Missile Defense: Serious Business as Usual
The major argument against taking preemptive military action against Iran is the fear that Tehran's retaliatory capability will engulf the Middle East and other regions in serious violence and turmoil, throwing the world's already fragile economy into a deep recession or even an economic depression.
This mindset is coupled with a peculiar assumption that absent military action the only viable default position is some form of tepid engagement and rhetorically tough diplomacy, which quickly becomes an embrace of the status quo. That position essentially equates to acceptance -- albeit without much enthusiasm -- of the creeping incrementalism, sanctions off-and-on again, and a passive, "business as usual," or "containment," approach in dealing with Iran.
This is a perilous proposition.
New reports reveal that Iran is moving full speed ahead with its nuclear program, and is in full possession of advanced, long-range missiles with which to deliver warheads. Assembling the warheads onto the missiles takes no time and is not complicated. Iran has doubled its production capacity for enriched uranium in its underground facility. The Parchin military facility has been sanitized, making inspections futile.
Other parallel developments should raise serious concerns for America and our allies, including China's expanding its missile production beyond previous Western estimates.
In addition, assessments that Iran possesses only leftover Soviet Scud rocket motors have been thoroughly negated, and new cooperative missile and nuclear technology agreements between North Korea, Iran, and China have come to light.
Perhaps worse yet, Russia, Iran and Venezuela continue to discuss basing missiles near Caracas, right here in our own hemisphere.
U.S. combat commanders, mindful of these developments, have repeatedly noted the need for more inventories of U.S. missile defense elements.
Congress should heed this call even as naysayers recycle misperceptions and half-truths about missile defense.
Twenty years ago, after the end of the Cold War and during the Capitol Hill debates about the future of missile defense, critics often argued that other defense technologies should be prioritized ahead of missile defense; and military commanders' assessments of such needs were often cited to justify cuts to missile defense programs.
Also problematic is the misguided, wish-fulfillment reporting today: it implies that the $9 billion spent on missile defense and its related components by the U.S. military services and the Missile Defense Agency are somehow very "Cold War-like" and thus unnecessary.
It is no surprise then that the 30 long-range interceptors in Alaska and California, and the prospects of a European-based capability to shoot down long-range Iranian missiles, are too often labeled "unnecessary," "provocative" and "too costly."
Sadly, until a nuclear bomb goes off in or above an American city, the professional "business as usual" enthusiasts will advocate the status quo.
But as Robert Walpole, an expert analyst at the CIA, among others, has noted: Iran and North Korea are in the ICBM business and just a "third stage working" away from an ICBM capability.
Russian's serial condemnation of U.S. missile defense deployments rings hollow: the missile threats we face are not governed solely by Moscow and, in fact, are sustained and assisted, in part, by Russian cooperation and trade - rendering our need for missile defense more urgent, not less so. Our combat commanders, as well, are asking for greater production of our missile defenses.
Fortunately, an additional $1 billion a year in support could significantly bolster world-wide missile defense deployments and provide the U.S. and its allies better protection of the homeland.
Of particular need are more Standard Missiles – such as SM-3 1Bs being tested now – which will be deployed on our Navy Aegis ships at home and abroad. We should also focus resources on upgrading the current defense of the continental United States by both modernizing our 30 interceptors in Alaska and California and expanding the use of SM-3s and other defenses in the protection of the East Coast and southern Gulf region of the United States. The number of THAAD batteries in use should also be expanded.
Additional deployments of the Israeli Iron Dome system, including by such allies as the Republic of Korea, are also needed more fully to protect the U.S. and its allies. Some 16 nations have expressed interest in purchasing this system, a sale that would further enhance U.S. security.
Additional work should be initiated on space-based elements of missile defense to take critical advantage of U.S. technological prowess and deal with more sophisticated offensive missile threats.
If we remain wedded to the "business as usual" escapist wishes on Iran and a host of other geostrategic puzzles, we should at least pay attention to Richard Miniter's prescient warning that "in the real world, leaders cannot afford to experiment with dreams."
In the absence, then, of a willingness to eliminate the mullahs' nuclear and terrorist threats, at the very minimum it behooves us, as Americans, to reflect honestly on these gathering threats, and abide by that constitutional requirement to "provide for the common defense."
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