Post's Krauthammer Pushes Dangerous Fantasy
President of Ploughshares Fund
Posted: July 10, 2009 10:50 AM
Because he thinks we can shoot them out of the sky like
clay pigeons. This is simply not true. The Post's
promotion of this fantasy could lead to global disaster.
Krauthammer supported the arms control treaty
negotiated by conservative President George W. Bush,
but now opposes the similar agreement crafted by
progressive President Barack Obama. Instead, he says we
should "invite the Russians to build as many warheads as they want."
It doesn't matter because, he claims, "We can reliably
shoot down an intercontinental ballistic missile." This
is demonstrably false. We cannot now reliably shoot
down a real long-range missile. We have never been able
to do this and there is no prospect that we will able
to do this in the future. Claims that we can are not
true. People who repeat these claims are not telling the truth.
These false claims are based on carefully staged
demonstrations where interceptor rockets hit missile
targets. The trick? The targets cooperate. They have
known characteristics including size, velocity, radar
signature, and are carefully directed into exact
position for the "intercept." They even have little
transponders guiding the interceptor with an electronic
"here I am." Still, the successful hits are counted in
single digits after 30 years of trying.
There is close to zero chance of intercepting a real
long-range missile. Why? Because real missiles don't
cooperate. They hide their warheads with decoys,
jammers, chaff, spin, and radar-reflective coatings. If
we can't see it, we can't hit it.
Our intelligence services concluded 10 years ago that
any country capable of building a long-range missile
basic "counter-measures" that could defeat any know
already done so.
Tests in the 1990s with realistic decoys (balloons with
the same radar and infrared signature as the warhead)
showed that our sensors could not pick out the real
warhead from the fakes. Did we stop the missile defense
program? No. We stopped using realistic decoys. We
dumbed down the tests. Testers call this "testing for
success." Most of us would call this "rigged."
This is not the first time the
knowingly published false statements. Last week, in the
only oped the Post ran before the
former head of the missile defense program, retired
General Trey Obering, also claimed the anti-missile
years of the Bush administration would provide "cost-
effective protection." He trashed an independent joint
assessment by US and Russian scientists that found the
system would not work.
Two of the scientists, MIT's Ted Postol and nuclear-
weapon designer Richard Garwin, wrote a detailed
rebuttal, correcting Obering's factual misstatements. I
have seen the oped they submitted. They objectively
examine the flaws of the anti-missile interceptors and
the fact that the radar cannot "discriminate between
warheads and decoys."
A distinguished group of scientists wrote President
Obama an open letter last week. Ten of the letter's 20
signatories have won a Nobel Prize, 15 are members of
of the National
We assess that the planned European missile defense
system would have essentially no capability to
defend against a real missile attack. ... This
system has not been proven and does not merit
deployment. It would offer little or no defensive
capability, even in principle. At the same time, its
deployment would result in large security,
political, and monetary costs....
Congress has required that the Secretary of Defense
certify that the interceptors have been shown to
work "in an operationally effective manner" through
"successful, operationally realistic flight testing"
before they can be deployed in
occurred. Testing of the interceptors has not begun
and will not be completed for several years.
The interceptors proposed for
kill vehicle and a modified version of the
interceptor booster being fielded as part of the
Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system. This
technology has not been adequately tested and has no
demonstrated capability in a realistic attack
scenario. None of the GMD tests have included
realistic countermeasures or tumbling warheads. All
flight intercept tests have been conducted under
highly scripted conditions with the defense given
advance information about the attack details.
For these reasons, the intercepts achieved in past
tests of the GMD system say nothing about the
effectiveness of these interceptors under real-world
conditions. Until these systems are subjected to an
honest technical assessment and a rigorous testing
program, there will be no data on which to base an
assessment of how effective they might be in an actual attack.
Claiming that this system is effective when it is
not is dangerous and could contribute to unwise
But President Obama should not wait for the Washington
Post to re-discover its obligation to provide its
readers with facts instead of spin. He should call
these scientists to the White House so he can hear
first-hand why he should stick to his guns and only
deploy weapons that work. Starting a new arms race is
bad enough. But deploying scarecrows while the other
side deploys nuclear weapons is dereliction of duty.