Let's Stop Those Non-Existent Iranian Nuclear Missiles Now!
Monday I ran into U.S. Is Proposing European Shield for Iran Missiles by Michael Gordon in the NY Times. The Bush administration wants to shield Europe, apparently with Poland and the Czech Republic at the top of the list, from Iranian nuclear missiles which don't exist yet - well, of course the Iranians would have first to get their hands on a nuclear weapon that was small enough to stick on top of a missile that could fly far enough to reach Europe, and all indications are that neither is going to happen any time soon. But I'm sure that Poland and the Czech Republic, both mortal enemies of the Iranians, countries that have had long-standing bad blood with the Iranian government over ... well, I haven't a clue, and I'm sure neither does the average Pole or Czech who likely is somewhat surprised to learn that the U.S. government feels it should be necessary to defend them against missiles they have no reason to believe are aimed at them.
Up to now missile defense has shown itself to be a pipe dream. To date no U.S. test of a missile defense system has shown itself to be capable of anything like defending against even rudimentary intercontinental ballistic missiles, and those are "controlled" tests, ones where the variables associated with the test are stacked in your favor, unlike what you'd find in a real-world anti-missile situation. Of course it begs one to wonder why missile defense, issues of practicality aside, is such a hot item. The main reason offered has been to defend ourselves against North Korea and Iran, both countries neither owning an intercontinental ballistic missile system worth the name. In addition last I checked Iran doesn't have a nuclear weapon (when that will happen depends on whom you ask, the Israelis say months, the CIA says ten or more years, the Iranians say never ... I get so confused sometimes) and while there's rumor of North Koreans having an atomic bomb one hasn't been tested, and having a nuclear weapons in no way means it's anything you can stick on the top of an intercontinental rocket that's yet to be made.
The whole thing is classic: Create a threat and then offer up the solution to the threat, especially when it's one that shows you're strong on defense and supporting those all important defense contractors who circle the D.C. beltway.
Here's the deal: If any nation was so crazy as to want to nuke Europe, or anywhere else for that matter, it's not apt to do so via ballistic missiles. They'll use bombs concealed in trucks, ship containers, the inside of the hulls of ships, in planes, or any of a huge number of possibilities where the origins of the weapon are not easily traceable, unlike a ballistic missile which the U.S. would be tracking almost from the point of its ignition and would then invite a rain of nuclear weapons from the U.S. But you and I the taxpayer will be paying for missile defense for here, AND for Poland and the Czech Republic, and I'm sure we'll all go more peacefully into the night, though the Poles and Czechs, and the truth be told most Americans, too, won't quite know why.