Obama Gets the Missile Shield Question Right
I very nearly didn’t write this column, given some of the recent partisan acrimony over web voices who would never utter a word regarding the Obama administration being wrong about anything or acknowledge that a Republican could ever have a good idea, but I refuse to play that game. While there has been precious little to praise the President over on the domestic front, when he does something right I like to point it out. (Similar to when I praised him for his positions on taxing U.S. corporations’ foreign investments, free trade and his stance on U.S. – Israeli diplomacy.) Another such opportunity arose this week when we learned that the President was going to shelve the “Star Wars” missile shield defense plans in Poland and the Czech Republic.
I’ve been opposed to these plans since George W. Bush was talking about them during his term, and my reasons boil down to a few points which I believe are still just as valid today.
The technology is still far from proven, and may indeed be little more than an expensive boondoggle. For every report you produce by the experts saying we can pull this off I’ll find you another one from both military and technology experts saying that, when crunch time comes, the odds of knocking down missiles in flight in this fashion are still dodgy at best.
The cost is huge, both in cash and political capital. We’ve already dumped massive amounts of money into an essentially unproven system which simultaneously pokes a pointless stick into the side of other members of the global community.
Such a “shield” represents a cold war mentality view of the world, which has morphed quite a bit since the hottest days of the cold war.
The President’s more hawkish detractors are quick to chew on this bone, labeling it “appeasement” to the Russians and every other scary phrase which could be dredged out of the kitchen sink. We’ve supposedly thrown our Eastern European allies under the bus and left them to the less than tender mercies of the frightening Russian Bear. The double standards required to pose such a point are staggering, and really predate the cold war.
We should throw an elbow in the eye of the Russians and toss some missile systems in their back yard even when they object, eh? I wonder how we would react if they wanted to put missile systems in Cuba or Venezuela today? Oh… that’s right. We already know how we would react.
By trading the loyalty of Poland and the Czech Republic to satisfy Russia’s security concerns, the United States is signalling that it no longer contests Moscow’s right to assert its interests in Eastern Europe.
Oh really? Should we be so quick to “contest Moscow’s right to assert its interests in Eastern Europe?” And I suppose the Times of London would be equally quick to criticize us if we try to ensure our ability to “assert our interests in South America and Cuba?”
As much as some of my hawkish friends might wish it to be so, Russia isn’t going away any time soon. And they have no interest in our posing as the only bully left on the playground. This is a big, complicated world and there are other powerful players on the board with their own diplomatic and security interests to bear in mind. Much of the animosity we seem to draw overseas comes from this overbearing attitude and we don’t need a return to confrontational, “our way or the highway” diplomacy.
Congratulations, President Obama. It was a tough call to make in a country still rife with fears and security concerns, many of which are clearly justified but often overblown to panic proportions. But you stood up and made the right call on this one, and for that, I congratulate you. Well done, sir.