Conservatives are not happy with President Obama's decision to re-focus our missile defense program in Europe. I've been meaning for some time to write on the subject of missile defense, though I'm hardly an expert on anti-ballistic defense technology. I do however know something about American history, so I'll frame today's post around a timeline.
1969: The US and the USSR begin the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks.
1972: President Nixon and General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev sign what would become known as the ABM Treaty: an agreement to limit strategic offensive weapons and strategic defensive systems. (Good job, President Nixon. Wow, it's amazing how bad your Republican successors look compared to you sometimes).
1983-1993: The United States operates the Strategic Defense Initiative or "Star Wars" program. Total cost: over $30 billion. Number of space-based weapons launched: zero. Hm.
2001: President Bush withdraws from the ABM Treaty. The new arms race is on!
2007: President Bush announces that the US will build a ABM system in Poland and the Czech Republic to defend Europe and the United States from long-range missiles launched from Iran. A few problems with this plan: Iran does not have, not is it near to obtaining, long-range missile capability. Both Czechs and Poles oppose the plan. The treaty withdrawal brings post-Cold War relations between Russia and the United States to an all-time low.
2009: President Obama scraps the Bush plan from 2007. The US will now focus its European missile defense plan on defending against Iran's short-to-medium range missiles.
Europe is thrilled by the decision! Why? Here's a summary from Robert Marquand of the Christian Science Monitor: "European officials were skeptical of the missile shield for several reasons: They argued it was technically dubious, did not protect Europe but was mainly planned to stop ICBMs launched against America, that its costs were high, that it was imposed on Europe without proper consultation, and that it gave Moscow an issue to (fairly or unfairly) gripe over."
Relations with our Russian allies improve! President Dmitry Medvedev announces that Russia will not follow through with its threat to deploy missiles and bombers near Poland in the event the antimissile system was installed.
Iran (the alleged threat upon which this whole defense program is based) is furious! Ayatollah Ali Khamenei states that Obama's policy is, "something that is in the doctrine of anti-Iranianism."
So good job, President Obama. Our allies are happy, and our enemies taken aback. We've avoided a new arms race between the superpowers, and we're saving money. That's what we want, right? Well not if you're the conservative Heritage Foundation.
Yeah, yeah, I know. If Obama drinks a Budweiser, conservatives will furiously announce that he should be drinking Coors.
But come on, conservative think-tank guy Baker Spring, is this really the best you can do? Spring: "the U.S. will have no long-range, intercontinental, defense capabilities until 2020. If projections that Iran will produce a long-range missile by 2015 are correct, 2020 is too late."
So what the United States needs to do is to develop an expensive defensive capability to guard against attack from a country that has never in its history started a war, so that we'll be protected from an offensive capability that country doesn't actually have and only theoretically might be able to develop? I disagree.
Spring: "In defense policy, safety, not savings, should be policymakers' ultimate goal... Many painful lessons throughout history have shown that national security should not be shortchanged."
Really, Mr. Spring? Is the United States, the country that spends almost as much as the rest of the world combined on defense, "short-changing" national security? I think not.
Spring: "this shift will weaken America's missile defense capability against real and emerging threats, harm U.S. allies, and embolden its enemies."
Again, our allies approve of what President Obama is doing. They never supported the Bush policy. Do you, Mr. Spring, really know better than them? And again, the Obama policy shifts our defense from a phantom threat to protecting against an offensive capability Iran actually has.
One more thing. I love the bit about how Obama might be "emboldening our enemies." Excuse me, but after President Bush let insurgents bleed us white in Iraq and Afghanistan for most of a decade, is there any way that our enemies could possibly be more emboldened?