The Politics of Missile Shields

President Obama's apparent decision to scrap plans for a missile shield based in Poland and the Czech Republic is significant in and of itself. The plan's been controversial both here and in Eastern Europe and especially in Russia even though the defensive plan was aimed at rogue missiles from Iran. But it feels more like the end of a generation long missile-shield era. Anyone who was around in the 80s remembers the Reagan administration's intense ambitions for a missile shield the protect against intercontinental ballistic missiles fired from the old Soviet Union. Such a plan, based on satellite lasers, seemed fantastic at the time and still does. But it had enough power as an idea to help propel the startling arms reductions of the late 80s. And, indeed, technology caught up with Reagan's vision enough that the program continued not only in the first Bush administration but under Bill Clinton, too. Don Rumsfeld, who had killed the anti-ballistic missile program as Secretary of Defense under President Ford, was a huge advocate of its expansion when he was Secretary of Defense under George W. Bush.

This latest move will be hotly debated but a couple of things seem certain. For conservatives, who have made missile shields a centerpiece of their defense vision for a generation, this can only make them hate Obama more. More details will emerge later today, but can anyone doubt the apoplexy building at The Weekly Standard?

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Matthew Cooper is a managing editor (White House) for National Journal.

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