SOS: U.S. Missile Defense

April 8, 2015

Gatestone Institute:

Peter Huessy

Congress is now wrestling with the extent to which the U.S. should fix, modernize and expand its missile defenses, including better protecting the American homeland as well as its forces and allies in Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

In particular, this effort would include, but not be limited to: (a) building a third, U.S.-based, missile-defense site; (b) adding14 more interceptors to the two current sites and 30 interceptors now in California and Alaska; (c) completing phases two and three of the European-based Phased Adaptive Approach, (EPAA), designed to meet the threat of Iranian missiles to the U.S. and Europe; (d) adding to the inventory of current interceptors, including the Patriot, the Terminal High Altitude Air Defense (THAAD) and Standard Missiles to protect the Middle East and Asia; and (e) funding new technologies for future missile defenses.[1]

Since the advent of the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) in March 1983, critics of missile defense have often successfully scaled back planned missile defenses as well as future technology developments (such as directed energy weapons and space based systems), even as they criticize missile defense for lacking sufficient robustness.

To overcome this perpetual roadblock, and to make sufficient progress toward better protecting the homeland of the U.S. and its allies, the nature of the missile defense debate in Congress needs to change in two fundamental ways.

First, the U.S. and its allies must stop arbitrarily limiting the technology sought to field missile defenses. That change would free American and allied ingenuity to develop better technologies for missile defenses, without artificial barriers. Too often and for too long, ill-informed persons have complained misguidedly that, for example, as “we cannot weaponize space,” that is sufficient reason to preclude the development of missile defenses including space-based sensors and interceptors.

Second, the U.S. and its allies would do well to distinguish between two distinct missile defense missions. Traditionally, U.S. theater missile defenses protect U.S. military forces overseas by significantly blunting any attack on U.S. military forces, thus either deterring such a strike in the first place or allowing U.S. forces to operate more effectively.

Equally important, however, is the role of missile defenses in defending the American homeland from missile attacks.

Unfortunately, critics have long argued that given the large size of the Russian and Chinese arsenals of long-range ballistic missiles and nuclear warheads, no American missile defense can be sufficiently effective to protect the U.S. from such a major threat.

This view has usually been coupled with the contradictory idea that U.S. missile defenses, to protect the American people, have to be so limited as not to worry Russia (or China for that matter). Critics, including the Russian and Chinese governments, argue that U.S. missile defenses, if “too big,” would “interfere” with the deterrent capabilities of its adversaries.

In other words, critics argue simultaneously that American missile defenses can never be sufficiently robust to deal with the large arsenals of the Russians and Chinese, but also argue that if “too robust,” they will upset the Russians and Chinese to the point that Moscow and Beijing will “forced” to increase their arsenals aimed at the U.S., to overcome U.S. defenses.

One critic has gone so far as to say that American missile defenses, far from being purely a defensive measure, are in fact an aggressive attempt to bully our adversaries. He claims that U.S. policy is to develop “first the shield and then the sword.”[2]

In short, the U.S. was being condemned for defending itself.

Contrary to the critics’ arguments, an American missile defense inventory of a few thousand interceptors, deployed in a variety of modes at home and abroad, would significantly strengthen deterrence, not undermine it…

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