Not time to go wob­bly on mis­sile de­fense

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary -

What on Earth are they think­ing? The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion and its Demo­cratic al­lies on Capi­tol Hill are sig­nif­i­cantly re­duc­ing Amer­ica’s mis­sile de­fense pro­grams at the very mo­ment when the need for such sys­tems is be­com­ing ever more pal­pa­ble.

It is hard to be­lieve — es­pe­cially in the wake of the pres­i­dents much-ridiculed de­ci­sion to close Guan­tanamo Bay without a bet­ter plan for safely in­car­cer­at­ing its danger­ous de­tainees — that ei­ther the chief ex­ec­u­tive or leg­is­la­tors re­ally want to im­pale them­selves on an­other na­tional se­cu­rity de­ci­sion that de­fies com­mon sense.

Last week, the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives de­bated a Repub­li­can-spon­sored amend­ment to the de­fense autho­riza­tion bill that would re­store fund­ing for anti-mis­sile sys­tems cut or ter­mi­nated by Team Obama and the ma­jor­ity on the House Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee. The back­drop was re­ported prepa­ra­tions by North Korea to launch a bal­lis­tic mis­sile in the di­rec­tion of Hawaii, pos­si­bly on the Fourth of July.

In the face of this emerg­ing threat to one of Amer­ica’s 50 states, De­fense Sec­re­tary Robert Gates has, to his credit, an­nounced he is mov­ing mis­sile de­fenses into place to pro­tect our coun­try­men in Hawaii. Yet, at the same time, he and Pres­i­dent Obama are in­sist­ing we can safely do without 14 more lon­grange mis­sile in­ter­cep­tors, a sec­ond air­borne laser and var­i­ous other en­hance­ments to our rel­a­tively rudi­men­tary anti-mis­sile de­ploy­ments.

Then, there is the Ira­nian mis­sile threat. As the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion re­fuses to do any­thing to help the peo­ple of Iran free them­selves from the re­pres­sion, cor­rup­tion and malfea­sance of the mul­la­hoc­racy that has for 30 years mis­ruled them and threat­ened us, we face the prospect of much more of the same. Should Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ah­madine­jad and his pup­pet mas­ter, Supreme Leader Ay­a­tol­lah Ali Khameini, sur­vive the present cri­sis, it is ab­so­lutely pre­dictable that the range and lethal­ity of the Tehran regimes bal­lis­tic mis­siles will only grow.

Worse yet, all other things be­ing equal, th­ese mis­siles will, in due course, be nu­clear-armed — no mat­ter how much Mr. Obama tries to ap­pease the mul­lahs. As the bril­liant syndicated colum­nist Charles Krauthammer noted two weeks ago, “The only hope for a res­o­lu­tion of the nu­clear ques­tion is regime change.”

In the face of this threat, what are the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion and the Democrats on Capi­tol Hill do­ing? They are aban­don­ing the Poles and Czechs who agreed — with the back­ing, not once but twice, of all of NATO — to de­ploy anti-mis­sile sys­tems on their ter­ri­tory so as to pro­tect Europe and us from Ira­nian mis­siles. The so-called “third site” Euro­pean-based mis­sile de­fense will cer­tainly not be built any time soon, if at all.

The anti-anti-mis­sile crowd is, more­over, try­ing to sweet-talk the Krem­lin into drop­ping its hys­ter­i­cal ob­jec­tions to lim­ited mis­sile de­fenses in Europe by mak­ing them de­pen­dent on Rus­sian sys­tems. This idea is trans­par­ently lu­di­crous.

Moscow views the Is­lamic Repub­lic of Iran as an im­por­tant client, not a threat. It has helped build the Ira­ni­ans a nu­clear power plant at Bushehr which will, in­evitably, con­trib­ute to Tehrans weapons pro­gram, if only through tech­nol­ogy trans­fers, train­ing and po­lit­i­cal cover.

The Krem­lin has also demon­strated where its loy­al­ties lie by con­tract­ing more than two years ago to pro­vide state-of-the-art S300 anti-air­craft sys­tems to Iran. If and when th­ese lethal de­fenses are de­liv­ered, they will be used to pro­tect the mul­lahs’ nu­clear weapons fa­cil­i­ties from at­tack by Amer­i­can and/or Is­raeli air­craft.

Could we safely rely on the same folks who are help­ing Irans loath­some regime amass the de­struc­tive ca­pa­bil­ity it may well use against Is­rael, Europe or the United States to help us de­fend against that very threat? Not bloody likely.

Fi­nally, there is the prob­lem that even some Democrats on Capi­tol Hill — notably, Con­necti­cut’s Sen. Joseph Lieber­man (tech­ni­cally an In­de­pen­dent who cau­cuses with Democrats) and Mis­sis­sippi’s Rep. Ben­nie Thomp­son, the chair­men re­spec­tively of the Se­nate and House Home­land Se­cu­rity Com­mit­tees — rec­og­nize could hap­pen at any time: an at­tack us­ing rel­a­tively short-range, ship­borne bal­lis­tic mis­siles to launch a strate­gic elec­tro­mag­netic pulse (EMP) at­tack against this coun­try.

In his new, New York Times best-sell­ing novel ti­tled “One Sec­ond Af­ter,” his­to­rian and au­thor Bill Forstchen de­scribes the dev­as­tat­ing ef­fect such a strike could have on Amer­ica. In the ab­sence of com­pre­hen­sive mis- sile de­fenses and/or “hard­en­ing” of our elec­tri­cal grid, a mis­sile-borne nu­clear pay­load det­o­nated high in space over the United States would un­leash an in­tense burst of en­ergy with what are seen as “cat­a­strophic” re­sults.

Ac­cord­ing to a con­gres­sional com­mis­sion charged with eval­u­at­ing the EMP threat, there would be ex­ten­sive dam­age to the elec­tric­ity and other in­fra­struc­tures on which our 21stcen­tury so­ci­ety crit­i­cally de­pends. As a re­sult, the com­mis­sions chair­man, William Gra­ham, says “nine out of ten Amer­i­cans would be dead within a year” from star­va­tion, dis­ease or ex­po­sure.

Do Democrats in the White House and on Capi­tol Hill re­ally want to be seen as the party that — out of an ide­o­log­i­cal op­po­si­tion to na­tional anti-mis­sile sys­tems that is a throw­back to ut­terly ir­rel­e­vant Cold War se­cu­rity par­a­digms — fails to pro­vide for the com­mon de­fense? In the face of present and grow­ing mis­sile threats, it is im­per­a­tive that sen­si­ble mem­bers of the Demo­cratic cau­cus do what they have done in droves on Gitmo: Ig­nore their lead­er­ship and cross the aisle, this time to join Repub­li­cans in de­fend­ing Amer­ica, be­fore its too late.

Frank J. Gaffney Jr. is pres­i­dent of the Cen­ter for Se­cu­rity Pol­icy. His sup­port for mis­sile de­fense dates to his ser­vice in the Rea­gan Pen­tagon where he was re­spon­si­ble for the pol­icy as­pects of the Strate­gic De­fense Ini­tia­tive.

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