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  • Space, Nuclear Weapons, and Ballistic Missile Defense--The New Triad

    In April, the Independent Working Group (IWG) on Missile Defense and the Space Relationship held an event on the new triad—space, nuclear weapons, and ballistic missile defense—and its importance for the United States. It explored the fundamental importance and the relationship among the different elements of defense. The United States currently does not have a strategy that would integrate these elements in a synergistic manner.

    Robert Butterworth, president of Aries Analytics, pointed out that the intelligence community developed the military space systems the United States operates today. That community, however, has fundamentally different interests than the military. The United States needs to better articulate and determine what U.S. future military capabilities will be and what space systems would best address their requirements. U.S. nuclear policy suffers from a similar lack of coherent vision, which makes the recent push for yet another round of nuclear reductions questionable. The current guidance is full of contradictions: The U.S. has a plan for new delivery vehicles, but it must use old nuclear warheads and cannot test them.

    Keith Payne, president of the National Institute for Public Policy and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Forces Policy, noted that according to the Nuclear Posture Review, President Obama’s top goal is nonproliferation. The Administration assumes that missile defenses work against this goal by discouraging future reductions (note Russia’s recent threats of a preemptive strike if the U.S. deploys its missile defenses to Europe). This leads to an irreconcilable tension between a drive to “nuclear zero”—a world without nuclear weapons—and missile defense, plus the need to sustain nuclear forces. In addition, with fewer nuclear weapons, the Administration would be required to move toward counter-value targets (training missiles at an adversary’s populations). This approach, rejected for more than five decades, has been considered immoral and illegal. Resilience and adaptability, necessary to adapt to future threats and assure allies, are lost when the U.S. has a lower nuclear capability.

    Ambassador Henry Cooper, former director of the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization, emphasized that the United States will not move to the most effective and cost-efficient interceptors in space without strong presidential leadership. Such leadership is lacking in the Obama Administration. While the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty is gone, limits on the missile defense program remain. For example, so far the successive Administrations since the withdrawal from the treaty have not taken steps to make Aegis capable of countering short-range as well as intermediate-range ballistic missiles. In addition, the Aegis program can be accelerated to give it the ability to counter long-range missiles, including intercontinental ballistic missiles.

    Rob Soofer, the Strategic Forces Policy Advisor for Senator Jon Kyl (R–AZ), provided a congressional perspective by mentioning three issues that are a priority for the GOP leadership. First, the Administration’s commitment to the nuclear weapons complex is fading, as the President’s defense budget request this year is below what the Administration agreed to provide in concurrence with the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START). A loss of scientists without nuclear weapons design experience is equally concerning. Second, reductions below the New START level will not be possible unless the Administration provides funding for nuclear modernization. Third, while the Administration emphasized regional missile defense, Republicans in Congress would like to see more resources invested in homeland defense.

    Posted in Featured [slideshow_deploy]

    5 Responses to Space, Nuclear Weapons, and Ballistic Missile Defense--The New Triad

    1. Rock Cramer says:

      Today, the U.S. only needs a strike force the size and caliber necessary for an Iraq invasion if we accept the premise that it’s somehow wrong to be the ONLY superpower. It doesn’t matter how big the PRC or Russian militaries might be (they’ve always had internal reasons for size). All that’s necessary is that they know they can be squashed. We could (and must) develop and deploy the technology advantages necessary to sustain this belief. It’s a matter of will and understanding opportunity cost. Prioritizing and reordering the deck chairs (force structure) to focus on modern technology advantages are threatening to the defense bureaucracies, just as were the lively battleship vs. carrier debates in the 1930’s. We could control space and keep foreign weapons out of it. We could take out any launch of any quantity in boost phase. We could stop any land or sea invasion attempt at staging. It’s just a matter of will. What’s left out of this discussion, if it occurs at all, is that large land operations and their massive logistical support become superfluous—IF WE CONTROL the sea, air and space—which we are fully capable of or could be soon enough.

    2. Rock Cramer says:

      As to terrorists, rogue countries or nasty dictators that have their military or special police forces attack civilians: we need another strategy that’s similar to MAD uncertainty philosophy, just on a smaller scale. With missiles, unmanned drones, special ops, etc. a president should be able to take out any number of levels of administrative structure and/or force command and control in any regime he chooses. It’s just a matter of will and a clear understanding that it really is necessary to execute some cowboy act of retribution often enough to keep foreign bad guys mindful that “plausible deniability” makes no difference. If you are on the watch list, you may become toast or get spanked hard at a president’s discretion. They will police themselves if uncertain about how they might irritate THE SUPERPOWER. None of this is rocket science. Deployment based on technology advantages and cultivating an aura of uncertainty in the opposition are strategies at least as old as Machiavelli (Sun Tzu?). This is THE civilian “debate” that we should be having.

    3. O_Henry says:

      “Third, while the Administration emphasized regional missile defense..”

      Has Mr. Obama spoken of this to Poland..?

    4. Steve says:

      What about the crowd who's perfectly content with their own self destruction (suicide bomber mentality)? Micro-MAD approaches to these organizations doesn't make sense to me, since they are not deterred by the thought of death. In fact, they are often motivated to be killed in the line of duty vice old-age.

    5. Rock Cramer says:

      Agreed, but suicide bombers are nearly all grunts. Micro-MAD is about the higher levels in the chain of command right up to the military and administrative leadership of country sponsors. With few exceptions, these folks prefer to live to be terrorist emeritus. In other words, this is how the leadership in Iran, Syria, Sudan, etc. could be enlisted as perhaps motivated participants in the war against terror. Implicit in Micro-MAD is that we announce the rules and possible consequences when they are broken. This understanding must be widely dispersed in native languages crafted to fit cultural biases, etc. It’s all about respect for rules and fear of virtuous power. Human nature is what it is.

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