Stanley's blog

Emperor’s new clothes

Does anyone believe in the effectiveness and usefulness of the United States missile defence system? Is it a scam, as Gwynne Dyer argues, an ‘emperor’s new clothes’ syndrome, or both?

Since Ronald Reagan’s Star Wars project was launched in 1983, over $100bn has been spent. The ballistic missile defence system currently being considered is designed to protect the US from an Iranian long range missile attack, and in the process also protecting most of Europe.

Poland’s agreement this week to host a U.S. missile defence site has increased chances that the final version of fiscal 2009 spending legislation will give President Bush the funding he wants.

Surely there must be a better way of the US defending itself against this Iranian threat, a threat apparent to Washington but hitherto of no concern in Europe?

The system is still not proven and remains a very expensive technological gamble. According to this week’s Economist, the two-stage interceptors that will be deployed in Europe have not been built yet, and the geometry of using ground interceptors against a future Iranian threat has still to be tested.The Pentagon’s independent office to evaluate new equipment said last October that it was far from being able to certify “a high probability of [the system] working in an operationally effective manner once deployed”. Does Washington, or at least the Pentagon, really believe in the project, or is no-one willing to denounce it, or is it now unstoppable, being based on pork for the industry and resultant benefits for the politicians?

None of this would really matter to us in Europe but for Russia. The very concept is, understandably, anathema to
Moscow. The Economist asks: “if missile defences were just expensive junk, why would the Russians protest so loudly?” Presumably, it suits the Russian defence establishment which justifies increased expenditure by arguing the need to ensure that the system cannot be used against Russia.

Washington has insisted from the outset that the project is not directed at Russia which should have no concern. This may be so, but Poland and the Czech Republic effectively become part of the the US integral defence which has major geopolitical relevance. Poland agreed the deal because of Russia, not ran. That’s obvious.

And where does the European Union stand on the US missile defence system?

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  1. I think the European Union has long been free-riding on the American defence system, not onli missile defence. I do not think that it is just a matter of convenience that America stations so many troops in Europe 63 years after the end of WWII.

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