Thursday, August 21, 2008

Missile-Defense Arrogance as a Reflex Action

No matter how the United States played the completion of the missile-siting deal with Poland, Russia was bound to see it as directly tied to the Georgia midadventure. But the U.S. could have let the low-level signing of the deal August 14 speak for itself. Instead, Condi Rice came storming in to Warsaw with trumpets blaring, setting the propaganda level to "high" and reminding those ignorant Russkies that missile defense was for everyone's benefit.

Funny, then, how a good conservative Reagan aide like Jack Matlock could be interviewed on Public Radio International's World and call the Bush administration "amazingly provocative" in its approach to concluding the Czech and Polish deals. Funny how a good U.S. buddy like Mikhail Gorbachev could write a New York Times op-ed piece blaming the U.S. for a good portion of a re-kindled Cold War.

Condi's having to lie through her teeth to make the point in Poland that this "limited" missile-defense system (the twin to systems deployed in California and Alaska) is only good for spotting single missiles from rogue states like Iran. If only that were true. Frances FitzGerald and other analysts already have argued how the multi-tiered missile defense of the 1990s and 2000s is in many ways even more offense-oriented than Reagan's original Star Wars plan. George N. Lewis and Ted Postol, in a detailed article in Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, shows that the current European Midcourse X-band radar in the Czech Republic would not be useful for discriminating warheads from far locations like Iran - and forget about North Korea. However, the radar might be worthwhile if it was combined with a future Forward-Based X-band Radar currently being considered for Azerbaijan - or Georgia. Georgia, hmm, where have I heard of that potential NATO member before?

I'm with Matlock, Gorbachev, and similar radicals - if you want to see where at least half of the new Cold War posturing is coming from, look to Washington. Condi might say that even mid-level Russian diplomats these days are using a mocking, ugly tone not heard since the Brezhnev era. But when Russian critics are chided like toddlers in discussions of Star Wars weapons, and respond with disdain, the next step is vituperative and nasty rhetoric coming from the Bushies.


Sharon said...

Okay, once again I am way over my head trying to understand but please tell me that the Russians (and the world) will respond to these actions within the context of (what should be) a lame duck presidency with only 151 days left in office (and little popular support) and an abysmal foreign policy track record. I can't imagine why anyone is even taking meetings with them. Perhaps the world community needs to start treating this administration as it deserves to be treated.....irreverently.

Have Obama or McCain commented on their positions?

Loring Wirbel said...

Both Republicans and Democrats (the latter less enthusiastically) have supported missile defense development. The problem is that what is in the ground becomes a fait accompli. McCain is very pro-missile-defense, Obama is vacillating, but I don't think he's going to take the missiles out of Vandenberg AFB or Fort Greely, and I have a sinking feeling he won't cancel the Czech radar or Polish missiles.

Sharon said...

No, I suppose you're right, it would take a lot of courage to reverse that and he won't want to risk looking weak militarily......sad.

You still puzzle me seem kind of cynical but still you protest??? Is that hope or self preservation?

Loring Wirbel said...

Lack of anything better to do. Nah, you can be as cynical as all get out, but you might as well act as if something you do made a difference, on the off chance it would. There were many different kinds of actions in Colorado over the last decade on strategic weapons that didn't catch anyone's attention, and all of a sudden three nuns at the N-21 silo got worldwide attention. Similarly, the French kids in the 60s were doing various things that meant nothing, and all of a sudden the society collapsed in May 1968. But there's no rulebook that tells you when that moment of inflection happens. It's totally random. So you just keep pushing and pushing for what you know to be right, and sometimes, if you're lucky, you'll see something like the Berlin Wall just fall over!

Ruth said...

Glad you're pushing. This was excellent writing and helped me confirm what I was sensing. Such condescension when everyone is demonized except ourselves (Condi). She really epitomizes that stance.

If we stop yelling, even in the middle of cynicism (is that spelled right?), heaven help us.