Mo­ment of clar­ity on mis­sile de­fense

Obama slip-up re­veals he’ll bar­gain away cru­cial sys­tems for a Rus­sia ‘re­set’

The Washington Times Daily - - Opinion - By Ilan Ber­man By R. Em­mett Tyrrell Jr.

Some­times, un­guarded mo­ments pro­vide the most pro­found po­lit­i­cal in­sights. That was cer­tainly the case this week at the Nu­clear Se­cu­rity Sum­mit in Seoul, where Pres­i­dent Obama’s side­bar con­ver­sa­tion with his out­go­ing Rus­sian coun­ter­part, Dmitry Medvedev, of­fered a telling glimpse of what the ad­min­is­tra­tion truly thinks about mis­sile de­fense — and just how far it is will­ing to go for good re­la­tions with Rus­sia.

The can­did ex­change, cap­tured on mi­cro­phone and sub­se­quently car­ried by var­i­ous news agen­cies, en­tailed an ap­peal by Mr. Obama for more “space” and “flex­i­bil­ity” from Rus­sia on the mis­sile-de­fense is­sue un­til af­ter the U.S. pres­i­den­tial elec­tion in Novem­ber. At that time, pre­sum­ably, Mr. Obama — hav­ing se­cured a sec­ond term — would be able to strike a more sweep­ing bar­gain on mis­sile de­fense with Moscow than cur­rently pos­si­ble.

The rev­e­la­tion is deeply wor­ri­some. When Mr. Obama was elected back in 2008, mis­sile-de­fense stal­warts were con­cerned that his ad­min­is­tra­tion would be quick to de­mol­ish the anti-mis­sile ca­pa­bil­i­ties that had been erected dur­ing the Ge­orge W. Bush era. These in­cluded the de­ploy­ment of ground-based in­ter­cep­tors in Cal­i­for­nia and Alaska, sig­nif­i­cant work on an ar­ray of the­ater sys­tems, and ma­jor ad­vances in sea-based de­fenses.

The Obama White House stopped short of do­ing so out­right, but it did make sig­nif­i­cant changes to the fo­cus of Amer­i­can mis­sile-de­fense ef­forts. The new mis­sile-de­fense agenda un­veiled pub­licly by the White House in Septem­ber 2009 re­placed the “spi­ral de­vel­op­ment” of the Bush era in which mul­ti­ple, over­lap­ping sys­tems were de­vel­oped and fielded when they ma­tured, with a weighted four-phase plan.

The near-term fo­cus of this “phased adap­tive ap­proach” was over­whelm­ingly on the de­fense of Amer­i­can al­lies abroad (most di­rectly in Europe) from rogue- state threats such as Iran. Se­ri­ous in­vest­ments in mis­sile de­fenses to pro­tect the U.S. home­land were put off un­til 2016, when Mr. Obama’s sec­ond term — as­sum­ing he se­cures one — would be over. By do­ing so, the plan cre­ated a clear de­lin­eation be­tween the de­fense of al­lies and of the U.S. home­land — and sent a clear sig­nal that the for­mer was ac­cept­able while the lat­ter was not.

That fo­cus, of course, tracks closely with one of the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s most cher­ished for­eign pol­icy ini­tia­tives: a “re­set” of re­la­tions with Rus­sia. Launched with con­sid­er­able fan­fare by Sec­re­tary of State Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton in March 2009, that ef­fort has sought re­newed diplo­matic and po­lit­i­cal en­gage­ment with Moscow through a range of ini­tia­tives, arms con­trol chief among them.

Yet even the lop­sided ap­proach to mis­sile de­fense em­braced by the White House has drawn the Krem­lin’s ire. Over the past two years, U.S. and NATO plans for the de­ploy­ment of a limited mis­sile shield in the euro­zone have cre­ated tremen­dous fric­tion with Moscow, which adamantly op­poses the de­ploy­ment of any such ca­pa­bil­i­ties on its pe­riph­ery.

Washington, to its credit, has forged ahead re­gard­less, work­ing with NATO to es­tab­lish early-warn­ing radars in Turkey and bring­ing Ro­ma­nia on board as a bas­ing site for an­timis­sile in­ter­cep­tors. But the lure of bet­ter diplo­matic re­la­tions with Moscow re­mains se­duc­tive and — as Mr. Obama’s com­ments in Seoul sug­gest — mis­sile de­fense could eas­ily end up be­com­ing the cur­rency that Amer­ica pays in its dogged pur­suit of the “re­set.”

So what might Amer­i­can “flex­i­bil­ity” on mis­sile de­fense en­tail? Since the start of the “re­set,” the Krem­lin has lev­eled a slew of de­mands at the White House per­tain­ing to mis­sile de­fense. They have in­cluded, among other things, a legally bind­ing agree­ment to limit mis­sile de­fenses; de­ploy­ment re­stric­tions on U.S. sea-based bal­lis­tic-mis­sile-de­fense sys­tems; joint con­trol over launches in re­sponse to bal­lis­tic-mis­sile threats; and even re­stric­tions on Amer­ica’s own in­ter­cep­tion ca­pa­bil­i­ties vis-a-vis in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­siles.

Any one of those de­mands, if ac­ceded to by the White House, could be crip­pling to our abil­ity to de­fend against bal­lis­tic-mis­sile at­tack. If all of them are en­acted, the re­sults would be ru­inous: an evis­cer­a­tion of ex­ist­ing U.S. anti-mis­sile ca­pa­bil­i­ties, and a neu­ter­ing of our fu­ture abil­ity to de­ploy more.

That Mr. Obama has so clearly sig­naled he is will­ing to con­tem­plate them is a sign of just how frag­ile and re­versible his ad­min­is­tra­tion’s com­mit­ment to mis­sile de­fense truly is. It is also a tes­ta­ment to the White House’s dogged de­ter­mi­na­tion to diplo­mat­i­cally en­gage the Krem­lin, no mat­ter how steep the cost.

As Amer­ica rings up an­other $3 tril­lion-plus bud­get — al­most a his­toric peace­time 25 per­cent of gross na­tional prod­uct (GDP) — and bor­rows an­other $1.3 tril­lion to pay for it, one should not be sur­prised that the usual mob of spe­cial plead­ers is fum­ing at any­one who has the temer­ity to sug­gest a sane al­ter­na­tive. These are the new Democrats, and they do not mind putting us on the road to Greece.

Thus, they howled when House Bud­get Com­mit­tee Chair­man Paul Ryan prof­fered a bud­get to avoid the Greek tragedy. His bud­get con­tem­plates spend­ing re­duc­tions of more than $5 tril­lion over the next decade, cut­ting deficits by more than $3 tril­lion, taxes by $2 tril­lion and the na­tional debt by more than $1 tril­lion. It is all part of Mr. Ryan’s strat­egy to lead us to a pros­per­ous and se­cure fu­ture. Mr. Ryan in­tends that these cuts lead to growth, growth more ro­bust than the ane­mic 2 per­cent Pres­i­dent Obama would be per­fectly com­fort­able see­ing.

Yet now from the right comes op­po­si­tion. The right thinks Mr. Ryan has not cut enough. He has slain no gov­ern­ment bu­reau­cra­cies. Some on the right even want him to prove that he is sin­cere about bud­get cuts by lop­ping off a few per­cent­age points more at the Pen­tagon. Two Repub­li­cans, Rep. Tim Huel­skamp of Kansas and Rep. Justin Amash of Michi­gan, ac­tu­ally voted against Mr. Ryan in com­mit­tee, leav­ing him with a 19-18 squeaker. If they are joined by enough like-minded Repub­li­cans when Mr. Ryan’s bud­get comes to the floor, the Democrats and Nancy Pelosi will be happy. Those Repub­li­cans will have proved that their party can­not gov­ern.

Mr. Ryan is a sup­ply-sider. He ad­vo­cates one of the few eco­nomic in­no­va­tions in years. He re­al­izes that the bud­get can­not be bal­anced with­out faster eco­nomic growth. Sure, it would be nice to bal­ance the bud­get in five years, but not with tax in­creases. Tax in­creases would only slow growth. So his bud­get bal­ances out in 2039, though pos­si­bly sooner. Some of the Repub­li­cans think fu­ture Con­gresses can­not be trusted to carry out the cuts that Mr. Ryan pro­poses, cer­tainly not through all the va­garies lead­ing up to 2039. Well, for my part, I think they can. The coun­try has changed dra­mat­i­cally. A new ma­jor­ity of Amer­i­cans com­posed of con­ser­va­tives and in­de­pen­dents un­der­stands that we have been spend­ing our­selves into the poor­house.

The de­feat the Democrats suf­fered in 2010 was just the be­gin­ning. They will lose more seats in 2012 and the White House.

Yet, even if I am wrong, we do not have to wait un­til 2039 for a bal­anced bud­get, ac­cord­ing to an al­ter­na­tive sce­nario re­leased by Mr. Ryan sub­se­quent to his bud­get. His crit­ics, who claim the bud­get will not be bal­anced un­til 2039, are us­ing the Con­gres­sional Bud­get Of­fice es­ti­mates ar­rived at by static scor­ing. This as­sumes there will be lit­tle public re­sponse to lower taxes and peo­ple will con­tinue to act the same with lower taxes as with higher taxes. But his­tory has shown they act dif­fer­ently. With lower taxes, you get growth.

Ac­cord­ing to Mr. Ryan’s al­ter­na­tive sce­nario, us­ing dy­namic scor­ing, lower taxes and other in­duce­ments to growth will speed up the econ­omy, in­creas­ing GDP by as much as 1 per­cent­age point a year. Thus, the Ryan bud­get low­ers the debt-to-gdp ra­tio from where it stands now, at 74.2 per­cent of GDP, to 50 per­cent of GDP in 10 years. The bud­get could be bal­anced not in 2039 but in the early to mid-2020s. The Re­pub­li­can crit­ics need not worry. Add to that the like­li­hood that the Ryan bud­get gets the fed­eral take of the econ­omy down from 24.1 per­cent of GDP to 19.8 per­cent in 2021, and you see real change. Amer­ica need not end in Greek tragedy. All Repub­li­cans and many Democrats need to get aboard the Ryan bud­get.


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