The Missile Defense Haters Club

Posted: June 13, 2011 in Songs of Space and Nuclear War
Tags: ,

Always bear in mind the basic arms control script: 1) it’ll never work, 2) it’ll cost too much, and 3) it’ll destabilize international relations.

Act four of the script is never stated, but it’s this: mutually assured vulnerability is preferable over single superpower (with the weapons systems to stop a missile attack), that is, the U.S. 

Arguing against missile defense has to be an uncomfortable subject for the arms controllers who have taken up a dogmatic, faith-based, and non-historical position that 1) arms control actually works and 2) technologies don’t mature.  

So when one of the usual suspects from the arms control cult argues against missile defense, you get the standard script with a few deviations.

Reference the script’s item one: because missile defense haters have seen missile defense work as advertised in a number of tests, the standard playbook needs some adjustment.  The first adjustment is an allowance and it goes like this, “OK, missile defense has worked but it’s easily defeatable.”  Such thinking is the classic argument from ignorance and the idea (missile defense is easily defeatable) is asserted to be true because it hasn’t been proven false.  The next argument is the first’s evil doppelganger, “And it hasn’t been tested under warfighting conditions.”  No, and neither has an ICBM.  Do you doubt its efficacy as well?

Missile defense, as it’s currently being set up, can be easily defeated by any country that can field ballistic missiles…

So there you have it, missile defense (with the weird qualifier “as it’s currently being set up”) will never work.  These are the types of assertions the missile defense haters have been recycling since at least the 1980s.  Their proof: the papers they’ve written and they studies they’ve done themselves. 

Ted Postol of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and I carried out a detailed study of the planned system.

Yes, going Postol on missile defense with a self-referential study casting doubt of missile defense.  I’m shocked, shocked!

So what about the irrationality of nation-states themselves?  It’s all a form of cognitive dissonance…no wait, paranoia!

So, if missile defense could be so easily defeated by North Korea and Iran, why are the Russians so up in arms about it? The answer is simple: Their military planners are paid to be paranoid — just like the ones in the Pentagon — and they must assume a worst-case scenario in which they treat the system as being highly effective, even when it isn’t.

Yes, and China is doing missile defense as well.  And we all have the warfighting annex addressing the alien invasion right there in the vault just in case Mars Attacks.  C’mon, we’re paid to be paranoid! 

The hits just keep on coming with non-sequitirs like this, which segues into step two of the arms control script:

The possible disclosure of sensitive U.S. secrets…is just one of the many risks of an ineffective missile-defense system, from engendering a false sense of security that could lead to serious policy miscalculations to greater worldwide stockpiles of military plutonium to a relaunching of the nuclear arms race with Russia.

Right.  Because missile defense doesn’t work, Russia will start an expensive nuclear arms race.  Why?  Because they’re paranoid!  And along the way, the U.S. will somehow be compelled to participate in a nuclear arms race with Russia.  (Begin sarcasm font) Of course!  It’s so simple; why didn’t I see any of this before?! (Close sarcasm font)  And since we’re now living in financially austere times, we need to save all the money we can, so the arms controllers would say, let’s cut missile defense.

The bogusness would be incomplete without a good faulty dilemma (and step three of the script) to get off the stage:

Is it really worth giving up the Russian queen in trying — and failing — to protect from an Iranian pawn?

If the linked article represents the sort of flawed thinking that’s typical of the scientists of the arms control cult, their handlers (read bill-payers) should look for more capable thinkers. 

  1. TheRoccoHeadedObserver says:

    Great post, probably your best to date.

    I attend a university with many of these BMD haters, to name one Mr. Dukakis,

    his claim? “We could cut $400 billion from the defense budget immediately and it would not make a difference.”

    Who then helps protect our allies like Japan, South Korea, Eastern European nations, Great Britian [who benefits from Aegis but also our GMD systems], Denmark, etc etc etc

    To protect against belligerent threats that go against international norms and safety regulations requires us, the United States, in conjunction with our allies, to hedge against these apparent threats. Deconstructing our serious short-term and long-term investments in BMD will not allow us to be safer but more vulnerable.

    Its a matter of facts on the ground that we face, not just philosophical debates; the US, our allies and partners all around the globe seek a secure future, these haters ensure total war.

    • Space Farmer says:

      thanks for your kind comments!

      unexamined statements like ‘cut $400b and no impact’ are absurd on their face.

      my general take on the future is that stopping things (bullets, IEDs, rockets, airplanes, missiles, ICBMs) will become increasingly important.

      Poland and Romania were excellent candidates to receive missile defense infrastructure and weapons systems as they are geographically situated and had suffered mightily under Soviet control.

      I’d like to see Western Europe paying more of its own way along the lines of Japan, for example.

      • TheRoccoHeadedObserver says:

        Japan has been cooperative and extremely vital as a partner. The interoperability between the US and Japan in regards with the Active Layered Theater Ballistic Missile Defense (ALTBMD) should be a referenced model [concerning the production and implementation of Aegis and Aegis Offshore technology utilizing SM-3 Block IIA & Bs] for other regions like Western Europe. Also the current debate within Japan to alter existing domestic restrictions on exporting BMD weapons technology to “friendly” third parties is also a good step in the right direction concerning South Korea.

        Would you agree however that the only country that could keep up in the industry of BMD technology research and development in Western Europe is France?

        Poland and Romania are good candidates for an Eastern European BMD systems. Today the official word was given from Prague of their exit from the current BMD plans however they have committed to future prospects. Poland would be definitively on board if it wasn’t for their weak geo-strategic location as well as their head-of-states succumbing to Russian plane crashes. Romania constantly remains a great potential candidate for the following reasons;

        – Established within the EU
        – Historically and culturally more inclined toward Western Europe
        – Capable workforce
        – Extremely vital geopolitical and strategic location
        – Has always hated and fought against Communism.

      • Space Farmer says:

        Based on what I see in space, I’d offer Germany, France, UK, and Italy at minimum are probably all missile-defense capable of helping the cause. Germany has the know-how and financing but not the will; UK, Italy and France seem to be strapped for cash; of those, France is most likely to have a missile defense aspiration.

        Pretty interesting geo-political things going on with Poland, Romania, and Czech Republic. Is it possible they will be the West Germany and UK of the future?

      • TheRoccoHeadedObserver says:

        “France is most likely to have a missile defense aspiration.”

        Thales and other related missile industries in France thoroughly enjoy government $$ [especially under Sarkozy], after the US they are the next capable and knowledgeable in Western Europe. The UK historically speaking, given their diplomatic nature, will not aggressively pursue such systems [plus the US’s GMD systems technically ‘covers’ UK territory, etc]; I agree with you that France will.

        As for the Eastern block “pro-Western” nations, you bring up some really good points [especially in light of the talk of EU defense resource pooling/sharing]. Historical ties will play a vital role in getting these countries to follow a favored strategic behavior, but Western Europe must assure the feasibility and mutual benefit of such concepts.

  2. Clint says:

    Well, I am an engineer and am agnostic on this issue…I hope we can get some protection but do think the actual system we are trying for has been, well, a waste of money — to date. It doesn’t really work all that well in our own tests…and these are tests without any decoys….

    The fact that the cruisers cannot shoot interceptors when the weather is rough is…well, not that helpful! 😉

    That said, these “haters” have actually proposed a drone-based missile defense system that could actually work — so I say let’s try that, or at least study it in the Pentagon..much cheaper and workable:

    So maybe ease up on your own rhetoric buddy and listen a bit more. Maybe there is a cheap sensible system that works and these “haters” may actually love the US of A more than the pork-fed contractors.

    • Space Farmer says:

      Hi Clint.

      Whether you are an engineer or a janitor or a space farmer, unless you’re working the program, you probably depend on the same open-source stuff I do.

      I recall the op-ed from a couple of years ago, but I’m not questioning the hater’s love of USA; I’m questioning their judgement. FWIW, the post-Bush phased adaptive approach still doesn’t include drones.

      Drone based missile defense would be contingent on having basing rights, host nation agreements, air supremacy, weapons systems reliability, availability, etc. Based on Postol’s article, it would also assume NK and Iran failing to transition to solid-fueled (faster accelerating, possibly mobile, certainly less launch preps) missile systems.

      You’d also need an exceedingly robust drone platform to host a very capable intercept missile.

      I’m all for cheaper, faster, and better missile defense and if drones are the way ahead (or can compliment as a missile defense leg), great. Regardless, if drone based missile defense works, the pork-fed contractors will be making the drones.

      • TheRoccoHeadedObserver says:

        “Drone based missile defense would be contingent on having basing rights, host nation agreements, air supremacy, weapons systems reliability, availability, etc. Based on Postol’s article, it would also assume NK and Iran failing to transition to solid-fueled (faster accelerating, possibly mobile, certainly less launch preps) missile systems.”


        Also, Saudi Arabia has been debating whether to purchase a few LCS Aegis ships….

  3. TheRoccoHeadedObserver says:


    When discussing these types of national security issues, its important to address everything you brought up and I agree with you.

    The Aegis systems is cheaper than the previous proposal [Eastern European GMD systems]; however it is in the US’s interest [as well as a national security priority] to find cost-effective measures. Aegis technology has been tested and in cannot be implemented without proving consistent and reliability results. I believe there is a major difference between those who say BMD is an abhorrent concept and those who understand its a necessary measure to take [but needs to be feasible on all levels].

    The BMD technology we need to produce, and currently are building is;

    1. Adaptable and able to be upgraded from existing applications,
    2. Vehemently tested and demonstrated to the DoD. [We are not Iran who will test a rocket and deem it “reliable” if it gets off the platform];
    3. Cost-effective,
    4. Maneuverable,
    5. Interoperable with our trusted allies.

    Additionally, this is not just a game about pork-barrel spending, while there are cases of abuses [which need to be responsibly addressed]. The ballistic missile threat has greatly proliferated and shows no signs of easing in the 21st century. Aegis systems allow for BMD defenses to exist literally “anywhere” and if a threat [previously miscalculated or unanticipated] happens to concentrate and arise in a specific area, its capacity of “surge defense” is all the more crucial to have.

    The LCS ship designs are exactly what the United States and our allies need regarding the concept and security concerns of ballistic missile proliferation and Aegis technology. A good strategy is a good guide and should never allow a security measure to be completely inflexible; therefore drone BMD concepts should be pursued simultaneously with Aegis technology and make our capabilities and outreach to neutralize any threat that much stronger.

    Interesting note, you want a really effective and cheap BMD systems? Two words: Brilliant Pebbles.

  4. Clint says:

    Most certainly drone based system has issues also, but you failed to address both of my technical points: the decoy and countermeasures problem at midcourse is a huge — dealbreaking-type — problem that remains unsolved decades into the program(s). We have never succeeded in hiting a warhead when decoys were present in the few times we’ve tried. It is a big problem because it has to do with fundamental physics: the IR and radio signatures can be spoofed or can swamp the defenses. Salvo tests have not been done either. The decoy tests that we tried (and failed) were where we knew what the decoys looked like. Further in all tests the timing is known and the incoming trajectory is given ahead of time. We will have no luxuries like this is real play.

    Now, yes, it will take some decades to fix all this but it has been decades already!

    The other — big — problem is that the sea-based leg could be easily defeated in rough waters.

    At least drone-based goes after the rocket when it is relatively slow and hot and no decoys present. By no means is it prefect either.

    In any case if you are calling people who dislike just one form of missile defense (midcourse), then probably I am a proud hater too! 😉

    You should also consider what will happen if by some miracle a perfect or near perfect system is made: NK will still have the nukes but will now prefer to deliver by ship! 😉

    Not better — much worse: it is much harder to deter a ship than a ICBM — becuase our DSP sats know the return address of ICBM….not necessarily of ships!

    • TheRoccoHeadedObserver says:

      The new [as in more] GMD locations that were to be installed in 2009-2010 [roughly ten-twelve more; I could be wrong] were cancelled and it is the public position of the Department of Defense that they are incapable of preventing a full-scale ICBM launch toward the United States, but rather serves a limited purpose. With this said, I will have to definitely find some very uneasy agreement with what you said;

      – Is been decades for these systems to get put in place and now decades more to “repair” them, however they do serve a vital purpose, regardless of their inconsistent test record.

      Rough waters could present a problem, however LCSs are usually patrolling bodies of water that are relatively insulated from the extreme weather of the vast oceans such as the Pacific and Atlantic and rest predominantly within areas like the South China Sea, the Mediterranean, the Persian and Aden Gulf, etc [needless to say that these bodies of water have rough seas and storms as well]. The LCS are small and can travel fast and close to land, therefore if there is rough water that will potentially affect the BMD capabilities they are designed for, they will be able to relocate to safer settings, with relative speed and ease.

      I believe drones can serve a real fruitful purpose in the BMD arena however they should not be the sole provider for deterrence. Also, I mentioned Brilliant Pebbles as a cost effective space measure for BMD….thoughts?

      Iran has been around for thousands of years [culturally], and organized and protected itself quite effectively, so I do not seeing them being as unstable when it comes to using a nuclear weapon, but that does not mean they wont [this is an entirely new game for them]; yet North Korea would attempt, in my opinion, something this drastic [due to China’s relative cold shoulder] and the regime’s percieved self-weakness [it uses nukes a last means of legitimacy to their rule]. So in regards to your comment with the use of ships, this is a good question, however they waters of South Korea and Japan are heavily guarded and therefore any DPRK boat entering their waters, would not be given a question mark, but an immediate response [their ships have no business that far within the territorial waters of South Korea and Japan; I dont think a DPRK ship could get that far in before it becomes a liability].

      Nor does Japan’s defense position allow for any DPRK boat to get so comfortably close to their borders.

      • Clint says:

        Re. Billiant pebbles or space based missile defense: it is a scientific fallacy. You don’t have to take my word for it — you can listen to this Air Froce Officer, who I’m guessing is not a “hater”:

        Or listen to independent scientists:

        Re., the Aegis ships and rough weather: you can’t just move anywhere you like (closer to shore) — there are limitations imposed by the burnout speed of the interceptors. That’s why you need to be more or less in certain locations.

        I really am not a hater — I would like to see a feasible system, but the one we are building will buy us only a false sense of security. I say that with a heavy heart — I wish someone in DC were listening, becuase it is worth studying other systems.

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