Friday, July 07, 2006

Well Just Thank God ... We're Protected!

In today's Times, Shield Was Set to Stop Missile, Bush Says, we learn about how the nation's
missile defense shield was "set" to stop the nefarious long-range North Korean missile launched a couple of days ago. The president assured the American people when he told us "I think we had a reasonable chance of shooting it down." Of course, as with most things Bush has anything to say about, he's misinformed or was deliberately misinforming us - I go for the latter myself.

The missile defense shield in question hasn't adequately tested per the DoD requirements for testing major defense programs, and of what testing there has been the system has consistently not performed up to expectations. So the fact is that there's no reasonable certainty that it can hit anything, much less a North Korean missile. Of course the president covered himself on the
matter of the particulars by saying that there's a "reasonable chance of shooting it down" - one person's "reasonable" is often times another person's "you're out of your mind if you think that's going to work"; my reading of our president is that something's reasonable so long as it in some way, regardless of however statistically unlikely it might otherwise be, supports something he
wants or at least thinks he wants.

Let's first consider the circumstances: North Korea has yet to show that it has mastered the technology to launch a long range missile. The fact that you have a missile doesn't mean you have the capability to miniaturize a nuclear weapon (no small feat in itself) that you can then stick on top of the missile you want to lob it with. So we were set to intercept a threat that, on
the whole in this case, didn't really exist. But we were ready to intercept that nonexistent threat, yes we were, and we wanted to be sure you knew that.

"The president said the missile tests ordered by North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Il, were another example of why "we need a ballistic-missile system.""

Now this is ridiculous, but it seems to play well in Peoria. We tracked that missile from the second it was being fueled, and we had a radar beam up its tail the second it was launched and we followed the thing until it broke into pieces shortly after launching. Now I'm still trying to fathom the logic, and the hundreds of billions of dollars spent on trying to make something like this work, that has North Korea, admittedly a bit out there on the fringe when it comes to logic and reasonableness, sending a missile our way when we're watching the thing from the second it makes its way to the launch pad. How long would it be after a launch with an actual nuclear weapon on board before Kim Jong Il would find himself the totalitarian dictator of a cinder of a country, assuming he survived the multiple thermonuclear warheads this nation would launch against him and his domain? In the old Cold War days mutual assured destruction, MAD, worked well enough with the Soviets because they realized, as did we, that resorting to nuclear weapons pretty much assured that the other's country would be destroyed. Why some version of this doesn't work with North Korea escapes me, though the argument seems to go that we should never have to suffer a nuclear detonation on our soil before we destroy the other guy. Ok, I can see the logic to that, which is why the other guy is more likely than not going to deliver his nukes in a way that obscures where they came from, not using a rocket that can be possibly intercepted.

Bush's timing on this was particularly propitious inasmuch as the DoD is looking for some $9.3 billion dollars for missile defense for the coming fiscal year. Yep, let's dump more good money after bad, on a defense system that doesn't defend us from a whole lot, and which sucks up money that could be better used in other places if only we had the imagination and values to put it there.


Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

How many BILLIONS has been wasted on SDI, Star Wars, or whatever you want to call it since the 80s?

Kim Jong Il is the reason? Of course, silly me.

4:15 PM  
Blogger James said...

Ms. C,

Ahhhhhhh ... you only want an accounting since the 80's? Well, gee, really, that's nearly 30 years after we started with this. If you want a FULL accounting you'd have to go back to the 50's when we really got into the swing of things. We're talking about the days when guys and girls went to the malt shop for egg creams, moms stayed home to cook, care for kids, and serve martinis when dad came home, and Nike missiles were stationed in Rockaway Queens, NY to protect NY city (NYC wasn't the only place where you found these) with nuclear warheads on top of them, designed to detonate in the sky as incoming Soviet missiles rained down upon us - of course what would happen if our fission nukes detonated their thermo/fusion nukes some 50 or so miles above our heads wasn't quite certain.

Anyway, go back way back when and I'd hazard to guess, in inflation adjusted dollars, that well over a trillion dollars has gone into this up to now. And in all that time there's nothing that works like its expected to, in fact there's no "shield" at all by virtue of any measure that a DoD program manager would justly use, though that doesn't seem to stop Bush and others in his camp from telling us otherwise.

If you ever get the urge to read up on this I'd recommend Francis Fitzgerald's "Out of the Blue", which has a fascinating telling of how Reagan became enamored of missile defense.

8:08 AM  
Blogger : Joseph j7uy5 said...

I always thought that the best defense against North Korea was reunification. If North and South reunite, the problem just goes away. Funny thing, we used to hear talk about progress toward reunification -- until Bush was elected. Since then, all we've heard is the rattling of sabers.

There is a time and place for tough talk, but in this a case, it is not making us safer; it is making the situation more dangerous.

12:20 AM  
Blogger James said...


You're right, re-unification has definitely fallen out of favor as an option by this administration, which seems to be far more enamored of techno-toys. Maybe we'll get back to something mroe reasonable in time, but for now ... oh well.

6:59 AM  

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