- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 10, 2009

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

At the European security conference in Munich this past weekend, Vice President Biden stated that the United States would “continue to develop missile defenses to counter a growing Iranian capability, provided the technology is proven to work and cost-effective.”

Funny, one never hears the Iranians limit their missile program with those caveats. The Obama administration’s dithering approach to missile defense is music to the ears of countries spending billions of dollars developing new missile systems, such as North Korea, Iran and Syria. The last thing they want to see is the United States develop and deploy robust defensive systems that would render their considerable investments worthless. Likewise Russia, whose main claim to global power status rests chiefly on its nuclear missile arsenal, is delighted to see the Democrats back in power with their Luddite views on anti-missile technology. The administration’s pledge to also delay development on other major weapon systems is icing on the cake.

The “proven and cost-effective” formula is the latest line of defense among missile defense opponents. The original objection, which dates back to Robert McNamara’s Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) strategy, was that missile defense could never work, so it should never be attempted. But recent technological advancements, particularly the systems developed, tested and deployed during the Bush administration, have demolished the “you can’t hit a bullet with a bullet” argument. Missile defense is now a viable strategic tool.

Bereft of the “it can’t work” argument, the left has resorted to a subterfuge - talking about how systems can be deployed only if they are “proven” or “perfected.” The White House says that U.S. missile defense efforts must be “pragmatic and cost-effective” and not be funded until “we are positive the technology will protect the American public.”

But how “positive” does the government have to be? No technology is ever perfected - think of your computer, or your car the next time it breaks down. Yet by requiring a vaguely defined level of effectiveness before the fact, missile defense opponents have the opportunity to appear open to these popular weapons systems yet also have infinitely expanding room for excuses why they are not being deployed - needing more research, needing more testing, not yet proven, not yet perfect, etc.

This is a consciously self-defeating policy. Missile defense must be viable before it can be a priority - but unless it is a priority, it will never be viable. With this type of Catch-22 thinking the United States would never have made it to space. John F. Kennedy asked the United States to commit itself to landing a man on the moon only three weeks after the first successful American manned space flight. Biden’s answer to “Houston, we have a problem” would have been to cancel the space program.

Meanwhile North Korea readies to test a new long-range missile, Iran has placed a satellite in orbit, and Russia has signed an agreement with Belarus to extend its own missile defense efforts westward. At what point will reality impose itself on the Obama administration’s strategic thought? Hopefully it will not take a hostile missile launch to prove the case.

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