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October 27, 2009

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St. Ronnie slayed the USSR with nothing but a piece of string and fantasy ballistic missle defense. Giving up on fantasy ballistic missle defense retroactively causes the US to lose the cold war and soon Polish army uniforms will be all the rage in Germany and V2 rockets will again rain down on Britain with no Churchill this time to save them. Hence, this one move by the appeaser Obama will reverse the result of both the cold war and WWII and since the leftists PCers won't let us torture and set up internment camps, I hope you've brushed up on your Japanese or Arabic Eric, depending on which side of the country you live in. Also.

Y'know, I'm inclined to go with our incumbent Vice President's assesment of his predecessor's relative credibility when it comes to foreign-affairs pronouncements; i.e. "Who Cares?" what Dick Cheney says? About anything?

I think it says more about the lame and pathetic state of this nation's political class (and media) that sort of trite jingoistic war-flogging - by what in any sane country would be a discredited fringe - still gets treated as a Serious viewpoint by all too much of the "mainstream" commentariat. Even when so obviously bought-and-paid-for.

Ugh does the work I'm no longer in the mood to do.

missle

missile

That's all I have to say about that.

Wait: I lied.

Interesting and relevant:

BUCHAREST, Romania — U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said Thursday that Europe was threatened by medium and short-range missiles and a new missile defense system would help protect it.

Biden was presenting a revamped U.S. missile shield replacing a scrapped Bush-era project that would have placed 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar base in the Czech Republic to intercept long-range missiles from Iran. His one-day visit to Bucharest was part of a swing through eastern Europe designed to reassure Poland, Romania and the Czech Republic — all staunch U.S. allies — that America's commitment to the region remains strong.

The Obama plan would include SM-3 anti-ballistic missiles at a former air base in the Polish town of Redzikowo, the same site that was to host U.S. missile interceptors in underground silos under the Bush plan.

Moscow perceives the new plan as less threatening because it would not initially involve interceptors capable of shooting down Russia's intercontinental ballistic missiles, experts say.

Biden denied that the new approach was "to appease Russia" at the expense of Central European countries. He said the U.S. would never make a deal involving central European states without consulting them. Biden was to travel to the Czech Republic later Thursday.

Biden also called on the countries of eastern Europe to use their experience to help former Soviet republics to build greater democracy, saying the U.S. would support their efforts.

Speaking to an audience political leaders and students at Bucharest University, Biden paid tribute to the revolutions of 1989 that toppled communism in the former Soviet satellites.

"The example you set...inspired the world," he said. "You can help guide Moldova, Georgia, Ukraine...Armenia, Azerbaijan and Belarus... Your leadership must be bold and your voices loud."

But he also warned about "a new season of challenges" facing the world today, naming the economic crisis, security threats, ethnic tensions, the uncertainties of energy and water supplies.

Things that make you go hmmm...as in, maybe this was to some extent a selective goring of oxen.

Sheesh; That missile defense wasn't against Iran, it was against Russia, which is why it had Russia so pissed off. And why it was important it be placed close enough to Russia to protect Russia's former subject states. The Polish are perfectly aware that we've decided to leave them defenseless against a threat that not so long ago had them oppressed.

The reason this outrages is because it's unilateral appeasement. Appeasement of a great evil we thought we'd triumphed over. We're watching it reconstitute itself right before our eyes. The next generation will curse us for this.

"Who Cares what Dick Cheney says? About anything?"

I feel this way as well. I look forward to when the media feels the same way.

We can always trade with the Poles. We'll build the missile shield as long as they provide health care for Americans who can't afford it. Of course an anti-missile shield will have to work against tanks and of course the control valves in the natural gas pipelines providing fuel to Western Europe the Russian's like to turn off at will when their extortionist rates are paid, up front.

Then again maybe the Poles will decide their own country is worth defending themselves rather than waiting for others to do it for them.

Doesn't have to work against tanks; Russia can't afford the tanks anymore, they're reduced to nuclear blackmail. Something they've been quite explicit about.

The Polish don't pay our taxes, do they, Brett? So why should they get any of our government?

Brett, let me get this straighyt. By removing something that doesn't even exist, and which has no guarantee of working when it does exist, and which would have limited effectiveness against Russian missiles even if it existed and worked and by replacing it with something that does work adn, what is more, by putting a legitimate defense against any future Iranian missile threat where it really makes a difference, is somehow unilateral appeasement of an enemy that doesn't exist.

Even for you, Brett, that is rather convoluted.

Regarding the actual post, I do have one minor (no actually major) nit to pick with Larison. he describes this decision as one of "the very few major substantive foreign policy acts Obama has made," Since in the first few months Obama has already made more substantive foreign policy decisions to the benefit of our country than his predecessor did in 8 years, I would contest the legitimacy of that statement.

However, in speaking of this particular decision his points are valid.

The Russian government was outraged over the prospect of an anti-missile system that obviously wouldn't work, against a non-existent threat? Funny that they didn't want us to waste our money.

The Russian government was outraged over the prospect of an anti-missile system that obviously wouldn't work

Yes. You may or may not have noticed that, over a number of centuries now, there has been a somewhat irrational, paranoid streak in Russian foreign policy. Just because they think something is a move against them does not testify to that move's effectiveness at anything other than irritating them.

Doesn't have to work against tanks; Russia can't afford the tanks anymore, they're reduced to nuclear blackmail.

And the anti-missile system under consideration would have had no effect on that. It included a grand total of 10 interceptors. How many missiles does Russia have? I believe that it's a number much, much larger than 10. So even if the interceptors had been 100% effective- something which we have absolutely no reason to believe- Russia could have overwhelmed the system by launching a few dozen missiles against it and still had plenty left over to threaten everyone else.

The reason the system had Russia upset wasn't because it was going to be effective but because it showed an antagonistic attitude toward them and was located in what they see as their back yard. It was essentially the same story as our promises to help Georgia in their disagreement with Russia. It was a promise we couldn't really keep but that made our allies feel warm and fuzzy and more inclined to cock a snoot at Russia. IOW, it was stupid to the core.

J.Michael beat to the response. Brett, you would be advised to learn a little more about Russia's national psyche. If a whole country could be called paranoid, Russia would definitely fall into that category.

Beyond the fact that they are not bothered by the fact that the new system would not be able to intercept their ICBMs (which would not be the missile of choice against Poland anyway), they also know what this system really does. They really didn't know what the capabilities of the system being proposed was.

But let me make a little guess. If Russian said they were going to put in anti-missile missiles in Cuba and the systems were super secret and they were being housed in silos, it wouldn't bother you a bit, right Brett?

All evidence so far suggests that anti-missile systems simply do not work. At all. Why were we building such a system in Russia then? Probably to flip the bird at Russia, bringing about a loss face.

Why was Russia upset? Because we were probably flipping the bird at them in order to bring about a loss of face.

It’s as if the Democrats had fixated on the nuclear deal with India (one of the few genuinely constructive moves the last administration made in regulating proliferation and shoring up relations with India

That would be 'regulating' in its special sense of 'turning a blind eye towards', or perhaps even 'promoting', no?

The next generation will curse us for this.

Russia is reconstituting itself because it produces huge amounts of oil and gas. What, exactly, would the next generation have us do about this?

Brett: I thought you were a libertarian. Libertarians like these kinds of massive government expenditures in pursuit of...well, fanciful goals?

...it's unilateral appeasement.

...yeah, let's have some bilateral appeasement (with conversation afterward, not falling asleep!!)

Eric, are you sure you are within the limits of fair use here? You've given an awful lot of extended quotation.

I'm not worried, and if he asks me to redact, I will.

"Why were we building such a system in Russia then?"

We weren't, it was in Poland. And I'm pretty sure the reason Russia was upset is that they're increasingly resorting to nuclear blackmail as part of their foreign policy, and they weren't nearly as certain as you that missile defense systems can't be made to work.

Yes, I'm a libertarian, but I'm a libertarian who takes the attitude, "If we're going to be statists anyway, why do we have to be incompetent statists?" If you're going to be a global hegemon, you ought to at least do it right. Frittering away the gains of the cold war is not doing it right.

The reason you are incompetent statists, Brett, is that you seem to confuse pissing all over someones boots and thereby irritating them with actual productive action. And you seem to confuse looking tough with being tough whereas teh rest of the world sees it as an attempt to puff yourself up in an attempt at overcompensation for past and faded glories. (Trust me, we Brits are experts in that).

As for frittering away the gains of the Cold War, I can't think of a better way to do that than build a paper tiger in Poland at the cost of billions. Other than directly trying to invade Russia, I suppose.

Russian Paranoia is not irrational. They have faced existential threats from the west during the Second World War, the cold war, and the civil war after the revolution of 1917. Tens of millions of Russians died in the Second World War, a war that began for Russia with a surprise attack by a supposed ally. Russia has fossil fuel resources that are very attractive to imperialist powers. The fact that the US went to war in Iraq in a way that looks a lot like a resource grab (regardless of what it actually was, if that's what you're afraid of, that's what it looked like) only amplifies the paranoia.

Dealing with Russia based on the assumption that they should accept western good intentions is delusional. Of course they don't, because they aren't idiots.

And the mutual dislike* of Russia and Poland is a millenium old (originating from the crusades and kept cooking since then). And for a very long time the West was the aggressor.

*to understate it in the extreme.

If Russian said they were going to put in anti-missile missiles in Cuba and the systems were super secret and they were being housed in silos, it wouldn't bother you a bit, right Brett?

I'm obviously not Brett, but my answer would be: it wouldn't bother me a bit. The location would be all wrong; outbound missiles from CONUS to Russia would for the most part come over the North Pole, and so a missile defense system placed in Cuba would not have intercept opportunities.

I posted a link upthread to the effect that Biden is proposing that we instead sell Poland a missile defense system that doesn't currently work against either Russian or Iranian (currently unobtainium) missiles, but could easily be upgraded to a system that did have intercept capability against either of those.

Assuming that is both an accurate interpretation and an honest setting-forth of a plan by Biden, how is replacing option A) with option B) better, geopolitically?

Yes, I'm a libertarian, but I'm a libertarian who takes the attitude, "If we're going to be statists anyway, why do we have to be incompetent statists?" If you're going to be a global hegemon, you ought to at least do it right. Frittering away the gains of the cold war is not doing it right.

Really? Your domestic policy views don't seem to reflect that. At all. NIMBY, eh?

(I kid. Your attitude is typically libertarian; trillions for defense, but not one cent for social welfare. And never mind if the "defense" spending limits the freedoms of others; if they had your determination and self-reliance, they'd all be Americans too!)

Slarti, my hypothetical about Cuba is actually a good analogy. Putting the anti-missile missiles in Poland does nothing for missiles directed by Russia toward the US. Brett states they were to protect Poland. So the ones I am talking about are to protect Cuba from an obviously imperialistic US. Like you, I would have no problem with Russia placing them there, but I think (I don't know for a fact) that Brett,a long with all the people having apoplexy over the adminsitration's decision, would object strongly.

Regarding your second point. Russia isn't as paranoid about what we now have planned because it isn't as much of an perceived threat to them. At the same time, it is reassuring to the Poles and Czechs.

So we accomplish our geo-political as well as actual strategic aims in Eastern Europe as well as strengthening our position and protective umbrella in the Middle East.

I guess I'm not outraged about our decision not to deploy a system that won't work against a threat that will never happen. For all Brett's talk about nuclear blackmail, how likely do we think it is that Russia is going to nuke Poland or the Czech Republic, members of NATO? That would be a nuclear attack on NATO itself, by its own doctrine, and would provoke a response on those terms. I don't buy it, and the large majorities of the public in Poland and the CR (contra their own governments) who opposed deployment didn't seem to either.

Wasn't the whole thing also part of the bribe to "New Europe" for joining Bush's 'don't call it crusade*' Iraq adventure?

*I propose 'crudesade' combining two of the motives and also sounding like the lack of sophistication that accompanied it.

Russia isn't as paranoid about what we now have planned because it isn't as much of an perceived threat to them.

You're probably right about that, in the sense that what Biden is apparently proposing doesn't actually exist yet.

Actually, WWII began for the Soviet Union with that country's invasions of Finland and Poland--to existential threats the the Worker's Paradise.

Though I can't comment on current anti-missile technology or where it is likely to lead if pursued, assurances that such a system will never be needed, are completely useless. Who can know this is the case? How does one guarantee this? History is to the contrary--war happens, it often happens unexpectedly and it is a rare weapon that is not used. Missiles are not rare. Having or developing a means of defending against incoming missiles makes sense.

The left opposed a missile defense from the get go and its opposition remains the same: (1) it won't work, (2) it's destabilizing and (3) it's too expensive. Objection No. 3 is left's one-size-fits-all objection to defense spending.

What a missile defense does is force a potential adversary who might deploy missiles against the US or its allies to account for and avoid the system. An adversary cannot and will not assume, as the left does, that the system won't work. As such, they are a deterrent. Deterrents are good. They deter an aggressor. The alternative to deterrence is war, usually at at time and place of an adversary's choosing and where we or our allies are least prepared to respond.

From the early seventies forward, the left opposed the neurton bomb, the Pershing II missile, the MX, the BI, the B2 and every other theater and strategic system. There simply never was nor ever will be a new strategic system the left will embrace.

While there may be legitimate reasons for Obama's move, to any with a sense of history, it is of a kind with his early involvement in the Nuclear Freeze movement, a movement only the US would have participated in.

An adversary cannot and will not assume, as the left does, that the system won't work.

Why should anyone "assume." Can't they test the technology? Have they, in fact, been testing the technology? If so, have the results been encouraging?

Forget "assume."

From the early seventies forward, the left opposed the neurton bomb, the Pershing II missile, the MX, the BI, the B2 and every other theater and strategic system. There simply never was nor ever will be a new strategic system the left will embrace.

What does "the left" mean in your comment? Why does it seem like those weapons systems get funded, as part of our enormous defense budget, regardless of which party is in power, left or right.

Clearly, "the left" is not as opposed as you make them out to be.

What does "the left" mean in your comment?

Anybody who opposed any of those weapons systems, of course.

And just for the heck of it, it was not the "left", during the early years of the Iraq war that was against increasing funding to provide our troops with up to date equipment, but the "right".

And as Eric asks, just who is this figmentary "left" that is being referred to?

According to McKinney's logic, there is absolutely nothing that should not be funded as, somehow, someway, it might be necessary in the future. Personally, I think we should start working on advanced slingshots which might be necessary for close in combat, but not so close in that knives are usable.

The 'left' means pretty much what was then the Dukakis/Mondale wing of Democratic Party. The systems were funded with minority Democratic support during the Reagan administration. The "left" was very opposed to each of the above systems. Today's heirs to yesterday's "left" are the Progressives.

As for whether the results have been encouraging, I haven't kept up with any of the detail of it. I don't recall what the funding commitments were during the Clinton administration, by my sense is they were reduced. I don't know what progress was made, or what effort was made, during the Bush administration. Intuitively, with time and effort, intercepting a missile in flight seems do-able.

But something that is do-able may still not be worth doing. In this case the large costs seem to outweight the meager benefits.

But something that is do-able may still not be worth doing. In this case the large costs seem to outweight the meager benefits.

This case is one or more incoming, possibly nuclear tipped missiles. Recently our house and senate approved nearly a trillion dollars in stimulus spending with mixed results in the hope of stimulating the economy. Relative to the 'the hope of stimulating' for a trillion or thereabouts, what is your economic calculus for having the means of preventing a mega-death event that could trigger a general nuclear exchange?

To take this logic a step further, if a rogue state were to fire a dozen intermediate range, nuclear-armed missiles ineffectively as opposed to effectively at, say, Japan, a US administration would have a much broader, and much less draconian range of options for responding. If an ally or the US were successfully attacked with nuclear weapons, the range of response options is much more limited and far more ominous.

The idea behind a missile defense is to reduce the threat, in the first instance, and, secondarily, to save millions of lives and thus to broaden response options, if the threat materializes.

Objection No. 3 is left's one-size-fits-all objection to defense spending.

When you're opposed to something, it follows by default that you will find that thing to be too expensive if any money at all has to be spent on it. (So what?)

As far as that being a one-size-fits-all objection to defense spending for "the left," perhaps you can point out the widespread advocacy for disbanding our military. Or do you mean that it's always at least one of the objections to those things that "the left" opposes? In which case, see above.

Here is a timely report: http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=CNG.92add9d8b299aef692d2ebae569be1ca.6b1&show_article=1

Hairshirt--there is a segment of the left that comes pretty close to favoring disbanding our armed forces. What I haven't seen, but would like to see, is what our defense establishment would look like if the Progressive Left could achieve a consensus and lay out its ideal force structure. I usually understand what the left opposes, but what I've never gotten a good picture of is what it favors.

A tad early to be assessing the effect of the stimulus bill, I would think. The stimulus bill is an investment - money spent now will generate growth in the future. A missile defense system that is not used and has little additional deterrent effect produces no return. But if we're going to be comparing apples and oranges for rhetorical purposes, it seems to me a program to simply bribe potential enemies would be much cheaper and more effective than missile defense.

The additional deterrent effect of a missile defense system on top of the already-existing deterrent effect from the threat of retalisation is extremely small, and no amount of florid language about "mega-death events" can change that.

a US administration would have a much broader, and much less draconian range of options for responding.

This is hardly self-evident and in fact seems pretty implausible. Do you really believe a failed nuclear strike would receive a draconian response?

Should be "not receive" in the last sentence above.

Hairshirt--there is a segment of the left that comes pretty close to favoring disbanding our armed forces.

How big? Which segment? Do you have citations/links? How much political power do they actually wield?

Josh E--regarding your last point, please re-read my sentence. My point was that a failed nuclear attack would face a much less draconian response.

As for your basic logic: you are simply holding out a belief that no attack will come because of fear of nuclear retaliation. Your entire premise, and thus the lives of millions, is grounded on an adversary remaining faithful to your deterrence rationale, regardless of how that adversary's circumstances might change. If you are wrong, the price paid is grotesquely high.

Because war is inherently foreseeable, a subset of foreseeable contingencies is a conventional conflict between the US and a nuclear-capable adversary. In such a conflict, if the war is going heavily against the adversary, the tipping point at which the peace time deterrence logic holds weight changes dramatically and risk-taking, particularly if a regime's leadership sees itself in imminent peril, becomes more attractive as the adversary's circumstances become more desparate.

What a missile defense does is force a potential adversary who might deploy missiles against the US or its allies to account for and avoid the system. An adversary cannot and will not assume, as the left does, that the system won't work. As such, they are a deterrent. Deterrents are good. They deter an aggressor. The alternative to deterrence is war, usually at at time and place of an adversary's choosing and where we or our allies are least prepared to respond.

The straightforward response is that a purely defensive mechanism is not always a deterrent. While it certainly is a deterrent to "rogue" states, there is no way to deploy missile defense that does not upset the balance of power with Russia, one of the few nations that actually could pose an existential threat to the US (to the world, even). Particularly in the context of a relationship that Russia ostensibly continues to view through the lens of a perverse equivalence of power (MAD).

To the extent Russia might be willing to pursue the logic of MAD, it's either deploy totally effective missile defense from the get-go, or pre-emptive war. Specifically, pre-emptive nuclear war, given the lopsided balance of 'conventional' strength.

How big? Which segment? Do you have citations/links? How much political power do they actually wield?

Eric, I was simply making a point that there is a portion of the left--and a very small part of the right, e.g. Ron Paul (nominally 'right', I suppose)--that favors virtual disarmament. Neither is much of a factor in the national debate.

The larger point, one you are well qualified to address, follows the comment that you took issue with--what would our defense structure look like if you were making the decisions?

Bad, I don't think the current missile defense approach is geared toward defending against a general exchange with Russia. But, IF the idea were to have a defense in the event of a general exchange, it would not have to be totally effective to be adequately effective. It's been years since I've reviewed the literature on counter-force, counter-value, first strike, second strike, etc., but my general recall is that, if an attack could be degraded by an appreciable percentage, say 30-60%, there would be a very real increase in surviving population and infrastructure. You couldn't forecast in advance where the survival rates would increase because you wouldn't know which missiles targeted at which cities/military installations would be shot down. You would only know where strikes did not occur.

Josh E--with your correction, 'yes' I believe a failed nuclear attack would likely not receive a nuclear response. I think it would receive a massive conventional response such that the offending country would be thoroughly invaded, disarmed, its leadership tried and shot for attempted genocide and the remaining country would be reduced militarily to the approximate strength of Lichtenstein.

would our defense structure look like if you were making the decisions?

Jeez, putting together such a doctrine would take a lot of time, research and money. Assuming no one around here wants to finance such an effort, I would just say in broad strokes that if I were in charge, our defense structure would look similar to how it looks today, though the overall size of the budget would be smaller.

I would seek to fix the procurement mess that relies on automatic cost overruns and fraudulent bids. I would try to shake up the iron triangle that looks out for its interests, not necessarily the US military/people.

Far from disbanding our armed forces, I would seek to scale back the size somewhat - jettisoning some big ticket items of dubious value in the here and now at the going rates (F-22 was a good step). And, of course, I would use them much more judiciously.

I'm not sure why our defense structure can't be just focused on defending the United States from an attack. As opposed to all this power projection, hyper-dominance, etc. etc. capability people seem to think we need to have.

Seems to me that we could accomplish that with an army 25% the size, a similarly reduced air force (whic I would fold back into and put under the control of the army), close all our foreign military bases and bring the personnel stationed there home. We could keep our Navy the same size such that it's enough to inflict serious damage should, say, china decide to invade Taiwan or something similarly stupid go on.

If that means Japan and Europe decide they need to increase the size of their militaries, great, we can sell them our unused sh1t.

But no, we need to keep getting in fights with wood-chippers like Iraq and Afghanistan and then claim victory after the woodchipper has torn off our right arm and left hand.

Far from disbanding our armed forces, I would seek to scale back the size somewhat

Nothing you've ever written suggests you would disarm or emasculate our defense structure. Someday, when your schedule permits, I'd be interested in the extent of the "somewhat" by which you would scale back.

McKT: I know I promised more on this sometime last spring, but life events have, er, overtaken that ambition.

Hopefully I'll get the chance to dig in to this with both hands.

Bad, I don't think the current missile defense approach is geared toward defending against a general exchange with Russia. But, IF the idea were to have a defense in the event of a general exchange, it would not have to be totally effective to be adequately effective.

I entirely agree that missile defense as proposed is geared at a general exchange. That said, however, it's not the motive but the perception that matters: if Russia really is still following the MAD path, missile defense is an existential threat. Given that the only realistic option available is pre-emption, Russia's options are surrender or war. (assuming, that is, that Russia views current missile defense technology as a realistic threat; and also that Russia's leaders are willing

And, even assuming less-than-perfect successful missile defense, "winning" would be pretty cold comfort in the context of all-out nuclear war.

Sorry - "I entirely agree that missile defense as proposed is not geared at a general exchange" ... Or even at Russia, really.

Also, the thought occurs that nuclear war would be an effective brake on global warming.

I've read (can't provide citations, this is from a college paper I did several years ago) that there are several big flaws with the missile defense systems that have been proposed over the decades:

A) The cost of defeating them is very low (multiple dummy warheads are a cheap and effective MD countermeasure)
B) The cost of creating them is very high
C) any weak spot in the "shield" is the one where missiles will be concentrated, so the rest of the shield will not avail us
D) missile defense systems that exist in space also give us offensive capabilities, which makes enemies think we intend to atack, which raises the risk of attack from them
E) Missile detection systems only detect missiles once they enter "boost" phase, which means they are already in space and we have very little time to respond
F) The problem is no longer a missile, it's a bomb coming through container ships, which we can barely afford to inspect a tiny fraction of

None of that is gospel, so please let me know if you concur or have sources disputing it.

Your entire premise, and thus the lives of millions, is grounded on an adversary remaining faithful to your deterrence rationale

Not quite. My premise is that an enemy that would not be deterred by the threat of retaliation would not be deterred by a missile defense system. Remember that we are presuming (or at least I am) that no missile defense would stop every missile of a large strike, and any enemy determined enough to use a nuclear weapon would also be determined enough to ensure it had a large enough missile fleet to overwhelm a missile defense system.

I think it would receive a massive conventional response ....

Since we're firmly in the realm of abstract conjecture, why would this response be unavailable/unlikely if there was an actual nuclear strike? Presumably if the military remained capable enough to launch a retaliatory nuclear strike it would also be capable of responding conventionally.

Addendum: I think I've read that the MD trials have been dismal, with poor success rates even on missiles that we knew were coming. I have to leave work now, I will google later.

Eric: family first.

Bad: what Russia says and what Russia means are two different things. A limited system is not going to produce war with Russia. The larger question is whether we would go to war for, say, Poland.

Julian: without doing a line-by-line breakdown, I think, generally, the concerns mix general, strategic defense issues with a limited system to deal with finite numbers of intermediate range missiles. The former isn't on the table. The latter may be susceptible to spoofing, for example. I am not conversant on the technology.

I think I've read that the MD trials have been dismal, with poor success rates even on missiles that we knew were coming. I have to leave work now, I will google later.

That all depends on which MD system you're reading about. Sure, what we were considering putting in Poland is probably the least mature of all the systems in the works right now, so its test results are probably not looking all that great.

That all depends on which MD system you're reading about.

I can't recall reading about any MD test that was an unqualified success, or anything close to it. Perhaps I've simply missed it. I do recall a number of tests which were either outright failures, or which only succeeded under incredibly contrived circumstances.

I can't recall reading about any MD test that was an unqualified success, or anything close to it. Perhaps I've simply missed it. I do recall a number of tests which were either outright failures

I think THAAD has had a number of consecutive successes, after they came out of the redesign.

or which only succeeded under incredibly contrived circumstances

"Contrived" is pretty much what all flight testing is about. That doesn't mean there was cheating, though. You certainly do have to arrange things so you can launch a target missile from somewhere away from population centers, and likewise have the test interceptors and associated acquisition and track sensors in some convenient-for-testing location. And of course for the most part your adversaries tend to be less than eager to sell you actual missiles to shoot at, so you have to instead shoot at missiles that are designed to have similar kinematic, physical and phenomenological properties as those of your adversaries.

So, of course missile defense testing is contrived. Can you envision some less contrived testing, other than demanding that someone perform a live-fire exercise in your direction?

No, the missile to be installed in Poland's actually a pretty good choice, signally unlike Bush Admin ICBM defense. IIt isn't the kind that had so many failures. Instead, it comes by a much more promising path, a long series of incremental changes from an initially unreliable and weak anti-missile missile, vs the the all-from-scratch and so terribly unreliable Bush missile ICBM anti-missile.

The Bush Administration was no better at missile defense than they were at economics or war, maybe even worse. Even if you had working anti-missiles (and, to be fair, they were planning to use the SM-3 antimissile at sea), the needed response time to a nuclear attack was hopelessly low. They were also, I think, unrealistic in what they said the handful of early-adopter bases could cover. More here.

Even if we assume that any system of MD works on ICBMs, is Poland actually a proper location to defend the US* from Iranian missiles?
I also fully agree with Julian that a (long range) missile is the least likely means of delivery for a nuke by a 'rogue' state. A regular container or a ship-launched short range missile sounds much more likely to me.
But the origin can't be hidden in any case (unless it is a stolen bomb**) since nukes leave fingerprints.

*I don't buy the idea that it is to protect Europe
**and no measure short of a war of annihilation or universal nuclear disarmament can securely eliminate that possibility.

"But the origin can't be hidden in any case (unless it is a stolen bomb**) since nukes leave fingerprints."

I've had serious doubts on that front for some time. Ok, it's quite possible that the regular nuclear munitions of a particular country might be recognizable, since they're generally intended to be deployed under circumstances where the source of the bomb is obvious anyway. That is scarcely to say that a nation capable of building nuclear weapons couldn't "salt" it's bombs with a little packet of isotopes to alter the fingerprint if they thought it worth doing. Build the casing of a different alloy. One off bombs with a different "fingerprint" ought, in principle, to be quite feasible.

My "leftist" (hah!) military changes:

I would probably start with incremental changes. Just showing up and saying "right, cut it in half" is absurd. Maybe I'd shoot for a 20% total reduction in the military budget over the course of a two-term Presidency. Even that is probably ambitious, considering the fact that small increases are slagged as "deep cuts" and hating America.

One major obstacle is that my cuts might not be evenly distributed amongst the services. That's another battle, over and atop the general idea of cutting defense spending, period.

Areas to look at cutting: procurement of super expensive new toys - particularly for the air force, nukes and the subs that carry them (that'll make me super popular in my home state!), far-flung bases, and maybe a carrier task force (generally, the navy would be very important to me, but I'm not sure we need as many carrier groups as we do now). Not being a military expert by any means, all of this would have to be subject to a careful review.

And, of course, doing my best to stay out of wars. Sometimes you can't, but most if not all of the wars we've fought since WWII were unnecessary (Afghanistan may have been necessary - I was ok with it at the time - but I'm not privy to what alternatives were available/discussed). I'd also oppose "peacekeeping" operations. Calls for intervention in, say, Darfur, for example. I don't think that's the US military's role, nor do I think we're particularly good at it anyway. Other forms of aid would be on the table, but not military intervention. This was also my position on Bosnia.

I take back "most if not all" because, lacking my proper doseage of caffeine, I totally forgot Korea. Duh.

We had the discussion here in the past that in theory the airforce is not covered by the constitution (while state approved piracy is). A standing professional army clearly was against the founders' intention (so originalist should mean isolationist by definition).
Closing bases abroad would be a huge step towards getting the budget under control. Military subsidies for US vassals (or those considered as such) should be on the cutting block too.
The armaments industry also creates its own domestic market by exporting modern weaponry creating the need for developing new weapons to counter them (wash, rinse, repeat). Also weapon exports feed conflicts that sooner or later involve the exporters themselves (not specific to the US of course).
Call me a cynic but wasting huge sums on reducing casualties on your own side (=>more get killed by friendly fire than by enemy action) is counterproductive: a) it is an exponential cost driver with diminishing returns; b)it eases the pain and therefore the political costs of going to war; c)it leads to types of war that create more problems than they solve (or at least even more so than usual).
As I have said repeatedly, if the US would suffer for just a few months what Europe suffered in WW2 or the 3rd world since then, then the US would imo become far less belligerent.
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Brett, I doubt that it would be so easy to mask the individual profile of the fissile material. It would be necessary to fake the profile of someone else (almost impossible) or the origin could in case of doubt be done by exclusion of known sources, leaving very few possibilities. I think the most common bet is still that the first nuke used by terrorists will come from the ex Soviet Union and be stolen or sold by some corrupt official.

I've noted elsewhere earlier why it's rational for the Russians to be opposed to BMD/SDI, even if they know it can't work, and even if Russia is committed to peace and disarmament. (This originally came up in the context of the 1980s disarmament talks and the question of 'why, if Gorbachev knew SDI wouldn't work, was he so eager for the US to give it up?')

The logic is this: abolishing nuclear weapons wouldn’t happen all at once, even if both sides were willing. It would be a phased process. And as both sides reduced their arsenals, the temptation to try for a counterforce first strike would become greater.

Look at it from the US side.

If the USSR has 2,000 missiles, you’d be insane to think you could knock them all out in a counterforce strike (ie one aimed at destroying the other side's missile silos, etc.) You’d be bound to miss a few, which would be enough for a crippling countervalue counterattack (aimed at cities). If it has 100, then it becomes rather more likely that your counterforce attack will get them all.

If you have an imperfect but working SDI system, then MAD still works – as long as the other side has a large number of missiles. Then it can lose a lot of them to your first strike, lose more in flight to SDI defences, and still guarantee a devastating countervalue second strike.

But if you’re in the process of disarmament, and you have an imperfect but working SDI system, then the temptation to order a counterforce strike becomes even greater – you might think that you could kill, say, 95 out of the 100 Soviet missiles with your first strike, and rely on SDI to kill the remaining five after they were launched.

Or, more to the point, if you just think you have an imperfect but working SDI system, the temptation’s still there. Even if Gorbachev knew that SDI was a joke, as long as the US side thought it might work, there was still the risk that they might first-strike half way through the disarmament process. It wouldn't work for the US, of course - SDI wouldn't stop the Soviet retaliation - but that's still not something you want to happen.

No, the missile to be installed in Poland's actually a pretty good choice, signally unlike Bush Admin ICBM defense. IIt isn't the kind that had so many failures. Instead, it comes by a much more promising path, a long series of incremental changes from an initially unreliable and weak anti-missile missile, vs the the all-from-scratch and so terribly unreliable Bush missile ICBM anti-missile.

Well, not quite. Missile defense isn't accomplished with just missiles. The Aegis missile defense system is built out of missiles, surveillance and tracking radars, and communications links, all of which are ship-based. Short of planting a few Aegis destroyers in the dirt in Poland, you'd have to excise the important parts, build some structure under them, and probably add some things that aren't quite so ship-specific. I don't know what those things might be right offhand, but it's almost a given that there will need to be some redesign. And along with that, re-testing and re-validating.

Even if you had working anti-missiles (and, to be fair, they were planning to use the SM-3 antimissile at sea)

This is an interesting aspect to the evolution of missile defense: there's been little government consistency WRT developing a national defense system prior to the late 1990s, while theater and fleet defense has been amply funded. So what's happened is that theater and fleet defenses have evolved to the point where they can begin to credibly approach the ICBM intercept problem, and do so with some amount of confidence that they're built on a tried and tested set of sensors and interfaces. NMD, on the other hand, seems as if it were thrown together with the intent of establishing a beachhead in terms of emplacement, then doing the T&E progression to establish that the system works. Ass-backwards, in my opinion.

Shipboard systems are probably always going to be range-limited, though, because of missile size constraints.

Calling NMD "Bush designed" (per Jon's link, above) is hopelessly wrong, although he did approve its deployment. NMD was cobbled together during the Clinton administration, but Clinton didn't design it either. I'd be very, very worried if we had POTUS (Bush, Clinton, or Obama; doesn't much matter) designing defense systems.

Even if we assume that any system of MD works on ICBMs, is Poland actually a proper location to defend the US* from Iranian missiles?

I think a more relevant question is: is Poland actually a proper location to defend NATO against Iranian missiles? Dunno the answer to that, but it's not quite as obviously close to "no".

I've noted elsewhere earlier why it's rational for the Russians to be opposed to BMD/SDI, even if they know it can't work, and even if Russia is committed to peace and disarmament.

This more or less ignores our switchover from defense concepts aimed at achieving protection against massive nuclear attack to GPALS (Global Protection Against Limited Strike), which happened sometime around 1991. Granted, NMD looked to some like more of the same Reagan/Bush I-era stuff, but I think there were only two emplacements with a very small total number of missiles, and such a design is clearly unsuitable to counter a massive first strike.

it seems to me a program to simply bribe potential enemies would be much cheaper and more effective than missile defense.

And that is called paying the Dane-geld//
But we've proved it again and again//
That if once you have paid him the Dane-geld//
You never get rid of the Dane.

Actually, it's even worse than that: you create a market for more Danes.

OTOH, an unending military buildup to appease military contractor lobbyists and their media allies is just another sort of Danegeld, and we have been paying that since at least the Korean War.

A 20% military reduction sounds like an excellent first step. There is a simple fact about military spending that is too often masked by our myopic focus on GDP as a measure of prosperity, which is that guns are much less useful than butter. Building missile silos is literally pouring money into holes in the ground. How much army, how many missiles do we actually need to fend off attacks and make punitive strikes? Anything beyond that is a waste, no matter how pretty the airplanes are or how many people it employs. Yet we never seem to ask that question.

...which is that guns are much less useful than butter.

Just to show off: even butter had its use in the early days of modern warfare. Germany in both world wars used large amounts of the butter-producing part of milk for the production of galalith (several thousand tons per year) used as isolator material in electric/electronic devices.
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Develop tanks that run on manure and can double as tractors/ploughs* in peacetime!

*there is an old US patent for a cannon plough giving farmers a ready defense against Indian raids ;-)

That's some cool stuff, Hartmut. Thanks!

I'd known about Bakelite, but not Galalith/Erinoid. Probably casein formaldehyde isn't considered a plastic, though, because it wasn't pourable/formable, and had to be cut to shape.

"OTOH, an unending military buildup to appease military contractor lobbyists and their media allies is just another sort of Danegeld, and we have been paying that since at least the Korean War."

I'll agree about that, but the action we're discussing has a stink about it; They say that diplomacy is the art of saying "nice doggy!" while reaching for a larger stick. If that's so, then tossing your stick aside because it annoys the rabid doberman is the precise opposite of diplomacy.

it annoys the rabid doberman is the precise opposite of diplomacy.

Presuming the rest of the world is rabid is also the opposite of diplomacy.

Yes, I'm a libertarian, but I'm a libertarian who takes the attitude, "If we're going to be statists anyway, why do we have to be incompetent statists?"

Because all government is inherently incompetent if not outright corrupt, at least according to every freaking version of libertarianism I've ever heard of before now, and therefore the concept of a competent statist is an oxymoron under libertarian ideology?

Brett wrote:

If you're going to be a global hegemon, you ought to at least do it right. Frittering away the gains of the cold war is not doing it right.
Brett, as someone who lived through most of the cold war, including the most dangerous parts of it, this attitude appalls me. In 1962, when the boomers and our parents faced what could have turned into a global catastrophe, we and they didn't do it for global power politics. Millions of people believed that we had to resist the Russians because of they lived by a set of rules called "scientific socialism", rules which denied individual rights and the individual mind and soul, rules they wanted to impose on the rest of us. And many, many Americans, Canadians, Brits, Germans and so on agreed to risk a war more catastrophic than anything in human history since Lake Toba blew up (70000 years ago) to stop it. And the successful leaders of the "cold war", from Kennedy to Reagan, played exclusively to this perception. Remember "Ich bein ein Berliner" or the "evil empire", Brett? Many people, myself included, who had no brief for the Soviet system, had grave doubts about the wisdom of risking the next thousand generations of humans over an ideological argument. If you wend back in time and substituted a call for permanent American hegemony, a call for a prostrate Russia and gangsters auctioning off Russian and Ukrainian girls in slave markets in Bosnia for the great denunciations of communism in the speeches of Kennedy and Reagan, then that people of the West would have stood down the cold war so fast you would have got flash burn.

Communism, in the sense of the scientific socialism that dominated Russia from 1917 to 1989, and Central Europe from 1945 to 1989, simply doesn't exist any more, and the cold war didn't set out to "gain" anything else. Period. Apart from anything else, for fifteen years the Americans and others supported the Soviet dissidents in dismantling what they and we saw as an immoral system. To turn around and say to them that the cold war really involved a struggle to implement American hegemony and put an American boot on their necks for as long as possible would constitute a monstrous betrayal of those whose courage did the most to win the actual cold war. So common decency, as well as common sense, calls for you to treat Russia as you would treat any other major power; in fact, as you would like other countries to treat you. Which means not putting anything in Poland or Ukraine that you wouldn't want the Russians or the Chinese putting in Mexico or Cuba or Canada.

Speaking of Dick Cheney (and lacking an open thread to attach this to): 22 Things Dick Cheney Can't Recall About the Plame Case.

It's one of the other "Poles" that we need to think about.

The canceled anti-missiles were on the route that a putative Iranian ICBM, traveling to the US, would take over the North Pole. Since the Iranians are behind schedule with their long-range missiles, but charging ahead with Medium Range Ballistic Missiles (MRBMs) the required defense is needed sooner and in a different place.

The Republicans, though, are doing their job by searching for issues and throwing as much mud as they can. That's politics. They're hoping that the missile issue will turn into a "Bush lied" or a "Halliburton" type thing.

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