Missile Offense

Tom has a post on missile defense, but it’s worth emphasizing that ballistic missile defense is an offensive weapon. It serves beyond just feeding the Military-Industrial-Complex and Poland: namely, stressing Russia and thus preventing Moscow from using that political capital elsewhere.

The unwanted gift of missile defense in Europe (Thomas P.M. Barnett :: Weblog)
So we have a non-defense (too weak for Russia) triggering a destabilizing counter (Kaliningrad) by Moscow, whereas east European states, who face no logical threat from Iran (why threaten a Europe that already does such business with Iran?), see it as a gateway drug to modernization of their militaries by the Pentagon.

While the initial policy proposals of Pentagon’s New Map have since been scrapped, I’m not comfortable with the proposals that have been adopted. Detente, for instance, is an answer to a question moot for a generation.

5 thoughts on “Missile Offense”

  1. I take it as axiomatic that any threat package that could crater the US Capitol building, Westminster, or any of our allies similar locations really should have a technical counter. Treaties are nice but the consequences of losing a national legislature are rather severe even if it’s only Bucharest or Warsaw that’s affected.

    So sometime around 2023 a team of 25 pulls a Mumbai style attack at the Mojave spaceport and or maybe someplace really unexpected like Romania’s future private launch facility (did you even know that Romania has a private space program?) and they seize a launch vehicle and turn it into an improvised ICBM aimed at Tel Aviv. A regional nuclear war ensues that takes out a significant chunk of the world’s energy supplies because nobody’s put launchers in place that can handle packages at those reentry speeds and we can’t even take down one vehicle, our BMD systems having been well mothballed (I’m also assuming that the Israelis have been browbeaten into mothballing their own BMD efforts).

    Private orbital packages launched on private vehicles and without being vetted seriously for military potential are going to be a reality within our lifetimes and quite possibly within a decade’s time. Richard Branson may end up owning a bigger suborbital fleet than the ayatollahs.

    I would further suggest that Poland and the Czech Republic already have an unlimited defense guarantee in the form of NATO. Influential defense visionaries suggesting that they don’t raises proliferation concerns and are distinctly unhelpful. If Ceausescu’s impoverished Romania could run a secret nuke program, what stops Warsaw from opening an extra shaft in the Sudety Mountains and gaining its own fissionable material? Do we really think that the Poles are too stupid to make a nuke or, absent some sort of real defense guarantee, would not be motivated to evade the NPT rather than to once again become a colony of an eastern power?

  2. TM
    I’ve never considered the terrorists applications for private sector space travel- but it would be at least as tempting a terrorist target as airliners.It kind of turns the argument that and ABM system wouldn’t have stopped 9/11 on its head.

    I think you’re right about Poland and nukes. I’ve always considered it surprising, given their history, that Poland has avoided going nuclear thus far. I’ve always assumed that Russia quietly accepted Poland’s entrance into NATO because they realized that the other option might have been a nuclear Poland (or Czech Republic or Slovakia).

  3. The problem isn’t with missile defense, per se, so much as the notion of doing it for ourselves and our allies alone. It makes us look like we’re trying to gear up for a repeat of the Cold War, ignores the fears non-allies have of terrorism and denies us the full range of resources available for the effort. Limit our solo efforts to tactical defence, work with other nations to protect everyone’s cities from rogue ballistic missiles (or hijacked private craft).

    Using technology to scatter our executive functions away from the Capital might help too: then you can’t knock out the government with one blast.

  4. TMLutas,

    If Ceausescu’s impoverished Romania could run a secret nuke program, what stops Warsaw from opening an extra shaft in the Sudety Mountains and gaining its own fissionable material?

    Excellent point.

    For that matter, friendly countries could proliferate to each other… It’s quite possible that it is in everyone’s interest in the future for the US to strongly signal that it believes that the Shanghai communique does not allow it to interfer in the internal affairs of the People’s Republic of China, while at the same time encouraging Taiwan to purchase a mini-nuclear deterrant from Israel.

    To clarify my post (and the original was even worst worded!), AMB is an offensive weapon against a large nuclear power: it can be a defensive weapon against a small one.

    Mark in Texas,

    One of the interesting points in Hillary Clinton’s proposal for a US nuclear umbrella in the Middle East[1] is the part that talks about an Israeli missile defense system also protecting Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States from Iranian missiles.

    What would be even more interesting is if Israel publicly proclaims that Saudi Arabia is protected as part of its nuclear umbrella!

    In areas of the world without a strong security regime (that is, most of Asia), we may be heading back to the 1913-style web of alliances framework for keeping the peace. Hopefully we do a better job of it this time!

    Brent Grace,

    I wonder if Ukraine regrets giving up her nuclear weapons without NATO membership as compensation?

    Michael,

    Using technology to scatter our executive functions away from the Capital might help too: then you can’t knock out the government with one blast.

    This part is probably being taken care of by Senator Byrd! [1,2]

    It’s sensible to try to spread out the cost, but as ABM is an offensive weapon, it’s important we not share it with countries likely to use war as a means of diplomacy (thinking especially of Russia).

    [1] http://www.cagw.org/site/PageServer?pagename=news_byrddroppings
    [2] http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C05E4D91E31F937A35756C0A9649C8B63

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