China, North Korea, and Iran
January 10, 2002 8:39 AM   Subscribe

China, North Korea, and Iran will have nuclear missiles capable of hitting the United States by 2015, says the CIA. Other delivery methods are mentioned as well, but this news certainly does make missile defense sound like a good idea.
posted by insomnyuk (41 comments total)
No it doesn't, because the thing will never, ever work, and even if by some stroke of genius it does it's not going to stop someone smuggling in a device if they really wanted to.

Like the M16 wielding folks at the airports all it can ever do is give people a false sense of security.
posted by zeoslap at 8:54 AM on January 10, 2002

but there seems to be the whole point that getting vaporized might be a lot nicer way to die than dying slowly through a nuclear winter. the fact that we have some defense shield won't make a bit of difference in the long run. if any launchs are made on the states, or their allies (NATO), lots of nukes will be launched in retaliation. it won't just be a one bomb and it's over like it was in WWII. lots of nukes going both ways and in the end there will be huge clouds of radio active material blown from continent to continent. mutations, cancer, sickness. screw the defense shield.

i'll take the flash of light and vaporization behind door number one, chuck
posted by chrisroberts at 8:59 AM on January 10, 2002

zeoslap: back up your claims. The military has already successfully tested a missile interceptor.
posted by insomnyuk at 9:02 AM on January 10, 2002

i'm beginning to think they're developing their nuclear programs as a bargaining chip more than anything else. like north korea got some nice nuke plants out of the deal. i'm also beginning to think missile defense makes sense to destroy incoming asteroids. like it'd be nice to have that capability.
posted by kliuless at 9:03 AM on January 10, 2002

From The Clash of Civilizations? by Samuel P. Huntington

"Centrally important to the development of counter-West military capabilities is the sustained expansion of China's military power and its means to create military power. Buoyed by spectacular economic development, China is rapidly increasing its military spending and vigorously moving forward with the modernization of its armed forces. It is purchasing weapons from the former Soviet states; it is developing long-range missiles; in 1992 it tested a one-megaton nuclear device. It is developing power-projection capabilities, acquiring aerial refueling technology, and trying to purchase an aircraft carrier. Its military buildup and assertion of sovereignty over the South ChinaSea are provoking a multilateral regional arms race in East Asia. China is alsoa major exporter of arms and weapons technology. It has exported materials to Libya and Iraq that could be used to manufacture nuclear weapons and nerve gas. It has helped Algeria build a reactor suitable for nuclear weapons research and production. China has sold to Iran nuclear technology that American officials believe could only be used to create weapons and apparently has shipped components of 300-mile-range missiles to Pakistan. North Korea has had a nuclear weapons program under way for some while and has sold advanced missiles and missile technology to Syria and Iran. The flow of weapons and weapons technology is generally from East Asia to the Middle East. There is, however, some movement in the reverse direction; China has received Stinger missiles fromPakistan.

A Confucian-Islamic military connection has thus come into being, designed topromote acquisition by its members of the weapons and weapons technologies needed to counter the military powers of the West.
posted by Voyageman at 9:08 AM on January 10, 2002

insomnyuk: back up your claims. A few staged tests means very little. Even a advanced working system would be easy to defeat.
posted by quirked at 9:10 AM on January 10, 2002

A missile shield will be about as helpful then as airport security is now.

For one thing, sure, you can spend billions to defend against a missile, but that's not going to stop the 3 guys hauling a nuke in on a boat.

And for another thing, do you really think China, North Korea or Iran will drop a nuke on the U.S.? And I don't mean that in a jingoistic "they'd never fuck with the U.S." sense, I just think that most governments have more brains than to start a nuclear war. China and North Korea will realize they don't have anything to gain, and even the fanatics in Iran will realize that nuclear power will make them a danger to the whole world, not just the U.S. Even the Russians wouldn't want to deal with them then.

I could be wrong, but I'm certain: if nuclear weapons are ever deployed in a war again, it'll either be between two Middle Eastern countries against each other, or a terrorist strike against the U.S. rather than an overt missile launch.

Somebody please agree with me here...
posted by RylandDotNet at 9:10 AM on January 10, 2002

Well, they may have shot down a missile successfully in a test, but unless all those rogue nations put GPS systems onboard their missles and let us know about it, I don't think we're going to have a chance in shooting down for quite some time. Oh, here's the <>article on that.
posted by almostcool at 9:13 AM on January 10, 2002

Damnit, article here.
posted by almostcool at 9:13 AM on January 10, 2002

They wont need to hit the US directly as they launch their their agression across all their neighboring states to herald in the Confucian era. And we thought Fundamentalist Islam was a threat.

Below from a review of Samuel P. HuntingtonThe Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order.

"With little subtlety, Huntington concludes his book by offering an apocalyptic vision of another world war, this time pitting the core states of competing civilizations against one another. Ironically, however, this frightening scenario begins not with a fault line conflict across civilizations but with an intra-civilizational conflict between China and Vietnam over control of the South China Sea."
posted by Voyageman at 9:14 AM on January 10, 2002

I'll take NMD behind door number two, Chuck. I'd rather have a shot at survival rather than an assured death, unlike some morons. Who I'll be happy to euthanize if the dolorous day arises and they really want death.

Plus, I'd rather stop 4 North Korean missiles rather than lose LA, San Diego, San Francisco, and Denver, say.
posted by dissent at 9:16 AM on January 10, 2002

defended to death
posted by Spoon at 9:17 AM on January 10, 2002

i always thought the spratley's might spark something, but like none of the country's laying claim to them can defend them very well. like the US is the only country with a navy to speak of.
posted by kliuless at 9:18 AM on January 10, 2002

First, this is a bunch of propaganda from the CIA and its bosses to justify the inmense investment needed to even fake a working missle shield system. Second, China's increase of nuke heads on ICBMs pointed to the U.S. was a forseen consequence of the US declaring the ABM treaty obsolete. Once you break the status quo, don't be surprised when other nations react. Third, I can't believe we're back to pre 9-11 speculation on whether it is possible and more efficient to hit the U.S. from the inside. How much does an ICBM + necessary paraphernalia cost? How much did the 9-11 attacks cost? And who sent the anthrax?
posted by magullo at 9:19 AM on January 10, 2002

The whole concept of a Missile Defense Shield is a red herring. Like the Space Race and the nuclear proliferation of the past, it's not really a military tool, but an economic one. Bush et al believe that our stockpile of nukes in the 70s and 80s did bring down the Soviets. Not by blowing them up, but by forcing them to waste trillions of rubles on keeping up with us. The Soviet economy crumbled, and we were left the sole superpower.

Now China's making a move toward superpower status. The new Right see Bush as the new Reagan--a friendly face to hide behind while they slink behind the scenes to subvert China's economy. (Remember it was Reagan who first proposed SDI.) This plan will be passed, and we'll waste $billions on it--but, Bush & Co figure, we've got the biggest economy in the world, and we've got the best defense contractors in the world, so the deck is stacked in our favor. We can survive another arms race, they believe, but China and North Korea and Russia can't.
posted by jpoulos at 9:26 AM on January 10, 2002

Oh Please. This news reaffirms that missile defense is a bad idea. If we ever need to use such a system then we are already hosed. Ooh, shot down some of their missiles, yay! But plenty still struck our country and enough of ours struck our enemy to cause global pestilence, if not kill the planet. Yay!

The missile defense system is about one thing only: defense contracts. You cannot stop nuclear destruction if governments choose nuclear war. Limited engagement is a myth.
posted by fleener at 9:28 AM on January 10, 2002

By never work I mean it will never stop the US getting nuked, for a start the plan is to develop a thin shield which would only be able to take out a couple of rogue missiles, but assuming that could work then a thick shield isn't much more difficult, but and it's a big but, this only works for long range missiles, strikes from a Cruise missile like weapon could never ever be intercepted in time, so as I said it's worthless.

It's also worth pointing out that it blows apart the ABM treaty which has been the cornerstone of nuclear stability thus far, essentially building a shield is an aggressive move because it allows that state to strike first with lessened consequences (apart from that whole radioactive cloud/nuclear winter stuff) so all you end up doing is creating another arms race to build faster, smarter, lower flying delivery mechanisms.

Folly, sheer folly.

(after preview, interesting fleener, sounds reasonable, maybe it's not so bad an idea after all...)
posted by zeoslap at 9:29 AM on January 10, 2002

doh, the jpoulos idea, not fleener, not that fleeners comment was not interesting only it was jpoulos' I liked. The whole crush communism by bankrupting thru a crazy assed arms race.
posted by zeoslap at 9:32 AM on January 10, 2002

magullo is right - that's just a mean to justify defense budget (and i've been reading here and there, that the war against afghanistan is also to justify this budget - not surprising when you check the dates) and no shield ever can protect from someones who'd want war - hey, we all know now it only requires a cutter to kill 3000 people, no need for nukes.
What really shocks me tho, is that nobody here thought FIRST of trying to stabilize theses countries, helping them to grow and democratize, and fight for peace. Instead of helping other, you first think to protect yourself ? with such a selfish attitude, no wonder you need shields ... but i personnaly find this quite sad, and not very encouraging for the future ...
posted by aureliano buendia at 9:37 AM on January 10, 2002

Missle Defense is dead in the water anyway. program is screwed and more or less over.

What is needed is good diplomacy. Moderation. Understanding of foriegn mentalities by American Citizens and especilally leaders. Talking before flexing military might.

Speak softly and carry a big ass stick.

Right now we're yelling and running around with said stick.

I'd be more concerned with hardline militants, and not just Islamic ones. These groups exist in both domestically and in foriegn states. It's not a game of military might, but of diplomatic style.

None of these countries as states would start nuclear war for the same reason we never had one during the 40 year "Cold War" : Mutually Assured Destruction. But some lunatic stealing said weapon etc? thats the worry.
posted by eljuanbobo at 9:40 AM on January 10, 2002

I have no faith in US intelligence
and I have no faith in the missile shield
is diplomacy dead?
posted by panopticon at 9:43 AM on January 10, 2002

You nailed it with the economic point, jpoulos; labor unions have been increasingly behind Bush, starting with the aerospace unions and slowly expanding, for exactly this reason. It's crazy; the Bush administration has a reason to promote even a non-functional missile defense program.

insomnyuk: Successfully tested? The targets were broadcasting their positions; that is, all that has been demonstrated is their missile propulsion and control. These are trivial engineering problems compared to tracking live threats.
posted by skyline at 9:49 AM on January 10, 2002

hey, dissent. no need to attack me on my views. i have seen what people look like who lived close to the nuclear test sites when the u.s. was doing their testing. thanks, but i would rather go seeing a brilliant flash than having a two pound growth hanging on my neck and being sick from radiation poisoning.
posted by chrisroberts at 9:49 AM on January 10, 2002

No it doesn't, because the thing will never, ever work, and even if by some stroke of genius it does it's not going to stop someone smuggling in a device if they really wanted to.

Oh, nonsense. "Such a thing will never work, so there is no need to try to go to the moon." It is certainly possible, we just haven't figured out how yet - and you won't figure it out if you don't try. I fully support missile defense - we should proceed as quickly as possible in this direction.

As to the smuggling comment, my reply is this:

"Well, putting a deadbolt on the door doesn't stop them from breaking in the window so we might as well not bother locking the door."
posted by hadashi at 10:17 AM on January 10, 2002

Here's a letter from Theodore Postol (mentioned in the salon article above) that describes some of the ways the 'successful' tests have been rigged.
posted by jnthnjng at 10:27 AM on January 10, 2002

As to the smuggling comment, my reply is this:

Well, putting a deadbolt on the door doesn't stop them from breaking in the window so we might as well not bother locking the door.

And they can shoot through your windows and drive a car into your living room, so do you spend your weekends widening the moat, freshening the barbwire, and re-enforcing the kevlar siding on your house?
posted by nikzhowz at 10:29 AM on January 10, 2002

insomnyuk, I remind you that there have been numerous reports about how the tests were faked, including congressional hearings during the Clinton administration.

Also, even the pentagon has said that the shield wouldn't be 100% effective, assuming they could ever get it working.

We've had the ability to fire ICBM's for probably as long as I've been alive. Russia can currently hit the US, and has been able to since the 70's. That the far, near and middle east would eventually have that ability isn't a surprise to anyone. What's surprising is using 15 year old military intelligence to justify hundreds of billions (pdf) of dollars in spending.

I'm with the vaporized crowd...if there's an exchange of missiles, I'd just as soon be at ground zero, cause the after effects will be unbearable.
posted by dejah420 at 10:37 AM on January 10, 2002

Well, putting a deadbolt on the door doesn't stop them from breaking in the window so we might as well not bother locking the door.

That analogy doesn't work. What Missile Defense does is spend billions of dollars on a doorlock that still lets the bad guys through, then announcing "we've locked the door, so you'll have to use the window!"
posted by jpoulos at 10:41 AM on January 10, 2002

The problem with missile defense is numbers: A rogue nation bent on destroying the US will not just launch a nuke for every will launch a nuke and a dozen or five dozen empty decoys along with the nuke. It would be easy to overwhelm a missile defense based on an elaborate tracking device controlling an interceptor device. It's just way too complicated to be practical. A better (still beyond our technology) approach is the development of regional pulseable "nets" of EM radiation that could knock out the electronic systems of everything aloft in the region. This would send the nuke and its decoys to random destinations around the globe reducing the chance of a hit on an important US city to virtually nil. Nuclear explosions would still occur but a nation probably wouldn't be willing to invest the millions of dollars per nuke for a random chance of hitting the right target (or oneself).
posted by plaino at 10:42 AM on January 10, 2002

60 years ago military aviation officials would never have imagined the possibility of launching missiles from one aircraft and being able to hit another aircraft in mid-air. Now this practice is fairly commonplace, and at speeds close to 4 times faster than aircraft were able to travel back then.

This, naturally, did not happen over the course of a week, but through years of ideas, testing and failures.

I personally, am quite thankful that there are people out there who do not adopt the "it will never work" philosophy and actually try to innovate solutions to potential future problems.

In the case of something catastrophic happening in the future, I would much be able to say "Well, we gave it our best shot, and that wasn't enough" than to do nothing altogether because the idea wasn't popular with individuals who didn't understand the entire scope of the project.
posted by fluxcreative at 10:44 AM on January 10, 2002

"It'll never work so let's do nothing" is different from "It'll never work, so let's think of something new that might work" and is certainly better than either "It'll never work so let's fake test results and fool the public into spending trillions of dollars on it anyway" or "It'll never work but let's do it anyway so later on we can say 'we gave it our best shot, and that wasn't enough' "
posted by plaino at 11:09 AM on January 10, 2002

I have a hard time believing that the somewhere in the mission statement of the project there exists the mantra of "it will never work so let's fake test results and fool the public into spending trillions of dollars on it anyway".

Either way it's a lose-lose situation for the government. Try to be proactive, make it work, and come under fire from armchair military strategists, physicists and eternal doubters, or take a different approach, and in the unfortunate case somebody does launch a missile into our soil, try to explain to scores of people critical of the government for "letting this happen."
posted by fluxcreative at 11:25 AM on January 10, 2002

Without addressing the issue of a missle defense, I wondr how many missles we have aimed at China? Seems we are the only nation allowed to have a zillion missles and if another contry begins to build up their store of them, we go crazy as though they are about to attack us.
If I lived in a country that had missles aimed at me, and I was often viewed as a potential threat, I would want to offset the opposition by having my missles to let them know that 2 can play the same game and thus (as in Russia v. US) it is madness to begin using them for either side.
posted by Postroad at 11:27 AM on January 10, 2002

Wait, isn't this the same CIA that got it wrong on so many other things?

Isn't this the same one that never saw various political upheavals around the world? The same one that targeted a Chinese embassy for a bomb?

But now we're supposed to buy into their version? This time they got it right? I'm thinkin' "no" on this one.

Two points on review of above:
1) I'm assuming most of us here are not rocket scientists (in the literal sense) or have a useful defense background, so discussing the viability of the missle shield is a canard.

We're basing what we know about it on a views and reports expressed by people who may or may not be disseminating propaganda. We'll never know if it works or doesn't work, is useful or isn't useful, 'cause we're not high enough on the food chain for the straight scoop.

2) Following then, and in the 'what-he-said' department: At issue is not if MD works, or even is needed. At issue is the government money that would be pumped into defense contractors by a strong, nationally supported, "go ahead" on developing a MD program.

This, when held against the issues campaign finance, is what makes a MD-centric report interesting.
posted by Elvis at 11:43 AM on January 10, 2002

Can someone say "Preemptive Strike"? Sounds like this would be the time. Particularly in the cases of N.Korea and Iran. I mean, if we allow ANY lunatic to have the power to kill millions of Americans, then it won't matter how many missiles we can throw back at them then..

We should all just start learning Korean and ordering our Burqas.
posted by eas98 at 11:54 AM on January 10, 2002

Missile Defense Shield is a foolish misappropriation of resources. There are hundreds of things we could do with those trillions of dollars that would provide more security for the entire world population (which is essentially what any nuclear debate entails.)

Appeasing military defense contractors provides more campaign contribution money and that's what this is really about. Remember the recent 22 billion slab of pork for Boeing? Hardly a peep from Washington.

Saving the world does not equal being able to shoot down a few missiles. If a nuclear missile launch happens we're getting fallout regardless of whether or not they get shot down. Our poor asses are gone either way so why waste the money when there are many more worthy projects that could benefit mankind.
posted by nofundy at 12:00 PM on January 10, 2002

From my government friend in DC:

"RE the test, sure, it didn't reflect reality, and no one should conclude on the basis of this test that the system is ready to be deployed. But on the other hand, it wasn't intended to be an actual real world test. Complex technology programs require a very methodolical testing and evaluation schedule, under which new components are added and tested one by one.

Part of that process is "controlling" for one component or another by simulating its performance. That's basically what they did in this recent test -- they didn't have all the radar and tracking components built yet, so they put a beacon on the warhead to provide the data that the as-yet-uncompleted tracking technology would have. Meanwhile, they tested the ability of the kill vehicle to function with the data that those radars will eventually provide.

So, I don't think the test was "rigged," anymore than a test drive of your car is rigged if you test the engine in neutral because you haven't finished building the tires yet."
posted by MJoachim at 12:03 PM on January 10, 2002

MJoachim: Except the kill vehicle is the easy part, it's finding the warhead that is difficult. In this way, your analogy should read "a test drive of your car is rigged if you test the tires because the engine isn't finished yet." Moreover, the test was then presented as "Ignore the critics, MD works!" Continuing your analogy, it would be as if we used the tire test as proof that you should buy this "working" car.
posted by mzanatta at 12:51 PM on January 10, 2002

or, "you test the tires because the engine isn't [invented] yet."
posted by skyline at 4:41 PM on January 10, 2002

Missile defense developers don't care if it ever works because that’s not the point of the project. Those benefiting from NMD are perfectly happy to spread the fear of rogue nations with strict nationalism as its underlying assumption and are happy to have defenders duped into believing their new Arms Race rhetoric. (Look at it from China's perspective: They need NMD more than the US since they are a potential target of ICMBs right now.)

Space Command's “Vision for 2020” lays all this out very bluntly. They say militarizing space is the natural progression of capitalist expansion from imperial armadas and the ocean, Army outposts on the frontier, to satellites loaded with nukes. Militarizing space is about expanding capitalist exploitation. It's a taxpayer funded private-public partnership to dominate the next big market, hazards and naysayers be damned. Shooting enemy missiles out of the sky is a fanciful potentiality, but in no way the goal.

MJoachim: I don't think the test was "rigged," anymore than a test drive of your car is rigged if you test the engine in neutral because you haven't finished building the tires yet.

That's not a test drive of the car, that's a test of the engine. In the same way, the test insomnyuk has so much faith in was not a test of NMD, but a test of a rocket being led to another rocket.
posted by raaka at 6:32 PM on January 10, 2002

Thing is, we did test the tires (wagons) before the engine was invented. Had we waited, a lot of civilization would have never happened.

Missile defense can and will work, eventually. Problem is, missiles won't be the threat of choice then.
posted by dwivian at 6:53 AM on January 11, 2002

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