Why skepticism of missile defense persists

Updated
 
A ground-based Interceptor missile is shown before being installed in its silo at Fort Greely, Alaska.
A ground-based Interceptor missile is shown before being installed in its silo at Fort Greely, Alaska.
Associated Press

I can appreciate the appeal of an advanced missile-defense system. After all, on a conceptual level, what’s not to like? It’s reassuring to believe there is technology already in place that empowers the U.S. to shoot down missiles before they can do real damage.

The trouble is with the efficacy. On Friday, the Pentagon tested an advanced missile-defense interceptor over the Pacific Ocean, and as is often the case with these systems, the test failed.

A brief Defense Department statement issued Friday said a long-range ballistic missile target had been launched from an Army test range in the Marshall Islands, and that an interceptor had been launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California to destroy it.

“An intercept was not achieved,” the statement said. “Program officials will conduct an extensive review to determine the cause or causes of any anomalies which may have prevented a successful intercept.”

Some skeptics of the missile-defense program saw the failure as additional evidence that the technology was unreliable and might not be worth the expense.

You think?

As we discussed in April, missteps and technological failures have plagued missile-defense systems for as long as missile-defense systems have existed. Also note, Dana Liebelson had a good report in March on congressional efforts to rescue an ineffective missile-defense program the Pentagon doesn’t even want.

Even if we put fiscal considerations aside – we shouldn’t, but just for the sake of conversation – there’s also foreign policy considerations to keep in mind. If the United States has an effective missile-defense system, it would shape our diplomatic efforts accordingly with a country like, say, North Korea. If such a system were unreliable, that too would influence how officials deal with potential threats.

So why throw good money after bad? Politico noted in the spring that GOP efforts are “tied up as much with the conservative mantle of Ronald Reagan as it is with national security or the influence of the defense industry.”

Oh, good. I feel safer already. It’s always wise to base national security strategies in the face of evolving global threats on the dreams of deceased presidents, right?

Missile Defense

Why skepticism of missile defense persists

Updated