Science Fiction Is Still Fiction
Dan Froomkin explains:
President Bush's obsession with missile defense was a distraction pre-9/11, is arguably an anachronism post-9/11, and has meant billions of dollars spent on unproven technology.
But no matter. Because Bush is on a roll. Yesterday, for reasons that aren't entirely clear, all 26 members of NATO endorsed his plan to build a controversial missile defense system in Eastern Europe.
And signs are that Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has denounced the proposal as unnecessary and provocative, may even go along with some version of Bush's plan when the two leaders meet on Sunday -- although it may only be a Potemkin agreement, aimed at buying time until the next U.S. administration.
Indeed. Putin has previously warned that missile defense could spark a new arms race. And Russia is already building a new submarine-launched ballistic missile. But it also could be that he understands that such a hideous waste of money actually weakens the U.S. As Froomkin points out:
According to former White House counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke, the intense focus on missile defense was a major reason that administration officials, and particularly then-national security adviser Condoleeza Rice, waved off his increasingly urgent warnings of an al- Qaeda attack in the weeks and months before 9/11. On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, Rice was supposedly scheduled to deliver a major speech designating missile defense as the cornerstone of Bush's new national security strategy.
In the post-9/11 world, of course, the primary threat of mass destruction comes not from a nuclear-armed rogue state, but from terrorists smuggling a weapon onto a cargo ship or across a border.
In many ways, missile defense typifies the Bush Administration: ideology over pragmatics, with the good of the nation suffering; and more and more of the federal budget going to defense contractors, with the good of the nation suffering. And never mind that the idea of shooting missiles out of the sky is patently absurd. The technology is barely capable of shooting a pre-planned, single missile with a homing device out of the sky. Imagine how well it would work against lots of missiles with no homecoming devices.
Several months ago, Jack Hitt wrote an extensive expose, in Rolling Stone. The introduction best sums it up:
Star Wars began as a Reagan-era fantasy. Under Bush, it is now the most expensive weapons system in the history of man. It has never been successfully tested. It will never be finished. And it is completely unnecessary.
But like everything else Bush does, it's not about national security. It's only business.