In an increasingly familiar display of Carter-era defeatism, President Barack Obama has acquiesced to Russian demands and dismantled long-standing U.S. plans to counter the threat of Iranian missile attacks.
The cancellation of military deployments in Eastern Europe that were designed to protect both the U.S. and our allies from Iranian aggression has, in fact, weakened our global position. In response, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has called Obama’s decision “brave,” which gives many Americans little consolation for the loss of a strategic defense initiative.
Under the president’s plan, missile interceptors similar to those located in Alaska and California will not be deployed in Eastern Europe as originally intended. Instead, the president wants ship-borne antimissile systems sent to the Black Sea or Baltic Sea, with the potential development of ostensible land-based counterparts in Turkey or Romania.
What the president hopes is lost on the American people is a pattern — long embraced by dovish politicians — of refusing to oppose openly the development of weapons and advocating instead for hypothetical long-range alternatives.
In a sleight of hand, these politicians hope to give the appearance of favoring a strong defense while actually ensuring delays and detours that ultimately limit or kill the programs they oppose for ideological reasons.
Indeed, the president’s plan to downgrade our missile defenses rests on many uncertainties. Ample appropriations to develop and sustain them must be secured. The interceptors must be designed and deployed in sufficient numbers. Additional ships must be retrofitted to accommodate the missiles, and redirected vessels from other strategic global positions would leave areas crucial to our security undefended.
Before the president announced his plan, Poland and the Czech Republic were prepared to accept the now-canceled interceptors and their associated guidance radars. Obama caved to wholly unfounded Russian objections to a U.S. military presence that posed them no threat.
If land-based missiles are to be deployed eventually, the Obama Administration (or its successor) will now have to re-create the wheel. Laborious and time-consuming diplomatic negotiations will be necessary to secure host-nation permission.
The possibility of a lengthy search for other suitable defense sites not only causes an unnecessary delay, but it betrays America’s allies in Eastern Europe and suggests to our foes that the United States can be bullied.
There is considerable disagreement among the world’s intelligence agencies about Iran’s progress towards manufacturing nuclear warheads. In light of the somewhat conflicting and tentative nature of these conclusions, the United States needs a strong defense against the development of intercontinental ballistic missiles by militant Islamic regimes in the Middle East. Regrettably, Obama’s plan promises to weaken rather than protect our national security interests.
Perhaps unintentionally, however, the president does seem to have conceded the importance of an antiballistic missile system — albeit a reduced one — and ironically, Obama himself has acknowledged the dangers we face.
“President [George W.] Bush was right that Iran’s ballistic missile program poses a significant threat,” he declared when announcing his drastic revision of U.S. policy. The president has also made clear that Iranian efforts to design medium range missiles — those that can easily be transported and fired at targets in Europe and the Middle East — are succeeding faster than originally believed and are likely to be fielded in great numbers.
Against the constant cooing of numerous leaders in his own party, Obama now seems to have unwittingly affirmed the need for strategic missile defenses in the Middle East. The absence of assertions from Obama that such defenses do not work or that they are destabilizing is interesting.
Regardless of the weaknesses of the Obama proposal, he has at least established a consensus that missile defenses are both effective and necessary. For one who leads a party not known for its support for a strong national defense, that’s a bold move.
You might even call it brave.
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-San Diego, is the ranking minority member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.