Reflections on a House Divided

Before it Rains:
the race to emplace the first version of a "roof" on our national home is in its crucial end-phase, and those who've worked hardest to prevent its successful completion - want your vote

Many liberals I know are amongst those troubled by news of the impending test-launch of a North Korean ICBM with - quite possibly - sufficient range to reach targets in some or most of the continental United States. Fortunately, in this same period there have been several encouraging reports concerning developments in our anti-missile defence system. Late in May and earlier this month there were highly successful tests of two different American anti-missile systems - the ship-based Aegis SM-2, and the Patriot Guidance Enhanced Missile (GEM). These are both older systems which are already deployed, and these recent tests involved modifications to the existing systems. In particular, the software employed for targeting the Patriot GEM was modified to avoid the kinds of "friendly fire" incidents that occurred on several  occasions during Operation Iraqi Freedom. In addition, advanced versions of both systems - the Patriot-3 (PAC-3), and Aegis SM-3, have already also been successfully tested and deployed. And, while the long-ranged interceptor missiles, based in Alaska and California, have had their share of "teething troubles" during testing, there are now a sufficient number of them deployed to ensure a good probability of success against the small numbers of hostile warheads that might be launched by nations such as North Korea or Iran in the near future. Together with the other two systems already mentioned - Patriot and Aegis - it can be said that there is now in place - just barely -  the basis for a viable defence against the kinds of technology and numbers that might be employed by states of that kind - for the moment anyway.

That almost didn't happen. The opponents of missile-defence have waged a long and bitter campaign to prevent its development and deployment over the last 25 years or so. And, they came close to "success" in their endeavour. In fact, in the period right prior to 9/11, when it should have already been clear to any child that we could hardly afford the existence of any rogue-state - protected by even a minimal  nuclear arsenal - serving as safe-havens for the terrorists who had already staged and attempted attacks on America soil in the 1990s and year 2000, as well as American military personnel and diplomatic missions abroad -  nor could we afford the remotest chance that such weapons  might be transferred from state sources of that kind to those same terrorists - our home-grown opposition to the protection of our citizens from aforesaid dangers, as well as "run-of-the-mill" nuclear blackmail,  or the fatal delusions of unhinged fanatics - clerical or secular - grew strong enough then to seriously threaten the implementation of the Presidents plans for a limited defence against those very threats. And, amazingly enough, such opposition diminished little in the period after the 9/11 tragedy.

Concerning missile-defence, Rep. Nancy Pelosi - D California - has argued that "...we do not need a missile defence. If we need anything, we need a strong non-proliferation policy. If my colleagues only want a missile defence, then they will have the chance to vote for that today. However, if they truly want to protect the American people, then they will only settle for something that also attempts to stop other, more realistic, threats to our safety, such as cruise missiles or smuggled bombs. " One might note that there is no either/or condition defined by having a viable missile-defence system and working against nuclear proliferation. One can do both. Also, that one doesn't normally expect one piece of legislation to address all possible problems in a certain area - as Rep. Pelosi seems to suggest a bill concerning missile-defence must do, i.e. " missiles or smuggled bombs."  There is little likelihood that she would similarly insist that a funding measure intended to provide means of preparation against wildfires in her home state must also secure funding for earthquake-resistant housing there as well. But more crucially, the main danger that arises from ballistic missiles - as opposed to "smuggles bombs" etc - lies not in the danger of their direct use, but in their affect on the ability of our country and its allies to respond to the terrorist threat. Fore, if the Taliban regime had possessed just one or two deliverable nuclear weapons - capable of hitting our homeland or that of our allies, we very well may not have been able - politically - to go in and uproot that regime along with the al Quaida forces and infrastructure they were harbouring there. Afghanistan would have remained then as an inviolable refuge, training ground, recruiting centre and operational staging area for terrorist attacks on the west. Such would also be the case anywhere a regime sympathetic to the Islamists acquired similar capabilities. And, there is, of course, also the danger of the transfer of ballistic missile technology from a sympathetic - or simply sufficiently mercenary - state to Islamists or their agents. Finally, while the threat of "mutual assured destruction" proved sufficient deterrence against ballistic missile attack during the cold war, we did not then have to contend with such weapons in the hands of the likes of the Iranian Mullahs, or the current ruler of North Korea. The effects of which, sense of an absolute conviction in a divine mission, or paranoid megalomania, respectively, may very well make the prospect of an actual ballistic missile attack from such quarters more "realistic" than the good Congresswoman might think.

A key factor makes Ms. Pelosi's attitudes on this subject real grounds for concern for voters in the coming election - whether or not they have the fortune to live in her district. Fore, if her party, the Democrats, win a majority in the House of Representatives in the coming election, she will become the new Speaker of the House. And the person who holds that position has a great deal to say about which bills - for which programs - will or will not come up for discussion or a deciding vote. They also exercise a great deal of control over how such debates will proceed, who will be heard from , when and for how long. He or she also has a decisive role on determining the composition of many of the most crucial congressional committees. In short he or she would be well positioned to undermine, or kill outright, the exiting missile defence system if so inclined. And, the last time the Democrats held the comparable office of Majority Leader of the Senate, in the period prior to the attack of 9/11, they were on the verge of doing just that, until the mood of the country - after the attack - made that action untenable.

To become and remain effective enough to deal with the coming threats as they emerge from North Korea, Iran, and elsewhere, the nascent missile-defence system needs to be nurtured and sustained, not starved and neglected.
Your life and those of all dear to you may depend on that.


Current Anti-Missile Systems and Tests:
First at-Sea Demonstration of Sea-Based Terminal Capability Successfully Completed

Patriot 2-for-2 in anti-missile test
Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3)
Patriot Guidance Enhanced Missiles (GEM
Ground-Based Interceptor (GBI) !
Ground-Based Interceptor (GBI) 2
N. Korean threat activates shield
The North Korean ICBM and Test
May 2006 Build-up to Taep’o-dong-2C/3 Satellite Launch.

Taep’o-dong 2
Taep'o-dong 2 (TD-2)
U.S. warns on readiness of North Korean missile
The Anti-Anti-Missile Lobby
This is a minute sample of what has become a "cottage industry."
Some of the arguments are interesting and technically sophisticated, the only problem is -
they are wrong.
The nascent system we have in place really does - in practice -provide the basis for an effective defence against the type of limited threat for which it was designed, and - as recent events in regards to both Iran and North Korea have amply demonstrated -
we really do need it
National Missile Defense: Rushing to Failure

Missile Defense All Over Again
missile defense
Experts Agree ABM Withdrawal both Unwise and Unnecessary

Some Sampling of Other Pro Anti-Missile System Writings
Defending the West:Current Debate over Ballistic Missile Defense

Missile Defense Test Time to shoot back at Kim Jong Il's latest provocation.
06-17 Space & Missile Defense
Understanding the Need for a National Missile Defense After 9-11
Representative Pelosi
National Missile Defense Bill March 18, 1999

The Democratic Assault on President Bush's Missile-Defence Program in the Period Before 9/11
The website these stories were taken from gives some idea of the absolute certainty of those who held and hold such views, and the ferocity with which they sometimes expressed them. Events since then have revealed how wrong they were, and how much they in doing so jeopardized the safety of our country, and how entirely unrepentant they are for having done so.
Three House Members Seek to Stop Alaska Missile Site

FundsDemocrats to Pare Missile Funds
Democrats plan attack on missile defense plan
Biden: Missiles Could Trigger Race
Democrats lash Bush 'lunacy' on missiles

(C) David Aronin 2006