WPost Blasts Obama's Missile Reversal
Editor’s Note: The Washington Post’s neoconservative editorial page continues to push for a new Cold War with Russia – and thus for a continuation of the massive military spending that has fueled not only the “defense industry” but also the neocon think tanks that churn out justifications for the endless military spending.
In this guest essay, former CIA analyst Melvin A. Goodman looks at the Post’s latest efforts to make sure the military-industrial (and think tank) pump stays primed:
For the past several months, the editorial and op-ed writers of the Washington Post have railed against Russia as expansionist and assertive toward the West and have argued against improving bilateral relations between the United States and Russia.
President Barack Obama’s plan to scrap a proposed anti-ballistic missile shield in East Europe has given them a new hobby horse to ride. In an editorial titled “Missile Strike,” the opinion writers predictably excoriated President Obama’s decision to scrap the shield as a concession to Kremlin hardliners who “implausibly claimed to feel threatened” by U.S. interceptors and radars.
These writers ignore three fundamental facts that have nothing to do with Russia: the unproven anti-ballistic missile system could not distinguish between an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) and a decoy; Iran is not working on an ICBM; and the notion of an Iranian threat to Europe is purely fanciful.
They also fail to mention that the East European countries that were to accept the missile interceptors and radars (Poland and the Czech Republic) never expressed concerns with Iran’s capabilities and intentions and were never concerned with missile defense. In fact, public opinion in the Czech Republic was overwhelmingly opposed to taking part in the program, and the government of prime minister Mirek Topolanek toppled after agreeing to do so.
The Post writers also ignored Secretary of Defense Robert Gates admission last week that the radar for the Czech Republic “looked deep into Russia and actually could monitor the launches of their ICBMs as well.” Gates was the first U.S. official to acknowledge that the radar would be able to see as far as the Caucasus Mountains inside Russia.
In addition to their own editorial, the Post ran two opeds that reified the paper’s position. Ronald Asmus, a former assistant secretary of state in the Clinton administration,criticized the United States for preventing NATO from stationing its military forces in Central and East Europe.
Such a step would have been a gratuitous swipe at Russia. Asmus also ignored U.S. sponsorship of NATO membership for former members of the Warsaw Pact, a gratuitous act that betrayed former secretary of state James Baker’s commitment to avoid “leapfrogging” over East Germany to recruit new members for NATO.
Baker’s commitment was part of the unwritten agreement that led Moscow to withdraw its military forces from East Germany. This withdrawal paved the way for the unification of Germany and the membership of a unified Germany in NATO.
The Post followed up with an op-ed from David Kramer, a former deputy assistant secretary of state in the Bush administration, who called President Obama’s decision a “capitulation to Russian pressure” that marked a “serious betrayal of loyal allies in Warsaw and Prague.”
Both Kramer and Asmus are with the German Marshall Fund of the United States; they are major opponents of arms control with Russia. Accordingly, they do not mention that the scrapping of the missile shield of the Bush administration would improve the prospects for U.S.-Russian arms control negotiations that are currently underway.
These negotiations could produce significant reductions in strategic and intercontinental missiles—a positive step for both countries as well as for West and East Europe.
The New York Times, on the other hand, termed Obama’s actions a “sound strategic decision” in an editorial titled “Missile Sense.” Nevertheless, the Times followed up with an op-ed from Secretary of Defense Gates, who took credit for both the U.S. decision in 2006 to deploy ground-based interceptors in Poland as well as the U.S. decision in 2009 to discard the Bush administration’s plan for a missile shield.
In an incredible exercise in bureaucratic chutzpah, Gates, who politicized intelligence for the Reagan administration throughout the 1980s, said he was “all too familiar with the pitfalls of over-reliance on intelligence assessments that can become outdated.” Gates, the self-described “pragmatist,” certainly knows of what he speaks.
Before genuine pragmatists, progressives, and arms control advocates chortle over the decision of the Obama administration, however, several facts should be kept in mind.
In stopping the missile shield technology for East Europe that was nowhere near ready and would have directed $5 billion to the Boeing Corporation, the Obama administration has endorsed dozens of interceptors for U.S. ships in the North and Mediterranean Seas in 2011 as well as interceptors for West and East Europe in 2015 that will direct $5 billion to the Raytheon and Lockheed corporations.
The Iranian threat may be non-existent and the missile shield unproven, but the military-industrial-congressional complex has triumphed once again. The United States has spent more than $100 billion over the past 50 years in its pursuit of a national missile defense. So much for pragmatism!
Our only hope at this point is that someone in the Obama administration will read or reread President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s farewell address in 1961. Eisenhower, who prevented the unnecessary spending of precious dollars on unnecessary weapons systems, described the Pentagon’s pursuit of taxpayer money as “virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity.”
He also expressed concern to his granddaughter that future presidents, not schooled in military culture, would fall prey to the military’s insatiable pursuit of such systems.
Unfortunately, his concern was prescient as one naïve or willful president after another has caved to U.S. military’s demands.
Melvin A. Goodman, a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy and adjunct professor of government at Johns Hopkins University, spent 42 years with the CIA, the National War College, and the U.S. Army. His latest book is Failure of Intelligence: The Decline and Fall of the CIA. [This story originally appeared at The Public Record.]
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