Jump to content

The Taepodong Democrats


Recommended Posts

July 21, 2006

The Taepodong Democrats

Wall Street Journal Editorial

When President Bush announced the U.S. withdrawal from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty five years ago, Democrats howled. Pulling out of the treaty to roll out missile defense would, they predicted, lead to a new arms race, undermine American security and in any case was unnecessary. "This premise, that one day Kim Jong Il or someone will wake up one morning and say 'Aha, San Francisco!' is specious," Senator Joe Biden told AP in May 2001.

Apparently no one bothered to translate "specious" into Korean. North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il has now defied world opinion by test-firing a Taepodong-2 missile capable of hitting San Francisco. The fact that the missile failed is small consolation, since we are also now seeing in Lebanon a further proliferation of missiles from Syria and Iran that can reach deep into Israel. Does anyone doubt that Iran, or some other adversary, will build an ICBM capable of hitting the U.S. as soon as it is able?

All of which makes the U.S. political debate over missile defenses worth revisiting, not least because some Democrats are still trying to strangle the program. In the House, John Tierney of Massachusetts this year proposed cutting the Pentagon's missile-defense budget by more than half. His amendment was defeated on the House floor, but it won the support of more than half of his Democratic colleagues, including would-be Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Meanwhile in the Senate, Carl Levin (D., Mich.) offered in June to cut off funds for the ground-based interceptor program that Mr. Bush recently activated in Alaska in anticipation of the North Korean launch. Mr. Levin wants to stop new interceptors from being built, but Senate Republicans wouldn't bring his proposal up for a vote. Mr. Levin has been waging his own private war against missile defenses for a generation, to the point of outflanking Russian objections on the political left.

No missile defense is perfect, but even our current rudimentary shield has proven to be strategically useful these past few weeks. The Navy had at least one ship-based Aegis missile-defense system deployed off the Korean coast, with a potential to shoot down a North Korean missile. The Aegis cruisers have successfully shot down missiles in seven of eight tests in recent years, and could become an important player in protecting allies and U.S. forces against regional missile threats. The U.S. is also dispatching PAC-3s, a more sophisticated version of the Patriot anti-missile system, to Japan. This kind of capability adds to the credibility of the U.S. deterrent, reassures allies and enhances American influence.

Virtually none of this would exist had Democrats succeeded over the years in their many attempts to kill missile defenses. Going back to 1983, Senator Ted Kennedy dismissed Ronald Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative as a fanciful "Star Wars" program. Ten years later, with President Clinton in office, Democrats starved the program of funds. Republicans made funding defenses part of their Contract with America and spent most of the 1990s battling the Clinton Administration to keep the program alive.

Democrats also made a fetish out of the ABM Treaty, even after the end of the Cold War. Al Gore campaigned to keep it in 2000, promising only to build defenses that would abide by its tight limitations. Senator Biden predicted that dropping out of the treaty to build missile defenses would turn the U.S. into "a kind of bully nation." And Senator John Kerry cautioned that "we must not set aside the logic of deterrence that has kept us safe for 40 years." Neither logic nor deterrence are the first words that come to mind when we think of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

When Mr. Bush informed Vladimir Putin that the U.S. intended to exercise its legal right to withdraw from the ABM pact, the world didn't end. The Russians moved on to bigger issues, and much of the rest of the world decided that they'd like to join the missile-defense club. Six nations now participate with the United States in developing new missile-defense technology and nearly a dozen others use some of what's already been developed.

The Pentagon now spends nearly $10 billion a year on missile defense and is developing several promising new technologies. These include sea-based defenses and low-orbit satellites that help track incoming missiles, as well as the Thaad program designed to knock out long-range missiles as they are heading to Earth. Thaad had a successful test over New Mexico last week.

By investing in this capability, the U.S. may even deter the world's rogues from investing heavily in missile technology. Defense dollars are limited, even in terror regimes, and they won't invest their money in weapons that won't work. With the expanding North Korean and Iran missile threats, it'd be nice to think Democrats would acknowledge their mistakes. But we'd gladly forgo any apologies if liberal Democrats would finally admit that missile defenses are a necessary part of America's antiterror state arsenal.


Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Members Online

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
  • Create New...