Not long after assuming office he shelved the Bush administration's plans to boost the number of ground-based midcourse defense interceptors at Fort Greeley, Alaska, from 26 to 40, apparently concluding the North Korean threats were exaggerated. Only now, after the hooliganism by that country's young leader, has the Obama administration been jolted awake to confront the reality that Mr. Bush was right (again).
Mr. Obama canceled plans for interceptor systems in Poland and the Czech Republic that could have shot down U.S.-bound intercontinental ballistic missiles, or ICBMs. In their place, the administration offered an unproven and not even fully developed technology called SM-3 IIB. Then, last month, the administration abandoned even this idea.
"When the Obama administration canceled the Bush plan they did so claiming that there were two things that I believe were inaccurate at the time," Rep. Mike Turner, Ohio Republican, tells The Washington Times. "One, that the threat was slow to emerge, that we had the luxury of time to respond to the emerging threat. And secondly, that the non-existent SM-3 IIB would be superior technology and would provide greater protection of the United States. Well, the reports have clearly shown that there are technical problems with that non-existent missile interceptor, and we still have ground-based missile technology that works and would secure the United States."
That technology should be part of a "shoot, look, shoot" strategy consisting of forward-based interceptors in Poland taking the first shot. If they miss, secondary interceptors in the United States could take a second shot. In addition to the existing missile- defense sites in Alaska and California, Mr. Turner urges construction of new interceptor sites in the northeastern United States.
That strategy is backed by a key finding published last fall by the National Research Council, an arm of the National Academy of Sciences. It recommends continuing with the "evolved" interceptor program installation in upstate New York or Maine. The report committee is wary of a site in Poland that would "exacerbate political tensions" with Russia. The system wouldnt be capable of blocking a full-scale missile barrage of the type Russia could deliver, but would be ideal for the sort of small-scale attacks the would come from rogue states like North Korea. Mr. Obama should be less flexible on this point with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
It takes years to prepare and test a missile-defense installation, so we can't wait until North Korea or Iran have full capability to position missiles to reach the United States. Given recent provocations, the need for a reliable missile-defense strategy has never been more important. It means deploying more Aegis-equipped ships to the affected regions while working with allies such as Japan and South Korea to install additional ground- based interceptors.
Protecting America and its allies from nuclear-missile attack takes leadership, something this White House has been willing to trade away. If Mr. Obama is awake at last, he must stay awake.
A service of YellowBrix, Inc.