Bal­lis­tic mis­sile de­fense De­pen­dence Day

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary -

Call this com­ing July Fourth De­pen­dence Day — the day mark­ing pru­dent and re­spon­si­ble Amer­ica’s re­al­iza­tion that we do in­deed de­pend on the diplo­matic power and tech­no­log­i­cal ca­pa­bil­ity of anti-mis­sile de­fen­sive sys­tems.

North Korean dic­ta­tor Kim Jong Il is threat­en­ing to fire a bal­lis­tic mis­sile “test shot“ at Hawaii on July Fourth. Kim’s hy­per­bolic bom­bast and para­noid the­atrics likely en­gage Py­ongyang’s opaque do­mes­tic in­trigues. Still, the mis­sile and the mo­ment are danger­ous — and in­struc­tive.

The first decade of the 21st cen­tury has made it clear that we are en­gaged in a global bat­tle be­tween the constructive and the de­struc­tive — constructive na­tions de­sir­ing peace and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment con­fronted by de­struc­tive, ex­tor­tion­ist rogue states and transna­tional ter­ror syn­di­cates. Bal­lis­tic mis­siles car­ry­ing nu­clear, chem­i­cal and bi­o­log­i­cal weapons are mar­quee weapons, mil­i­tar­ily and po­lit­i­cally, in the bad guys’ arse­nal.

Mis­sile de­fense thus plays a key mil­i­tary, po­lit­i­cal and psy­cho­log­i­cal role in this global bat­tle. De­fend­ing Amer­i­can cit­i­zens is the mis­sile de­fense sys­tem’s first pri­or­ity. How­ever, the abil­ity to pro­tect al­lies and neu­trals gen­er­ates diplo­matic power in the grand­est sense. The sys­tem’s very ex­is­tence serves as a psy­cho­log­i­cal counter to thug in­tim­i­da­tion and thus cre­ates po­lit­i­cal space for other diplo­matic en­deav­ors to counter the rogue state threat.

Ex­tend­ing a U.S.-spon­sored mis­sile de­fense be­yond North Amer­ica isn’t a new idea. In the 1980s, when Pres­i­dent Ron­ald Rea­gan of­fered to share an­timis­sile tech­nol­ogy with the Rus­sians, his left­ist crit­ics laughed, mocked and jeered. But the great in­tu­itive politi­cian got it right: Amer­ica has no in­ter­est in an Ar­maged­don any­where on the planet.

For­tu­nately — de­spite decades of ac­tive, dra­matic and of­ten hys­ter­i­cal op­po­si­tion from the Amer­i­can po­lit­i­cal left — the United States has de­ployed an op­er­a­tional mis­sile shield. Over the years, left-lib­eral Democrats de­voted a great deal of ink, ora­tory and pix­els to de­mo­niz­ing mis­sile-de­fense ad­vo­cates. In 2003, cur­rent Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said: “The United States does not need a multi-bil­lion-dol­lar na­tional mis­sile de­fense against the pos­si­bil­ity of a nu­clear-armed in­tercon­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­sile. What we need is a strong non­pro­lif­er­a­tion pol­icy with other na­tions to com­bat the most se­ri­ous threat to our na­tional se­cu­rity.”

This ide­o­log­i­cally blink­ered Cal­i­for­nian failed to make the con­nec­tion be­tween the sys­tem and an ef­fec­tive non-pro­lif­er­a­tion pol­icy. North Korea’s first nu­clear det­o­na­tion in Oc­to­ber 2006 be­gan to change this looney tune, which is a change for the bet­ter, but if we had fol­lowed Pelosi and Pals’ snarky nos­trums, to­day Honolulu and to­mor­row Los An­ge­les would be de­fense­less.

Mis­sile de­fense is, in my view, one of three “cen­ter­pieces” in a new col­lec­tive in­ter­na­tional de­fense ini­tia­tive, the other two be­ing counter-ter­ror co­op­er­a­tion and anti-pro­lif­er­a­tion pro­grams for bal­lis­tic mis­siles and weapons of mass de­struc­tion. Join­ing this “de­fense club” would be a mark of san­ity and sta­bil­ity, one di­vid­ing the constructive from the de­struc­tive.

Credit the na­tional-me­dia-dis­dained Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion with let­ting the Cold War’s 1972 An­tiBal­lis­tic Mis­sile (ABM) Treaty ex­pire in 2001. It was a fos­sil, and though the Rus­sians howled and still gnash their teeth, they know new tech­nol­ogy had ren­dered the treaty a relic. Like­wise the “Bush push” ac­cel­er­ated mis­sile de­fense de­ploy­ment, putting a ba­sic sys­tem in place in 2004.

The de­fense has “lay­ers.” The Patriot PAC-3 is de­signed for short-range, “point-tar­get” de­fense. Patriot PAC-3 is a com­pletely dif­fer­ent mis­sile from the Gulf War’s Patriot and is a gen­uine anti-mis­sile mis­sile. The Army’s THAAD (Ter­mi­nal High Alti­tude Air De­fense) mis­sile and the Navy’s Stan­dard-2 and Stan­dard-3 mis­siles ex­tend the “anti-mis­sile um­brella.”

Ground-Based In­ter­cep­tors (GBIs) are longer-range, “mid­course” in­ter­cep­tors. The United States has 26 GBI si­los in Alaska and four in Cal­i­for­nia. I’d like to dou­ble that num­ber and de­ploy two-dozen GBIs in Poland as part of a “Euro-shield,” but Mr. Obama’s 2010 de­fense bud­get cuts fund­ing for th­ese sys­tems.

North Korea’s July Fourth “test” is an overt threat to the United States and, in the con­text of Py­ongyang’s threat to end the Korean War armistice, is ar­guably an act of “re­newed war.” That means we must pre­pare for of­fen­sive action. But de­fen­sive ca­pa­bil­ity gives us other op­tions, and in that light is a re­mark­ably use­ful tool for pro­tect­ing peace.

Austin Bay is a na­tion­ally syndicated colum­nist.

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