With significant assistance from North Korea, Pakistan, and Russia, Iran is today closing in on the capability to make real President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s genocidal threats. North Korea, the client state of China, continues to develop and test its missiles. The recent launch of the Taepodong-2 missile raised international concerns from Japan and Europe to the Pentagon. Pakistan has dozens of nuclear weapons and a government at risk of falling to jihadism. Russia plays a variety of difficult roles in the politics of grand strategy.
The United States has some deployed, tested, and working missile defense systems, including perhaps a few dozen interceptor assets based in California and Alaska — and on Aegis cruisers meant to also assist Japan. Test after successful test of anti-missile missiles shows that President Ronald Reagan’s original vision of missile defense — not the immoral and limited option of massive retaliation — has become attractive both in the United States and Europe. Poland and the Czech Republic are logical sites for radar and system deployments. However, President Barack Obama’s recent European tour did not give our friends confidence that he would continue our path to defend Europe.
And President Obama has also indicated a dramatically-declining commitment to robust missile defense for the U.S. and our allies like Israel. He has proposed significant cuts in research and development funding, even though the price tag is in the low tens of billions of dollars, compared with trillions of taxpayer dollars being spent domestically by the federal government.
Several important developing U.S. missile defense projects all face looming budget cuts, including the Airborne Laser, a “boost phase” defense, which counters North Korean or Iranian long-range missiles; the Ground Based Interceptor program (our only operational system capable of destroying a Taepodong-2 missile approaching the U.S. mainland); the Multiple Kill Vehicle, designed to destroy multiple missile stages and warheads in space; and the Space Tracking and Surveillance System, which discriminates between real warheads and decoys in space, thereby defeating an enemy’s ability to overwhelm our missile defense system with countermeasures.
Missile threats are real and missile defense science is solid. The funding costs are actually quite low and the moral case is overwhelming. Political obstacles must be overcome, including the left’s rejection that the U.S. would be strong or independent in the world and the military establishment’s repeated bureaucratic resistance to using funds for projects that aren’t their own.
Rockets continue to rain on the children of Sderot in southern Israel. Syria has 50,000 missiles aimed at Israel, many buried in underground silos. Hezbollah in Lebanon has rockets that can now reach Tel Aviv. Iran has twice tested offensive ballistic missiles from ships. Israel is in danger. And threatening foreign military doctrine and stated enmity suggests the U.S. too is vulnerable to an EMP attack.
This is, alas, our 21st century strategic security challenge. For the sake of our allies, and ourselves, we should close the missile defense gap now.