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Missiles Away

Published by marco on

If you caught President Bush’s press conference last night, you might have been amazed to discover that not only is the notion of a Missile Defense Shield still alive, apparently his faith in its abilities are strengthened. An article from Discover Magazine called Shield of Dreams (only available in print for now, should be on the website in a month or so), provides a “A critical look at the science and technology required to build an antiballistic system that would make the United States invulnerable to a missile attack”.

This look explains what the proposed plan entails and describes where we stand in acheiving the technology to implement it and how well it addresses current and future perceived threats. (emphasis added)

<q>As desirable as even a limited shield might be in an uncertain world, physicists and independent defense anaylysts who have carefully studied the problem of missile defense argue that the President’s plan is deeply flawed, more a product of whishful thinking than sound scientific analysis. ‘The proponents of missile defense are for the most part totally non-technical. Or they are defense contractors.’</q>

Implementing the proposed system would involve interceptor missiles that “would have to be much faster than any missile in existence…” and would require incredibly fast reaction time, “…[s]o the decision to fire has got to be computerized…”, effectively taking control of such a system out of human hands. On top of that, the DOD has consistently failed tests involving ‘missile interception’, and cheated outright using a homing beacon on several of them. Even with a homing beacon, unlikely to be used by foreign missiles (that’s sarcasm), the interceptors failed more than 50% of the time.

And what if the enemy chooses to attack in an easier way?

<q>ICBMs are expensive to develop, so a hostile third-world country might choose instead to smuggle biological weapons into the United States and then release them. Or a rogue nation could stow a nuclear weapon on a cargo ship and detonate the weapon in an American harbor. Any of these strategies could be anonymous as well as potentially more desctructive than an ICBM.</q>

So, here we have a system that will cost a tremendous amount of money, won’t be able to thwart the attacks it is built to deter, and does nothing about a host of more dangerous, easier to implement and more anonymous attacks that could be executed. Hooray. It seems faith is all that will bring this system into being. Faith and a whole lot of our tax dollars. Neither will make it work, though.


2 Replies



I guess I missed something pretty damn important, but I thought he was saying that an ABM system was an outmoded concept. Period. Was he actually suggesting a more high tech version of same?

Hope-fully Confused


marco (updated by marco)

I believe you did miss something. Here’s a report from the Newsday mentioning the question specifically about the ABM (Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty):

<q>…Bush said the attacks made him all the more in favor of building an anti-missile shield opposed by Moscow. When he meets Russian President Vladimir Putin later this month, Bush said he would raise the possibility of a hostile nation developing deadly missiles that can reach either country. … “Wouldn’t it be in our nation’s advantage to be able to shoot it down?”…</q>

So you see, this is being seen as an opportunity to guilt the rest of the world into letting us out of the ABM and (somehow) substantiates the MDS. Go to CNN for a full transcript of the press conference.