The Death of Star Wars?

Posted on 18. Sep, 2009 by in Uncategorized


In 1983, President Ronald Reagan laid out the Strategic Defense Initiative (aka “Star Wars), an ambitious ground and space based system that would protect the United States from an intercontinental ballistic missile attack from the Soviet Union. When it was announced, it sounded like something out of the other Star Wars, and, in fact, it’s continued to sound that way. Over time, the purpose of the shield has changed. Initally, it was supposed to protect the US from the Soviets, but the most recent justification was that it was needed to protect Eastern Europe from the Iranians. In any case, it was nice to see our national defense policy return to more realistic and terrestrial concerns yesterday, when the Obama Administration announced that it was ending its plans of constructing a missile defense shield in Eastern Europe.

Somewhat predictably, this decision was met with bleatings from the chaos hawks. Michael Goldfarb of The Weekly Standard claims that phasing out the system “represents a complete capitulation” to the Russians. An assorted group of conservatives luminaries issued a “Memo for the Movement” that explains their outrage with the move. As Daniel Larison points out, “All of the usual tropes are here: surrender, betrayal, appeasement.” These are odd claims when you consider that all the president wants to do is move the system from land to sea and shift its protective focus from long-range ballistic missiles to short- and medium-range missiles to better protect against the kinds of weapons Iran is successfully developing. While both Poland and the Czech Republic are somewhat disappointed that the land based interceptor systems won’t be going into their respective countries, even they seem to understand that the shield wasn’t a necessity.

The Administration, along with the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of State and the Joint Chiefs all seem to think the redeployment is a good idea. The new plan is better in line with reality, it allys Russian fears (which may lead to improved diplomatic conditions, though, to be sure, it may not), but still allows for the U.S. to show its support for Poland and the Czech Republic through NATO.

So what’s the downside? If you listen to the doubters, this is just another instance of Democratic fecklessness when it comes to national defense policy. Obama is being weak and if he had sufficient will power, he’d stare down those dirty commies by backing a system that…doesn’t work as advertised. This of course overlooks that simple fact that threat of a defense shield never really stopped Russian from being aggressive toward its neighbors, nor did it show much of a return on investment. The last part is especially important when you consider the poor state of the nation’s pocketbook. There are big costs savings to be found in the defense budget, especially when it comes to ending Cold-War era projects like the defense shield or the F-22 Raptor.

It’s disheartening that we’re forced to have a discussion about selling out our allies, supposedly for nothing, every time a compelling case can be made for altering our defense posture. The bottom line is that this is a tactical change that may lead to some positive strategic gains down the road, especially if we can persuade Russia to be a bit more forceful in regards to sanctions against Iran. Isn’t it worth taking that chance at this juncture if the alternative simply continues a series of policies that do nothing more than piss off a country we need on our side?

One Response to “The Death of Star Wars?”

  1. nicholas.martinez

    21. Sep, 2009

    You had me at “Star Wars.”