Thursday, September 24, 2009

Gates fails to mention one little fact … by killing the Missile Shield, he makes the US vulnerable

Last Sunday SecDef Robert Gates wrote an Op-Ed in the NY Times that was not only deceptive, but avoided the main point. What he missed telling us is the European Missile Shield (Ground-based Mid-course Defense - GMD) is primarily a system to defend the US from ICBMs, with a secondary capability to defend the northern and central portions of Europe. By killing it he has killed our ability to stop US bound missiles from Iran.

Early in his article Gates makes a statement that is totally misleading. In it he claims the original system would not be ready until 2015. That’s simply not true.

In December 2006, just days after becoming secretary of defense, I recommended to President George W. Bush that the United States place 10 ground-based interceptors in Poland and an advanced radar in the Czech Republic....
That plan would have put the radar and interceptors in Central Europe by 2015 at the earliest. Delays in the Polish and Czech ratification process extended that schedule by at least two years. Which is to say, under the previous program, there would have been no missile-defense system able to protect against Iranian missiles until at least 2017 — and likely much later. ( emphasis added)

This is deceptively parsed wording. While true in 2006, shortly after, the original plan was superseded by a well funded accelerated one that moved the date up by two years to 2013. This from a recent Congressional Research Study of June 2009: The system would include 10 interceptors in Poland, a radar in the Czech Republic, and another radar deployed in a country closer to Iran, all to be completed by 2013 at a reported cost of at least $4 billion. ( emphasis added)  

He goes on to put up a straw man, implying this is only about defending Europe.

Those who say we are scrapping missile defense in Europe are either misinformed or misrepresenting what we are doing.

 From a look at the graphic, you can see why the Polish missile base is sited where it is. It is almost on a direct line (white line) between the Iranian missile test site (and likely operational site) near Semnan and prime targets Washington DC or New York. It also demonstrates graphically that the interceptors are more about downing missiles aimed at the US than Europe.

Ground-based Mid-course Defense has always been a strategic system, designed from the start to destroy reentry vehicles of high speed, high altitude intercontinental missiles. But it does have a capability to defend major portions of Europe. The Aegis/SM-3 is a wonderful system and a proven one. But it has a limited footprint. And it can’t defend the US from Europe. What is maddening, is after spending hundreds of billions on R&D for GMD, we are killing it in Europe because we don’t want to spend the final 4 billion. It’s like stopping ten feet short of the finish line. What also bothers me is Gates has always been a straight shooter. But he has learned the Democratic Party’s Doublethink. “Less is more” just doesn’t cut it for the rest of us.

Addendum: My next post will be about is how and why Iran will surprise us by developing a lightweight nuclear missile warhead that the North Koreans can’t. And it won’t be a fizzle.

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