Free Markets, Free People

Missile defense: a necessary cost?

Discussing the START treaty that right now is being considered by the Senate, the Heritage Foundation’s Conn Carroll reminds us and the Senators considering the treaty of some objective reality:

Senators should keep in mind this Administration’s hostility toward missile defense to begin with. Within months of assuming office, the Obama Administration announced a $1.4 billion cut to missile defense. The successful Airborne Laser boost-phase program was cut, the Multiple Kill Vehicle and Kinetic Energy Interceptor was terminated, and the expansion of ground-based interceptors in Alaska and California were canceled. Adding insult to injury, President Obama then installed long-time anti-missile defense crusader Phillip Coyle as Associate Director for National Security in the White House Office of Science and Technologyby recess appointment. That’s right—this President not only appointed the “high priest” of missile defense denialism as his top adviser on missile defense, but he did so in a way to purposefully avoid Senate consultation on the matter. This is the President some Senate conservatives want to trust? On missile defense? Really?

One way to make nuclear weapons obsolete or less desirable is to make them undeliverable.  That’s the purpose of the missile defense technology we’ve been developing over the years.  Then, when you negotiate a treaty like START you negotiate from a position of strength. 

Instead, we’ve seen a unilateral decision to throw missile defense under the bus, even while rogue nations like Iran and North Korea develop bigger and more powerful missiles every year.   Not to mention the fact that both countries are supplying the technology to others and, according to news reports, providing missiles to proxies and planning on basing missiles in Venezuela.

The cuts to these programs is short-sighted and ignores a very real and growing problem.  The Airborne Laser boost-phase program, for instance, has successfully intercepted ICBMs in the boost phase in tests and is able to quickly kill and engage multiple targets as they boost out toward their targets (a time when the missiles are at their most vulnerable).    It is the first layer in a multilayered missile killing system which would provide this country and its allies a virtually impenetrable shield against rocket launched nuclear weapons.

Instead, we have an administration going around killing off the systems that will protect us all the while telling us that START will do the job and we should just trust the Russians (and Iranians and North Koreans one supposes). 

The easiest way for a nuclear weapon to be delivered successfully is via an ICBM.   Killing off our successful and front-line missile killers like the Airborne Laser boost-phase program is short sighted and dangerous.  If President Obama wants START, make him negotiate.  Reinstate the anti-missile programs.  Then, the next time he or anyone else (hopefully) negotiates a like treaty, it will be from a position of strength that essentially renders rocket delivered nukes obsolete.  That would be a nice change from the obvious unilateral disarmament we’ve seen in the anti- missile shield area and a subsequent negotiating position of weakness.

That’s what our president should be doing, instead of giving away the farm for a piece of paper.  I wonder if the new START promises “peace in our time”?



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54 Responses to Missile defense: a necessary cost?

  • I feel as if having Obama involved pretty much guarantees that we will not be negotiating from a position of strength, regardless of any other factors.

    • Unless you consider bowing to Vladimir Putin a demonstration of strength of course.
      Obama is sure to show them “he has steel!”.  They’ll exchange gifts showing good will.  Maybe Putin can give Obama a tooth from the whale he harpooned, and Obama can give him an autographed photo of himself wearing  Malia’s  helmet while riding Michelle’s bike.

    • Tonus – I feel as if having Obama involved pretty much guarantees that we will not be negotiating from a position of strength…

      I absolutely agree.  It has been liberal dogma since ’83 that missile defense is an expensive boondoggle that not only CAN’T work but also will make nuclear war MORE likely by increasing tensions.  The Dear Golfer, as a doctrinaire liberal, can no more go back on that than the Pope can deny the the divinity of Jesus Christ.

      Further, I think he’s so desperate for a foreign policy success that he’d agree to any demand that Putin cared to name.  The only way Putin could have a better position is if The Dear Golfer named the commander of the Strategic Rocket Forces as the chief negotiator for the United States.

      I’m afraid that many in DC, especially The Dear Golfer, are still mired in a Cold War mentality: getting along withe Moscow is the single most important item on the agenda not only because the Russians can obliterate our country within a half-hour or so, but also because most of the other global troublemakers are controlled or at least heavily influenced from the Kremlin.  This is no longer the case, but you’d never know that from the zeal with which The Dear Golfer and his fellow idiots are pursuing a Cold War policy.

  • IMHO missile defense is a relic of the cold war.  Times are tight and budgets need to be cut and this must include defense.  I’m not particularly worried about the loss of missile defense systems.   Who is going to shoot an ICBM at us?  Bigger nations like China and Russia won’t as they just don’t want to stir that pot.  Rogue nations like North Korea, Iran, or Venezuela wouldn’t survive the week if they did it.

    • Wanna bet an American city or two…and the collapse of Western economics…on that?

      • Yes.  If the government keeps spending the way it is then you’ll not need to bet a city on the collapse of Western economics.  You’ll lose them all.
        Cuts have to be made and ICBM attacks are not high on my list of things to defend against.

        • Happily, idiots like you will not decide this.
          One fraction of one city would easily pay for the entire cost of space-based defenses…much of which we have already paid.

          • Name calling only shows you to be wrong.
            Who is going to shoot an ICBM at us?  Russian or China?  Probably not.  A rogue nation?  No way.  It would be obvious that they did it and then they wouldn’t survive the week.
            So is it a necessary cost?  My answer is no because I think the threat of an ICBM attack is very remote.  With scare resources, defense funds are better spent someplace else.  There is nothing idiotic about this.

    • Missiles don’t have to have nuclear warheads. Suddenly “survivability” becomes less of a question unless you figure we’ll respond with nukes. So that leaves the question of are we willing to let others fire volleys of missiles at us – with conventional war heads that can be in the “daisy cutter” category (or other very nasty warheads), or are we going to make that question moot?

      I vote for moot. And, the fact that NoKo and Iran continue to develop long range missiles, Russia and China continue to improve them and Venezuela is likely to base them there makes the “cold war relic” argument fairly weak. Anti-missile doesn’t just mean nukes.

      Finally – defense is an actual Constitutionally allowed expense. Most of the rest of what we spend money on really isn’t. I say return to the Constitution and limit government to those duties and responsibilities it is given specifically by that doc. Spending problem solved.

  • Ronald Reagan’s argument for missile defense was fundamentally a moral argument. Why should we hold each other’s populations hostage (with MAD) when we can develop a defense that makes it less likely someone will use  nuclear weapons in the first place?
    That is one example of the type of creative thinking Americans value in important (great?) Presidents. The ability to see beyond the conventional wisdom. There we were, locked into a thirty year pattern of Herman Kahn “will the survivors envy the dead” behavior and one man was in the right position at the right time to challenge us to think about the problem as more than just “confidence building” and the number of MIRVs on each side. Reagan brought the same insight to undermining the USSR.

    Yeah.  As I wrote back in June…
    Now…today…we have the upper hand in the race to provide very effective national defense from space-based platforms.  Obama seems intent on squandering that advantage, and carefully tying us down like a modern Gulliver.  

    The Mad King Obama does not show any sign of understanding…or even caring about…national security.  Indeed, the opposite has been demonstrated time and again.

    The guy is stuck in the 60s…where his ideology was born.

  • So, Republicans getting on board with this the price of getting the Bush Tax Cuts extended for everyone?

  • Let’s say North Korea is collapsing in a revolution. The Old Guard in a final desperate act fire a nuke at Japan.
    With missile defense you can shoot it down and avert tragedy. Without missile defense, you are supposed to then nuke North Korea in retaliation. But wait, they just had a revolution or are in the process of doing so. Are you going to nuke them now?
    Same could happen with Islamic militants in Pakistan or Iran. The more actors that have nukes the larger the chance that these scenarios could come to pass.
    Finally, if we did have missile defense we could use that for leverage when dealing with Saudi Arabia – we can protect you from Iranian missiles, etc. (Or because we have that capability, some countries are persuaded that producing nukes would not be worthwhile.)
    Plus, what’s all the deference to Russia? They know we won’t launch a first strike – they knew that during the Cold War (except maybe Andropov who though we had planned a first strike.) And I cannot come up with many scenarios where Russia wants to nuke us. Maybe Europe or China or some other country, but not us.

  • tkcTimes are tight and budgets need to be cut and this must include defense.  I’m not particularly worried about the loss of missile defense systems.

    I can hardly believe that I’m writing this, but I have to agree.  It’s not that I don’t think that missile defense is a waste of money or that I think we should NEVER have it.  However, given the sorry state of our budget and the other defense systems that we also need*, a temporarily curtailed (NOT cancelled) BMD program isn’t a horrible idea.  When the economy is back on its feet and we’ve gotten the rest of the military up to scratch, then it should be full speed ahead with defending our country from ballistic missiles.


    (*) We are getting by with Cold War-era weapons systems, including the B-52, the KC-135, the F-15, F-16, A-10, AH-64, UH-60, M-1 tank, M-109 howitzer, Minuteman missile, Ohio-class SSBN, P-3 patrol plane, etc., etc.  Our stuff is still very good thanks to ongoing improvements and modifications, but a 30 year-old system can only be improved so much.  Especially in the case of fighter aircraft, the airframes only last for so long before they become outright dangerous to fly.

    • How’s this…defund the UN.  Defund our billions to the world in foreign aid…particularly to the part that wants our allies dead.   Etc., etc., etc….
      Defend our nation instead

      • Sure.  Missile defense is not the only thing that should be on the chopping block.  Defense and welfare spending needs to be looked at.  The government is taking in around $2 trillion in revenue and spending over $3 trillion.  So the cuts have to be in the neighborhood of a trillion dollars.   Defense spending must be prioritized to deal with the greatest threats, not the remote chance that someone, somewhere, is going to shoot an ICBM at us.

        • This is simple game-theory.
          You put the chance of an attack on us as remote (with which I violently disagree…I think it is greater now than in decades).
          But the costs to us of that attack would be profoundly catastrophic…regardless of the likelihood.  That is the kind of thing you DO defend against.
          Your glib…and IDIOTIC… “Yes, I’ll bet an American city or two” reminds me of the pre-WWII Brits and American isolationists.  Jes’ sayin’

      • I don’t disagree at all.  Indeed, I would say that we should defund the UN even if we were running a budget SURPLUS of $1.4 trillion.

        The budget is a question of priorities.  Just now, trying to get the deficit under control is pretty high on the list.  When it comes to defense, though I want BMD, I also think we have more pressing needs such as those I listed above.  If we can do those things and have money leftover, then BMD by all means.

        • I’d be somewhat okay with BMD if there was a surplus too.  The same goes for cutting the UN no matter what the fiscal outlook is.
          But that is all fairies and unicorns when the budget needs to be cut by around 33% just to break even.

  • get your facts straight the last missile defense test was a failure twice in a row

    • Right, so we should just give up.   I want to be on projects you’re in charge of – your stuff must work first time, every time.

      • I agree.  The logic seems to be, “The system failed because it missed the target, so we should stop development because it can’t possibly work.”

        By this logic, no weapon system ever devised, starting with a rock, should have been developed because they’ve ALL missed from time to time.  When one considers the truly staggering amount of ammunition fired to kill a single soldier in our various wars, one wonders why we bothered to develop rifles and machineguns.

  • You have to ask yourself if you’re prepared to use a nuke again, even if someone attempts to use one on us.
    And observing no country would survive the week of such an attack is, frankly, short sighted.   It’s easy to talk about tossing nukes around, it’s another to appreciate the consequences of actually doing so.   Our nukes work, we know they do.  in 1945, we’d been fighting with Japan for over 4 years, horrific destruction and loss of life, and Truman STILL didn’t make the decision to use atomics lightly.  It’s hardly a casual decision to obliterate a city, and I don’t think this president has the ‘steel’ to make that kind of decision.
    And if you think rogue states don’t realize that, you are sadly mistaken.  So being able to STOP an inbound weapon becomes far more important.    Anyone over the age of 20 or so has lived under MAD.
    I was rather pleased to be taken off the ‘instant hostage’ list after 40 years when the Soviet Union packed it in.  I’d prefer it if we had the other guy doubting he could manage such an attack, rather than just telling him to go ahead and hit us and then “boy would he be sorry”.

  • You have to ask yourself if you’re prepared to use a nuke again, even if someone attempts to use one on us.

    Better question: would BHO be able to use a nuke?  Looking at his ideology and detachment from reality…and this nation…I think that is unlikely.

    • “Better question: would BHO be able to use a nuke? Better question: would BHO be able to use a nuke?  ”
      I agree, and yep, never to be taken lightly, but that doesn’t mean never to be done.   This President?  He’d probably leave the press conference and hope Bill Clinton would make a good decision while he and Michelle went on “Date Night” in whatever city hadn’t been hit.
      Like having to order American fighter jets to shoot down American civilian airliners (Bush DID…) it’s having to make those decisions that turns your hair white to match the White House.   It’s an ugly decision a leader has to make, and that will exclude Dear Occupant unless he’s had a year or two to ‘study it’ (you know, not to decide, is to decide…)

  • I’ll settle for a plausible scenario where someone, anyone, fires an ICBM at us.  If you can’t come up with one then I’m not the one being idiotic here.

    • North Korea fires at an ally – we’ve long declared that firing at our allies is tantamount to firing at us.
      Venezuelan based Iranian Sha-boob missile fired at Florida (a two for one decision…who to nuke in response….Tehran or Caracas)
      By the way, IF a nuclear response is forthcoming from us, I favor a tactical scale weapon targeted at the facility that launched the offending missile.  Which is why I would personally order a sizeable conventional response at the same target, and any OTHER facility in the offending country capable of the same action.)

      • North Korea has attacked an ally of ours twice this year.  It is their warped way of getting attention.  No all out war has resulted.
        If  Hugo pops a shot off at Florida then what are the chances of him making it to the end of the week?  I’d say ‘not likely’ regardless of us having a BMD system.  Does anyone think Chavez doesn’t know this?

        • A measured response to artillery bombardment is not necessarily an all out war.    A nuclear missile fired at a country isn’t like a limited artillery bombardment in the same way pushing 100 tons of steel off the top of the Empire State Building isn’t like dropping a 5lb rock on your foot.
          An as an aside, we & South Korea, are currently at war (or at ‘police action’) with North Korea, and have been since the cease fire was signed in 1953.
          “Does anyone think Chavez doesn’t know this?”
          Sure, I think Chavez knows exactly that.  Chavez isn’t wrapped up in the idea of causing the missing Imam to return and restore the Caliphate, Chavez is into the idea of being a local power player.  The Iranian Revolutionary Guards stationed at the missile base in Venezuela as ‘consultants’ may have a different plan.  Chavez was a mere colonel before he attempted to overthrow the government the first time.  As the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Colonel commanding the ‘consultants’ in Venezuela  it won’t take comparatively much more to ‘secure the base’ and ‘launch the missile(s)’ even if you know you’re going to get attacked by the Venezuelan Army once the birds are in flight (and won’t Hugo feel silly then!)
          Most regimes are rational by normal standards (even Chavez), and accept that firing a missile at us would bring their term in office, and the office,  to an abrupt end.   For example, the French are nuclear capable, but we’re not currently discussing knocking down a French missile (though it would be nice to know we COULD if we had to, no?)
          Some are not, and lately they’ve been acquiring missiles that have the range to reach US and fissile material.   What reason could Iran have for wanting to be able to swat Europe, and why would they want to bother going to the expense of maintaining missiles IN Venezuela other than as a threat to us?   Does Libya do that?   Does Vietnam?
          We build a missile defense system for the same reason we put locks on our doors, to keep the honest people honest, and to buy us a little time in stopping the lunatics.

    • And you are the judge of “plausible“…?!?!
      How plausible was the use of fully loaded passenger planes being used as guided missiles?  I mean…before they were…
      When did it become an ICBM, BTW?  I mean, in the sense we commonly use that term (great big, very heavy throw-weight, MIRVs, etc.)

      • Then come up with a plausible scenario on your own.   A simple who and why will suffice.

        • Your “plausible” and mine are VERY different.
          Who?  Anybody now on the scene…or ten years from now.
          Why?  WTF?

          • So it is a ‘necessary cost’ to build a BMD system to defend against an unknown enemy with an unknown agenda.
            I’m sorry, but current budgeting restraints should cross that one off.

          • tkc: The French army is invincible; the Maginot Line cannot be penetrated; the guns of Singapore will resist any invader.
            Rags: You ALWAYS plan for the unknown enemy with unexpected tactics and irrelevant motives.  Especially if they pose an existential threat to your own home.

          • “I’m sorry, but current budgeting restraints should cross that one off.”
            Ah, so, the Pigford payout, as a recent example, is more important?  Various and sundry government sanctioned giveaways are more important?
            And I’m not suggesting you sanctioned those things, I merely point out there are numerous things we knowingly WASTE millions on which will make us not an iota more secure.  Surely I jest however, it’s not even important enough to close our southern border, so why would an anti missile system be important.   Sigh.
            “defend against an unknown enemy with an unknown agenda.”
            Rags, is right, you don’t fight the last war, or two wars back, unless you’ve planted trees along the streets of your capital to provide shade for your conquerors to march in.

  • Rags, is right, you don’t fight the last war, or two wars back, unless you’ve planted trees along the streets of your capital to provide shade for your conquerors to march in.

    Yet the BMD is a relic of a previous war.  The cold war.

    Ah, so, the Pigford payout, as a recent example, is more important?  Various and sundry government sanctioned giveaways are more important?

    I mentioned it before but I’ll say it again.  The welfare state needs cutting too.

    • Yeah.  Right.  Missiles are all gone now.  Nobody has those.  Nobody has jet planes from which you could launch missiles that flew into near space, with a trajectory that would lead to American cities.
      Go to sleep.  All is well…

    • If anything this is the era of needing missile defense.  Bonehead countries unable to field more than a handful of relatively technically primitive missiles seems ripe for being shutdown as a threat for a missile defense program.  Imagine the conventional arms and diplomatic handstands we have to go through to compensate for the fact a petty dictator has a nuke tipped missile pointed at the US or an Ally or Fleet?  Way freaking cheaper to the MD, imho.
      Its against large numbers of sophisticated missiles that missile defense contains any risk of not being a full benefit.

      • To say nothing of an EMP attack…one that does nothing to decimate cities, but targets our entire way of life and shuts it down.
        No stone-age ideologies that would like to see the end of our financial infrastructure (which is Satanic…doncha know…).  Naw…

    • An opinion I heard from anti-war protestors all during Vietnam was “I’ll go and fight when the Vietnamese are invading California”.   All strategic considerations to that statement aside – to whit it’s too damn late if they can GET to California – it would have been a much different world if North Vietnam had been able to loft missiles capable of going several thousand miles.

      Oceans once protected a country, Britian’s wooden walls kept the Spanish Armada at bay, and prevented Napoleon from crossing the channel.   Liken it to a game of Risk, where an opponent starts in the Middle East and has to cross into Europe and across to North America with troops to harm you greatly.   You need friends, or a big army to do that. 

      Missiles?  Well, North Korea has them, Iran has them, and is working on equipping them to be ridden by the tall man with the mushroom cap hat.   A big army is no longer necessary to threaten people literally half a world away. 

      Think “The Mouse that Roared”.

  • you know the more i read and listen to you guys the more i believe you are not limited government libertarians but just more of the same spend and spend without accountability big government republicans.
    for example
    The GAO report was released five days after an interceptor designed to destroy ballistic missiles in flight missed its target over the Pacific Ocean in the U.S. missile defense program’s second failed test this year. It was the seventh failure in 15 tests since 1999.Read more:
    11 years and still failing…..
    ohh and that airborne laser?
    In October, a converted Boeing 747 jumbo jet equipped with a chemical laser failed to knock out a target ballistic missile over the Pacific, marking that system’s second such failed intercept test in a row. The flying laser has been scaled back to a kind of science experiment, no longer a development program aimed at eventual deployment.
    these programs are just pork

    • Right, as I said, better we should spend money on a tunnel under Boston that occasionally collapses and kills commuters.

    • For laughs, why don’t you go read about the teething problems of the M1A1 Abrams, or the Bradley fighting vehicle and get back to me on whether or not they proved ultimately to be highly effect combat systems.

      You’re trying to tell me an intercept system can’t be done?  Yeah, and 15 years ago, everyone would have told you you were insane if you thought your brick phone was going to have a touch screen, take photos, play music, and surf the internet.

      • yeah like making your phone smaller is in any way equal to getting missile defense to work. just by you saying so shows your lack of understanding of what missile defense entails.what a gross simplification of the problems of missile defense. after  decades of failure going back to SDI and billions of wasted dollars, what happened to fiscal responsibility during this time of recession? this is just another hole to spend money on without any accountability. if we are to be serious about government accountability we have to kill programs that fail.
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        • “yeah like making your phone smaller is in any way equal to getting missile defense to work. just by you saying so shows your lack of understanding of what missile defense entails.what a gross simplification of the problems of missile defense.”
          No,  it demonstrates I understand technology will eventually catch up with, and overcome, the problems, provided we care to attempt to apply the technology to the problem.  The question is ‘do you think it cannot be done”.
          A program that has about a 50% success rate, solving a problem as complex as you yourself acknowledge, is less of a waste than some other programs I can think of.   You’re the one citing statistics, outlined as you have, that means if 10 American cities are attacked by missiles somewhere on order of 5 of them will survive….under your plan all 10 go up in smoke unless the missiles were designed and launched by the Times Square bomber.
          As to government programs that fail – the programs from the 60’s that we still pour money into today are legion.

          • no your analogy is not applicable phone technology is pretty much proven and reliable for decades whereas missile defense is possible less than half the time tested in fixed “scenarios” that are nowhere near realistic battle field conditions. this doesn’t include counter missile defense tech like multiple fake warheads or cooling jackets etc etc, if your for missile defense fine but dont play up the success when the reality is from from it.

          • It wasn’t an analogy, it was an observation that technology is rapidly advancing, and will overcome the obstacles preventing them from hitting another missile in flight.

            Plain and simple.

            As to all your miracle stuff, I was there watching it on the practical working with it side, it WASN’T there 15 years go.    Hell, 12 years ago we had an entire country with it’s knickers in a twist because they thought the world would end on January 1, 2000 because of 2 digit years, written that way to save VERY EXPENSIVE STORAGE SPACE on disk drives and tapes.   Now I have a $14.00 thumb drive with more directly addressable memory than most of those multimillion dollar machines.


  • SCENARIO – Islamofascists sieze control of the Pakistani government – or just one of its missiles – and threaten to vaporize Dehli, our big air base at Bagram, our naval base at Diego Garcia, etc.

    SCENARIO – Iran gets a nuke and a missile to carry it.  In the throes of an anti-clerical revolution, hardliners with nothing to lose launch at Tel Aviv.

    SCENARIO – Iran bases nuclear missiles in Venezuela (shades of 1962).  In the throes of an anti-Chavez revolution, FARC or other red guerillas sieze one or more of these missiles and launch / threaten to launch at Bogata.

    SCENARIO – The Red Chinese government is taken over by hardliners who move to invade Taiwan and threaten nuclear attack against Japan and the United States if the US interferes.

    SCENARIO – The disintegrating North Korean dictatorship launches a nuclear missile at Seoul.

    We’ve been lucky (!) during the past fifty years that nukes have been in the hands of (more or less) stable countries ruled by people who are rational.  We cannot say the same about Pakistan, North Korea, or Iran.

    • So the BMD system is going to be deployed… everywhere?  Dehli, Bagram, Israel, Bogata, Taiwan, Seoul, Japan, and the US.  Is that just a start?
      If you keep up like this then no one will have to fire a missile at us as we’ll be on par with Zimbabwe.

      • See?  People can show you plausible all day, and it would just bounce off…
        How could we PLAUSIBLY be like Zimbabwe…?!?!?!?!  (You could count on Texas to secede)

        • How can we plausibly end up like Zimbabwe?  Monetize the debt like the Fed is currently doing.
          And why is the Fed monetizing the debt?  Because the government spends in everything and anything.

  • One more thing: nuclear retaliation is problematic when fallout could cause consideral harm to ourselves or our allies.  Do we really want to nuke North Korea if that means dumping radioactivity all over South Korea and Japan?  And I’m pretty sure that some would find its way into Manchuria, and I’m equally sure that the Red Chinese would not take that in good grace.

    • You crazy Westerner – worrying about the fallout from your nuclear ‘device’ proves you will never ascend to the upper levels of the religious government in Tehran.  With that kind of thinking you’d never be able to nuke Haifa or Tel Aviv because you’d be all worried about  the downwind effect on Jordan or Lebenon or Egypt or even Syria (to say nothing of Gaza and the West Bank).