Not too many years ago, many optimistically argued that the world was becoming, or would shortly become, a safer place. They said the United States had “reset” its relationship with Russia. It was argued that sanctions and diplomacy would stop Iran’s drive to obtain nuclear weapons and that Syria was still a stable country. New leadership, they said, would make us more popular around the globe and thus less at risk. In that unrealistically optimistic climate, our national resolve to develop, build and maintain a robust missile defense seemed to wane.
Recent events demonstrate the fallacy of that unrealistic and naively optimistic view. After several years of “irrational exuberance” on the foreign-policy front, we need to reassess the risks and redouble our defensive efforts. George Washington wisely stated that “to be prepared for war is one of the most effective means of preserving peace.” Or perhaps, to be prepared for a missile attack is the most effective means of preventing one.
A modern, layered missile-defense system is the most effective way to ward off such an attack. Systems such as the Ground Based Midcourse Defense, which protects us from long-range ballistic missiles; the AEGIS Combat system, which tracks and guides weapons to destroy enemy targets from the sea; the Patriot missile system, a combat-proven, rapidly deployable long-range, high-altitude missile; the Terminal High Altitude Air Defense system, which protects us from short-, medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles; and the Army Navy/Transportable Radar Surveillance radar, the eyes that allow us to track missile threats, are all key components of such a defense.
Threats from missiles around the world continue to grow. We were tragically reminded recently just how quickly a missile can take life when Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot out of the sky, killing all 298 on board.
Furthermore, Vladimir Putin’s Russia has carried out an unprovoked armed invasion of neighboring Ukraine, contributing to the instability that caused the Malaysia Airlines tragedy. Despite wide condemnation of the invasion, Mr. Putin is unrepentant, and China is now standing with Russia. As though Mr. Putin’s motives were not clear enough, he also test-fired an intercontinental ballistic missile only days after the invasion.
Let us not forget that Mr. Putin is helping Iran develop nuclear capabilities — giving them cover as they arm terrorists in the Middle East with missiles — some of which are raining down on Israel — and helping Syria’s Bashar Assad cling to power despite his now-obvious crimes against humanity.
The penchant for viewing the world as less dangerous is a bipartisan problem. While President Obama’s foreign policy has made us less safe, George W. Bush was also in error to think that Mr. Putin was a responsible world leader with whom he could work productively for peace. Russia is a ravenous bear, hungry for land and power. If you don’t believe me, just ask Ukraine.
America must always project strength. Projecting strength is, as Washington said, “the most effective means of preserving peace.”
This is why we must continue to expand, fund and improve our missile-defense capabilities. We must continue to develop high-tech radars, such as the Army Navy/Transportable Radar Surveillance to scan the horizon for risks. We must continue to test and improve the defenses, such as the Ground Based Midcourse Defense, that protect America and her allies from belligerent missiles, such as Russian ICBMs and Syrian scuds.
It is heartening to see that Congress expressed its commitment to Ground Based Midcourse Defense by committing an additional $700 million to its development over the next five years, but we must not become complacent. We should also fully fund the upgrades to the Patriot Missile PAC-3 launcher, which will allow this proven system to stay in operation through at least 2048. In conjunction, Congress should also provide all 18 surveillance radars necessary to fully track missile threats. It is important that Congress continue to honor its commitment to defend the homeland from missile threats as it debates the fiscal 2015 National Defense Authorization Act.
In a time of much-needed budget cuts, we need to cut waste, fraud and abuse, both so that we can get our financial house in order and so that we can fund the critically important defenses to our freedoms and our way of life from those despots who seek to control, dominate and subjugate those who enjoy freedom.
The world is, and will likely always be, a dangerous place. There will likely always be someone in the world that desires power and is willing to kill, subjugate and dominate to obtain that power. This is precisely why Washington advised that being prepared for war would help preserve peace. Power-hungry nations look for targets they think they can defeat and subjugate, not nations that they are confident will be able to defeat them.
George Landrith is the president of Frontiers of Freedom.