Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Missile Nuts

I had a rather mellow weekend, but found it easy to understand how helmut might have been a bit, er, dismayed on his return to an Amurrika that is about to go socialist. I had a mellowly optimistic post almost ready to go, and then I read this.

There’s been a bit of a stir this week over Russia. ZenPundit links a number of articles, some of which I’d like to look at in more detail, which will have to be in another post.

But first, a few words from reality.

Russia is not the Soviet Union. This seems like a rather technical point, but the Soviet Union had a doctrine of applying class warfare to its practice of international relations. Russia does not. It was this doctrine that led to Communist Parties in various countries answering to Moscow and agitation for civil wars in various small countries. This doctrine also meant that principled opposition to capitalism was implacable and forever, up to and including nuclear war. Mikhail Gorbachev officially ended the doctrine in 1989, ending the Cold War.

Missile defense has not been proved to work, despite the expenditure of a hundred billion dollars or so. There was a treaty, repudiated by President George W. Bush, that agreed with the Soviet Union and Russia as its successor that neither side would emplace missile defense.

Iran has no missiles capable of reaching the United States, and is unlikely to for some time. It also has no nuclear weapons.

I’ll continue to slip little pieces of reality into the rest of this post, but I thought it might be useful to start with some basics.

The PONI article begins with
Two recent editorial from Heritage fellows have criticized the Obama administration for abandoning Eastern European allies.
Ah yes: the missile defense cheerleaders at Heritage. This should be enough to disqualify everything that follows, but in these days, one never knows. And PONI is trying to debunk the editorials, I think. They pose some questions, which they try to answer by quoting others. On the one hand and on the other.

If the radar site in the Czech Republic and the missile site in Poland have any objective related to missile defense, it is primarily for defense against those nonexistent Iranian missiles aimed at America, not for defense of the Czech Republic and Poland against Russian missiles. The reason for this is obvious if you know a little bit about missiles: they are very difficult (some say impossible) to intercept as they are coming down. Much easier in mid-course, which is approximately where Central Europe sits relative to Iran and America.

But Iran has no missiles capable of reaching America. Nor does it have nuclear weapons to put on its nonexistent missiles. So the blah blah blah that PONI cites about alternatives may be ignored.

There’s another meme that seems to be gaining steam: that not building the missile defense sites will make “Eastern Europe” feel abandoned. There are layers of things wrong here, so bear with me. It’s hard for me to consider Poland and the Czech Republic “Eastern Europe.” I can see Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, and Romania being lumped in that term, but Poland and the Czech Republic seem more to be in Central Europe, along with Germany. There has been a political argument that I have largely ignored about whether “Eastern Europe” gives too much weight to Russia’s ideas about its “sphere of influence.” I would just say that Estonia and Romania have some things in common, but so do Estonia and Sweden. Or Romania and Spain. So it seems better to me to refer to the countries themselves.

Some in the governments of Poland and the Czech Republic wanted the missile defense sites. By and large, the people in the towns near where those sites would be located were less enthusiastic about having a large target painted around them. Public opinion in general in those countries was against the missile defense sites, so I’m not sure exactly who would be feeling abandoned.

But that feeling of being a target wasn’t quite right either. That assumed that the missile defense sites were directed against Russia and therefore would be on Russia’s target list in case of a nuclear war.

Nuclear war? Remember, the Cold War ended in 1989.

The people of the former Soviet satellites and republics, particularly the older people, are well aware of Russia’s past expansionist tendencies. Russia has stoked those tendencies by the war against Georgia and a continuing propaganda barrage against those who left the Soviet (and before that, Russian) empire. There was a rush to get into NATO and the EU in the hope that this would end Russian expansionism. And it largely has, but the fear remains, not entirely unjustified.

But the missile defense sites in the Czech Republic and Poland would protect America, not those two countries.

The problem that PONI is exacerbating is massive conflation of the defense of Europe against Russia with defense of America against Iranian missiles. The further problem is that no such Iranian missiles exist, that the installations in the Czech Republic and Poland are not designed to defend those countries, and that nuclear war with Russia is not among today’s top threats.

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.


J. said...

I agree! Go get 'em, Cheryl!

BTW, I don't see my blog on your blogroll... how about returning the favor?

Cheryl Rofer said...

Sorry, J. I haven't got all the furniture rearranged here yet. But you're on the blogroll now.

troutsky said...

I think a distinction needs to be made between "expansionist tendencies" (as in Manifest Destiny) and sphere of influence, especially as regards Georgia.

I agree with your overall analysis.

jwarden said...

A response to your concerns was just posted on the CSIS PONI blog: