Wednesday, September 6, 2006

Neutralizing the Chinese Threat

Strategy Page brings us up to date on the latest developments in President Bush's missile defense program:

The latest test of the American missile defense system, which saw a defensive missile destroy an incoming ICBM warhead, is probably the biggest step yet in the quiet neutralization of the ballistic missile arsenals of China, North Korea, and Iran. In this test, a missile launched from a base in Alaska hit and destroyed a target coming from the Pacific Ocean.

One thing to keep in mind is that this test was intended for data collection, not to test if the system could actually kill an incoming missile. The successful takedown was a bonus. The next test, intended to determine how well the system can pick out real targets from decoys, is slated for December.

The system, as it now stands, will have 18 ground-based interceptors (GBIs) by the end of 2007, and is already sufficient to have neutralized China's force of 24 DF-5 ICBMs. How is this so, considering that China has 24 DF-5 ICBMs? Simple subtraction would seem to indicate that at least six ICBMs would get through to their targets in an attempted strike.

It is true, that if the GBIs work and kill their targets, six missiles would get through. But which six will they be? That is a question China would need a clairvoyant or a fortune teller to determine. With the increased level of uncertainty about the success of the attack, China would very well decide not to launch the attack in the first place.

We note that those who scoffed at, and fought against, Ronald Reagan's concept of missile defense have had little to say about the current program. It's true that Reagan's plan called for a space-based defense and the current program employs ground based missiles, but the emphasis on weapons in space was not what earned Reagan's proposal so much opprobrium. Reagan thought it was not only feasible but morally obligatory to defend ourselves against foreign ICBMs. His critics, however, thought, back in the days of the doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction, that self-defense was "destabilizing" and likely to result in a pre-emptive attack by the Soviets before our defense shield was up and running. Nobody seems to worry much about that anymore in this post 9/11 world.

Rocket Ride

Our media, unfailingly skeptical about anything our administration, or that of our allies, has to say about the various struggles in the Middle East, have been astonishingly credulous of reports by Hezbollah that the Israelis deliberately targeted Red Cross ambulances for missile attacks.

The Jawa Report has some video that shows how absurd the reports were and how gullible the news outlets which reported these "atrocities" had to be. Watch the whole thing.

Thanks to Michelle for the tip.

Why We Can't Leave

Last week I posted an article titled Living in a Fantasy World in which I argued that the opponents of the president are reluctant to offer a genuine alternative to his Middle East policy, other than vague and meaningless adjurations to negotiate more effectively or set a time line for withdrawal from Iraq. Their reluctance to be more specific is due to the fact that what many of them really want him to do, although they don't want to explicitly say it, is pull out of Iraq as soon as such a pullout can be accomplished.

A withdrawal before Iraq is stable and self-sufficient, however, would be a disaster of historical proportions and anyone who has thought about it surely realizes this. Thus many of the president's critics keep their counsel about what he should do, and instead content themselves with bashing him for doing what he is doing.

Why would a precipitous withdrawal from Iraq be a calamity? Consider the likely aftermath of an American military pullout. Once we are gone the following are not just possible, they're highly likely:

1. Sunni and Shia would be quickly at each others' throats in a desperate civil war for political dominance. It would be a fight for survival because whoever wins would surely oppress, if not utterly eliminate, the loser.

2. Iran would move into Iraq on behalf of the Shia and to settle old scores with the Iraqi Sunnis dating back to the Iraq/Iran war in the 1980s. They would doubtless annex the oil fields in the south. Meanwhile pressure would mount on Sunni nations like Egypt and Saudi Arabia to come to the aid of their beleaguered brethren. Turkey would take advantage of the chaos to settle their chronic Kurdish problem by invading northern Iraq. Syria would be sorely tempted to grab some oil fields wherever they could. Iraq would get carved up like a Thanksgiving turkey among its neighbors and would be almost completely helpless to prevent it.

3. Al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations would exploit Iraq's weakness to establish training areas and safe havens in the country from which to launch terrorist attacks around the world.

4. Anyone who collaborated or cooperated with the coalition would be marked for torture and death by the insurgent forces. This would come to perhaps hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Iraqis.

5. The chaos of war and the rape of the country's resources would result in severe shortages of food, water, medical care, sanitation, and electricity. Perhaps millions of Iraqis would starve or perish from disease if these conditions persisted more than a few months.

6. The United States would be thoroughly discredited and blamed for the misery and strife in Iraq because of our retreat. No nation would ever trust us again to honor a commitment. Pressure from their people would cause governments in Kuwait, Oman, and Qatar to insist we abandon our bases there. Other Muslim nations, like Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Indonesia, seeing that we are undependable partners in the war on terror, would ratchet back their cooperation. As the last American helicopter flies out of Baghdad, every Arab nation that has the money will begin looking for nuclear weapons to protect themselves from the blackmail and threats of the Iranians.

7. Our lack of credibility in the region would embolden Israel's neighbors to settle the "Zionist problem" once and for all. Once we start pulling out of the Middle East it would be psychologically almost impossible to reverse course and go back in, and the Arab enemies of Israel know this. Thus they would see our withdrawal as presenting them with a golden opportunity to wipe Israel off the face of the earth and Israel may have to resort to nuclear weapons to keep that from happening.

It may be, of course, that none of these things would occur. It may be that in the vacuum created by our absence the Shia and Sunni would turn their swords into plowshares and live amicably with each other.

It may be that other nations would not be at all tempted to grab what they can of Iraq's oil wealth.

It may be that al Qaeda feels safe enough in the hills of Pakistan that they wouldn't move in force into Iraq.

It may be that the insurgents would forgive and forget the collaboration of their fellow Iraqis with the coalition.

It may be that Israel's neighbors would feel sorry for Israel in their weakened and vulnerable state and offer to make peace instead of war.

It may be that tomorrow will be the day of the Second Coming, but all of our experience tells us that it probably won't be, and it is our experience which should inform our judgments and policies.

To withdraw from Iraq before Iraq can fend for itself would be the most immoral course of action we could follow as a nation. It would consign tens of thousands, if not millions, of Iraqis to almost certain death and would earn us the contempt of history for such a reprehensible betrayal. This prospect doesn't seem to bother some, but it should confer a deep sense of obligation, it seems to me, upon anyone who strives to fulfill the Biblical mandates to do justice and love our neighbor.