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Obama's Secret Plan to Save Money on Missile Defense

I'm glad to see the Obama administration abandoning the really dumb and provocative long-range missile defense system based in Poland and the Czech Republic and replacing it with a short-range missile defense system that's sea-based with sites in (probably) Romania, Israel and Turkey. I might like to see them abandon the idea altogether, but them's the breaks. This way, you do less to anger Russia and you save a bit of money. You just can't say you're saving any money.

Look at the Pentagon's fact sheet, courtesy of Spencer Ackerman. "Cost-effective" is the preferred euphemism for "will save a boatload of money." In his remarks today, Obama stuck to the message: He used the term "cost-effective" three times.

Usually, of course, you don't need to dance around the fact that your policy change will save taxpayers giant sacks of cash. But you do on national security. Saving money there, after all, is pretty much like sending Osama bin Laden a great big check. This view is particularly strongly held by conservatives who are normally quite quick to point out the bloat and waste and inefficiency inherent in government spending projects, but stand proudly behind a hyper-funded and largely unaccountable military-spending sector. It reminds me of Chris Hayes's comment that the most fiscally pernicious words in the English language are "non-defense discretionary spending."

By Ezra Klein  |  September 17, 2009; 11:47 AM ET
Categories:  Budget  
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Comments

Removing missile defense sites from Poland and the Czech Republic only to relocate them to Israel and Turkey would be misguided in the face of current conflicts in middle east. Certainly Israel is only an ally in so much as they are the enemy of an enemy (Iran) - Remember the USS Liberty! Then of course there's the love-hate relationship with Turkey who wouldn't even allow the US, a NATO ally, to position coalition troops in Turkey for the Iraq invasion. No, this move is a mistake, made worse if we reposition in Israel and Turkey.

Posted by: SUMB44 | September 17, 2009 12:23 PM | Report abuse

There is an untested premise there. Is there really polling showing that Democrats and Independents equate cuts in defense spending to surrendering national security? Was there some huge national outcry when Bush I and Clinton extolled the 'Peace Dividend'? I don't recall anything of the sort, in fact we had come off a near decade where the news was full of stories about $600 toilet seats for airplanes, people were happy to see some waste eliminated from the system.

People accepted the fact that we no longer needed certain hugely expensive military items that themselves were acquired in fiscally irresponsible contracts.

Of course the military-industrial complex howled, a howl taken up by the neo-cons, and amplified by whatever media they controlled. But then they always have, which is why Eisenhower introduced the phrase to begin with.

Not for the first time you seem to have fallen into the time trap that comes with growing up with Family Ties as apposed to All in the Family, you seem to have normalized mental hippie bashing.

I don't think most people over 40 have simply adopted the kind of Faux/Fox-Patriotism that equates rallying around the troops to rallying around military contractors. (Unless of course there jobs depend on it. Around here there is no such thing as a wasteful Boeing contract.)

I mean do you remember the national outrage that came when Rumsfeld cancelled the Crusader Artillery System? While America was on the brink of entering another war? Well me neither.

"non-defense discretionary spending" has the weight it does because it serves the purpose of Congress and the rest of the military-industrial complex. That doesn't mean it has the same emotional impact as things like the Flag, Mom, and Apple Pie. Most people are fully aware of the cynical implications of "Good enough for Government Work" even or perhaps particularly when it comes to super expensive military projects.

For a more recent example it is just over two-months since the F-22 cancellation. Which created a big stir for a couple of news cycles but probably would get you a big fat 'huh?' if you brought it up today.

Obama was smart in minimizing his exposure on this issue, why give a sound-bite to Fox, but I don't think it was motivated by the kind of fear your piece suggests. Congress has done an excellent job of selling defense cuts as equalling killing jobs but not so much as risking national security as such.

Posted by: BruceWebb | September 17, 2009 1:02 PM | Report abuse

Not installing in Poland and Czech Rep is a major good thing.

Turkey and Israel are pretty bad choices (as comment above notes) for the new approach.

Funny thing: East of Italy we don't have ONE national security partner that meets reasonable criteria as a place for US land-based deterrents against nuclear weapons holders with missle delivery capability.

Surely we could figure out a way for our ABM missles to be submarine based, right?

Or maybe the 'threat' really isn't as real as Saddam's WMDs were?

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | September 17, 2009 1:02 PM | Report abuse

"I'm glad to see the Obama administration abandoning the really dumb and provocative long-range missile defense system based in Poland and the Czech Republic and replacing it with a short-range missile defense system that's sea-based with sites in (probably) Romania, Israel and Turkey. I might like to see them abandon the idea altogether, but them's the breaks."

There is a certain incoherence here. If the system is "sea-based" how are those "sites" "in" any country? On second thought this makes some sense if you are referring to forward radar sites, it would only be natural to beef up our existing detection capabilities in eastern Turkey, but I don't get Israel or Romania.

In context "sea-based" seems to mean some sort of advanced AEGIS capability which not only is largely already developed and deployed is certainly not something we would want to "drop completely". If we can neutralize N. Korea or Iran by rotating an Aegis Cruiser or two in and out of the northern Sea of Japan or the Gulf of Oman I am all for it. Beats the hell out green-lighting Israel or risking a few million people in Seoul by bombing N. Korean launch sites.

That technology developed to protect a carrier task group against a determined combined air and missile assault from an adversary such as Soviet Russia can double as protection for a small country or substantial region of a larger one is something to celebrate. The problem with Star Wars and its extension to Eastern Europe is that it was always intended by the Vulcans to be the first step in ensuring that no one could interfere with their dream of establishing a New American Century backed by irresistible American military power. It never made sense for a defensive missile system designed to counter an Iranian threat to be placed in Poland and the Czech Republic. Nor did it make sense to station a missile defense in Alaska to counter a threat from N. Korea that could be easily addressed using existing sea-based technology. Each was intended to develop a long-term protection for American first-strike capability against any strategic opponent. That this would never have actually worked doesn't mean this wasn't the intentions of the men and around Reagan and Bush II, who of course were exactly the same people.

I read this as Obama dropping the Buck Rogers/Death Star vision of the PNAC boys in favor of using existing tech to address actual defensive (if at this point theoretical) needs. Which is a good thing.

Posted by: BruceWebb | September 17, 2009 1:33 PM | Report abuse

I don't see that Turkey refusing to allow the U.S. to use its soil to launch an illegal war in total violation of its obligations under the U.N. Charter to mean that it is an unreliable ally.

The Bush Administration held that no International Treaty bound the Commander in Chief of the U.S. from exercising his authority under Article II of our Constitution if in his judgement violating such signed treaties was in our National Security interest. Well alrighty now. But whatever you think of that argument to insist that it was equally binding on every one of our NATO 'partners' is to make a mockery of the concept of partnership, national sovereignty, and international obligations.

Was Iraq a threat to the U.S. sufficient enough to trigger the mutual defense provisions of the NATO Charter in a way that would justify Turkey and France violating their obligations under the UN Charter? France decided 'No' as partially did Turkey and history shows that their judgement was right.

It baffles me that even people who turned against the war fairly early still hold grudges against France and as here Turkey. As if not having blind faith in the judgement of the Bush Administration was a bad thing. The French were right and so were the Turks and it is time for Americans to get over ourselves.

Posted by: BruceWebb | September 17, 2009 1:48 PM | Report abuse

Why do you think Iran stopped/slowed work on long-range missiles? They read the news too. So now that the missile defense plan is scrapped, Iran has a green light to go back to developing long range missiles. Hopefully they won't be nuclear.

Posted by: sam38 | September 17, 2009 4:12 PM | Report abuse

Well to anyone concerned about missle defense, the latest from the AP:

VIENNA (AP) -- Experts at the world's top atomic watchdog are in agreement that Tehran has the ability to make a nuclear bomb and is on the way to developing a missile system able to carry an atomic warhead, according to a secret report seen by The Associated Press.

Posted by: SUMB44 | September 17, 2009 4:16 PM | Report abuse

What part of Obama did this at "the recommendation of Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen" did you Huckabees (who can contribute nothing to the world other than Obama-bashing and judging others in the name of poor old Jesus) choose to ignore?

Gates and Mullin both were appointed by your Lord Cheney.

Posted by: coloradodog | September 17, 2009 4:33 PM | Report abuse

Holy Crap!!!!!

Where are the grown ups!!!

Housing - Nationalized
Auto Industry - Nationalized
Health Care - On its way to Nationalization
Student Aid - On its way
National Defense
Iraq - Ran away
Europe - Gave up.....

Where's the moderate Hilary when we need her!!!!!

Posted by: kpod | September 17, 2009 5:23 PM | Report abuse

Gates and Mullin both were appointed by your Lord Cheney.

That's "Darth Cheney" to you, my friend.

Posted by: daggar | September 17, 2009 5:45 PM | Report abuse

North korea should stop launch missile into the Sea of Japan

Posted by: makaay | September 22, 2009 4:07 AM | Report abuse

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