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    Friday, September 18, 2009

    Long Discourse on Obama Missile Defense Decision

    I spoke a little bit yesterday about the Obama administration's decision not to go with a long range missile interceptor system in Poland and the Czech Republic yesterday. 

    My post yesterday summed up most of my feelings on this, but, in Obama's defense, he (and the Perntagon) are correct on the technology (for now) and, if your desire is to do something (that ultimately has little import militarily) to "reset" relations with the Russians, and perhaps also say something to your Western European allies (Germany, France), then this makes some sense geopolitically.  It also doesn't shut out Poland and the Czech Republic.  As Gates stated in yesterday's presser, "The second phase, about 2015, will involve fielding upgraded, land-based SM-3s. Consultations have begun with allies, starting with Poland and the Czech Republic, about hosting a land-based version of the SM-3 and other components of the system. Basing some interceptors on land will provide additional coverage and save costs compared to a purely sea-based approach."

    From the political standpoint, it just depends on where you think the best interest of the country lies.  I am of the mind that, barring extreme incompetence, the President should be given wide latitude in foreign policy matters.  This falls in that category.  I personally side with supporting the Eastern Europeans on this (and given the likelihood that they will host SM3 systems, why that didn't get more play, I don't know), so, I think Obama's move is a bad one, at least from a PR perspective.  However, I can see their angle, which is surely that they hope for a less chilly US/Russian relationship, and help from the Russians with dealing with the Iranians.  Most analysts say they don't believe there was any quid pro quo in this, so, that's just bad negotiating, but who knows what may have occurred in secret.  If the Russians continue to thwart us on Iran, I think we can judge this move badly.  We'll have to wait.

    Interestingly, my Facebook site had a comment about this from someone who self describes as a "fiscal conservative."  At the same time, he supports Obamacare and the Stimulus, so, I don't know what kind of fiscal conservative that makes him.  You can be the judge of that and this post will help, too.

    Anyway, I don't know if the poster lifted this directly from left-wing website, but, he might as well have.

    "Seriously, the GOP is proving to be inept at even handling our national security interest, which I had thought up until now was their strong suit. The reversal of the National Missile Defense strategy today exposes the blundering strategy of the previous adminstration. We were wastefully spending taxpayer dollars (generating that deficit) on a system does not work and has not worked since the Reagan Era to protect against a threat that doesn't exist, namely the projected Iranian long range nuclear missile, which they have never successful developed or tested. Instead, for half the cost of the original NMD system, we will be more intelligently deploying proven ship-based interceptors missiles against a proven and tested Iranian threat of short to medium range missile. Now the talking heads of the GOP machine are embrassingly siding with old-school strategy."

    Let's parse this nonsense (I highly recommend anyone TRULY interested in this read the transcript from the Gates press conference):
    Point 1: GOP Ineptitude.  Hmmmmm, the only significant holdover from the Bush admin is the guy charged with coming up with this strategy and no friend to Missile Defense, Robert Gates.  Plus, other than the technology review, there really is no change in policy.

    Point 2: Blundering Strategy.  Spare me.  I discussed that in the paragraphs above and yesterday. 

    Point 3: Wasteful spending.  The system being deployed was 10 interceptors (in Poland) and a radar site in the Czech Republic.  But, the GBI's are expensive.  However, my guess would be the poster is somehow throwing aspersions at Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) in general.  For some reason, the Left hates missile defense.  I don't know why, especially now that the technology is starting to show great promise.

    Point 4: The system doesn't work and hasn't since Reagan.  This is laugh out loud comedy (especially when you read his next sentence).  There is much more work to do to perfect BMD, but, the technology is coming along, as the SM3/Aegis system shows, which is proposed as the solution to the Iranian Short/Medium range threat. The theater high altitude air defense (THAAD) and Patriot systems are also both tested and proven, so, we are making great strides in BMD.  While it is true that the current intelligence estimates (taking the Pentagon and the administration at their word) discount the Iranians' long range threat, we have seen how reliable our intelligence has been over the last few years.  Are you willing to bet New York, or Boston, on that? 

    Point 5: Using ship-based interceptors (the SM3).  Point well taken.  Go Navy!
    Some things to read:
    • Good article in WSJ, with some easy to understand graphics on how BMD systems work.
    • Charles Crawford (former ambassador to Poland) thoughts.  He sums up:
      • "The optimistic interpretation of this Obama move is that he has given up something that really did not count for much in strategic reality terms so as to get some other modest diplomatic gains (all with a keen eye on Obama's poll ratings), wrapping it up in vast spin about a 'huge move' to make it look bold and statesmanlike. Poles and Czechs are too right-wing for Democrats, so get a sharp clip round the ear followed by a perfunctory kiss to make up. The Russians know that it is all (mainly) rubbish, but piously applaud the 'wisdom' of it so as to make themselves look more powerful than they are. No real change.
      • "The pessimistic interpretation is that there really has been a 'huge shift' in US foreign policy and President Obama is ready to put at risk all the gains for freedom, pluralism and progress achieved around the world by Ronald Reagan with a little help from his friends, in the hope of creating a new world order based around a diminished unambitious USA in sly cahoots with left-collectivist post-democratic polities (EU, Russia, China) and sundry unhealthy pre-democratic Islamic regimes."
    • Tom Nichols, Professor of Strategy, Naval War College, and a Russian expert weighs in, "Despite the outcry that President Obama has sold out the Europeans and caved to the Russians by cancelling missile defenses in Europe, it was the right thing to do."
    • Eric S. Edelman, a distinguished fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, thinks otherwise, "'This system was always intended to deal with the missile threat from Iran and proliferating states in the region,' says Edelman. 'This doesn’t have anything to do with a technical issue with regard to Russia. Instead, it’s a preemptive concession to the Russians — a damn bad way to start arms-control negotiations.' And Edelman says that Obama’s decision may not even yield the desired concessions from the Russians, citing recent comments by Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister.
    Some good wikipedia links:


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