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Protecting America in the New Missile Age


James Carafano: START Limits Comprehensive Missile Defense

December 15th, 2010

In a web memo published last month at Heritage, James Carafano responded to Vice President Joe Biden’s Wall Street Journal article in which he asserts that our current missile defense plans are more than adequate. Our missile defense should be comprehensive, and Carafano said START would limit our ability to do that. An excerpt:

From Defending the West to Modest Protection for Europe

“Upon entering office, President Obama slashed the number of land-based interceptors planned to protect the U.S. homeland from North Korean and Iranian ballistic missiles by 44 percent. The cuts included scrapping the ‘third site’ ballistic missile defense plan to defend the United States and U.S. allies against the threat of long- and medium-range ballistic missiles from Iran. These installations were to be completed by 2013. In its stead the White House elected to focus on more limited regional missile defense.

“In conjunction with a plan approved by NATO at the recent Lisbon summit, Obama has sketched out what the Administration hopes will lead to the development of the Active Layered Theater Ballistic Missile Defense system, the Medium Extended Air Defense System (a U.S., German, and Italian joint program), and the U.S. Phased Adaptive Approach for missile defense in Europe.

“Obama dubbed his ‘new’ plan for Europe the Phased Adaptive Approach. The four-phase program is intended to be the cornerstone of NATO’s ballistic missile defense initiative. Under Phase I (which the White House hopes to begin in 2011), U.S. Aegis ships with SM-3 interceptors will deploy to the Mediterranean with sea- and forward-based sensors stationed in southern Europe. In Phases II (2015), III (2018), and IV (2020) more interceptors will be deployed, both on Aegis ships and ground platforms.

“In his effort to cheerlead for New START, Vice President Biden neglected to mention the limitations of this approach. Even if the Obama plan is implemented on schedule and at cost (questionable assumptions), parts of Europe will remain vulnerable to long-range Iranian threats until 2020. The program also makes no specific, sustained investment to exploit the full range of sea-based and SM-3 technology. Furthermore, land-based SM-3 is a dramatically different capability from the current sea-based SM-3. It has yet to be flown. The Missile Defense Agency is already two years behind the deployment plans.”

Read the full web memo at Heritage.

At The Foundry, Owen Graham presents an alternative to START.

“The administration acts as if the choice is between New START or nothing,” Graham writes. “This assumption is fallacious. Some of the treaty’s supporters maintain that criticism of New START stems from partisanship alone and that critics are simply opposed to arms control. Such assumptions are also wrong. The problems with New START are substantive.”

An alternative path to START begins from a position of strength. For example, a START alternative would not be tied to nuclear disarmament. Our response to a rogue state developing a nuclear weapon shouldn’t be nuclear disarmament, considering the treaty “imposes no constraints on these countries.” Read Graham’s full post at The Foundry.

Russia Denies Missiles Near NATO Allies

November 30th, 2010

This morning we blogged about suspicions that Russia broke a 1991 pledge and moved short-range tactical nuclear warheads to areas near NATO allies (see the Wall Street Journal). As expected, the former Soviet Union has denied the charges.

Mikhail Margelov (pictured), head of the upper house of parliament’s foreign affairs committee, told Bloomberg that his country has “relations of trust now with our American partners and don’t take any steps without informing our partners and consulting with them.” Russia’s Defense Ministry neither confirmed nor denied the report.

A defense analyst in Russia implied that the report was just a scheme to stop START ratification in the Senate (as if START’s many problems played no role!).

The Heritage Foundation’s James Carafano weighed in on the tactical nuclear warheads report:

“More and more it looks like the Russians have played Obama like the Soviets played Jimmy Carter. Yet, it seems the President still does not get it. His top priority is still—ratification of New START. Meanwhile, the White House continues to live in La-La Land. Ben Rhodes, a White House deputy national security adviser, said Obama remains strong internationally.”

James Carafano in NRO on North Korea

November 24th, 2010

The Heritage Foundation’s James Carafano is on a roll. An excerpt of his post at National Review’s The Corner blog:

“No place is less aptly named than the Land of the Morning Calm. Artillery duels are not tranquil. Neither is news that North Korea has a new covert nuclear facility.

“Blame the president for all the tumult, at least partly. The Obama doctrine — a.k.a. the ‘anything but Bush’ approach — relied on international institutions and ‘soft power’ diplomacy to solve our most fundamental foreign-policy challenges.

“It was a lovely doctrine. But then Obama discovered a harsh truth: Reality bites. Faced with real-world foreign-policy messes — from GITMO to deadlines in Afghanistan — the president found himself backtracking into a ‘Bush-lite’ foreign policy.

“Now Pyongyang emerges as the final nail in the coffin of the Obama doctrine.

“When North Korea stepped on the outstretched hands of friendship and negotiation, the White House found it had to reverse course and get tough. It had no choice. The North Koreans regard accommodation as weakness, not negotiation.

“Admittedly, in practice Obama’s policy toward North Korea has been better than Bush’s, maybe a lot better. So Pyongyang is pushing back: raising a ruckus in hopes that Washington will back down and buy them off — again.

“What makes them think they can still push America around? The message the White House is still sending to the rest of the world. While the Obama doctrine has fallen by the wayside in practice, its rhetoric remains alive and well.

“That equivocal face offers Pyongyang and other restive regimes hope that America will be the pushover the Obama doctrine suggests. It’s hard for North Korea to take the commander-in-chief seriously when he chooses to slash 44 percent of the missile-defense interceptors meant to protect the U.S. homeland from Pyongyang’s missiles. A policy of minimalist missile defense looks pretty ridiculous to a hostile nation that announces, out of the blue, that it has built another massive nuclear facility while we were beating our shields into plowshares. Who know what else Pyongyang is hiding — or when it will tell us?”

James Carafano in Family Security Matters

November 23rd, 2010

An excerpt of James Carafano’s column about START ratification at Family Security Matters:

“When the President declared that he was going to go after his ‘enemies’—meaning members of Congress who did not agree with him—he must have really meant it. The hottest news item of the week, last week, was the Administration’s all out assault on Senators who have dared to question the President’s negotiating skills.
“Sen. Jon Kyl (R–AZ) released a press statement finding that there was more work to be done on the New START nuclear deal with Russia and that rushing consideration in lame duck was ill-advised. That triggered a tsunami-assault of arm-twisting, grand-standing, threatening, and bullying we have not seen from the White House since Obamacare.

“On the one hand, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John F. Kerry (D–MA) claimed there was something akin to universal bipartisan support for the treaty even as the White House attacked Republicans for trying to deny the President a foreign policy ‘victory’ for partisan purposes.

“One hysterical claim argued that if New START is not approved terrorists will be able to get Russian nuclear weapons. Of course, such an assertion neglects to note that the 10,000 tactical nuclear weapons terrorists might want are not covered by New START.

“Another White House claim declared this is what Ronald Reagan would want, even though Reagan would never sign a treaty that compromised missile defense. And still another argument put forth was that the interests of Israel would suffer—a surprise comment from an Administration that gives short shrift to that embattled nation.

“One assistant secretary exclaimed no one of ‘pedigree’ opposes the treaty—apparently missing the op-ed last week by a former CIA director who was also an arms control negotiator. He raised concerns and I am sure will be disappointed to discover that he has no pedigree. Sen. Kyl will be disappointed to find he has no pedigree either.”

U.S. Vulnerable to EMP Attacks

November 18th, 2010


The United States is vulnerable to Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) attacks. Unfortunately, most Americans are unaware or ignore the threat. “Nuclear device detonated high in the atmosphere above the American mainland can easily disable the country’s electrical grid,” write James Carafano and Richard Weitz in their most recent Backgrounder.

An EMP occurs when a nuclear device is detonated high in the atmosphere. The electromagnetic discharge can permanently disable the electrical systems that run nearly all civilian and military infrastructures. At altitudes between 40 to 400 kilometers, these gamma rays produce high-energy free electrons that give rise to an oscillating electric current that destroys electronic equipment. In addition, an EMP can occur during massive solar eruptions which have the potential to send a blast of radiation toward Earth and impact functioning of electronic devices. We need to devote a lot more effort to building up resistance to solar tsunamis as well as manmade threats.

In recent years, the United States has seen the rapid growth in its dependence on electronics, telecommunications, and information technology. These technological innovations have brought great benefits, but also make the United States—and its component states and localities—vulnerable to an EMP attack. Many Americans have experienced the burdens of a short blackout (e.g. in the August 2003 Northeast blackout that affected Ohio, New York, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and parts of Canada). Because of the riots that followed the disruption, it became apparent that the United States could not survive as a unified civil nation with the long-term loss of the electrical grid.

Fortunately, there are steps that can be taken to defend the United States and Canada against EMP attacks. Ensuring a resilient U.S.–Canadian power grid is one of them. You can protect the main electric transformers for $200 million. In addition, it is within the power of private companies and individuals to “harden” the vital infrastructure. Better yet, it is less expensive to manufacture devices that are already “hardened” rather than add EMP protection later. Other essential components of mitigating the threat include an early warning system, system-situational awareness, ballistic missile defenses, and robust command and control to ensure cooperation and effective coordination between government agencies and private companies during a crisis.

In 2004, the Commission to Assess the Threat of the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) reported that “EMP is one of a small number of threats that can hold our society at risk of catastrophic consequences.” Yet, Congress has done next to nothing to protect the U.S. from an EMP attack.

James Carafano: Do Polled Americans Understand START?

November 17th, 2010

The Heritage Foundation’s James Carafano comments on a national poll featured on CNN. The poll showed that three out of four Americans want Congress to ratify START.

Carafano asks whether the people polled really understand the treaty, and suggests five questions CNN didn’t ask but should have asked:

“Question #1. Would you support a treaty that requires the US to cut more weapons and launchers than the Russians; allows them to actually build more launchers, allows Russia to modernize when Obama has already said he will not build modern nuclear weapons, and leaves Russia with many times more nuclear ones than the US? (hint: Russia has an estimated 10 to 1 advantage in tactical nuclear weapons that is not covered by the treaty)

“Question #2. Would you support a treaty that requires the US to share sensitive missile defense information with Russia, information that might be passed to Iran to help them plan how to defeat US missile defenses? (hint the treaty could require sharing telemetry test data with Russia)

“Question #3 Do you think an independent commission not accountable to the US government should be able to dictate limits to missile defense? (hint that is in the treaty too)

“Question #4 Would you vote for a treaty with 12 major flaws in it? (hint-want to guess how many major flaws there are in New START?)

“Question #5 Would you want a treaty that, despite the White House claims to the opposite, could actually result in more nuclear states and an increased likelihood of nuclear war?

“If CNN had included these questions, Americans who are interested in protecting and defending America and understand the importance of Missile Defense might well have voted very differently.”

James Carafano on Funding Defense

October 19th, 2010

In his latest column, the Heritage Foundation‘s James Carafano wrote about the importance of funding defense. An excerpt:

“Playing politics with national security is reprehensible. But it’s nothing new.

“In 1794, Congress passed a law authorizing construction of ships that would form the backbone of the first United States Navy. The politics started almost immediately.

“Saving ‘a few thousand dollars in expenses will be no object compared with the satisfaction a just distribution would afford,’ proclaimed Secretary of War Henry Knox as he ordered the six frigates be built in six different shipyards in six different ports. ‘It was an early example of pork barrel politics, before the term had even been coined,’ writes Ian Toll in ‘Six Frigates: The Epic History of the Founding of the U.S. Navy.’

“The congressional funding came in fits and spurts. The last of the ships did not take to the sea until six years after the project was first approved.

“Unfortunately, America’s enemies did not stand idle while Washington dithered over whether it would actually fulfill its constitutional obligation to ‘provide for the common defense.’ By 1795, pirates from the Barbary States were savaging America’s merchant fleet to the point that they demanded a million dollars in “protection” money. That amount — nearly a sixth of the entire federal budget — far exceeded then the cost allotted to build the frigates.

“The moral: Spending too little on defense solves nothing. It doesn’t make spending more efficient.

“America’s first frigates wound up costing double the original estimate — mostly because of presidential politics, congressional squabbling, and woolly headed government bureaucrats.

“Not much has changed. Obama’s Pentagon claims it is generating $101 billion in efficiencies that will free-up money to buy new equipment. The ‘savings,’ however, are not efficiencies, the Defense Department is just cutting capabilities and capacity.

“Recently, three heavyweights in the conservative movement — Arthur Brooks of the American Enterprise Institute, Bill Kristol of the Foreign Policy Initiative, and Ed Feulner of the Heritage Foundation — voiced their collective objection to growing demands from administration officials and some in the Congress to reduce the top line of defense spending.”

James Carafano on Missile Defense Cuts

October 12th, 2010

An excerpt of James Carafano’s column in the Washington Examiner:

“Reagan’s commitment to missile defense was rooted in his conviction that Americans could and ought to be protected from the threat of ballistic nuclear missiles. Deterrence was not defense.

“If an enemy intentionally, in haste, or even accidentally fired a missile, millions of Americas would die; all the U.S. could do was take revenge. He also rejected the notion inherent in the doctrine of ‘mutual assured destruction’ that the U.S. should seek to guard itself by threatening to annihilate millions of people in another nation — people who might well have had no say in an attack launched by their leaders.

“Reliance solely on massive nuclear retaliation was morally wrong, Reagan concluded. It was disproportional. Washington had other options. Like shooting down the missiles.

“SDI represented the greatest revolution in strategic thinking since the invention of nuclear missiles — a shift from mutual assured destruction to a ‘protect and defend’ strategy where the U.S. would have both nuclear weapons to hold enemy military targets at risk and missile defenses to protect the nation from attack.

“Arguably every president since Reagan saw the wisdom of this approach — lessening super power dependence on large city-killing nuclear arsenals and limiting the danger of ballistic missiles. Both Presidents Bush and Clinton supported missile-defense research. As the technology matured, George W. Bush then withdrew from the 1970s era Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty that inhibited the fielding of comprehensive missile defense.

“The partisan-bickering was over. Washington was behind the ‘protect and defend’ strategy — until now. More and more the Obama presidency is looking like ‘That 70s Show.'”

James Carafano on DeMint’s START Opposition

September 28th, 2010

The Heritage Foundation‘s James Carafano wrote about Senator Jim DeMint’s opposition to START. An excerpt from the San Francisco Examiner:

“DeMint doesn’t mind playing the maverick when national security is on the line…He did it again earlier this month, when Foreign Relations Committee was set to pass the New START nuclear agreement with Russia on to the full Senate. Until then, most critics of the treaty contented themselves by simply saying it needed to be studied closely. The didn’t want to draw the fire of the ‘no-nukes’ crowd.

“Not DeMint. ‘The nuclear-weapons treaty President Obama has negotiated with the Russians may help him make America’s erstwhile Cold War adversary happy,’ he declared, ‘but it won’t help protect us from the rogue nations that threaten the United States today.’  He proceeded to offer some hard-hitting amendments to try fix the treaty’s flaws.

“The amendments failed, and the committee sent New START to the full Senate.  But DeMint clearly intends to press his point.

“That Friday he spoke at the Value Voters Summit, a mammoth conservative convention mounted in Washington, D.C., by the Family Research Council Action. The summit focuses on social and fiscal issues, and DeMint’s did hit on those issues.

“But he also made a point of questioning the New START and plugging missile defense–something many analysts (including me!) fear might have to be curtailed because of language in the treaty.”

James Carafano: Rubber Stamp for START?

September 15th, 2010

The Heritage Foundation‘s James Carafano published a piece at the National Journal on the new START treaty. An excerpt:

“Proponents of the President’s arms control treaty are addicted to arguing that any concerns about New Start are motivated by politics and nothing more. They brush aside any notion that there might be any defects in the treaty. This attitude is reflected in Senator Kerry’s (D–MA) attempt to fast-track the treaty for approval with Potemkin Village hearings packed with treaty-friendly witnesses—hearings that have poisoned consideration of New Start from the beginning.

“In fact, fault for the ground swell of opposition to the treaty largely rests with the Administration and Senator Kerry. From the outset the Administration refused to release the treaty negotiating record, even though there is plenty of precedent for granting the Senate access to that material. A review of the record would have ended once and for all the dispute between U.S. and Russian officials over the meaning of the preamble discussion on missile defense.”

Why did Senator Kerry choose the partisan route to ratification? As Carafano notes, a bi-partisan approach would have address and likely allayed most senators’ concerns.

Below Carafano’s post, you’ll find START posts by other missile defense experts. Also see Owen Graham’s post on START at The Foundry blog.