Green Room

Obama Proves Unable to Walk and Chew Missiles at the Same Time

posted at 4:09 pm on September 20, 2009 by

National Security Advisor (and former Marine Corps General) Jim Jones has just offered the weirdest explanation to date for cancelling the long-range ballistic-missile defense system in Eastern Europe — while simultaneously betraying our allies, Poland and the Czech Republic:

White House National Security Adviser James L. Jones says President Obama’s decision to abandon a long-range missile defense site in Eastern Europe was driven by U.S. intelligence concerns that Iran is further along than previously thought in developing medium-range missiles that could strike Western Europe and the Middle East with nuclear warheads.

“We think they are heading toward weaponiz[ing] these missiles, which obviously we want to dissuade them from doing,” the retired four-star Marine general told The Washington Times, explaining why U.S. officials dramatically shifted from years of focus on guarding against longer-range intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs)….

In a wide-ranging interview Friday afternoon in his West Wing office, Gen. Jones said the government’s top national security leaders met about 50 times since March before unanimously agreeing to scrap a 2006 Bush administration plan to put 10 long-range, ground-based interceptor missiles in Poland and a related radar tracking site in the Czech Republic. They are to be replaced by ship-based radar and interceptors better able to protect Europe from shorter-range missiles, he said.

Note that “the government’s top national security leaders” actually means Barack H. Obama’s top national-security appointees, so it’s hardly of cosmic significance that they were in unanimous agreement. But I digress…

The key driver, he said, was intelligence showing that Iran is stressing development of medium- and intermediate- range missiles that could reach the Middle East or Western Europe and is focusing less on ICBMs with ranges greater than 3,500 miles that might one day reach the United States.

“We concluded, the intelligence community concluded and recommended that the previous threat estimates about Iran’s capabilities, vis-a-vis an ICBM, were not as imminent as we thought, which is to say the capability is further out,” Gen. Jones said.

“The intermediate-range capability of Iranian technology is higher than we thought, which puts Europe at risk and many of our friends in the Gulf at risk,” he said.

By painting the decision as an “either-or,” Gen. Jones thus confesses that the Obama administration cannot pursue two BMD programs at the same time; I wonder if he felt acute embarassment making such an admission?

But the most astonishing aspect of this conundrum is that the Navy Aegis BMD system, which is what he says they plan to use instead of the land-based system, has been operational and widely deployed for years! It’s so common now that we’re even selling and installing such systems on the ships of our allies.

All it takes to deploy it is to station the appropriate cruisers and destroyers in the Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf. Why on earth should this preclude us pursuing defense against long-range missiles as well? It’s like saying we must kill development of the Joint Strike Fighter because intelligence reveals that the most imminent enemy air threat can be countered by deploying our existing F/A-18 Hornets… and by golly, we can’t do both.

Worse, as the Washington Times notes, we have not had notable success estimating how advanced are the missile designs of our enemies:

The report [by the Air Force’s National Air and Space Intelligence Center] said Iran could have an ICBM by 2015.

However, two administration officials said the new intelligence is outlined in a May 2009 National Intelligence Estimate that concluded that Iran would not have a long-range missile before 2020.

U.S. estimates of missile threats have been of mixed reliability. In 1998, an intelligence assessment gauged that no nation outside the established nuclear powers would have a long-range missile by 2015. Shortly after the assessment, in August 1998, North Korea test-fired its first intercontinental-range Taepodong missiles….

Efforts by Iran to develop longer-range missiles would be detected, [Gen. Jones] said. “There’s not much the Iranians can do in terms of developing an ICBM that we won’t know about,” he said. “It just requires testing, and you can tell when they get into that envelope.”

So the new policy, which the National Security Advisor evidently agrees with, is that we should cease developing a defense against Iranian (and Russian) ICBMs and instead deploy Aegis BMD ships — which we can of course deploy whenever we want, whether or not we build the interceptor site — because Iran won’t have long-range missiles until 2020… unless they have them sooner. And we’ll “detect” the fact that Iran has developed long-range missiles when they test them!

(What if they don’t develop ICBMS… but buy them instead from Russia, China, or North Korea? Gen. Jones doesn’t even hint at how that would affect our defensive policy.)

Brilliant.

Um… is there perhaps a more plausible explanation? I’m intrigued by this throw-away from Gen. Jones:

Less-capable radar will be deployed some place in the Caucasus region to replace the planned high-powered radar in the Czech Republic, which was troubled by a “public opinion problem,” Gen. Jones said.

“Public opinion problem?” I’ve strained my brain, and I cannot recall any wave of public sentiment against building a purely defensive radar site to allow us to intercept long-range missiles (with or without nuclear warheads) being fired at us by Iran. Or by Russia. Well — no wave of American public sentiment, I mean, or even mass protests in Europe; I can well imagine public opinion (likely manufactured) running strong in Iran and Russia against the program.

The surreality continues. The Times reports a “subsequent phase” of missile defense, in which we deploy land-based versions of the Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) in Poland, then future versions of the SM-3 that can hit long-range missiles, “over the next ten years”:

The new plan means that defenses against Iranian missiles can be in place throughout Europe six or seven years sooner than under the abandoned European plan, Gen. Jones said.

But again, we can do this whether or not we build the long-range radar site in Poland and the Czech Republic; the policies are independent of one another (unless… see below). We’re just talking about deploying missiles we already have and continuing the SM-3 developments that are already under way.

This entire explanation is one long, bizarre non-sequitur… unless the Obamacle has other plans in mind that would preclude our being able to deploy the old system and develop the new system at the same time. Does the Jones explanation mean that Obama plans a wholesale slashing of military funding, so that we really will have to choose between what soon will be two mutually exclusive policies — deploying and developing? Is that the broad hint that Gen. James Jones is giving us?

There is no longer any question (Gen. Jones admits it) that one major purpose of this policy change is to appease the Russian bear, in the hopes that he will feel so grateful and magnanimous that he reciprocates by leaning on Iran to quit developing a nuclear bomb. But since we have already given Russia everything it wants, we must rely upon its centuries-long history of good will towards all, especially Eastern Europe.

And in fact, there is another weak link in this chain of Obamic “diplomacy”: Who’s to say Iran would scrap plans to become a nuclear power even if Russia commands them to? What is Vladimir Putin going to do — invade Iran? Bomb them? Aid and abet Israel?

More gravely, Obama appears to have politicized the intelligence to get the diplomatic overture he wants:

  • The missile report from the National Air and Space Intelligence Center said Iran could deploy a long-range missile by 2015; that’s five years before we estimate we could deploy advanced SM-3s to intercept them.
  • According to Eric Edelman, the undersecretary of defense for policy in the Bush administration who ran the Bush BMD program, Barack Obama promised that we would continue the long-range, ground-based interceptor plan “unless the [intelligence] assessment changed.”
  • Lo! A new National Intelligence Estimate sprang forth in May of this year, like Athena from Zeus’ brow. It was presumably shepherded by Obama’s CIA Director Leon Panetta — who has no intelligence experience whatsoever but is a long-time liberal Democratic House member… along with the presumed connivance of Obama’s Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano — who has no intelligence or military experience whatsoever but is a former liberal Democratic governor and Anita Hill’s attorney during l’affaire Clarence Thomas. (Of course, she popularized the new phrase “man-caused disaster” to take the place of “terrorism,” so she must know something.)
  • The new NIE changed the intelligence assessment to suggest that Iran cannot develop long-range missiles until 2020… exactly the right time frame for us to have those new, improved SM-3s in place. What a stroke of luck!

It seems impossible not to draw the obvious conclusion of intel-tampering, unless one really, really works at it.

Oh, and this little tidbit is simply delicious:

Politically, the abandonment of the Europe site also set the stage for progress in reaching a new strategic arms agreement with Russia. Moscow vehemently opposed the European missile site as posing a threat to its strategic missile capability and had made canceling the program a precondition for arms talks.

So much for the One’s plan to hold summit meetings “without preconditions.” I reckon he must have meant only that we would not impose any preconditions ourselves; not that we wouldn’t kow-tow to preconditions imposed by other countries!

This series of unfortunate events brings the Obamic national-security policy into sharp focus: Our new defense “posture” will evidently be the foetal position.

Cross-posted to Big Lizards

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I seriously doubt that Iran is that far from developing longer range missiles. If the North Koreans, who are in bed with Iran, haven’t given the Iranians the technology I’d be surprised. But the rationale for abandoning our allies is, like so much that comes out of the Obama administration, patently absurd as this article points out. If Obama wanted to tell the truth for once, he could have said that he believes that better relations with Russia are more important than reassuring our allies that they will not be permitted to fall under the Russian’s sphere of influence again. Face it, if the missile defenses were originally intended to prevent an Iranian missile attack rather than just send a message to Moscow, it would be easy to set up a missile system based on Patriot or Aegis while a more capable system is developed. But since this was never about Iran to begin with, and placating Russia is the real goal, there would be no reason to replace the missile defense shield with anything. Obama, “YOU LIE!”

NNtrancer on September 20, 2009 at 5:01 PM

I can’t believe this hasn’t got more comments yet. I really appreciate the analysis – great work and great sourcing.

Black Yoshi on September 21, 2009 at 12:42 AM

Barry and the Dems defend our lives, our interests, our sacred honor? “No we can’t!”

Blacksmith on September 21, 2009 at 11:21 AM