Polish Missile Joke
by Jeff Huber
This Polish missile defense system walks into a bar one afternoon and orders six shots of vodka and a beer. The bartender says, "How can you afford to get drunk in the middle of a business day?" and the Polish missile defense system says, "I don't work."
And lo it has come to pass that as the End of Bush Days draws near, Dick Cheney and the neocons are taking their last shot at instigating Cold War II by deploying a ballistic missile defense system that doesn't work to defend against ballistic missiles that don't work either.
President-elect Barack Obama doesn't seem sure whether he approves or not.
Crossing the Punch Line
In May 2008, the breakaway republic of Georgia threatened to invade the breakaway republic of Abkhazia for reasons that nobody cares about anymore. Russia began to build a military base in Abkhazia and Georgia's Prime Minister Giorgi Baramidze said war between Georgia and Russia could break out "tonight, tomorrow, anytime."
In August, Georgia invaded the breakaway republic Ossetia and Russia invaded Georgia. Georgia's Deputy Defense Minister Batu Kutelia said he was surprised that war broke out between Georgia and Russia.
The Bush administration acted outraged and a thousand unnamed senior officials told the mainstream press how bad, bad, bad the Russians were being. Presidential candidate John McCain sent his wife Cindy to Georgia to give President Mikheil Saakashvili succor.
The fight was on, the fight was off; you couldn't tell if the Russians were coming or going.
We shoved a missile defense system down Poland's throat to get back at the Russians. When the Russians complained that the missile defense system is a threat to their security, we said its purpose is to defend Poland from a nuclear ballistic missile attack by Iran—the same Iran whose ballistic missiles are something other than reliable and who don't have a nuclear weapons program or any conceivable reason to fire any missiles at Poland, much less unreliable ones with spit wad payloads.
Russia retaliated by threatening to deploy the short range Iskander missile system to a Baltic enclave near Poland that will "neutralize" the ballistic missile defense system because the Iskander is only quasiballistic.
Remarkably, young Mr. Bush's pet gerbil seems to be the only player in this bumper car derby who has his head on straight. On November 14, France's President Nicolas Sarkozy said that the missile defense deployment to Poland will be a "move backward" in European stability. Maybe Sarkozy finally came to his senses, or maybe it finally dawned on him that come January he'll have to start living in a new seat of power and it was time to stop kissing the old one.
The new seat of power sent mixed signals regarding his position on the Polish missile defense system. Polish President Lech Kaczynski's office claimed Obama had pledged to honor Bush's commitment to deploy the system during a phone conversation with Kaczynski. Then the Russians said that made them really cross with Obama, and after that Obama's foreign policy adviser Denis McDonough said that Obama "supports deploying a missile defense system when the technology is proved to be workable."
Now, I think that was a clever way of saying that Obama will deploy a missile defense system to Poland when hell freezes over, but there's no telling what's really going on in this horse manure opera.
On Saturday November 15, Georgia's former president Eduard Shevardnadze announced on EuroNews Television that there were no Russian troops in South Ossetia when Georgia invaded, which is a complete reversal of the story the Bush administration has been pushing, and if true, it means that the Georgians were the bad guys in this scenario and not the Russians.
That's an embarrassing revelation: kind of like if we were to find out that Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11 and didn’t have any weapons of mass destruction either.
Faith Based Missile Defense
Philip Coyle, who used to oversee weapons testing at the Pentagon and is now a specialist with the Center for Defense Information, told a congressional panel earlier this year that missile defense "has become a theology in the United States, not a technology." Like so many other great issues of our day, missile defense is seldom discussed beyond the zinger level. I'm not a rocket scientist, but I do have an advanced degree in warmongering so I'll do my best to explain why our missile defense program is such a fraud.
Nobody should have gotten excited when the Chinese shot down one of their satellites in early 2007, just as no one should think that we proved we could shoot down ballistic missiles when we ("to a high degree of confidence") bagged one of our own satellites. The rocket science behind shooting down an orbiting satellite isn't terribly different from what it takes to make an unmanned vehicle land on Mars. If you have the wherewithal to put something in orbit, you have the wherewithal to shoot it down.
Shooting down a ballistic missile as it comes back to earth is a whole different problem. Where an orbital arc is relatively gentle, a ballistic arc involves boatloads of gravitational force on the reentry vehicle, and however many boatloads of Gs the target is pulling, the arrow has to pull boatloads times seven Gs to intercept it. That's largely the reason those Patriot Missile batteries seemed to work so well during Gulf War I when they really didn't work at all; gravitational force and the accompanying atmospheric heat and friction tore Saddam Hussein's ballistic warheads apart before the Patriots had a chance to miss them or after they already had.
The patriots who designed our present anti-missile missiles managed to make the intercept problem even harder. The last time I saw a double secret unclassified (aka "for official use only") briefing on them (aka the same information you can get from Wikipedia), the anti-missile missiles are supposed to destroy the ballistic missiles not with an explosive warhead, but with kinetic energy created from a skin-on-skin hit. This feature is the most effective way to ensure that a system of this kind a) costs as much as it possibly can and b) doesn't work.
Further complicating the problem is that ballistic missiles also use decoy countermeasures. Critics of our missile defense system say it can't handle the decoys. Lieutenant General Henry Obering, director of the Missile Defense Agency, begs to differ. "There's a misconception that we cannot handle countermeasures," he says. "We cannot handle very complex countermeasures. I won't go into what that means, but there are things that an enemy can do to really try to confuse the system."
I'll go into exactly what that means. It's bull jargon for "we can handle test decoys but not the real ones."
On the other side of the firing line: ballistic missiles are deterrence weapons. So if Iran ever did have a nuclear weapon and an operating ballistic missile to put it in, and actually launched it at Poland and it actually flew there and actually blew up, it still wouldn’t have worked because Poland would already have done whatever the ballistic missile was supposed to stop it from doing.
On young Mr. Bush's watch alone, we'll have tinkled away $63 billion on missile defense. That kind of money could have bought 30 B-2 stealth bombers, or eight Gerald R. Ford class nuclear aircraft carriers, or six more months of our woebegone war in Iraq, or an end to world hunger.
Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes at Pen and Sword . Jeff's novel Bathtub Admirals (Kunati Books), a lampoon on America's rise to global dominance, is on sale now. Also catch Scott Horton's interview with Jeff at Antiwar Radio.