- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 23, 2009

What on Earth are they thinking? The Obama administration and its Democratic allies on Capitol Hill are significantly reducing America’s missile defense programs at the very moment when the need for such systems is becoming ever more palpable.

It is hard to believe - especially in the wake of the presidents much-ridiculed decision to close Guantanamo Bay without a better plan for safely incarcerating its dangerous detainees - that either the chief executive or legislators really want to impale themselves on another national security decision that defies common sense.

The issue will be joined this week when the House of Representatives debates a Republican-sponsored amendment to the defense authorization bill that would restore funding for anti-missile systems cut or terminated by Team Obama and the majority on the House Armed Services Committee. The backdrop will be reported preparations by North Korea to launch a ballistic missile in the direction of Hawaii, possibly on the Fourth of July.

In the face of this emerging threat to one of America’s 50 states, Defense Secretary Robert Gates has, to his credit, announced he is moving missile defenses into place to protect our countrymen in Hawaii. Yet, at the same time, he and President Obama are insisting we can safely do without 14 more long-range missile interceptors, a second airborne laser and various other enhancements to our relatively rudimentary anti-missile deployments.

Then, there is the Iranian missile threat. As the Obama administration refuses to do anything to help the people of Iran free themselves from the repression, corruption and malfeasance of the mullahocracy that has for 30 years misruled them and threatened us, we face the prospect of much more of the same. Should President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his puppet master, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameini, survive the present crisis, it is absolutely predictable that the range and lethality of the Tehran regimes ballistic missiles will only grow.

Worse yet, all other things being equal, these missiles will, in due course, be nuclear-armed - no matter how much Mr. Obama tries to appease the mullahs. As the brilliant syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer noted last week, “The only hope for a resolution of the nuclear question is regime change.”

In the face of this threat, what are the Obama administration and the Democrats on Capitol Hill doing? They are abandoning the Poles and Czechs who agreed - with the backing, not once but twice, of all of NATO - to deploy anti-missile systems on their territory so as to protect Europe and us from Iranian missiles. The so-called “third site” European-based missile defense will certainly not be built any time soon, if at all.

The anti-anti-missile crowd is, moreover, trying to sweet-talk the Kremlin into dropping its hysterical objections to limited missile defenses in Europe by making them dependent on Russian systems. This idea is transparently ludicrous.

Moscow views the Islamic Republic of Iran as an important client, not a threat. It has helped build the Iranians a nuclear power plant at Bushehr which will, inevitably, contribute to Tehrans weapons program, if only through technology transfers, training and political cover.

The Kremlin has also demonstrated where its loyalties lie by contracting more than two years ago to provide state-of-the-art S-300 anti-aircraft systems to Iran. If and when these lethal defenses are delivered, they will be used to protect the mullahs’ nuclear weapons facilities from attack by American and/or Israeli aircraft.

Could we safely rely on the same folks who are helping Irans loathsome regime amass the destructive capability it may well use against Israel, Europe or the United States to help us defend against that very threat? Not bloody likely.

Finally, there is the problem that even some Democrats on Capitol Hill - notably, Connecticut’s Sen. Joseph Lieberman (technically an Independent who caucuses with Democrats) and Mississippi’s Rep. Bennie Thompson, the chairmen respectively of the Senate and House Homeland Security Committees - recognize could happen at any time: an attack using relatively short-range, ship-borne ballistic missiles to launch a strategic electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack against this country.

In his new, New York Times best-selling novel titled “One Second After,” historian and author Bill Forstchen describes the devastating effect such a strike could have on America. In the absence of comprehensive missile defenses and/or “hardening” of our electrical grid, a missile-borne nuclear payload detonated high in space over the United States would unleash an intense burst of energy with what are seen as “catastrophic” results.

According to a congressional commission charged with evaluating the EMP threat, there would be extensive damage to the electricity and other infrastructures on which our 21st-century society critically depends. As a result, the commissions chairman, William Graham, says “nine out of ten Americans would be dead within a year” from starvation, disease or exposure.

Do Democrats in the White House and on Capitol Hill really want to be seen as the party that - out of an ideological opposition to national anti-missile systems that is a throwback to utterly irrelevant Cold War security paradigms - fails to provide for the common defense? In the face of present and growing missile threats, it is imperative that sensible members of the Democratic caucus do what they have done in droves on Gitmo: Ignore their leadership and cross the aisle, this time to join Republicans in defending America, before its too late.

Frank J. Gaffney Jr. is president of the Center for Security Policy. His support for missile defense dates to his service in the Reagan Pentagon where he was responsible for the policy aspects of the Strategic Defense Initiative.

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