Thursday, September 10, 2009

Missile Nuts - Continued

Let’s begin from the ending:
In other words, the Heritage Foundation is doing exactly what the gun-toters at the Town Halls were doing. The neocon purpose in agitating for the end of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and in placing missile defense in Europe was always to provoke Russia, to strut America’s macho. If Obama doesn’t go through with those missile defense sites, and remember, they’re not built yet, so nothing is being removed, then the neocon macho is damaged.

Too bad.
It would seem, then, that those who accept the assumptions that those gun-toters present to pretty up their macho strut are, perhaps unwittingly, complicit with the gun-toters’ objectives.

That was why my mood fell in with helmut’s when I read that PONI post the other day. The post disagreed with Heritage only in the details. The assumptions remained intact.

I can be quite straightforward, but my irritation at that acceptance of missile defense as A Good Thing and of the idea that the Poles and Czechs will be terrified of the Russian onslaught if the missile defense installations aren't built overrode my usual nerdish inclinations, and I went for snark instead. My main point was that the damage is done when the assumptions are accepted.

Now PONI has responded. I will try to be more straightforward in my expression in this post. I’ll lift quotes from the PONI response that will lack some context, for which you should go back to that response. I am not trying to distort what jwarden has said, just going for brevity.
Instead of dismissing Heritage altogether, it is more productive to examine their arguments and cite other experts to dispute their claims (which is what our original post did).
The claims of the missile defense advocates have been debunked over and over and over again. There is no point in doing it one more time. The danger in that approach lies in being sucked into too many of their assumptions, missing the forest for the trees.
A second criticism expressed by Rofer is that Russian expansionism is a Cold War threat that is exaggerated to hide the real goal of missile defense: to protect American from non-existent missiles[.]
That’s the danger of snark. I said nothing of the “real goal of missile defense.” What I was trying to say was that an assumption at the Heritage Foundation that PONI seems to accept is that we must look at Russia as we did at the Soviet Union during the Cold War. This is a recipe for concocting yet another Cold War. I was also pointing out that Iran has no missiles that are a threat to the United States, protection from which would seem to be, from both the physics and the Bush administration’s statements, the purpose of those installations in Poland and the Czech Republic. And that the perception of some, particularly older people in the former Soviet satellites and republics, is that Russia remains a Cold-War sort of danger.
The Iranian missile threat is overblown, but it is does exist. Iran currently has at least some short- and medium-range missiles, though doesn’t have long-range ICBM capabilities.
So no danger to the US. Which contradicts the first sentence in this quote. The paragraph from which this is taken accepts the Heritage Foundation assumption that Iran is indeed a threat to the US or somewhere. So far, Iran has neither fired a missile nor threatened to fire missiles at anyone. Nor does it seem likely that its rulers would find that a smart action, although other opinions on this judgement exist.
However, we think that both blog posts go too far in downplaying the concern that “new-NATO” allies (whether you think they’re in East or Central Europe) could feel abandoned.
The initial reaction in Poland and the Czech Republic to these installations, outside the governments, was dismay at being set up as targets for Russian missiles. This reaction partook of the lingering feeling among many in the former Soviet satellites and republics that a Cold-War-like exchange is likely. In plain words, the locals didn’t want the installations. I have not seen much indication that this feeling has changed. The Foreign Policy article cited by PONI is extremely weak. The situation is much more complex than that article describes.
What matters isn’t actual threats faced by Poland and the Czech Republic, but how the countries perceive threats.
Actually, both matter. But the problem here again is accepting a Heritage Foundation assumption about how those countries perceive threats.

The leaders have been changing rapidly in the post-Soviet countries, as much as a government per year, and some of the leaders hold fairly extreme viewpoints. Both Poland and the Czech Republic have had such leaders in the past few years. Which leaders’ opinions are we to take? Or how about the population?

There are many ways to show the leaders and the people of the former Soviet satellites and republics that the United States supports them. But the European states in that category must also look to Europe for support, and they need to better assess the threat environment for the 21st century, not the Cold War.

And we need to assess whether the attitudes attributed to them are actually theirs or the imaginings of those, like the Heritage Foundation, who would spread missile defense for their own reasons.

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