Why Does the New York Times So Hate Missile Defense?
In nearly two thousand stories and editorials since President Reagan identified missile defense as a critical new capability needed for America's security, the New York Times has rarely found anything positive to say about America's first line of defense against enemy missiles.
In the past few weeks, editors of the New York Times continued, announcing their opposition to the newly considered East Coast missile defense site, and describing it as "unnecessary." [June 4, "An Unnecessary Military Expense"]
Contrast this to how they report on other offensive missile developments by America's enemies.
North Korean threats to launch offensive rockets at America and its allies, for example, are described as "puzzling" [May 21, 2013, "N Korea Launches Missiles for Third Straight Day"].
Russia's possible sales of anti-ship missiles to Syria are described as an "indication of the depth of support" of Moscow for Damascus (May 17 "Russia Sends More Advanced Missiles to Aid Assad").
Hezbollah threats to use rockets against Israel are carefully described as in "retaliation," implying of course any attack would be Israel's fault. [May 10, "Hezbollah Threatens Israel over Syria Strike"]
In short, offensive missile deployments by America's adversaries enjoy whitewashed explanations, while American efforts to defend itself and its allies from these same threats come in only for criticism.
The same New York Times logic was especially on display in 2002. Times Editor Bill Keller argued then that if President Bush withdrew from the ABM treaty the possibility of more nuclear arms control in the future would be very low. He described US missile defenses as a search for an "unfettered" US security policy that sought to "neutralize the power of countries such as North Korea and Iran", (as if this was a bad idea!)
Keller approvingly referenced a speech by Jack Mendelssohn of the Arms Control Association in which he said that a Chinese invasion of Taiwan could not be confronted unless the US had an effective missile defense, as Washington would "hesitate to come to the island's aid because of Beijing's nuclear weapons."
Keller apparently is aghast that, if the US had a missile defense in place, America might actually defend Taiwan from invasion.
Keller claims the missile defense "schemers" [those supporting their deployment] just want to get into a war with China and might end up spurring an arms race as well.
Added to this is his claim that missile defense advocates are also "deceivers," seeking secretly to end all arms control restraints on US nuclear weapons.
Is this actually how things turned out? Did arms control disappear as the US deployed protective missile defenses? Well, by the end of 2004, the Bush administration had deployed an initial series of missile defense interceptors against long range missiles, plus hundreds of short and medium range interceptors. To accomplish this, the US did have to jettison the ABM Treaty, which the Bush administration did in 2002.
At the same time, however, the US and Russia secured under the Moscow Treaty a collective reduction of 63% of US's strategic deployed warheads, with both countries ending up with 2,200 deployed strategic nuclear warheads compared to the 6,000 allowed under the Start I treaty.
Progress on US-Russian arms control and US missile defense deployments continued. By the end of the decade, with the addition of the 2010 New Start Treaty, US deployed warheads fell to 1,550 while missile defense interceptors of all kinds rose to over 1,250. When allied forces are included, the number of defense interceptors, while the exact number is classified, probably exceeds 2,000.
Nuclear weapons down. Missile defense interceptors up.
What the New York Times concluded could never be accomplished had been in fact achieved. But the New York Times apparently never got the message.
During both the Clinton and Bush administrations, the growing capability of Iran missile forces eventually pushed NATO jointly to call for the deployment of better missile defenses.
The Bush administration secured agreement to deploy interceptors in Poland and complimentary radars in the Czech Republic.
Although nuclear weapons arms control had accelerated, simultaneously with the deployment of over 1000 defense interceptors, the New York Times continued to complain.
The Czech and Polish deployments, said the New York Times, would "anger Russia" [April 15, 2008]. A month later, an "expert analysis," cautioned the Times, cast serious "doubt" on the capability of the proposed system [May 18, 2008].
The analysis of course turned out to be bogus. The two-stage interceptor being proposed for Poland worked and had been tested. The Czech-based radar was similarly qualified for the job.
The Russians ginned up media opposition to the NATO missile defense deal, and then used threats of nuclear-armed missile attacks to delay its deployment.
By the fall 2009, therefore, with a new administration, the Polish and Czech sites previously planned were abandoned by the new administration.
But ironically, new European alternative sites were suggested instead by the new American administration, such as Romania. And instead of a two-stage missile defense interceptor, it was proposed that a new land-based "version" of the Navy Standard Missile (SM) be developed and deployed at a new European site, but sometime after 2020. It became known as the fourth phase of the EPAA or European Phased Adaptive Approach, or SM-3 Block II-B, and was designed to deal with long-range Iranian rockets.
But even that plan eventually came unraveled. Following North Korea's recent missile launch tests and its explosion of another nuclear device, the administration changed course again.
The fourth phase of the EPAA was redesigned, and in all likelihood cancelled. The Iranian missile threats to Europe appeared to no longer be taken seriously by the administration.
Instead, it was announced that 14 ground-based missile interceptors, originally scheduled for deployment in Alaska by the Bush administration (but cancelled in 2009), would in fact go forward, and provide some additional protection to the United States (but not NATO) from emerging missile threats from Iran and North Korea.
On March 15, trying to maintain its perfect record of hostility to missile defense, the New York Times, twisting itself, acknowledged that while the added West Coast deployment was indeed in response to North Korean "provocations," such defense was probably not needed because even without any U.S. defenses, Pyongyang would "surely be destroyed" if it attacked the United States.
And, added the Times, such a defense response by the United States might give North Korea "the satisfaction of making the rest of the world jumpy." (And we certainly could not have that!)
There are, however, bipartisan reasons why the Times is wrong.
As Congressman Trent Franks (R-AZ) and Congresswomen Yvette Clarke (D-NY) told a recent Capitol Hill conference, the missile threats emerging from Iran and North Korea now might very well involve an EMP nuclear device capable of rendering the U.S. electrical grid and infrastructure useless. Tens of millions of Americans would be at risk of dying, as two Congressional EMP Commissions had previously concluded in the last decade. These fears of former Director of Central Intelligence, Ambassador R. James Woolsey, echoed in a particularly passionate brief at the event.
Recent news is that both North Korea and Pakistan have sought help in developing EMP weapons; and we know Iran has launched its missile tests in an EMP mode.
Such threats could be launched from a missile at sea some hundreds of kilometers off of our coasts as well as from intercontinental distances. Such maritime threats—largely surreptitious—would be difficult to deter, as in all likelihood the adversary would be unidentifiable.
The U.S. could, however, for a modest additional expense, begin to protect the country from such maritime EMP and nuclear threats through the production of additional short and medium missile defense radars and interceptors, now available and in the US inventory. Upgrades in the future would probably be required as the threat worsened. But we could begin work now.
This could be part of a new phased East Coast missile defense site or system. Other threats, such as long range missiles from the Middle East, could be dealt with through the deployment on the East Coast of an advanced version of the current West Coast deployments, or a variant of the current sea-based BMD systems, including better sensors and kill vehicles or the final element of an interceptor that actually crashes into the incoming warhead.
Whether traditional nuclear or EMP nuclear threats, missiles have become the military technology of choice of both terror master nations and their terror group affiliates. Such threats may not be subject to the traditional notions of deterrence developed during the half century of the Cold War. Hamas, for example, late last year, launched more rockets on Israel than Nazi Germany launched in all of World War II. Israel defended itself with the deployment of the Iron Dome missile defense system, which was developed and put into place within just three years.
In short, real threats need real defenses. The "hope" of deterrence is not enough.
Can we build better defenses? Of course we can.
In Israel, the military made upgrades to the Iron Dome defense system even as it was engaging enemy rockets. Upwards of 85-90% of all targeted Hamas rockets were intercepted. Contrary to the same academic "experts" often cited by the New York Times, this missile defense system worked and worked very well. The intercepts were meticulously recorded and verified. When told of the key basis for the critics' conclusion that Iron Dome hit only 15% of the targets—private cell phone pictures—a coterie of Pentagon civilian and military experts burst out laughing.
The US is now in partnership with Jerusalem to produce more Iron Dome batteries.
We should take our inspiration from Israel.
To defend the homeland and build better missile defenses simply follows our constitutional requirement to "provide for the common defense."
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