The Limits of Missile Defense

I liked Bacevich’s  new book, though I’m less enamored with his analysis of American hegemony than I am with his razor sharp description of the perverse political incentives plaguing our national security establishment. This breathless post from Kim Holmes on the danger of an imminent nuclear attack (complete with goofy think tank video), however, could be a case study for his next piece. Here’s the relevant excerpt from Limits:

Yet embedded in Reagan’s remarks were two decidedly radical propositions: first, that the minimum requirements of U.S. security now required the United States to achieve a status akin to invulnerability; and second, that modern technology was bringing this seemingly utopian goal within reach. Star Wars, in short, introduced into mainstream politics the proposition that Americans could be truly safe only if the the United States enjoyed something akin to permanent global military supremacy. Here was Reagan’s preferred response to the crisis that Jimmy Carter had identified in July 1979. Here , too, can be found the strategic underpinnings of George W. Bush’s post-9/11 global war on terror. SDI prefigured the GWOT; both resting on the assumption that miliary power offered an antidote to the uncertainties and anxieties of living in a world not run entirely in accordance with American preferences.

And here’s Holmes (emphasis mine):

We can’t negotiate the threat away. We’ve tried. Bad actors like Iran want these weapons to hold the U.S. and other nations hostage. They don’t want us to deploy missile defenses because that would make their weapons useless.

It’s unconscionable that we do not have adequate missile defenses to deal with the threats they pose. Washington is morally obligated to provide what we need, because as [Lt. General] Obering soberly concludes, “When all else fails—when all the negotiations have broken down, when there is a missile in the air—you have to have the ability to destroy it, because the only other ability that you would have would be to apologize to those that have died.”

This is an inconvenient truth for those who think talking to our enemies from a position of vulnerability trumps military strength. Obama’s team needs to hear from us, just as it is from people in Poland, the Czech Republic, and elsewhere. We want protection from ballistic missiles. Anything less is abrogating their oath to uphold the Constitution and “provide for the common defense.”

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Filed under Conservatism, Foreign Policy

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