: America Needs a Defense that Defends

  1. jeado says:

    Why precisely makes a call to wait for the tooth fairy (and presumably
    another hundreds of billions of dollars) will save us deserve five pages
    in this blog?

    Reply

  2. Kathleen says:

    The best defense is to not be offensive oneself…disarmament must be an extinct idea. Methinkds Freud would call a missile defense system the “My weenie’s bigger than yours” syndrome. There’s no end to the competition.
    What good did missiles do on 9/11? Apparently all we needed that day was for the military jets to scra,ble in 15 minures after the planes left their course. Why not beef up the Coast Guard and the National Guard and use the excess funding to feed the world?
    Here’s L.Ehren Watada when the Army decided not to pursue trying him a 2nd time.
    http://rawstory.com/08/news/20/05/06/justice-dept-drops-case-against-war-resistor-watada/
    From where I’m standing, he looks like of one of the few who took his oath of service seriously, re defending our Constitution from domestic enemies who sought to circumnvent it to exert their will and accrue more power, upsetting the co-equality of the three branches of gov’t and ignoring the Consitutional processes mandated by law.

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  3. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “Does being a talking head commentator on Fox News makes him an inside expert?”
    No, but it certainly telegraphs a lack of self esteem.

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  4. Jolene says:

    Work hard on your own senators and reps to change our MidEast foreign policy.
    The son of the North Korean madman wants to live another day, so I don’t think they’ll be launching anything nuclear against the US before the next election.
    I can’t say that about non-state terrorists. Real change of the U.S. MidEast foreign policy would go a long, long way to easing those madmen.
    What does Pinkerton really know about our nuclear defense systems anyway? I’m mean really know?
    Does being a talking head commentator on Fox News makes him an inside expert?

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  5. questions says:

    It’s not just a matter of defending the borders. American citizens and legal immigrants can just as easily do damage. Weren’t the 9/11 bombers here legally? Oklahoma City? Scott Roeder? We’re pretty good at doing ourselves in.
    In fact, we’ll never be completely “safe” from death. But we can live in the world in a way that causes less pain, humiliation and suffering for others and so lessens the felt need to attack us.

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  6. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Bottom line, the idea of “defense” is a crock of shit as long as someone can simply walk over our border with a vial of ebola or some such bug.
    You cannot defend a nation with open borders, period. And anyone that claims you can is just trying to con you out of a whole helluva lotta money. That would be these jackasses like Pinkerton and his scumsucking hawk cronies.
    Its not profitable defending our borders. Thats why the ilk of Pinkerton’s persuasion won’t touch the topic, instead offering the ludicrous argument that missile defense will be a safety net. Its bullshit, as anyone with more than two brain cells can surely recognize.

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  7. questions says:

    And your line about “a system that only has a 50% success rate” is just incorrect. 50% of what number is the issue. If we have missile defense, then our adversaries have an profound incentive to make it 50% of a very large number to make sure that enough get through. If we don’t have missile defense, then they have less incentive to send over large numbers of missiles. So “50%” is a meaningless number made up out of whole cloth.
    In fact, any defensive position we take, we take within a system, and unilateral action is utterly foolish when the systemic consequences haven’t been fully appreciated and dealt with. I really think that your position misses the systemic moment.
    And finally, the “scope creep” isn’t at all scope creep. In fact, it is part of what “defense” means to try to understand just what it means to defend, what the costs and benefits are, what one can ever expect from being in a civil society rather than a state of nature. How much death can we stave off by living together, and how much death do we cause in our attempt to stave it off? Note that WigWag used the phrase “opportunity cost” and that idea needs to be dealt with. The anti-missile defense position misses the boat on this one, too.
    And post-finally (!!), I can be reasoned with. In fact, reason matters to me deeply. I don’t see any reasoning in the missile defense position. I see fear, misunderstandings of what research can do, misuse of numbers, and more fear.

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  8. questions says:

    Not saying “Do nothing,” not at all. Rather, we need alliances, shared space, reasons to trust each other, “soft” power/people to people, a lower international profile, less of a sense of US hegemony and US exceptionalism…. So, in fact, I think there’s a lot to be done, and a lot we can do. But “doing” missile defense only looks like doing, but in fact is most likely a waste of money, a waste of time, and deeply deeply counterproductive.
    If you can find a Caltech or Berkeley or Chicago or Harvard or MIT PHYSICIST who, without conflict of interest, has shown that time, lasers, and distance can all be made to work in our favor, I’ll be happy to rethink my position. Thus far, I’ve seen no such thing. But I do remember ball bearings being a sufficient decoy, weather delays for tests, faked tests, faked tests, and more faked tests.
    Perhaps we could launch mirrors to bend the laser beams, perhaps we could use gravity? More likely, we could try international cooperation, stopping attacks on other countries such that they have less interest in destabilization….
    And I’m sure those planes would not have stopped EVERY missile, and maybe not any missile. What a sad waste of time, life, energy. What silly paranoia. What a worldview to buy in to.

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  9. Mike F. says:

    I understand questions what you are saying but unfortunately I can’t find a way to reason with you on why giving up and resigning ourselves to death by rogue nuclear state shouldn’t be an option. Your last post sounds a lot like many conservative stereotypes of liberals and introduces scope creep on the subject being discussed. Again, my original posts were centered less on the practice of what Pinkerton was saying and more on the certainty and smugness some posters had in their responses to an honest request to do something. Your choice of doing nothing and letting evil people do as they wish isn’t something I would subscribe to. A system that only has a 50% success rate could save millions in a worst case attack from a rogue state since rogue states are developing the technology anyways. I don’t see the rationale in saying that unless you can make it 100%, just give up.
    btw, we had planes flying 24x7x365 for 40 years during the cold war… always trying.. always vigilante.

    Reply

  10. pauline says:

    Here’s Justin’s recent words.
    “The War Party Returns”
    Posted By Justin Raimondo on May 31, 2009
    Whatever happened to the neocons, those creatures of legend whose fulminations led to the worst strategic disaster in American history? Oh, don’t worry, they’re still around and up to no good – out of power, but not out of mischief-making schemes to drag us into yet another war, this time on a scale much bigger than their previous “accomplishment.”
    The Weekly Standard, Rupert Murdoch’s gift to the War Party, is no longer delivered in multiple copies to the White House, but that doesn’t mean editor Bill Kristol is totally bereft of influence in Washington. Kristol & Co., having disbanded their Project for a New American Century [.pdf] – which played a key role in dragging us into Iraq – have come up with a new vehicle, the Foreign Policy Initiative, which recently co-sponsored a conference with the head of the Center for a New American Security (the Obamaites’ favorite foreign policy think-tank) and the Center for American Progress, the Soros-funded headquarters for progressives such as Matt Yglesias. The subject was the “Af-Pak” front, and the attendees, whatever their other political differences, were in agreement that our new president is on the right track as he escalates this latest surge in the “war on terror.”
    The reason for this ideological harmonic convergence is simple enough to see: in spite of Obama’s alleged commitment to “change,” so far our foreign policy is Bushism without Bush – a policy of perpetual war, albeit without the Bushian bells and whistles.
    Not that the administration will ever admit to this essential continuity. In a move that underscores the stylistic differences between the new crowd and the old, the Pentagon recently issued a diktat to its minions, notifying them that “this administration prefers to avoid using the term ‘Long War’ or ‘Global War on Terror’ [GWOT]. Please use ‘Overseas Contingency Operation.’”
    Appearances are everything to this administration, whose top guns are understandably sensitive to the charge, coming from the more principled element of the Democratic Party base, that the revolution has been betrayed. The president’s defenders note that none of this should come as any surprise to those who listened to what Obama actually said on the campaign trail, and they’re right about that: he constantly charged that the Bushies had “neglected” the Afghan front and that we were fighting “the wrong war.” Once in office, he would fix that, he vowed – and that is precisely what he is doing.
    Yet one has to note that the Bushian terminology at least had the virtue of honesty. This new crowd, which supposedly disdains all ideology and is devoted to a streamlined, hard-as-nails “pragmatism,” is slipperier than a greased-up eel in a frying pan. “Overseas Contingency Operation” indeed!
    The euphemism is comical, yet not totally meaningless. Within it lies a hint of what the Obamaites intend, or, at least, what they say they intend. Being sensitive barometers of the political zeitgeist, the Obamaites are perfectly aware of the war-weariness of the American people. Even if you call it an “overseas contingency operation,” a war in these hard times is likely to grate much harder on people’s nerves as they listen to the latest news from the Af-Pak front. Yet to call the current war a contingency is to imply that there’s going to be an end to it, and, not only that, but that the end is in sight, if still a decade or so off.
    This, one assumes, is progress of a sort, but one has to wonder: what is the administration’s current overseas operation contingent on? Or, in plain English, what event, or series of events, would cause us to declare victory and come home?
    The answer to this question is lost in a maze that would baffle the Minotaur, tangled up in so many contingencies, what-ifs, and weasel words that it would take an analyst of Alexandrian abilities to cut the Gordian Knot of this conundrum.
    In taking a stab at it, however, one is forced to conclude that the term “Long War” is forbidden precisely on account of its accuracy. Whatever contingencies will bring America’s post-9/11 madness to an end lie in the far future. We ought to take seriously that U.S. general who recently said we’re preparing to stay in Iraq for the next decade or so, regardless of the 2011 cutoff point stipulated in the recently signed U.S.-Iraq status of forces agreement.
    I empathize with those who had hope for a significant change in American foreign policy, yet the evidence that we are making an even bigger military footprint in the Middle East and Central Asia seems irrefutable. The one hope left is that the Obamaites will really crack down on the Israelis, who are intent on building new settlements with your tax dollars, and who are moving steadily toward a particularly nasty form of ultra-nationalism, one that represents a direct threat to U.S. interests in the region.
    The chances that an Israeli provocation will lead to a full-scale Iranian assault on U.S. troops stationed in Iraq are quite high at the moment, and that is one big reason for increased strains on the “special relationship.” The Obama administration seems headed for a showdown with the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a hard-liner who, in the context of his ferociously rightist cabinet, is a relative moderate. With Avigdor Lieberman, the Israeli version of George Lincoln Rockwell, in charge of the Foreign Ministry, it looks like we’re going to be in for a long, bumpy ride.
    Yet the Obama administration, in making a big issue out of the settlements, is paving the way for Israeli “concessions” that still leave Tel Aviv with de facto control over large swathes of Palestinian land. Even minus the settlements, the peace plan one envisions coming from the Obamaites leaves Israel lording it over a demilitarized Palestinian castrato-state, one that acts as a kind of human shield for Israel’s expansionist designs. The Israelis need only agree to stop torturing their Palestinian helots quite so harshly – perhaps by letting food and medicine into Gaza – in order to successfuly goad the U.S. into provoking a war with the Iranians. The U.S. stance on Iran is reportedly Obama’s chief bargaining chip in his testy negotiations with Tel Aviv – a price that, if it is ever exacted, will be paid in blood, American and Iranian (but never Israeli).
    The fundamentals of U.S. foreign policy – a policy based on the grandiose delusion that the U.S. can and must retain hegemonic power in the world in order to ensure its own security – haven’t changed a single iota. According to our commander in chief, that fanatics are plotting against America in a cave somewhere in Waziristan is reason enough to launch a decades-long occupation and nation-building project in the wilds of Central Asia. As long as these baddies find a “safe haven” for their plotting, there is no country in the world that’s safe from a future as a battle zone. This is the Bush doctrine of preemptive warfare carried to its logical,
    Bizarro World conclusion: in keeping the peace we must invade and conquer the world.
    What has changed, however, is the willingness of the American people to put up with an “overseas contingency operation” without end. Therefore the Obamaites have to tread very carefully, even as they carry out the same old policies under a freshly minted rubric, mindful that the natives are already getting restless, albeit not quite yet as restless as Ted Rall.
    I remember way back when Rall’s rhetoric was considered radical; the Iraq war, he averred, was “a war waged under false pretexts by a fictional coalition led by an ersatz president.” In 2003 and thereabouts, when news announcers had yet to take off their flag lapel buttons and Phil Donahue was getting unceremoniously ousted from the airwaves, Rall was accurately calling the Iraq war as lost and demanding Bush’s prosecution as a war criminal. In those dark days, Rall’s views – quite aside from his style – were considered beyond-the-pale radicalism. Today, we have members of Congress, including the speaker, calling for what amounts to a war crimes tribunal to sit in judgment on Bush administration officials. Yesterday’s radicalism, in this instance, is today’s growing consensus.
    Similarly, I believe, Rall’s recent piece calling for the president to resign on account of his serial betrayals, especially on the foreign policy front, will prove to be a prophetic reading of the zeitgeist to come. I agree with Katrina van den Heuvel, editor of The Nation, who, in an interview with Antiwar.com’s Scott Horton, compared Obama to another Democratic president with a liberal domestic agenda who got bogged down in a no-win, no-sense war: Lyndon Baines Johnson.
    The War Party, driven from power by the Bush defeat, has regrouped and had a makeover: in their new guise as nation-building humanitarians, they’re not making war – they’re conducting an Overseas Contingency Operation. Instead of the damn-the-torpedoes approach taken by his predecessor, this president is not averse to euphemism and what passes for subtlety in pursuing the very same ends. Yet the real contingency here is the patience of the American people, which is fast coming to an end. How long the Obamaites can delay the inevitable revolt is a matter of pure speculation. However, I’m willing to bet it’ll be sooner than they fear.
    from —
    http://original.antiwar.com/justin/2009/05/31/the-war-party-returns/

    Reply

  11. Paul Norheim says:

    If your concern for security reaches a certain level of obsession,
    you`re doomed. A “20 000 foot wall” (Pinkerton) attracts not
    only climbers, but also more inventive types who are obsessed
    with ways to dig a whole under it. You`re like the wealthy man
    trying to protect himself with an impressive fence: the thieves
    would not have discovered you if they hadn`t been attracted by
    the fence in the first place. The same logic applies to the US
    fortresses functioning as embassies around the globe, as well as
    the military missions abroad – all these Americans
    conspicuously equipped with high tech gear and vehicles.
    Regardless of whether Pinkerton is being paid by those who
    produce the fences or walls to advertise for their services or not,
    an argument for defense and security is a valid one – until it
    reaches a degree of obsession where it is becoming
    counterproductive. Victims of the illusion of absolute security
    who act accordingly, are much more more vulnerable than those
    who accept a certain degree of danger as a fact of life.
    Kotzabasis is happy to see a “downy politically realist bird like
    Pinkerton” being invited to write a post on Steve`s blog. But just
    like Kotzabasis himself, Pinkerton is certainly not a realist. His
    dreams are nourished by a mixture of apocalyptic fear for “mice”
    and “tiny countries” like North Korea, and utopian expectations,
    and his pet project is founded on faulty reasoning. To support
    his case, he even has to quote a science fiction writer, assuring
    us that everything is possible. But as POA and others have
    pointed out: if the technological development should prove that
    “everything is possible” for those who try to protect themselves,
    the limitless possibilities are also open for those who want to
    attack them. This may make you wonder whether there are other
    sources for Pinkerton`s optimism.
    WigWag provides convincing examples on why certain missile
    defense systems currently are technologically unviable. But of
    course he is wrong when he claims that the issue has no
    political or ideological dimensions. The resources necessary for
    these kinds of tasks are related to rather drastic economical
    priorities with obvious political implications. Secondly, WigWag
    is not convincing anyone when he pretends that security issues
    like the Iron Dome project can be isolated to the technological
    sphere. Just like the technologically more viable Israeli wall, the
    Iron Dome is of course directly related to the occupation of the
    West Bank and Gaza, the expansion of the settlements, and the
    humiliation and harassments of the Palestinians.
    The same applies to the United States. High tech or low tech; in
    an age of asymmetric or symmetric warfare… an empire with
    tentacles all over the globe can never be secure in an absolute
    sense. The vulnerability is a substantial part of the bill, directly
    related to political and military decisions. (See: The Korean war;
    the Iranian coup in 1953; the support of the Shah; the financial
    and military support for Israel, the support for Mujahedeen in
    Afghanistan against the Soviet Union; the placement of troops in
    Saudi-Arabia during the first Gulf war).
    James Pinkerton claims that he wants reasonable people to
    occupy the “commonsensical middle ground that neither party’s
    ideological wing has chosen to occupy.” Apparently, this sounds
    like the position of people like Steve Clemons, doesn`t it?
    Ironically, Pinkerton`s sci-fi inspired dream of total security
    from the “mice” of this world is the conservative equivalence of
    the naive and utopian dreams of the extreme left.

    Reply

  12. Anders Widebrant says:

    Mike, you asked why there is a conflict in this discussion between non-proliferation and missile defence. The answer is that a selectively deployed missile defence system directly undermines non-proliferation efforts, since it encourages competitors and enemies of the party that controls the missile defence system to construct and deploy enough missiles to definitely overwhelm their opponent’s defence. The suspicion of a working missile defence system inevitably invokes the fear that the owner might be tempted to use his newly gained impunity to attack his competitors.
    For an alternative to spending a lot of resources on missile defence, consider http://www.globalzero.org/ . This is a serious project, and the effort underlying it — the process of mutual disarmament — has a track record that I think compares very favourably to the advances that have been made on missile defence.

    Reply

  13. questions says:

    “So, your solution for missile defense is that it is currently impossible and will never be practical, so there is no need to waste time and money on it, instead, we should spend our energies on more productive solutions”
    Yep. And it looks like not just “currently” impossible. There would seem to be some real barriers.
    Remember, cell phones simply send their signals to nearby towers that then relay them in bits and pieces around the world. Walkie talkies do the same thing, only they need to be close to each other and no one built relay towers all over the place to carry signals. My point is simply that no laws of physics are broken in the workings of the technology. (Though if the brain cancer stuff turns out to be true, it’ll be one more technological advance we’d rather not have developed. Possible isn’t always wise.)
    And on shooting down some or a lot of missiles, no one says you can’t shoot down some missiles. We could certainly have fighter planes circling the globe 24/7/365-6 always ready to shoot down missiles. We could draft every human being over the age of 18 to fly all those planes, we could breathe in the pollution from all of those planes, mourn the various casualties from the likely crashes, and then some clever dude with a backpack, or a defensive plane even, explodes. In short, it’s not really practical, and it won’t end death.
    We could plant anti-missile missile launchers everywhere there’s, say, a cell phone tower. And still something would get through and we’d have a really ugly landscape. We wouldn’t be a whole lot safer and we would have spent huge amounts of money for almost nothing.
    We aren’t going to be completely safe ever. Not ever. We will all die, some of us horribly and some of us peacefully. Missile defense doesn’t stop death, not death from cancer, not from poison, not from exploding terrorists, and not from 100% of the missiles launched. And maybe even not from any missiles launched.
    If you want to save lives, try working to defeat malaria, fight for decent health care, cut back on energy usage, encourage the humane treatment of all sentient beings.
    Note that Newtonian physics hasn’t changed in the last decade.
    And note that nuclear proliferation is completely logical in a game theory sense. It is utterly stupid for any nation to try to get along without nukes when the US has proven itself to be an aggressor nation. Anti-missile missile systems are all the more reason to get nukes sooner. Reagan started the push, the research has been on-going and, sure enough, there was proliferation. Kind of what the article said. The US isn’t a good neighbor, nukes are a form of international self-assertion and they play well domestically around the world. The US with missile defense is even worse than the US without. So even if we manage to repeal the laws of physics (there’s a humor piece about this act), missile defense would simply be stupid.

    Reply

  14. Mike F. says:

    The point of the cell phone concept wasn’t to discuss the literals of wireless communication. Walkie Talkies didn’t allow you to converse with someone on the other side of the planet which would have been impossible for them. As we’ve seen, other research and technologies have enabled greater variety and uses of existing technologies. A “phone” in any form still takes an electrical signal and reproduces the vibrations to create the sound waves that allow us to distinguish words, voice, pitch, inflection, etc..
    British fighter planes shot down V1 rockets in WWII at impressive rates. If the will is there, we can find a way.

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  15. Mike F. says:

    So, your solution for missile defense is that it is currently impossible and will never be practical, so there is no need to waste time and money on it, instead, we should spend our energies on more productive solutions. I could buy that argument if we were actually doing anything in other areas. North Korea’s proxy testing of nuclear weapons for Iran definitely ups the ante because states like Japan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, etc.. now all must be reconsidering their nuclear potential to keep up.
    The CS Monitor article you linked was pre 9/11, as was another one. It said missile defense would be a cause of proliferation, but proliferation is occurring without missile defense. As Pinkerton mentions, 8 years have passed and rogue states now assume a greater threat role than they once did.
    Why can’t we do aggressive diplomacy for non-proliferation AND invest in research for the capability to defend against missiles. Perhaps the solution is not a target and shoot down system as specifically discussed in your other articles. If that system doesn’t work, then look for another way and keep trying, but don’t just shrug our shoulders and wait to get hit. Physicists once said we couldn’t fly too.

    Reply

  16. questions says:

    http://www.cdi.org/pdfs/coyle.pdf
    Very readable summary of a physics report on boost-phase defense.
    http://www.ucsusa.org/nuclear_weapons_and_global_security/missile_defense/technical_issues/will-missile-defense-work.html
    And one more for good measure. Very clear physics-based response to a particular pro-missile-defense argument.

    Reply

  17. questions says:

    http://www.csmonitor.com/2001/0202/p11s2.html
    A very general reading, with a couple of links that might be useful.
    http://www.cap.ca/news/missile-defence.pdf
    A Canadian physics group looks at a particular kind of intercept system and finds it a no-go.
    I can only put in 2 links per posting. I will try to find some mildly technical material.

    Reply

  18. questions says:

    Walkie talkies were invented in 1940 according to ask.com (I searched for “walkie talkie invented”) Cell phones are an analogue of that. No physics contradicted the transmission of radio waves. Physics would seem to have something to say about missile defense, though. Note WigWag’s point about how laser beams travel, note the timing of launch issues. I’ll hunt up a few links for you if I can.
    “Hard” isn’t the issue. “Impossible” and really “unwise” are.

    Reply

  19. questions says:

    “Practical” and “possible” and “rational” and “worthwhile” are all very different concepts. Cars have been possible since the beginning of internal combustion engines, and in fact, the horse and buggy is a car with an external engine of sorts. Cars have turned out to be more socially problematic than most had thought.
    Missile defense would seem to be “impossible” and “impractical” and “unwise” all at the same time. Research doesn’t always solve things, and certainly research won’t make the very real strategy/game issues go away.
    Finally, missiles are only one kind of threat. Remember, the 9/11 folks turned some airplanes into missiles. Backpacks and determination can wreck havoc. A machine gun, a bulldozer, a car or truck loaded with fertilizer and parked in the right place, a cell phone…. No missile defense is going to save us from death. But such a program will cause problems.

    Reply

  20. Mike F. says:

    questions,
    “Research needs to follow reallity, not fantasy” Look at the original Star Trek communicator and look at your cell phone. Research followed fantasy in that case and became reality. Had no one researched it, it would have remained fantasy, easy to disregard as possible. I’m not saying Pinkerton’s cause is perfect or even valid, but I am dismayed at the rather easy dismissal of both the topic and the person by many posters.
    Maybe a solution involves tiered approach where different systems target different threats. One system for handling rogue rockets that a limited in number, one system for larger threats, and one for the MAD policy. Of course, aggressive diplomacy should be complimentary and not supplementary to any solution, otherwise, as you point out.. the futility of an arms race. Just because it is hard, doesn’t mean we don’t try.

    Reply

  21. Mike F. says:

    WigWag,
    Agreed. I wasn’t reading the article as much about this technology or that, but on the need to not give up on it. If we say it isn’t practical, then how do we make it practical. The “best” minds of the time once said cars weren’t practical also. If we never try, we’re guaranteed to neither fail nor succeed. If a system (electronic, physical, laser, etc) were going to be possible and feasible, you have to make sure that more than a few select people are looking at the problem. That means expanding the profile of the problem and investing in the success of a solution. If we believe the priority should be elsewhere or that other threats or greater, then it is up to Pinkerton to make a case for the priority, but not necessarily for the solution. That’s how I read it.

    Reply

  22. questions says:

    Mike F.,
    Research needs to follow reality, not fantasy. Nothing respectable I have ever read has suggested that physics and anti-missile technology work well together. On the other hand, politics, fantasy, and contracts work beautifully with missile defense! I’ll side with physics. It’s not an ideological thing at all.
    To add to physics problems are all the game theory and strategy issues. When this crap started under Reagan, many decent thinkers quickly figured out that missile defense is quite likely to do the following: set up an incentive to strike long before deployment, set up an incentive to get into an arms race so that you have thousands of rockets to launch in the hopes that some will get through, set up an incentive to build a defense and then immediately go on the offense and hence, a functioning US defense becomes an offense, set up incentives for aggressor nations to go after undefended or non-aligned nations.
    Remember, missile defense cannot cover the entire surface of the globe; at most it’s going to be highly localized. So who gets the protection, who doesn’t, and what happens to unprotected nations?
    Physics argues against missile defense. Game theory argues against missile defense. Strategy argues against missile defense. As WigWag points out nicely, cost would seem to argue against missile defense.
    It would seem that fantasy and contracts are all missile defense has going for it. Not sufficient in my book. And not in the least bit ideological. In fact, just logical.

    Reply

  23. WigWag says:

    Mike F, I didn’t say Pinkerton should be discounted completely; in fact I’m glad Steve had him do a guest post on his blog. It is always more interesting to hear diverse opinions than echoes in an echo chamber.
    With that said, much of Pinkerton’s post centers on his belief that a robust system can be developed to protect against short, intermediate and long range missiles. I wish it were true, but the available evidence says its not.
    The burden, I think, is on Pinkerton supporters to provide evidence (other than the musings of a science fiction writer as great as that writer may have been)that anti missile systems that provide real protection can be developed in the near future. Barring that, it is hard to see how Pinkerton’s thesis can be considered compelling.
    Remember everything comes with opportunity costs attached. Resources devoted to anti missile systems might be more profitably directed towards other defense measures that are more effective.
    By all means we should focus on the real threats. But focusing on the real threats with pretend technology doesn’t get us very far.

    Reply

  24. WigWag says:

    Mike F, I didn’t say Pinkerton should be discounted completely; in fact I’m glad Steve had him do a guest post on his blog. It is always more interesting to hear diverse opinions than echoes in an echo chamber.
    With that said, much of Pinkerton’s post centers on his belief that a robust system can be developed to protect against short, intermediate and long range missiles. I wish it were true, but the available evidence says its not.
    The burden, I think, is on Pinkerton supporters to provide evidence (other than the musings of a science fiction writer as great as that writer may have been)that anti missile systems that provide real protection can be developed in the near future. Barring that, it is hard to see how Pinkerton’s thesis can be considered compelling.
    Remember everything comes with opportunity costs attached. Resources devoted to anti missile systems might be more profitably directed towards other defense measures that are more effective.
    By all means we should focus on the real threats. But focusing on the real threats with pretend technology doesn’t get us very far.

    Reply

  25. Mike F. says:

    WigWag,
    Isn’t that what Pinkerton was saying? Spend the time and effort to find countermeasures to the real threats? Don’t just ignore them or prioritize them so low that those efforts stagnate. Pinkerton himself stated that Iron Dome would not work, so I’m not sure which part of his suggestions you feel we should discount completely.

    Reply

  26. WigWag says:

    Those on the left object to Pinkerton’s thesis on ideological grounds just like those on the right support Pinkerton on ideological grounds. The problem is that ideology has nothing to do with it; it’s all about technology. Technologically speaking, a robust anti missile system is not currently feasible and is unlikely to be feasible in the coming decades.
    This is especially true for systems designed to protect against short and intermediate range missiles. During the first Gulf War, despite the initial hoopla, the Patriot System installed by the United States in Israel to protect against SCUD missiles launched by Sadaam Hussein was a complete failure.
    The crude Qassam missiles launched by Hamas from Gaza are unguided and cost only hundreds of dollars to manufacture. The Kaytusha rockets launched by Hezbollah against Israel during the recent Lebanese war cost only a few thousand dollars to manufacture. They are also unguided and are based on World War II technology.
    Israel’s answer, the new “Iron Dome” system which will be deployed in 2010, cost hundreds of millions of dollars to develop and each missile, filled with the most sophisticated guidance technology money can buy, costs hundreds of thousands of dollars. It is simply financial impossible for Israel, the United States or anyone else to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars per missile in the attempt to bring down crude, unsophisticated missiles that cost merely hundreds of dollars. Remember, it has been estimated the Hezbollah has 40 thousand Kaytusha and Hamas (even after the beating they took) has hundreds if not thousands of Qassams.
    To make matters worse, Iron Dome (and a similar systems developed by the U.S. Navy) simply won’t work.)
    Here’s what a Haaretz article from late 2008 had to say on the subject,
    “Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was surprised to learn last Sunday that the Iron Dome defense system, which was approved last year and was supposed to protect Israel’s citizens against Qassam rockets, is not capable of alleviating the distress of Sderot inhabitants.”Recent tests found the system to be effective against rockets fired from more than four kilometers away, but not against those fired from closer range,” Because Sderot is less than two kilometers from Beit Hanun, from which the rockets are being fired, Iron Dome will be helpless against them.
    The fact that Iron Dome is not effective against short-range rockets and therefore cannot protect Sderot was long known to the system’s developers and to the Defense Ministry officials who chose to focus on it. For some reason, they decided not to go public with their information. When the Defense Ministry officials, led by the defense minister, promised that the residents of Sderot would be protected after the installation of the Iron Dome system, they knew they would not be able to deliver on this promise…
    One need not be privy to classified information in order to understand that Iron Dome is not the solution to the Qassam rockets. The data are public knowledge: The Qassam’s speed in the air is 200 meters per second. The distance from the edge of Beit Hanun to the outskirts of Sderot is 1,800 meters. Therefore, a rocket launched from Beit Hanun takes about nine seconds to hit Sderot. The developers of Iron Dome at Rafael Advance Defense Systems know that the preparations to simply launch the intercept missiles at their target take up to about 15 seconds (during which time the system locates the target, determines the flight path and calculates the intercept route). Obviously, then, the Qassam will slam into Sderot quite a number of seconds before the missile meant to intercept it is even launched…
    But besides not being able to protect the border communities, Iron Dome will also not be able to cope with rockets that are launched much farther away. According to data available from Rafael, the average flight time of the intercept missile to the point of encounter is another 15 seconds. In other words, to intercept a rocket using Iron Dome requires at least 30 seconds. This is the time it takes a Qassam to cover six kilometers.”
    So, if Iron Dome won’t protect Israeli civilians any better than the Patriot system did, why did the Israelis spend so much money to develop it? The answer is simple. They understand that the United States, China, Europe and India are so desperate to deploy a system against intermediate and short range missiles that they’ll buy a “pig in a poke.” Does anyone think any of these nations will be unwilling to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on the system even if there’s just the faint hope it will work? While “Iron Dome” won’t make Israeli citizens any safer, it will make investors in Rafael Advance Defense Systems (including numerous U.S., European and Indian suppliers and subcontractors) much wealthier.
    There is some hope that laser systems will be more effective against short and intermediate range missiles and several companies have them under development but they are years if not decades away from deployment. The technological obstacles are daunting. Unlike missiles, laser bursts travel in straight lines which makes aiming difficult and mid course correction impossible. Laser light dissipates quickly in the atmosphere which makes an extremely strong ground based power sources necessary. Take out the power source and the laser anti missile system is neutered.
    An anti missile system designed to protect against ICBMs is more practical given the longer period of time the missile has to travel to its target. The Russians have had a deployed system for decades; in fact it’s been around so long that it was “grandfathered” into the ABM treaty. India is in the process of deploying an indigenously developed system right now.
    There is virtually no evidence that any of these systems can protect against sophisticated ICBMs that typically travel at 15,000 miles per hour and utilize sophisticated decoys and other counter-measures.
    The best time to destroy an ICBM is shortly after it’s launched when the chance of actually hitting it is greatest. To maximize the chance of actually developing a robust missile defense against ICBMs, a space based system will need to be deployed. At the current time, space based systems are illegal by treaty.
    Those interested in learning more about the subject should check out the website of the Ploughshares Fund. Quite a bit of good information is available there.
    Strip away the myths and the reality is simple; it is not realistic to deploy “anti-missile” missiles that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars against offensive missiles that cost hundreds of dollars.
    Unless Pinkerton can come up with an answer to this, its hard to take his suggestions seriously.

    Reply

  27. Mike F. says:

    Reading some of the posts is an interesting view into that mindset. Me, I’m socially liberal and fiscally/governmentally conservative or libertarian, but a bit hawkish based on my knowledge of history. From what I’ve gathered from the more liberal posts, Championing missile DEFENSE is what war-mongers do. It doesn’t work perfectly so it isn’t worth trying at all. We’re not capable of making it work perfectly, so why try. Government’s role for defense is only valid if we can also have the government provide the entitlements necessary so we don’t have to try to provide those ourselves. Finally, intellectual discussion is only deemed valid and contributing if it agrees with the liberal group-think talking points mentioned above.
    Anyways, that’s what I interpret. It may not be intended that way, but that is the vibe being given off in the “discussion”.
    Defense policy is a valid discussion. For every argument of hard lessons from the Bush pre-emptive doctrine or Vietnam meddling there can be valid points about the wishful naive tee of Neville Chamberlain and his futility or the persistence of Reagan to refuse to blink. Do we fight to keep ourselves safe? Do we fight to protect our allies? What happens if we refuse to fight? At what lengths will we fight to ensure freedom? to promote freedom? to define freedom? If you refuse to fight for anything, are you really free?
    Pinkerton’s article is an exercise in TRYING to persuade a course of action. He presents the current state of affairs, blocks to progress, and potential consequences of inaction. For that, some enlightened posters ridicule him for voicing his opinion and Steve Clemens only shows up to chastise a more conservative post when many others aren’t really adding value either.
    The ideological political bubbles should be challenged and rejected, not self-contained for maximum comfort.

    Reply

  28. Noziglia says:

    Read the first paragraph.
    Bullshit. No need to read further.
    I know it is Standard Washington Belief that the Democrats cut defense spending, and are generally wimps on defense.
    Too bad the facts say otherwise. As my father, a retired Air Force officer, has written elsewhere, under whose administration were the weapons that were so much a part of the “Shock and Awe” campaign that so impressed the chicken hawks at the start of the Iraq invasion? Did those weapons appear like magic 18 months before, at the start of the administration of the Bush/Cheney cowards?
    When common wisdom and accepted commentary is so full of shit, one wonders why one should pay attention at all.
    So one doesn’t.
    And I look to this blog, more and more vainly as time goes by, for both original and fact-based thinking.
    So far, none has been found.

    Reply

  29. Rubaggio says:

    Wow. How is it even possible to write so many words without actually saying anything?!? This reads like a Int’l Affairs grad school missile defense seminar paper.

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  30. Jeffrey Eldred says:

    I can’t agree with the article more. This is a farce that all the Western world is doing something to delay and appease these third world nobody-dictators and ignoring the solution to the problem. We need to solve this problem with technology, no matter how much development that takes.
    We also need better homeland security. Right now: our nuclear power plants can be be accessed easily, our waterlines and crop-dusters are available to the public, and we don’t check all the containers that come in through our ports for nuclear, chemical, or biological materials.
    These are great infrastructure projects that would create jobs along the way – far better than Obama’s pie in the sky green-collar fantasy.

    Reply

  31. questions says:

    No One Important,
    You write,
    “The democrats need to learn, the ONLY REAL obligation that the Federal government has is to DEFEND our nation, not provide Universal Health Care and bail out the UAW. But it appears the government is abrogating its only REAL obligation. At what point would we consider the federal government a complete failure? When the missile lands 20 miles off the Alaska shore? Or when it really hits Alaska?”
    What is the point of defending our nation? Could it be, maybe, ummm, keeping people alive? What is the point of health care or unionization and job protection? Ummm, maybe, ahhh, keeping people alive?
    If missile defense were to keep people alive, it might be worth something. But, in fact, there are huge fundamental issues with the program. We just can’t shoot missiles down with 100% accuracy, we can’t be blowing up radioactive material over our cities, we ought not to encourage massive arms races (if there’s a 5% failure rate, then an aggressor is merely encouraged to send enough missiles that the 5% represents a reasonable number of strikes.)
    Any notion of actual perfect safety to live out your natural life as you see fit, without ever compromising on desire or action, is really a fantasy that your parents should have trained out of you by teaching you to share and perform acts of self-sacrifice for the good of others. Just as any individual is obligated to others simply because there are others, so the US is obligated to other nations because there are other nations. Sentient creatures must take account of sentience.
    And, anyway, if Alaska is exploded, they have Sarah Palin to protect them from looming Putins or whatever.

    Reply

  32. No One Important says:

    Articles all over the BBC, AP Europe, AP Seoul, etc.
    Posted today, AP.
    ——
    North Korea may soon launch three or four mid-range missiles, believed to be modified versions of its Rodong series, from its east coast, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported. An American military official confirmed an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of striking the U.S. was being readied at a base on its west coast.
    ———
    See? It’s in the media everywhere else but here.
    Don’t any of you wonder why?
    We wouldn’t want the American people to REALLY know that the nation is now in danger, would we?
    Ask yourselves why a search of international news is talking about a missle being prepped to reach the US is everywhere else but in our MSM reporting here?
    Still want to question missile defense? Gates said he is confident we can shoot them down.
    But Obama wants to cut those defense systems in Alaska from 40 to 26.
    And the MSM isn’t telling us that we’re in danger right now.
    Interesting, no?

    Reply

  33. No One Important says:

    Doesn’t take much to bring out those who criticize Pinkerton.
    The simple act of voicing support for a missile defense system is enough to bring some screaming out of the woodwork.
    Our “missile defense” system isn’t as iffy as some would have you believe. Then why was a missile defense system promised to Georgia and the small nations around Russia if it was so “iffy”?
    Why was Russia so angered when that defense system wasn’t going to be deployed toward Russia?
    Why did Obama think it was “ok” to negotiate away THEIR safety as he goes on a mission to also negotiate away OUR safety with Russia?
    Does anyone REALLY believe that the bad guys will stop developing weapons while Obama goes around promising to dismantle ours?
    And negotiates away the safety of our nation and our ALLIES?
    Lets face it. We have a POTUS who doesn’t understand defense. He doesn’t understand anything on the world stage as he goes around apologizing for us, when we’ve bled and died for these same people he is apologizing to.
    He is cutting our defense spending on missile defense, while North Korea JUST MOVED a missile to the edge of their nation which is now capable of hitting Alaska.
    Yes boys and girls. You heard that right?
    Funny, the MSM is silent today about it. ALASKA was teeing up 30 missile defense weapons over the weekend, and Obama goes on a date nite.
    Obama SLASHED some of those missile defense systems for Alaska. While North Korea is blatantly moving a missile to their shores and can hit ALASKA.
    But by all means, keep whining about Iraq. Keep complaining about SDI.
    And when North Korea launches that missile, and it lands 20 miles off the coast of Alaska, we’re going to be asking some VERY HARD QUESTIONS of the democrats.
    Such as, “well? Still think the goofy feel good rhetoric of Obama is useful on the world stage? Want to run around and keep apologizing? Or are you actually going to DO something about defending our nation?”
    The democrats need to learn, the ONLY REAL obligation that the Federal government has is to DEFEND our nation, not provide Universal Health Care and bail out the UAW. But it appears the government is abrogating its only REAL obligation. At what point would we consider the federal government a complete failure? When the missile lands 20 miles off the Alaska shore? Or when it really hits Alaska?
    Maybe then we will see the end of the those who want to go around neutering our nation so they can feel good about themselves.

    Reply

  34. Josh Meah says:

    Mike G: “Oh, so many armchair commandos with such
    profound insight, so many solutions with a touch
    of ad hominens added in, so many intellects
    spewing they opinions.
    Talk is cheap; you’ve proven the adage. Thank you
    all.”
    Indeed, talk is cheap.
    Missile defense is expensive.
    Therefore, let’s talk it over first.
    – Josh

    Reply

  35. Mike G says:

    Oh, so many armchair commandos with such profound insight, so many solutions with a touch of ad hominens added in, so many intellects spewing they opinions.
    Talk is cheap; you’ve proven the adage. Thank you all.

    Reply

  36. Steve Clemons says:

    this is a good discussion.
    courtney — don’t hyperventilate. make your case — but getting
    sick only makes you sick… it would be more interesting if you
    participated in a civil, sensible discussion. this is an interesting
    forum and you are welcome here to participate.
    have to run,
    steve clemons

    Reply

  37. courtney says:

    You people cannot be serious.
    You are either so blinded by ideology or so ignorant that you don’t realize that missile defense is a reality. When we shoot one of these missiles out of the sky headed for LA or San Francisco will you fools be thankful that Reagan started SDI. NO you will sip your non-fat latte and blame America for provoking it. You people make me sick!

    Reply

  38. MADFTW says:

    The previous admin. went to great lengths to prevent future attacks, and we demonize them for it. Giving up some freedom for overall protection of life and limb is a messy debate, but what choice is there when there are people out there who don’t even know us and want us dead?
    Non-proliferation is a joke and a waste of money. It works on the very naive assumption that the guy staring you down with a loaded gun won’t shoot you after you put down your gun and reach out an open hand to him.
    Iran and North Korea are going to be a popular pair over the next few months. Whatever we do in North Korea will either embolden or discourage Iran. Bush and Obama’s diplomacy have failed. Like him or not, at least Bush talked tough and didn’t apologize for America.
    I’m sure that our new direction of our president berating the people who elected him, as well as taking the morally high ground is a big hit with dictators and college professors everywhere (and probably for the same reasons). That doesn’t excuse the fact that our adversaries are working on bigger and better ways to kill people.
    And that’s not fear-mongering; that’s saying things to people that they don’t like to hear.
    If the president wants to save money by eliminating potentially wasteful programs in the DoD, that’s great! But the money he saves should be DIRECTLY put back into another, more efficient and effective defense project.
    I would argue that the media has conditioned several of these posters to snarl, snipe, and tear at discussions about national defense. If we are attacked again either here or abroad, they will continue to come up with ways about how it was all our fault, anyway.

    Reply

  39. Josh Meah says:

    PissedOffAmerican: “For every advance in missile
    defense technology, there will be a counter
    technology developed, which drives the need for
    more advanced..yadayada..ad infinitum.”
    Why is this a reason to not consider missile
    defense? It’s a non-sequitur to say the world is
    in an arms race and then assume that missile
    defense for the U.S. has no value. Assuming your
    argument is true as relates to advancements in
    missile defense by other countries, then not
    pursuing missile defense in the U.S. would just
    leave us defenseless. How’s that good for anyone?
    Not to mention, it’s the Left that moves against
    missile defense and it’s also the West and East
    Coasts, the base of the Left, that are at most
    risk of a strike from afar. I don’t personally
    like missile defense, but a strike on the U.S.
    mainland would only need to another post-9/11
    effect: massive amounts of power accruing to the
    U.S. President on the basis of fear and hate. The
    U.S. would then expect the president to retaliate
    with a war. We’d be back where we were 8 years
    ago.
    Part of making liberal internationalism work is
    ensuring that peace lasts long enough for a treaty
    of sorts to be created and signed.
    Missile defense seems part of that.
    However, I understand the basic premise of the
    argument by others — missile defense fails — but
    that’s an entirely different argument (and if
    overall valid, worthy enough of a reason to reject
    missile defense holistically if those failures
    cannot be accounted for and fixed).
    But anyway — to POA or anyone else reading — I’m
    curious on your response to my initial inquiry
    into the statement about a global arms race.

    Reply

  40. PissedOffAmerican says:

    It would be nice if Steve would gift us with a guest blogger or two that doesn’t think we are complete idiots.
    “When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.”
    Actually, perhaps it is Pinkerton that is the idiot. Does he not see how Clarke’s premise addresses the inevitable technology that will render any future “missile defense” obsolete. Its a huge fuckin’ cash cow for those who are undoubtedly Pinkerton’s cronies, the arms merchants. For every advance in missile defense technology, there will be a counter technology developed, which drives the need for more advanced..yadayada..ad infinitum.
    Can’t we just take the Pinkertons of this world, plop thier asses down in an arena somewhere, hand them machetes, and put ’em on Pay Per View so we can watch them hack each other to smithereens?

    Reply

  41. Dan Kervick says:

    The deep commitment Republicans have to the Reaganite project of missile defense is almost touching. It’s the one part of the Gipper’s legacy to which they seem the most deeply, loyally and emotionally committed, exceeding even the commitments to tax breaks for the wealthy and union-busting.
    I think that’s because missile defense combines three fundamental elements of Reaganaut psychology: the sheer joy of blowing things up, the boyish delight in whiz-bang adventure, and the fear of foreign people. It could only be better if the missile warheads were made of Borateem, and were delivered to their launch silos by mule teams fighting through injun country.
    Calling down the spirit of Arthur C. Clarke to validate the dream of missile defense. Moving. Yes, that’s right Tinkerbelle. If only we *beleive* in missile defense and *persevere*, it will all come true.

    Reply

  42. susan says:

    The US Missile Defence System Is the Magic Pudding That Will Never Run Out
    “…So why commit endless billions to a programme that is bound to fail? I’ll give you a clue: the answer is in the question. It persists because it doesn’t work.
    US politics, because of the failure by both Republicans and Democrats to deal with the problems of campaign finance, is rotten from head to toe. But under Bush, the corruption has acquired Nigerian qualities. Federal government is a vast corporate welfare programme, rewarding the industries that give millions of dollars in political donations with contracts worth billions. Missile defence is the biggest pork barrel of all, the magic pudding that won’t run out, however much you eat. The funds channelled to defence, aerospace and other manufacturing and service companies will never run dry because the system will never work.
    To keep the pudding flowing, the administration must exaggerate the threats from nations that have no means of nuking it – and ignore the likely responses of those that do. Russia is not without its own corrupting influences. You could see the grim delight of the Russian generals and defence officials last week, who have found in this new deployment an excuse to enhance their power and demand bigger budgets. Poor old Poland, like the Czech Republic and the UK, gets strongarmed into becoming America’s groundbait.
    If we seek to understand American foreign policy in terms of a rational engagement with international problems, or even as an effective means of projecting power, we are looking in the wrong place. The government’s interests have always been provincial. It seeks to appease lobbyists, shift public opinion at crucial stages of the political cycle, accommodate crazy Christian fantasies and pander to television companies run by eccentric billionaires. The US does not really have a foreign policy. It has a series of domestic policies which it projects beyond its borders. That they threaten the world with 57 varieties of destruction is of no concern to the current administration. The only question of interest is who gets paid and what the political kickbacks will be.”
    http://www.commondreams.org/archive/2008/08/19/11068

    Reply

  43. Sid Schwab says:

    I suppose it’s hard to argue against missile defense if such a thing
    were feasible — on which, so far, the evidence is far from clear.
    On the other hand, given that any country that launched a nuke
    would certainly cease to exist, since the launch would be easily
    known and fire returned, it seems there’s a deterrence at least as
    effective as Star Wars. Meanwhile, the greater and more probable
    threat is the hand-carrying of a bomb into the country, against
    which missile defense is obviously useless. For that, we need to
    upgrade actual port security and intelligence gathering. The latter
    requires upgrading our image and friendships around the world;
    ie, making people more willing to help. That’s why Obama’s
    initiatives around the world are sensible.

    Reply

  44. JimN says:

    Missile defense is very very expensive and is of practically no benefit. Any government lobbing a nuclear missile at the US has committed suicide. If a US president is faced with threats of a missile launch by a “rogue state,” even if a missile defense exists, how reliable is it? 50%? 80%? 90%? How would the American electorate respond if a president decided to take the risk that a city would be vaporized rather than attacking the aggressor preemptively? A perfect missile defense system is impossible.
    If someone is really interested in protecting the country from nuclear attack, and says missile defense is the way to do this, ask them if they also support a strong, international nonproliferation regime.

    Reply

  45. jolene says:

    James Pinkerton,
    You wrote, “Somewhere in our national future, an enemy — state or non-state — will develop a nuclear strike capacity to be used against us. And that enemy will not be stopped by stern words, sanctions, or even deterrence. Sometimes, the only way to stop a threat is simply to stop the threat.”
    Is the non-state you mention going to launch this from. . .the mountains of Pakistan? The caves of Afghanistan? Or. . .? If a non-state attacks the US with nuclear weapons, won’t they be snuck into this country?
    If so, what did dumbo GWB do in the past 8 years to block terrorists from entering this country from Mexico? Nada, Mr. Pinkerton. If we would have put our military on the U.S.-Mexican border back on 9/12/01, wouldn’t that have helped stop the threat? And my 84 year old mother doesn’t need to have her shoes checked at the airport. And at what was the cost of lives and money by going to war in Iraq based on lies? Where’s your “conservative” values, sir?
    Unless this world is full of madmen (and seeing what the last group in charge here did) I don’t hold out much hope. Maybe that nuclear clock is ticking towards the final midnight.
    I, for one, don’t believe a state will enter into a nuclear strike, for in doing so, they must know their country’s end is next. Madmen state generals have very, very, very little to gain.
    Given that a radical, non-state group can find nuclear plans and parts (and add what this country’s been up to in the past 8 years)is going to find and maybe start serious trouble.
    It’s not the economy, stupid, it’s the foreign policy.
    I consider your wanting to spend unknown billions/trillions on a new version of Reagan’s Star Wars, a stupid insane idea. Engaging countries of the world, fairly trading with countries of the world, fostering basic human rights with all countries of the world is money and efforts well spent.
    As far as nonstate terrorists, we need to change our MidEast foreign policy. I don’t believe you’re thinking that at all.

    Reply

  46. questions says:

    Leave it to the household teens to find a link to explain how missile defense works!
    http://www.miniclip.com/games/bubble-trouble/en/
    Bubble Trouble would seem to illustrate many of the issues involved. And if a sci-fi writer can be a valid source, then so can a Flash video!

    Reply

  47. WigWag says:

    “Some will argue that missile defense simply doesn’t work. But all of history argues that a defense can work if there’s a persevering commitment to making it work. As the late science-fiction visionary Arthur C. Clarke observed toward the end of his long life, “When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.”
    If James Pinketon thinks there is evidence that any missile defense system will work (especially for short and intermediate range missiles) he should cite that evidence. Most objective experts who have looked at the subject (e.g. Union of Concerned Scientists) consider missile defense to be akin to cold fusion.
    As for Pinkerton’s quote from the great Arthur C. Clarke, it is true that Clarke predicted the advent of communications satellites almost a generation before Sputnik was launched, but he also predicted a manned space voyage to the moons of Jupiter by 2001. How did that work out?
    In fact, Pinkerton’s reference to the great science fiction writer is perfectly emblematic of everything wrong with missile defense. It’s not that it wouldn’t be great if it was possible; but all the evidence to date suggests its science fiction, not science.

    Reply

  48. Dan Kervick says:

    James Pinkerton,
    You need to jump into this discussion over at the Democracy Arsenal blog:
    http://www.democracyarsenal.org/2009/06/earth-to-romney-missile-defense-is-a-sideshow.html

    Reply

  49. Josh Meah says:

    Pinkerton makes some good points in the first two
    sections, but I think his conclusions, if carried
    through, would be an ineffective way of achieving
    what he hopes for.
    Missile defense for the U.S. mainland and
    certainly having a DoD more focused on actually
    defending America instead of being overly
    concerned with transforming segments of the world
    through military means is a welcome thought.
    I mean, today, North Korea is a real problem —
    Iran could become a real problem — and Iraq, as
    history has confirmed was not even a problem.
    Instead of engaging North Korea or preparing to
    deal with Iran, however, we invaded Iraq. That’s a
    DoD that isn’t thinking in terms of defense.
    Not to mention, part of an intelligent defense
    policy is understanding our own domestic political
    weaknesses. Had 9/11 not happened, would we be in
    two wars? Politicians, sadly, can almost always be
    expected to take advantage of situations in which
    political capital can easily be gained. When the
    U.S. gets attacked, “national defense” talk
    appeals to nationalism, a sort of feel-good fear
    and pride feeling that can really turn into
    serious votes. And, well, “power corrupts and
    absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Then our
    democracy becomes unified under a banner led by
    hate, and we have a tyranny of violent ideology.
    Thus, part of national defense is about defending
    us from ourself — occasionally a creature willing
    to kill millions across the globe in a hope for an
    idea of safety that comports with our own
    particular ideology of life. That is, American
    life, more than any other life, is uniquely worth
    defending at almost any cost — a proposition that
    functionally (and problematically) places the U.S.
    in civilizational antagonism with the rest of the
    globe. This is especially true in time of war.
    Missile defense is a critical part of accounting
    for that stark reality that we are easily
    manipulated both by government and our own
    irrationality when attacked.
    I think the conversation by Pinkerton on Israel is
    misplaced, because greater amounts of missile
    defense only further remove other nations’ second-
    strike capacity against an Israeli government that
    often makes poor strategic choices with its
    military. Tactically, in terms of Israeli self-
    interest, fine, but strategically, Israel’s goals
    are bogus. Given that the NIE report on Iran
    clearly indicates that a nuclear program could be
    developed in an underground, clandestine facility,
    the notion that missile defense or any particular
    defense can stop a transportable warhead from
    going off somewhere that could kill hundreds of
    thousands if not millions is a red-herring.
    Of course, that assumes Iran actually wants a
    bomb. A recent Newsweek piece by Fareed Zakaria is
    getting some notice, as it should, that details an
    alternative perspective of “Iran and the bomb” so
    to speak. That is, uranium enrichment may be an
    issue of national pride, but nuclear weapons are
    consistently declared as anti-Islamic. However,
    this is where “jihad” becomes a legitimate play as
    a mode of self-defense according to Islam — as
    Israel further bulks up its military and
    completely erodes the second-strike capabilities
    of its neighbors, then a logic for Iran to further
    develop its nuclear arsenal in a real effort at
    national and broader Islamic defense becomes more
    foreseeable.
    I mean, missile defense in Poland didn’t work too
    well for Russian-American diplomacy. How can
    anyone do anything about Iran (let alone pursue
    the rock-solid proposition by the Leveretts’
    “Grand Bargain” initiative) if Iran becomes
    convinced that any version of diplomacy is a
    fruitless effort.
    It’s true that Israel ought to be legitimately
    concerned about its own defense, but even
    Pinkerton notes that Hizbollah and Hamas have an
    ample amounts of rockets able to hammer Israel.
    Regardless of one’s political position — just
    look at the geography of the region. Qassam
    rockets from the south and additional rockets from
    the north in a territory as small as Israel and
    from localities that no one can do anything
    about…What kind of missile defense can stop
    those kinds of attacks?!?! I admit to not knowing
    enough about defense technology, but missile
    defense in Israel sounds like trying to build a
    standard dam to hold up against a river that will
    soon turn into an ocean. My argument isn’t that
    Israel shouldn’t defend itself, but a focus on
    missile defense is misplaced and certainly doesn’t
    do anything good for a Israeli domestic political
    ethos that will only result in more terror attacks
    against Israeli citizens in the future.
    Pinkerton’s biggest flaw is endorsing Michael
    Lind’s idea about American strategy, but then
    arguing for a massive defense buildup. Pinkerton
    actually endorses a “garrison state,” which is
    discussed by Lind as one particular take on
    national security that could destroy the American
    way of life. The point of the American way of
    strategy is to defend the American way of life —
    that’s Lind’s basic point, and I think it’s the
    central criteria all American policy-makers and
    relevant strategists ought to weigh their
    positions against. How would a centrist political
    movement built on missile defense work with the
    particular brand of American liberal
    republicanism? It wouldn’t — Pinkerton errors by
    endorsing a politics that would inevitably result
    in the most intense isolationist fears. We’ve seen
    this type of politics be proven a failure over the
    past 8 years. And turning that into a political
    position would inevitably lead to bleeding into
    other goals of such a position — e.g. economic
    protectionism. We don’t need too much more of that
    either.

    Reply

  50. JohnH says:

    Not to sound like a broken record, but I’d be happy if the US had an explicit mission or set of missions in the world. Occupying Iraq and Afghanistan, and intimidating Iran do not comprise a mission or a strategy. They are pointless military exercises justified by what resonates with the public at any given moment. And they consume a lot of US resources and of their blood.
    Once the mission is made explicit in clear English prose, then we can debate whether it actually defends America or not.

    Reply

  51. peter913 says:

    Further deviation in Defense planning will lessen a President’s options on how to kill an enemy. He will be left with a Trumanesque decision.
    Yes, ‘America Needs a Defense that Defends.’ But limiting a President’s options will be hurtful to all mankind. So, a better missle defense is needed to avoid a nuclear response.

    Reply

  52. ... says:

    the usa wouldn’t be the same rabid pit bull that folks like cheney want, if ‘amerika’ were to actually get into defense… we know what the same crew think of bleeding heart liberals…who cares about reality when there is money to be made??

    Reply

  53. Don Bacon says:

    James Pinkerton: “But what’s been lost in this left-right back-and-forth is a steady focus on actually defending America, and its allies, from attacks on their homelands. Those attacks have come, are coming, and will continue to come — but Uncle Sam has decided, in effect, not to prepare much for any such attack.”
    “Those Who Forget History Are Doomed to Repeat It”
    Ah, it seems to me that the only recent military “attacks on their homelands” has been an American franchise. So let’s change the above title to “America Needs a Defense that Defends and Not Offends.” It is the US attacks on various countries that have created millions of deaths and displacements, and thereby threatened the US with, if not military, then terrorist blowback. Plus US diplomacy has been sorely lacking, and has been replaced by abject militarism.
    Specifically the “current aggressive and threatening course” of North Korea is a direct result of Bush/Cheney abrogating the Clinton ‘Agreed Framework.’

    Reply

  54. erichwwk says:

    WOW !!!!
    Nothing like some ill-informed rabble rousing by a chicken hawk arms salesman to wake up those still capable of critical thinking.
    To offer a science fiction writer’s opinion to rebut the opinions and actual experience of physicists’ and engineers’ in “why costs and unintended consequences of a missile defense don’t matter” has got to be a new low in critical thinking.
    Pinkerton did, however, serve some constructive purpose. His rant makes clear that the ideologues ability to force absurd bankrupting military boondoggles on our resources and expose us to blowback is FAR more dangerous than anything from North Korea or Iran.
    How is Pinkerton a partner of the vision for a “New America”?

    Reply

  55. non-hater says:

    “On the left hand, we’ve had an emphasis on arms control, disarmament, and spending reductions, mostly without regard to the military designs of other countries.”
    Any article that starts with this ridiculous strawman is destined to be full of nonsense. Pinkerton doesn’t disappoint.

    Reply

  56. PissedOffAmerican says:

    What arms dealer or missile/satellite component manufacturer has Pinkerton in their pocket?
    These warmongering jackasses have brought us to where we now find ourselves. They are a scourge on mankind.

    Reply

  57. jhm says:

    Why, precisely, does a call to hope the tooth fairy (and presumably
    another few hundreds of $billions) will save us deserve five pages
    on this blog?

    Reply

  58. questions says:

    (snark) — Maybe if we all take our “Wiimotes” and aim them simultaneously at the incoming Nkiranian missiles, we can “Wiiblast” them, and have them fall harmlessly onto, say, New Jersey. (Nevermind the nuclear payload that explodes in the air. The Wiimakers can take care of that, too.)
    The real best “defense” is not a Wiicurtain over our land; rather, it is comprised of two crucial steps. First, we need, in our best Kantian fashion, to encourage world wide trade and hope for world wide republican forms of government (note small-letter “republican,” not capital letter). And second, we need to be significantly less terrified of death. 9/11 was a small hit in terms of property loss and human loss, even though it was a horror for those directly effected, and for those who thought they might be hit next. But the response to 9/11 has been devastating around the world. Vast death, vast destruction, endless war and torture, widespread ruination — all because a few fairly tall buildings fell down and a few thousand people died horrific deaths. I don’t deny the horror, but I would suggest a lot more contextualization than we in the US typically manage.
    Outsized and foolish responses are more of a problem than the author seems to indicate. As the US threatens smaller countries, it creates a profound incentive for all small countries to develop nasty weapons. Remember, Iraq has spent quite some time being a US ally. Saddam Hussein was our guy. And then he wasn’t. Who could feel safe as a US ally when we treat alliances this way? Who wouldn’t always have an incentive to develop weapons, cuz, ya never know what the US will do.
    In fact, the best missile defense there is, is for the US to stop making nations feel that they need missiles. The rest is just “Wiiland” thinking.

    Reply

  59. Charles Misfeldt says:

    The “Other countries” in this article are of course Israel. American citizens have never been asked for permission to support Israel. When will this country act morally towards the Palestinions and stop the attacking any country opposed to Israel.

    Reply

  60. kotzabasis says:

    It’s good and encouraging in seeing a downy politically realist bird like Pinkerton invited as a guest by Clemons to perch on the intellectually dry branches of the Washington Note. But Clemons must be in a mischievous frolicsome mood, as he deliberately places a cat among the pigeons of the TWN.

    Reply

  61. Anders Widebrant says:

    I don’t see why the idea of a working ballistic missile defence is more realistic than a world with zero nuclear warheads. The former option is at least as geopolitically controversial (if not more so — a shared loss of nuclear deterrent power is one thing, losing yours while your enemy retains his is quite another) but also relies on a highly speculative technological break-through.
    Disarmament has the benefit of improving the safety of the world with each step towards the ultimate goal. In contrast, a half-functional ballistic defence system benefits no-one.

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