How does one make the argument that missile-defense systems are unproven? Don’t allow it to get tested. Despite having plenty of lead time to the North Korean missile launch, the Obama administration refused to permit the US Navy to deploy its most sophisticated missile-tracking radar during the launch. The reason? It might have annoyed Kim Jong-Il:
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates denied permission for the U.S. Northern Command to use the Pentagon’s most powerful sea-based radar to monitor North Korea’s recent missile launch, precluding officials from collecting finely detailed launch data or testing the radar in a real-time crisis, current and former defense officials said. …
SBX, deployed in 2005, can track and identify warheads, decoys and debris in space with very high precision. Officials said the radar is so powerful it could detect a baseball hit out of a ballpark from more than 3,000 miles away, and that other radars used by the U.S. would not be able to provide the same level of detail about North Korea’s missile capabilities.
Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Henry Obering, who until recently headed the Missile Defense Agency, said the SBX would have gathered data other U.S. systems could not.
“The sea-based X-band radar is clearly without a doubt the most powerful and capable sensor in all of our missile defense inventory,” he said. “It is three or four more times powerful than other radars” in Asia, including Aegis-equipped ships, a Cobra Dane early warning radar in Alaska and a small X-band radar in northern Japan, he said.
Bill Gertz reports exclusively for the Washington Times that Barack Obama’s civilian policymakers rejected the notion that the Taepodong-2 was anything other than a satellite launch. They did not want to provoke Kim by hauling out the SBX, shown on the front page lashed to the dock behind the USS Arizona memorial in Pearl Harbor. Bear in mind that any launch of a long-range missile by Pyongyang violates UN Security Council resolution 1718, which the Obama administration belatedly referenced in their push back against launch, days after it happened. Satellites or not, Kim is supposedly constrained from launching Taepodong-2s in a resolution the US supported at its adoption, and for which Obama and Susan Rice demonstrated support after the launch.
Why were we so concerned about Kim’s feelings anyway? We objected to the launch before and after it happened. We also have every right to tow the SBX out to international waters for testing. If we had done so, we could have gotten better intel on a hostile action while testing a new system under real-world conditions. That’s a no-brainer in every world but Foggy Bottom and, apparently, the West Wing.
McKittrick at Closing Velocity calls this an “effin’ brilliant” strategy:
So using the SBX to simply observe a very provocative missile launch was itself deemed too damned provocative by Obama? And that it would have derailed disarmament talks? You mean those talks that have utterly fallen apart anyway? …
Brilliant. Effin’ brilliant.
The opportunity to pursue hopeless talks with Kim Jong-Il was more valuable than collecting operationally realistic data and improving our defense against a growing threat. And the Hopes of naive diplomats outweigh urgent requests from military commanders. Change you can believe in.
It doesn’t take much to cow this President into retreat. Just the mere thought of Kim Jong-Il’s annoyance kept the US from testing an important defense system that wound up sitting in the water while Kim threw his tantrum anyway. I guess this must be “smart power”.