Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Not yet operational

Dick Cheney continues his tour of safe audiences -- military bases and loyal Bushies -- with a trip to the Heritage Foundation to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Ronald Reagan's announcement of the Strategic Defense ("Star Wars") Initiative. Which 25 years and billions of dollars later, still can't do anything like its original vision of intercepting unannounced ballistic missiles headed towards the USA. But the issue is not whether it felt short of that technological goal, but whether the goal is even relevant now, if it ever was. Dick has no doubts --

But in 2000, George W. Bush campaigned on a promise to build missile defenses, and in 2001, he made the wise decision to withdraw from the ABM Treaty. It was an act of great courage, and it opened the way for major advances in our ability to stand up a defense against missile attack. (Applause.)

The decision made even more sense in light of the attacks of September 11th. As President Bush said, 9/11 "made all too clear [that] the greatest threats to both our countries come not from each other, or other big powers in the world, but from terrorists who strike without warning, or rogue states who seek weapons of mass destruction."

In fact, 9/11 showed the irrelevance of missile defence. The missile was a hijacked plane. No rogue state, no WMDs, nothing. And the biggest threat to life in Iraq now is not Iranian missiles, but simple bombs made from stuff left lying around during the Bush occupation. The one advantage that Reagan and his hare-brained scheme has is that, by the standards of George Bush, it seems like a harmless folly.

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