Some people know that I'm virulently opposed to the White House's National Missile Defense plan. I didn't see the following story get much play (perhaps because of the Richard Clarke story) but I thought it was interesting:
I think national missile defense is a mistake. It becomes a gigantic mistake because it's so ridiculously expensive. We're spending lots and lots of money (how much did we spend on Reagen's Star Wars program?). It's certainly a nice idea--it would be great if we had such a system. But that doesn't make it good policy.
The basic problem is that it won't work. Why not? It's too hard. There's a reason we've walked on the moon but not on Mars. It's too hard. It won't work. Maybe it'll work in thirty years, but not now. The tests that've been done pretty much show that it's too hard (the "successes" happen in wildly unrealistic situations that do not in any way resemble the real world). Really, no other part of the debate matters. Because it's too hard, it doesn't matter whether we tick off the Ruskies, or what North Korea will do, or anything else.
But there are other reasons to not like it. Among them, there's no reason for it. Not to make an obvious point, but Mohammed Atta didn't attack Americans with missiles. There's talk of a "rogue nation" attacking us. Well, it's obviously North Korea, because if Russia wants to nuke us they could. North Korea may or may not be able to hit the west coast of America with a missile. (Obviously, it's a bit tough for them to test such a thing, so even if it's built, it's first run would be the attacking one.) But if they did, we'd invade immediately and crush them. It'd be a slaughter. There's no way they'd risk that. (Which is not to say that they couldn't hit Tokyo, but our system doesn't protect Tokyo.)
Next, if someone wanted to nuke San Francisco, why go to the trouble of sending a missile? It'd be far easier to stick a bomb in a shipping container, ship it here, and explode it in the middle of San Francisco Harbor. True, we're taking some action on tracking shipping containers, but not much. I don't know what the budget is, but we're not spending anywhere near the money we are on building a fancy exciting system (that won't work). Alternatively, they could drive it in from Mexico. These are real, legitimate problems. They present far more dangerous possibilities than Kim Jong Il signing his own death warrant. I fully support spending lots and lots of money to figure out how to track every single shipping container that ever enters the US. Period. But we're not devoting anywhere near the resources to these problems that we are to the impossible problem of shooting down missiles.
Finally, it's absurdly expensive. We're spending tons of money on a system that wouldn't do any good, that's unnecessary, and again WOULD NEVER WORK ANYWAY! IT WON'T WORK!!!!! If someone sticks a bomb in a minivan and nukes downtown New York City, it'll be small comfort to me that 49 retired generals and admirals agreed with me.