Yesterday, The New York Times ran an editorial titled “Fixing Missile Defense.” Given the editors’ clear track record of opposing missile defense, they must mean “fix” it in the sense of neutering it. Ostensibly, the editors are pointing to recent public complaints by the Director of the Missile Defense Agency about poor quality-control practices by several unidentified defense contractors. Predictably, the editorial calls for punishing the contractors.
What is important here, however, is that the criticism does not stop there. The editorial also warns against adopting a missile defense testing program that produces a long string of successes. This warning has merit if it is intended to prevent the missile defense program from failing to advance the technology. It does not have merit, however, if it is designed to result in some number of test failures only as a means for justifying the termination the program. All weapons development programs that seek to advance the level of technology will experience failures from time to time. In many cases, more can be learned from test failures than successes.
In the end, The New York Times editorialists are offering their criticisms of missile defense in bad faith. Simultaneously, they want the missile defense program to follow a testing regime that both increases the risk of an occasional failure and punishes the program for a failure by terminating it. Clearly, the criticism is offered with only the goal of termination in mind.