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U.S. "missile shield" to defend Europe?

Mr.Bush refires the arms race.

October 2007

The Bush administration's view that the United States needs to defend the 40-odd countries of Europe from Iran is hopelessly out of touch with reality.  Congress needs to squash this misbegotten waste of American taxpayers' money.
President Bush recently gave a speech where he explained that American taxpayers should build a missile defense system for Europe, just in case Iran should some day want to and be able to shoot missiles toward that continent.  "Today we have no way to defend Europe against the emerging Iranian threat," said Mr.Bush.  The President didn't suggest any reason why Iran would want to launch missiles at Europe.  Europe's a big place – forty-odd countries, over half of them committed, with the U.S. and Canada, to a common defense through NATO, and an even greater number similarly committed through the European Union.  It's a long time since a country attacked an entire continent.  Even Napoleon and Hitler, the greatest continental scourges Europe has seen to date, picked their battles more rationally than that. 

But just in case, given that defenseless Europe doesn't seem to grasp the danger they're in, "We need to take it seriously now," said the President.  And since Europe hasn't shown any interest in building a missile defense system capable of warding off this possible future threat, the U.S. must come to the rescue:  "And so we must deploy a missile defense system there that can" [ward off this threat] said Mr.Bush.

All right-thinking Americans love their President, though at times our sense of logic doesn't reach to the rarefied heights of Mr.Bush's.  But let's make an effort:  Europe, says Mr.Bush, the Europe with twelve of the world's fifteen richest economies (2007 estimates of per capita Gross Domestic Product by the International Monetary Fund), the Europe where the European Union's GDP has surpassed that of the U.S. as the greatest of the world's political entities, this new and wealthy Europe is, according to the President, incapable of funding, installing, and operating their own defense against the nation of Iran!  "And so we must deploy a missile defense system there ..."

Some of you may be unable to follow that clear reasoning, and you are to be pitied.  I remember getting one of my first lessons in clear reasoning as a ten year old, from an older boy who explained that it could easily be proved that the moon was made of green cheese.  I was awed by the clarity of his argument, akin to Mr.Bush's:  "There are only two possibilities," said my mentor:  "Either the moon is made of green cheese, or it is not made of green cheese.  Now, everyone knows the moon is not made of green cheese, so that only leaves the other alternative, that it is made of green cheese.  Don't you see?"

And with that logic as a model, we can perhaps grasp the President's argument more clearly:  The American taxpayer must build them a missile defense system because they don't want to build it themselves.  Because they have a sugardaddy who does this sort of thing for them, while they save their tax dollars for more useful expenditures.  And perhaps because we're saddled with a political leader of suspect capabilities with a hunger for a big legacy project.

Of course there's more than one way to look at Mr.Bush's proposed gift to Europe.  We can look at it from the perspective of military necessity.  Has the threat been demonstrated, and if so, is the proposed course the best counter?  The European countries don't think the threat is worth spending euros on.  Just about the only enthusiasm for this project comes from Poland, which clearly expects to gain some American largesse, along with the rare delight of tweaking the nose of the Russian bear.  The Pentagon's senior military staff are equally unimpressed with the need for this "defense".  In the unlikely event that Iranian leaders should get it into their heads to aim a nuclear bomb (which they may never obtain) at a European or American target, launching a missile is laughably passé and would be the last thing on their minds, as military experts are aware.  Such a missile, tracked by satellites from the moment of launch, with the country of origin identified as clearly as if it carried a return label, would simply ensure the destruction of the society that launched it.  No, the modern way to deliver such a weapon, especially for a country that doesn't wish to be identified as the sender, is simply to mail it.  A crate in a container on a freighter, buried among dozens of identically labeled crates containing socks or toasters or motorcycles or what-have-you, is the most likely way the next nuclear bomb will be delivered.  Because that's smart (within the twisted logic of international violence), while delivery by missile is stupid.

And therefore a defense against the most probable method of delivery would be smart, while billions of U.S. money spent on "protecting" either the U.S. or Europe against improbable and mythical Iranian missiles would plainly be stupid.

The President's proposal should be trashed by Congress for the boondoggle it is.  To date, Mr.Bush's announced plan has succeeded in energizing the Russian leadership, who now have plenty of funds to match and overmatch Mr.Bush's missile placements.  There can be little doubt that if the President's plan moves forward, a new arms race and a new cold war will soon be underway.  And Europe, the very place Mr.Bush purports to protect, would be the prime target in much of the renewed arms buildup.  The U.S. administration protests that the proposed missiles are "purely defensive", pretending not to understand that a defensive weapon is just as unbalancing in the power equation as an offensive weapon.  Of course they do understand that, and they are merely revealing themselves for the nth time as inept tyros in international affairs.

To put a period on this sorry affair – if wealthy Europe wants a missile shield, let Europe build it with their tax money, not with mine.  But they quite certainly won't.

© 2007 H. Paul Lillebo

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