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more missile defence BS(13 posts)

more missile defence BSMJ
Dec 21, 2001 6:52 AM,7369,623393,00.html

The cold war is long over, but Star Wars goes on America's obsession with missile defence will do it great harm

Martin Woollacott
Friday December 21, 2001
The Guardian

After Ronald Reagan spoke on missile defence during the 1987 summit in Washington, Mikhail Gorbachev addressed him more in sorrow than anger. "Mr President," Gorbachev said, "You do what you think you have to do... And if in the end you think that you have a system that you want to deploy, go ahead and deploy it. Who am I to tell you what to do? I think you're wasting money. I don't think it will work. But, if it's what you want to do, go ahead."

Fourteen years later, though Russia is no longer a remotely conceivable enemy, missile defence is still what an American president wants to do. Vladimir Putin described President Bush's decision to withdraw from the anti-ballistic missile treaty as a mistake, but one that need not affect "the spirit of partnership and indeed alliance" between America and Russia. And here we can catch an echo of Gorbachev's resigned acceptance of a development he saw as both irrational and unstoppable.

Gorbachev understood that the American preoccupation with missile defence was deeply contradictory. Even if Star Wars weapons which could bring down incoming missiles could eventually be produced, they could never have offered
protection to the whole American population. When politicians occasionally uttered this truth in the Reagan years, there was usually controversy. In the minds of ordinary Americans, the system was worth pursuing because it would directly protect all or most of the people, not because it could protect some American weapons, ensure the survival of a fractionally larger proportion of civilians in a nuclear attack or otherwise complicate the task of an aggressor. Nor were ordinary Americans much enthused by the only partially concealed ambitions of some on the Republican right to use this supposedly defensive programme ultimately to create an American offensive capacity in space.

Reagan himself seemed to have often thought of the strategic defence initiative, and certainly he often spoke of it, as if aperfect defence for the whole population were the aim. But, with hardly any exceptions, the experts in America, Russia, and other countries agreed that missile defences could neither provide an umbrella for the whole population nor constitute an insurmountable obstacle to a major adversary. From the beginning the Star Wars concept, ambiguously embracing both defensive and offensive ambitions, based on weapons that did not exist and on possibilities that were almost certainly not fully realisable, has had this elusive, fictional quality.

The way in which missile defence survived the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the cold war can only be fully explained by its talismanic importance to American conservatives. In her fascinating book on Reagan and SDI, Frances Fitzgerald writes in her chapter on SDI after Reagan that "the persistence of the push for deployment was in many ways phenomenal". The USSR was gone, defence spending was falling, public interest had almost completely disappeared and the technological breakthroughs which had been promised had stubbornly failed to materialise. Yet missile defence lived on, sustained by the initially less than enthusiastic administration of George Bush Sr and then by a reluctant Clinton, finally to be reinstated as a key policy by the younger Bush and his people.

Events wrote American missile defence a fresh script with new practical, popular and political plot lines. Missile defence made somewhat more sense, technically, if the problem was accidental launch, a single weapon in the hands of terrorists or if the adversary envisaged was not a big nuclear power like Russia or even China but a small state with only a handful of unsophisticated weapons.

A system that could bring down one, twoor a few missiles could just about be envisaged, even if complete successcould hardly be guaranteed. The popularperception of the programme combined anunderstanding that this lesser task was more feasible with an exaggerated belief in American military science.

The apparent success of Patriot missiles in bringing down Scuds aimed at Israel and Saudi Arabia during the Gulf war was followed by a spurt in public interest and faith in missile defence. The Patriots were in fact a failure, as studies after the war showed, and in any case represented old technology not relevant to Star Wars tasks. Even so, the impact of smart weapons of various kinds on American popular consciousness through the 1990s was probably to reinforce the argument that the missile defence programme's objectives could be reached, if enough money and scientific talent were invested.

But the most important development was political. The record shows that American conservatives had in fact diverse opinions on missile defence, both during the Reagan years and afterward. There were those who thought it technically impossible, foolish or at least a diversion from more pressing defence needs. In Reagan's final period, when he combined his faith in Star Wars with an apparent readiness to bargain away American strategic weapons and an affectionate public attitude to Gorbachev, some on the right thought that combination damaging to the national interest. George Bush Sr's administration included a number of sceptics, and there are members of the present Bush administration, other than Colin Powell, who had their doubts.

But somewhere along the way missile defence became a critical issue for Republicans. Newt Gingrich, the leading figure in the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994 made it part of his contract with America. Senator Bob Dole later ran for the presidency with missile defence as one of his main planks. He had not previously been a great enthusiast, but as Frankie Fitzgerald explains, the belief was that this was an issue that would define him against Clinton while not involving the vote-losing potential of other conservative obsessions like banning abortion or repealing gun control laws. Laurence Korb, of the Council on Foreign Relations, recently called missile defence "an end in itself" for Republicans, and "a litmus test of loyalty to the Reagan legacy".

The consequences of American Republicans lighting on this issue as a device for creating and compelling unity are now with us in the shape of the abandonment of the ABM treaty. That the prospects for controlling weapons of mass destruction have been damaged as a result is obvious, how seriously remains to be seen.

Other kinds of damage may already have been done. Richard Rhodes, reviewing a recent volume of memoirs by Edward Teller, who went on from the hydrogen bomb to become a leading advocate of missile defence, puts a pertinent question. "It remains to be determined how much responsibility the missile defence mandarins bear for the nation's lack of protection against terrorist attacks, how much their glamorous and expensive hi-tech visions distracted our leaders from practical home defences."

· Way Out There in the Blue by Frances
Fitzgerald (Simon & Schuster)
Some people,STEELYeyed
Dec 21, 2001 7:35 AM
have way to much free time on their hands.
Life is short,don't worry about things you can't control.
Happy Holidays,
let's face itDog
Dec 21, 2001 8:05 AM
We had 8 years of Clinton, and half the country (more or less) disagreed with his policies and could not stand him as a president. It's the other side's turn now.

Dec 21, 2001 8:29 AM
but there's a big difference to objecting to a blowjob (and then going on a witch hunt - what a surprise not everybody tells the tructh about blowjobs from office juniors? - imagine what would come out if all politicans had to be honest - better than fiction!) and objecting to SDI

ever wonder why they call it 'Star Wars'? (BTW I think an ABM shows up in Lord of the Rings!!)
I was all for blowjobs...TJeanloz
Dec 21, 2001 9:13 AM
For most people, I think it wasn't the act, but the lying that was aggrevating.

Even that didn't particularly bother me. A politician lying is not news.

But a good many people hated President Clinton's reign for other reasons: his major tax hike in 1993 (I'll point out that Bush's tax cut for the 'wealthy' still has them paying MORE in taxes than they did pre-Clinton), his retarded health care plans, his utter failure in foreign policy.

Democrats like to think that the only Republican objection to Clinton was that he lied under oath- but in the end, his actions spoke louder than his words.
Dec 21, 2001 9:27 AM
his vetoing of three tax cuts on his way out of office. That's pretty much standard procedure for an outgoing Pres., however, his vetoes those particular times were a bit more meaningful and hurtful to regular folks than any others I can remember.

Having gone to law school myself I have a particular dislike for perjurers as well. In my opinion that is one of but a few true pillars of our entire society. Without that, the world would indeed stop as we know it. For a person in that position to commit it, is truly devastating. Perhaps even more so than being on every TV screen in the nation to make sure he's good and close up when he positively and truly and purposefully looks each and every one of us straight in the eyes and full bore, outright lies to us. Utterly, disgustingly, inarguably despicable.
My Views on Missile Defense-Not that it matters!Jon
Dec 21, 2001 10:00 AM

I totally agree with the views expressed in the Guardian. To oversimplify, I think this whole issue
boils down to America's preoccupation with total safety and zero risk (witness America's shocked
reaction to 9/11) as well as most Americans' rather naive faith in technology to solve all problems.

As much as I love and admire America and respect GWB's leadership during the terrorist crisis,
I think he and others are really hypnotized by their own rhetoric and fantasies.

BTW blowjobs are good. Compulsive liars are bad!
the only reason dubya is popularFrodohata
Dec 26, 2001 10:02 AM
is because he got "lucky" and was prez during sept 11 and didnt totally screw things up. for the most part he's a total moron whose tax cuts and other questionable policies have ruined the economy.
the only reason dubya is popularTJeanloz
Dec 27, 2001 1:09 PM
That's not the stupidest thing I've ever heard, but it's close. He is certainly more popular in the aftermath of September 11, but his tax cuts cannot have had a negative effect on the economy. Such an effect is impossible because the tax cuts have yet to be implemented, and government spending is up mildly. If government spending remains constant, and income rises (because of lower income tax), the worst case scenario is a federal budget deficit; which isn't inherently bad for the economy (though it could be in the long run).
the only reason dubya is popularDave t
Dec 27, 2001 3:32 PM
dubya ate up the budget surplus and gave the taxpayers an "advance" on their next years taxes. whydo ya think they have to borrow from social security? dubya is a moron. cheney is the brains and he scares me.
the only reason dubya is popularTJeanloz
Dec 28, 2001 6:40 AM
As I don't know President Bush personally, I can't comment on how smart he is- he did manage to become President, and that's no easy feat. And you seem to be having trouble with capital letters- but Mr. Bush is the moron.

It is also true that Bush 'ate' the budget surplus. And this is clearly where you and I will idealogically diverge. I believe that the government shouldn't ever have a budget surplus, and if they do, it should be refunded to the taxpayers.

However, even taking all of these action into account, eating the surplus, advancing next year's refund, and borrowing from social security CANNOT have ruined the economy. It just isn't economically feasible for any of Bush's actions to have had any effect yet. If we want to place blame on a President for the economy (which isn't really fair in the first place), it will have to be Clinton. It was he who reigned when the economy turned south- Bush simply inhereted the problem.
don't be too hard on 'emDog
Dec 28, 2001 9:34 AM
Don't be too hard on most of those who claim that Bush is an idiot. After all, they likely get their only news and political views on the "Weekend Update" on SNL.

Dec 29, 2001 9:09 AM
But I get all my news and analysis from Jon Stewart on "The Daily Show"...