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Bush Orders Missile System Deployed
December 17, 2002 12:46 PM   Subscribe

Bush Orders Missile System Deployed. President Bush on Tuesday ordered the military to begin deploying a national missile defense system with land- and sea-based interceptor rockets to be operational starting in 2004. The decision to begin deploying a national missile defense, which has been criticized by Russia and China, follows North Korea's announcement this month that it will proceed with a controversial program to develop nuclear weapons. Is the sky actually falling?
posted by Keyser Soze (56 comments total)

 
Bush's decision comes despite the fact that last week saw yet another failed anti-missile test over the Pacific Ocean. Disgusting waste of money; egregious example of a sop to the weapons manufacturing industry.
posted by mapalm at 12:59 PM on December 17, 2002


Should keep the Siberians at bay . . .
posted by hackly_fracture at 1:05 PM on December 17, 2002


I wonder if it can be used for more then just defense against missiles...

Like a hijacked plane defense or something... (no... seriously... hehe...)
posted by LoopSouth at 1:09 PM on December 17, 2002


I'll admit that deployment at such an early stage is ill-advised, but until all ICBM-capable countries become stable democracies, a missile defense system is still useful. Even though we were hit by box cutters, that doesn't preclude the possibiliity of an attack by missiles.
posted by BlueTrain at 1:09 PM on December 17, 2002


Is the sky actually falling?

No, it's not.
posted by holycola at 1:17 PM on December 17, 2002


Relative cost, BlueTrain. Useful, yes. At all cost effective? No. We're supposed to pony up trillions of dollors on a system that demonstrably does-not-work-yet. If that isn't the definition of political pork spending, kindly tell me what is.
posted by Wulfgar! at 1:20 PM on December 17, 2002


I say we stop worrying about accuracy and just deploy a missile defense like we did in the good old days: just pop a small nuke on those interceptors and then we're cookin'. (So to speak.) If we can't change the size or speed of the target, then change the size of the bullet. /might be sarcasm
posted by Dick Paris at 1:22 PM on December 17, 2002


Actually, EM radiation type interceptors might be the bigger bullet needed. Early deployment of a non-utile defense system might facilitate deployment of one that does work.

(I'm just being a little contrary here; trying to find the cons in an otherwise ludricous situation. I still can't see the justification for cost. Is Bush just trying to scare people into submission? If that's the goal, please tell me and we just spend our money on really scary shit. Massive cobalt nukes, capable of dusting Yemen with one ICBM. Yeah, the world would fall in line toot-sweet if we had a stockpile of those puppies.

Okay, maybe that's just flamebait. But I really would like to know the justification for the willful order of deployment of a defective weapon.)
posted by Wulfgar! at 1:33 PM on December 17, 2002


Where will we get the money for this? With the looming war with Iraq costing billions, the increased spending on security/intelligence to protect U.S. interests nationally and worldwide, the sluggish economy AND Bush wants a tax cut. I'm sorry, but I am just not seeing it.
posted by CoolHandPuke at 1:37 PM on December 17, 2002


Should this really be posted here? This is on the front page on every news site that I have gone to. Anyways, why is this surprising to anyone, as it says in the article, Bush announced his intent to do this back in 2000. Is this related to North Korea getting nukes? No, not really. This is just a key time to win support for this controversial program.
posted by Raichle at 1:41 PM on December 17, 2002


Does Al Qaeda have ICBMs now? 'Cause if they don't, I don't see how the magic space umbrella will protect us from them.

For that matter, does Axis-of-Evil member North Korea have ICBMs? And even if they did, wouldn't MAD work against them?
posted by kirkaracha at 1:43 PM on December 17, 2002


I'll admit that deployment at such an early stage is ill-advised, but until all ICBM-capable countries become stable democracies, a missile defense system is still useful.

Mate, why do you assume that if all missile capable states were 'stable democracies', there would be no chance of nuclear exchange? Is there some kind of logical connection between democracy (as far as that's even possible in modern nation states) and peaceful conduct on an international level? People in democracies (particularly representative democracies) are just as capable of being over-ridden or led into acts of war as people subject to any other form of government.

I mean, the idea that a democracy is necessarily going to form peaceful relations with other states is just an assumption.
posted by Sonny Jim at 1:47 PM on December 17, 2002


This system seems awfully re-active, not proactive the way we must be in the post 9/11 universe. It would cost less and be smarter to simply invade each country with these weapons and take them away, kill the leaders, and install stable democracies.
posted by cell divide at 1:53 PM on December 17, 2002


a missile defense system is still useful

Useful for what? Making money for the missile manufacturers? It's certainly not useful for missile defense.
posted by badstone at 1:55 PM on December 17, 2002


As one of our past presidents once said...

"Well, here we go again..."

And what did Ike have to say about the millitary/industrial complex?
posted by Windopaene at 1:55 PM on December 17, 2002


Okay, I got it, now. Championships are won with good defense. So we're just blocking the development of other countries. We're in a game of ground acquisition (control of resource) and we have to block any possible configuration the enemy might throw at us. Of course, there's ground defense, where we dig in at the line, and penetrate in the middle to stop the rush of the opponent. And then there's zone defense on the receivers. We isolate them on the field, into coverage patterns that favor us. No, No, I know what to do. We'll run man-to-man where they know the game but our cowboys have more balls then their Indians. Yeah, we'll get burned, but all in all, we can take 'em.
posted by Wulfgar! at 1:58 PM on December 17, 2002


"Even though we were hit by box cutters, that doesn't preclude the possibiliity of an attack by missiles."

Would you agree that the *least* likely method for us to be attacked would be by nuclear ICBM? Since the attack would have to come from Russia or China? And it's impossible to "steal" a nuclear ICBM? Since they require a launch facility the size of a building? And no ICBMs are missing?

I'd say the possibility of attack by missiles is pretty much precluded no matter what.

1) Terrorists and Axis of Evil nations don't have nuclear ICBMs, and I haven't heard any plausible way they might get them.

2) Everyone (including Bush) agrees that China, Russia, India, etc could easily overwhelm any ABM solution.

3) All ABM test shots have failed.

4) Firing nuclear interceptors to explode over our heads is really dumb and will never be allowed by a democratic nation.

What is the point? Spending money just to spend money? There is no reason to deploy national missile defense other than that it makes for great talking points during a campaign. The White House rhetoric on this is "Better safe than sorry". My reply? Better smart than stupid.
posted by y6y6y6 at 2:08 PM on December 17, 2002


What? Weapons of mass destruction? Hey, aren't they illegal or something?
posted by LowDog at 2:12 PM on December 17, 2002


I support faith-based missle defense (and fully funded programs for health, education, social services, etc. etc)
posted by ahimsakid at 2:18 PM on December 17, 2002


Speaking of illegal weapons of mass destruction, may I ask the group at large why some countries are allowed to have nuclear weapons and others "aren't"? i've asked this question to many quasi-intelligent people and not gotten a satisfactory answer. What's this "if you make nuclear illegal weapons we will use our legal nuclear weapons to obliterate you" philosophy? As a malcontent American, I keep wondering who died and made us king of the WMD mountain. But chances are there are complexities to the situation I'm not grasping, so someone, please enlighten.
posted by anyasar at 2:20 PM on December 17, 2002


anyasar: Finally, a voice of reason. I've been wondering that for quite some time now - how come those kids can have nukes and those other kids can't? Sup wit dat?
posted by LowDog at 2:23 PM on December 17, 2002


I think the answer may lie here, anyasar and LowDog.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 2:24 PM on December 17, 2002


I think Bush is pretty much damned if he does, damned if he doesn't. If he does, and nothing happens, he's wasting money needlessly. If he doesn't, and something happens, he gets the blame for not having done it.
So people will be happiest if either:
A. He does nothing and nothing happens
or
B. He does something, which stops something from happening.

But if not, people will gripe about it. So he decides to spend money on protecting the lives of the citizens against a maybe.

I'd rather see him gamble on wasted money than wasted lives myself.

Now, of course, if it doesn't work, then he's in real trouble. But I'm just going to hope it does :-P
posted by silvermask at 2:26 PM on December 17, 2002


Hold the U.S. accountable to EVERY treaty it's signed (ask the Native Americans), and there'd be hell to pay...
posted by LowDog at 2:29 PM on December 17, 2002


Yes, the goddamn sky IS falling.

I've heard more about nuclear weapons since Bush redux became president than I have since 1985!!! Jesus Christ, is Bush on testosterone SHOTS or something? He has done more to piss off the world, build up overall armaments in the world, increase nuclear weapon count in the world, and bring us ever closer to WW3 and nuclear holocaust than anyone since first-term Ronald Reagan! Does he acually sit down and THINK about the effect (short term and more importantly, LONG TERM) that these type of pronouncements will have? Someone calm him down and give him a lesson in diplomacy soon. PLEASE. Before we all die because his dick is so small he has to make up for it in foreign "non-existant" policy.
posted by aacheson at 2:30 PM on December 17, 2002


aacheson: Don't hold back now... let it all out... tell it like it is! Go tell it on the mountain brotha! Amen!
posted by LowDog at 2:32 PM on December 17, 2002


What's this "if you make nuclear illegal weapons we will use our legal nuclear weapons to obliterate you" philosophy?

That's specious, because the philosophy is one of use and MAD (mutually assured destruction). "If you use your WMD, we will annihilate your night-stalking ass". The International community has decided that WMD are best confined to those countries that have already developed them. The Bush administration has decided that that means the US gets to allow or deny other governments from developing WMDs, not because we're the king of the mountain, but because we are, precisely, the king of the mountain. We have an empowering govt. form. We have a supported military, and we have bucks to outspend anyone in defense of our beliefs. Nobody had to die, to make us King of the Mountain; we just are. The question at hand is: do the American people want to spend enormous sums to protect our position at the (metaphorical) top of the mountain.
posted by Wulfgar! at 2:33 PM on December 17, 2002


y6y6y6: While I agree with you -- an ABM system, especially one that is so expensive and doesn't work, is a really bad idea -- I have to correct a few misperceptions.

1) Terrorists and Axis of Evil nations don't have nuclear ICBMs, and I haven't heard any plausible way they might get them.
Korea has an active missile program. It's not implausible that they either develop their own ICBM or acquire the needed technology from China or Russia.

2) Everyone (including Bush) agrees that China, Russia, India, etc could easily overwhelm any ABM solution.
If the ABM system worked (BIG if), Russia would certainly overwhelm our defenses, but China, India, and Pakistan could not. If I recall correctly, China had a mere 25 or so ICBMs capable of reaching the continental US. This will now change. (And IMHO, this was a powerful reason for not pursuing an ABM system.) India and Pakistan don't have ICBMs; they have a handful of strategic bombers. (Another reason why an ABM system is not needed.)

3) All ABM test shots have failed.
Not all have failed. Some, including a PAC-3, have actually done hit-to-kill intercepts. Of course, many tests have failed, even by Pentagon standards, and almost all have failed by ordinary rational standards, but not *all* of them.

4) Firing nuclear interceptors to explode over our heads is really dumb and will never be allowed by a democratic nation.
True, but the proposed system is not nuclear. And we *certainly* would allow it -- the US deployed exactly such a system in the mid-70s if I recall correctly. The deployment lasted only a month or two, but we deployed it.
posted by ptermit at 2:33 PM on December 17, 2002


mr_crash_davis, thanks, interesting reading, but here's the part I'm still confused about...
"The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons... obligates the five acknowledged nuclear-weapon states not to transfer nuclear weapons, other nuclear explosive devices, or their technology to any non-nuclear-weapon state. Non-nuclear-weapon States Parties undertake not to acquire or produce nuclear weapons or nuclear explosive devices."
Okay, i read through the document, i understand the rules, but how did we get here? Why these 5 states, and only these 5? My confusion remains, nay, increases at the seeming randomness of who gets candy & who doesn't.
About Bush: anyone else think this whole "Trent Lott is a racist" thing is just a ploy to distract us from issues like the missile defense sheild that are less apt to be spun in a warm delicious bath of American self-righteousness? We don't hate anyone, I swear! But pay no attention to the man behind the curtain killing brown people. Just a thought.
posted by anyasar at 2:35 PM on December 17, 2002


Which country was first to develop a WMD?

Which country was first to use a WMD?

Which country was second to use a WMD?

Which country has the most WMD's?

Need I go on?
posted by LowDog at 2:38 PM on December 17, 2002


Frontline recently did a good episode on missile defense: Missile Wars.

This World Policy Institute report does an exhaustive job of following the money: The Role of the Arms Lobby In the Bush Administration's Radical Reversal of Two Decades of U.S. Nuclear Policy.
posted by homunculus at 2:40 PM on December 17, 2002


I much preferred the earlier Star Wars. There's no magic in these sequels...
posted by inpHilltr8r at 2:41 PM on December 17, 2002


Need I go on?

Please do. You've yet to make a relevant point.
posted by Wulfgar! at 2:43 PM on December 17, 2002


About Bush: anyone else think this whole "Trent Lott is a racist" thing is just a ploy to distract us

No, no ploy, I think Lott screwed up all by himself. And I suspect the Bush administration wishes the scrutiny of Lott would go away before it leads to scrutiny of Ashcroft's neo-Confederate connections. As for missile defense, I think they're confident that most Americans simply won't look into it in detail, and I think they're right. North Korea just gave the defense industry the greatest Christmas gift they could have asked for.
posted by homunculus at 2:51 PM on December 17, 2002


Wurlfar!, the point is
The US created nuclear weapons
The US is the only country to ever use them
The US has the most of them

So where do we GET OFF telling others whether or not they can have them. If we pull our heads out of our collective sunshiny-USA-asses, we will see that the rest of the world HAS REASON to feel they need nuclear weapons. They see the USA as a threat. We have WMA's. We've used them before. Now our numb-nuts president says we won't hesitate to use them again, in fact, he seems to be a little too antsy to use them for my, and the rest of the world's, comfort.
posted by aacheson at 3:01 PM on December 17, 2002


Adding to my point about Bush being too pro-nuclear, here is a quote from homonuculu's link:
"In contrast to Ronald Reagan, who came to believe that the elimination of nuclear weapons should be the ultimate goal of U.S. policy, the Bush administration’s posture review seeks to give nuclear weapons a new lease on life by pressing for the development of a flexible nuclear warfighting capability grounded in a reinvigorated nuclear weapons complex. Unlike his father, George Herbert Walker Bush, who removed tactical nuclear weapons from U.S. ground and naval units as a way of lessening the risk of a nuclear confrontation, George W. Bush’s approach paves the way for the development, testing, and deployment of a new generation of low-yield nuclear weapons. And unlike the Clinton administration, which tried to pursue changes in U.S. nuclear policy without abandoning international arms control treaties, the Bush administration has already announced its intention to withdraw from one major agreement, the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty of 1972, and its nuclear plans threaten to undermine the other major pillars of the current global arms control regime."
posted by aacheson at 3:02 PM on December 17, 2002


Yeah, what aacheson said! Thanks by the way.
posted by LowDog at 3:03 PM on December 17, 2002


Wurlfar!, the point is
The US created nuclear weapons
The US is the only country to ever use them
The US has the most of them

So where do we GET OFF telling others whether or not they can have them.


First off: watch those thumbs. Its "Wulfgar". Second, we get off telling others precisely because of your stated 1,2,3. But you forgot number 4: We have representation by vote of the populace. You don't like our nuclear policy? Let your reps hear about it. Other than that, we have a right to defend our lives, yes? If a stated enemy is developing nuclear weapons, don't we have a right to stop them? But that isn't the point. Third: What are you willing to spend to feel safe?
posted by Wulfgar! at 3:20 PM on December 17, 2002


"So where do we GET OFF telling others whether or not they can have them."

That the US has nukes is bad. I assume you agree? I wish we could just get rid of them. It doesn't look like that's ever going to happen though. Right? Or do you have a magic wishing ring I could borrow?

Other nations having nukes is bad. They don't seem to be motivated to get rid of theirs either.

More nations acquiring nukes would be bad. But, this is something we can actually do something about. No magic wish ring required.

See little camper? Short of you handing over your magic wish ring, preventing other nations from acquiring nukes is the best we can hope for.

"Should this really be posted here?"

No. It's poop. Much yelling. No love. Rhetorical mud wrestling.
posted by y6y6y6 at 3:20 PM on December 17, 2002


If we pull our heads out of our collective sunshiny-USA-asses, we will see that the rest of the world HAS REASON to feel they need nuclear weapons.

Perhaps, but the theory behind nuclear nonproliferation is that if more states have nuclear weapons, the more likely it is one of those states will find a compelling reason to use nuclear weapons. It's generally held that in the face of the catastrophic power of nuclear attack the inequality that comes from nuclear weapons being restricted to a select few states is a lesser evil.

None of which is to say that George W. Bush's "flexibile nuclear warfighting" initiative doesn't entirely wig me out.
posted by furiousthought at 3:23 PM on December 17, 2002


Okay, i read through the document, i understand the rules, but how did we get here? Why these 5 states, and only these 5? My confusion remains, nay, increases at the seeming randomness of who gets candy & who doesn't.

I'm not sure I understand your indignation here; the nuclear powers decided to take steps to halt the proliferation of nuclear arms, and 187 countries have signed on to that vision. Nobody wants more nuclear weapons, and nobody wants every regional conflict to degenerate into mutually-assured destruction scenarios.

Arguing for global nuclear parity is crazy. It's unfair, but like furiousthought just beat me to, it's the least evil way out of a pretty dismal state of affairs.
posted by eddydamascene at 3:27 PM on December 17, 2002


So where do we GET OFF telling others whether or not they can have them. Because we're morally superior than they are. Western-styled, democratically-elected governments are morally superior to a dictatorship with a madman at the helm who'd rather starve the population in order to feed the military or a government that gives women no rights at all.
posted by gyc at 3:41 PM on December 17, 2002


Which country was first to develop a WMD?

Which country was first to use a WMD?

Which country was second to use a WMD?


Germany; Germany during the battle of Ypres, 1915; Germany. (Chemical agents)

or

The Mongol Empire; The Mongol Empire during the siege of Khaffa, 14th century; The Mongol Empire. (Biological warfare)

Which country has the most WMD's?

That would be Russia, I believe.

Just setting the record straight...
posted by ptermit at 4:03 PM on December 17, 2002


eddydamascene, thanks...that's the first argument about this topic that's made a lot of sense to me. i agree fewer is better, but i guess i was thinking of it from the point of view of countries who have no way to defend themselves against military superpowers such as the U.S., and how ridiculous it would probably seem to most of them. but it seems to be boiling back down to power, wealth & size (oh my). And whether the american people support spending X number of dollars on defense systems will, in the end, have close to nothing to do w/whether the money actually gets spent.
posted by anyasar at 4:51 PM on December 17, 2002


People in democracies (particularly representative democracies) are just as capable of being over-ridden or led into acts of war as people subject to any other form of government.

Of course, this describes precisely what is happening right now.
posted by muckster at 4:51 PM on December 17, 2002


And whether the american people support spending X number of dollars on defense systems will, in the end, have close to nothing to do w/whether the money actually gets spent.

Could you be more wrong? Exactly how do you arrive at this conclusion?
posted by Wulfgar! at 4:53 PM on December 17, 2002


Which country has the most WMD's?
That would be Russia, I believe.


As of 2002, Russia has thousands of tactical nuclear weapons awaiting disarmament, which often are not included in arsenal estimates. Excluding those, the US and Russia are pretty balanced (whether or not that makes sense is another issue). [CDI - The World's Nuclear Arsenals] Interesting note on current US disarmament; it seems our arsenal reduction plans through 2012 call for roughly 4000 strategic warheads to be 'moved to either a responsive or inactive capacity, rather than dismantled... Most of the reduction however, will involve merely shifting warheads into storage, where they could quickly be reactivated'.

but i guess i was thinking of it from the point of view of countries who have no way to defend themselves against military superpowers such as the U.S., and how ridiculous it would probably seem to most of them.

But remember, two of the countries most threatened by the US today signed the treaty voluntarily (Iran and Iraq). Few countries held out in favor of joining the superpower game, with the notable exceptions of Israel, India, and Pakistan (and Cuba) -- and the DPRK.
posted by eddydamascene at 5:27 PM on December 17, 2002


Sonny Jim - Actually, a major topic of study and interest in international relations is centered just around that - that historically, democracies have not gone to war with one another. So, though I agree that it is possible for two stable democracies to go to war, it is extremely unlikely.
posted by kahboom at 5:37 PM on December 17, 2002


Scratch that, DPRK signed on in 1985. (this chronology from the NPT site is helpful). Scratch my last paragraph, too -- I'm oversimplifying and not making a lot of sense.
posted by eddydamascene at 5:39 PM on December 17, 2002


This is a gigantic piece of pork to the defense contractors. Read Theodore Postol's analysis of the current system, and you will see that the system simply will not work. He outlines two ways that this system can be defeated. The guidance on the KV is an infrared telescope. This means that you have to be able to see the warhead in IR, and you have to be able to tell if it is a decoy or not. The decoy detection doesn't strictly have to be done in the IR -- if you could identify the decoys by radar, you could point the KV at the real target.

Postol suggests two schemes for decoying nuclear warheads. The first is to cool the warhead with liquid nitrogen. He seems to think that this would work within the sensitivity of the detector in question. The second one though is almost impossible to defeat. You have a bunch of mylar baloon decoys (this part is accounted for in the current system), but the kicker is that you put the real warhead inside a mylar baloon too. As soon as it hits the atmosphere, the mylar shears off, but the current system intercepts in space. All of these mylar baloons would look identical on radar, and in IR.

The irony is that this was recognized in the sixties as a major problem during the development of the safeguard ABM system. Safeguard was a system of two nuclear interceptors -- the Spartan and the Sprint. The spartan was to intercept in space with a five megaton warhead. The advantage of this is that you're likely to take out the warhead and the decoys in one shot. The Sprint would intercept inside the atmosphere. By this time, the decoys would have burned up in the atmosphere, so you only have real warheads to worry about. Sprint would intercept at 20000 feet or so with a 10 kiloton or so warhead.

The downside is obviously colateral damage due to nuclear warheads going off in the air and in space. The upside is that this type of system was actually likely to work. All this system will do is give us a false sense of security, and cost a lot of money.
posted by cameldrv at 8:23 PM on December 17, 2002


Fred Kaplan's latest column summarizes the never-ending saga of missile-defense nicely.
posted by homunculus at 9:55 PM on December 17, 2002


gyc: Niiiice slam! Very subtle.

CoolHandPuke: Perhaps this is Bush's form of the Work Projects Administration?
posted by five fresh fish at 12:27 AM on December 18, 2002


I would just like to say that the ABM defense is what I would consider a new technology and therefore probably won't work right to begin with. They need to do test, see what goes wrong, and try to fix it. I would imagine they are having so many failures because they are needing to get this done quickly so they are testing as much as possible whereas if they had a lot of time they would probably do a lot more number crunching and have a successful test but at a much much later date. They are going the more expensive route but when their time is up, it will work fine. Again, I'm not for sure, but it's what I think.
posted by Ron at 12:33 AM on December 18, 2002


4) Firing nuclear interceptors to explode over our heads is really dumb and will never be allowed by a democratic nation.
True, but the proposed system is not nuclear. And we *certainly* would allow it -- the US deployed exactly such a system in the mid-70s if I recall correctly. The deployment lasted only a month or two, but we deployed it.


Nike time line.
posted by Dick Paris at 3:41 AM on December 18, 2002


anyasar: The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty prohibits signatories that don't already have nuclear weapons from getting them. The trade is supposed to be that the nuclear powers will disarm. Unfortunately that part seems to have been pretty much ignored.
posted by cameldrv at 4:22 AM on December 18, 2002


I would just like to say that the ABM defense is what I would consider a new technology and therefore probably won't work right to begin with.

Well, seeing as we have spent something like $65-70 billion on the project just to get it to "proof of concept", it would seem that we need to take a good, long look at what the heck we are spending our money on.

$65 billion to expand our Special Operations and Human Intelligence programs seems to me a much better way of spending our money. Indeed, SOF have been proven by recent events to be the best method of defeating the threat we currently face (see Afghanistan).

But then, I don't work in the missile weapons industry.
posted by moonbiter at 9:30 AM on December 18, 2002


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