Thursday, September 17, 2009

Shift in Missile Defense Strategy Welcomed

In a dramatic break from his predecessor, President Barack Obama has decided to postpone, if not scrap, plans to station a radar facility in the Czech Republic and 10 ground-based missile interceptors in Poland. Secretary of State Robert Gates said these plans, which were made by his predecessor were designed to counter Iran's intercontinental missile program, a program the Obama administration fears less than its far more heavily developed programs on short-to-medium range missiles. For now, the president expects to deploy SM-3 interceptors on U.S. naval ships in the Mediterranean by 2011 and eventually deploy more in Europe.

Republicans on the Hill and their conservative champions at The National Review, accused the president of abandoning our allies, appeasing Russia, and putting this nation's security at risk to uphold liberal anti-missile defense program dogma. The National Review dismisses the shift in strategy "as an example of short term thinking." "A robust system of missile defense," the writers claim, "never has demanded such trade-offs. Instead, it calls for a sophisticated architecture that counters threats in different forms." They would have the president provide for our missile defense from both, intercontinental and shorter-range missiles. After all, the slow down in that country's intercontinental missile program may be attributed to the decision to deploy our missile defense program in Eastern Europe.

The conservatives, I believe may be overreacting and the Republicans, of course, will do and say anything make our president appear weak on security. Iran has no designs on, let alone poses a threat to, our European allies and any attack on any European nation would be counterproductive. Its NATO allies would respond in kind and the Muslim community could blame the Iranians for killing their brothers and sisters in European cities.

Iran's aspirations lie in the Middle East, and the nations that have the most to fear from Iran's rise are its immediate neighbors in the Middle East. Its known acquisition of a nuclear weapon may ignite a new arms race in the Middle East as the Saudis, and Egyptians try to restore the balance of power in the region. Providing our Sunni-populated allies in the Middle East with our missile-defense system might lead them to forgo the race for nuclear weapons and lead our Israeli allies to postpone any plans they have to bomb Iran's uranium enrichment plants (wherever they are).

I never believed the Bush administration's hype concerning the need to defend Europe from an Iranian attack. Those missiles, which were to be deployed in Poland, were designed to protect our European allies from a resurgent and overly aggressive Russian Empire. Our Eastern European allies were understandably upset. Polish and Czech citizen alike found themselves on the eastern side of the Iron Curtain and they don't want it to happen to them again.

But the Russians today have far too much problems holding their own country together to worry about Poland and states that had long been forgotten now stand in between Poland, which is a NATO ally (and thus protected from any outside invasion) and Russia. Within the past two weeks I have read an article which suggests that the Ukraine wants to align itself with the West. The Ukrainians, it is suggested, are pushing English as their second language while the Russian is dwindling in importance. Chechenya was preserved only by co-opting a ruthless dictator wannabe and the standoff within Georgia did not lead to the re-annexation of the Georgian breakaway regions of South Ossetia or Abkhazia.

As such, the president's decision to relocate our missile defense program into the Mediterranean and shift our strategy for military defense can be viewed as a harmless gesture designed to repair the breach in the Russo-American relationship.

It should be noted that our president reiterated his and this nation's commitment to protect our NATO allies from foreign attacks and he noted that this issue can always be revisited in the future should the Russians continue to be the uncooperative and unreliable partner they have so far proven to be in our negotiations with the Iranians.

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