Why Ditching Missile Defense Is for the Best

Did Europeans even want the allegedly expensive, malfunctioning, and provocative shield in the first place?

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After this morning's blowback from conservatives over Obama's decision to scrap the missile shield, (covered by the Wire here) some cooler heads have weighed in to explain the upside. Apart from bad timing--today is the anniversary of Poland's invasion by the Soviet Union--they see plenty of good reasons why shutting down a pricey, provocative, and probably dysfunctional program may, in the end, be for the best.

Their reasons?

  • Europe Never Wanted It, writes Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo. "I noticed on Drudge today that the headline was Obama 'abandoning Europe.' But of course this would be abandoning in the essence of taking away the missile defense the Europeans have mainly been asking us for years not to build. So it's 'abandon' in a very specialized sense."
  • Sea-Based Ballistics Offer Better Protection, writes Bryan McGrath at Information Dissemination. "The Obama team made this decision because it has an ace in the hole--sea based ballistic missile defense. This decision represents a HUGE vote of confidence in both the performance and promise of sea-based ballistic missile defense--because it is simply irrational to think that this Administration would purposely and purposefully weaken our security posture in any demonstrable way."
  • Money Could Be Better Spent for Allies, argues the Atlantic's own Marc Ambinder. "For all the talk that the U.S. is abandoning its allies -- another gut-wrenching buzzword that does not necessarily comport with reality -- the U.S. is actually spending money on interceptor technology that it plans to deploy in Europe over the next decade. It reflects an interpretation of the intelligence -- and intelligence is always open to interpretation --that the near-term missile threat from Iran is not as acute as the last administration claimed it to be..."
  • System Barely Worked, says Nathan Hodge at Wired Danger Room. "Often left out of the political discussion was the effectiveness of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system, which had a spotty test record at best."
  • Could Improve Negotiations With Iran, suggests Joe Klein at Time. "Here is how the talks might evolve: The U.S. has been insisting on a freeze of Iran's nuclear fuel production. This has been an awkward demand because Iran has the right to enrich uranium under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty.. Is it possible that what the Obama Administration is playing for with the Russians is agreeement to participate in new sanctions down the road, if the Iranians refuse to accept this new deal?"

However persuasive the reasons ex post facto, it is true, as Tom Maguire at JustOneMinute points out, that Obama once saw benefits to the shield. Citing an August report that said Obama "did not want to simply abandon missile defense but orient it for a different threat," Maguire concludes:

It seems that unlike their friends on the left who know that missile defense is destabilizing and a waste of money, Team Obama actually is OK with a missile shield
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.