Sunday, December 14, 2008

Obama and US-Russia Tensions

December 14, 2008

With U.S.-Russian relations already at their lowest point since the end of the Cold War, President-elect Barack Obama has picked two key foreign policy officials who are likely to continue the Bush administration’s confrontational policies that have aggravated Russia and disrupted European security alignments and transatlantic relations.

Read on.


Kodiak Rocket Launch Information Group said...

How Do We Define Success?

On December 5, a rocket launched from Vandenburg AFB in California intercepted a rocket launched from Kodiak, Alaska

1. It wasn't a resounding "success": According to Lt. Gen. Patrick O'Reilly, head of the Missile Defense Agency, "...the target did not release planned countermeasures designed to try to confuse the interceptor missile. O'Reilly did not say what those countermeasures were, but they often include decoys or chaff to throw off shoot-down attempts." Apparently the technology to shoot down a real enemy missile, which would have countermeasures, is not yet working.

2.It wasn't a truly realistic test: The "test" was very tightly controlled - everybody knew when the interceptor would be launched and its probable path (they've launched targets from KLC before). Furthermore, the velocity of the target drone is about 40% less than that of an actual “enemy” missile. One wonders what would happen if they actually had to scramble an interceptor with no prior warning. Now that would be a TRUE test.

3. If the U.S. can't launch an ICBM that works the way it should, why do we think other countries can? Neither North Korea or Iran has ever successfully fired a missile that had any chance of landing anywhere near the U.S. Right now, if North Korea got really lucky, they might be able to hit the tip of the Aleutians. We are sure the folks out there appreciate the expenditure of ten billion dollars a year to help them sleep more soundly.

4. It's ALL about the money: Roughly $10 billion is spent per year on the program, which is run by defense contractor Boeing Co. but includes work by most of the nation's largest weapons makers. It is spread across three branches of the military and is composed of missiles, radar and satellites designed to intercept missiles during different stages of flight. While it might help the economy to keep all those defense contractors in business, the money could be spend more wisely on our nation’s crumbling infrastructure and to aid people being evicted from their homes.

5. Fortunately, President-elect Barack Obama expressed skepticism about the capabilities of the system during his campaign, leading to speculation he may reduce the program's scope. Russia has strongly objected to plans to install missile interceptors in Eastern Europe.

6. At least the true character of the KLC has finally been admitted. According to the AP: "WASHINGTON - The Defense Department said today it shot down a missile launched from a military base in Alaska..."

7. Finally, Kodiak, Alaska desperately needs a new high school and a new police station and jail. Our roads are a mess and infrastructure in Kodiak, Alaska and all across the United States is crumbling. Take a drive down the badly disintegrating Mission Road past the Salvation Army and ask yourself: Is Missile Defense worth it? Friday's test cost between $120 million to $150 million.

Kodiak Rejects Missile Defense - Overwhelmingly
Results from the Kodiak Daily Mirror online poll, December 5 through December 12:

The U.S. missile shield...

is unnecessary - 67.17%

is important for the nation's defense - 21.59%

will never work - (5.1%)

will ramp up a new arms race - (6.15%)

[percentages based on 667 responses]

Over 78% of the respondents voted anti missile defense. While online polls are generally considered "unscientific", it seems clear that a community that is home to a facility used in missile defense tests rejects the notion that it is actually needed.

Coupled with another poll from 26 February 2005, it appears to be time for the KLC is not only unneeded, but also unwanted. We have copied the post from that date below:

Poll Proves Local Opposition to Kodiak Launch Complex

Results of the Kodiak Daily Mirror online poll (17-24 February 2005) 839 responses
Published 24 Feb 2006 in the Kodiak Daily Mirror, page 4
"Why Should the Kodiak Launch Complex exist, or not exist?"

41% - It's waste of taxpayer money and useless in national defense
15.85% - It could potentially damage the environment.

56.85% - Anti-Kodiak Launch Complex

27.41% - It's crucial for national defense
15.71% - It's good for the local economy

43.12% - pro-KLC

The poll clearly indicates local attitudes toward Space Pork Kodiak. We suspect the numbers opposing the KLC would be even higher if there hadn't been the large number of out-of-state workers in town to support the latest MDA launch. The poll was running over 50% for "It's a waste..." until somebody alerted the KLC staff around Feb 22 causing a huge spike in the pro percentages. Despite this anomaly, the unmistakable community opposition is undeniable and prevailed in the overall results.

Anonymous said...

Or, it may not. The only way you can know for certain is to let the man get in office and see what he actually does first. Of course the odds are that no matter what he does, you won't like it; otherwise you'd have to shut down... no?

You do good work at investigating, but when it comes to opinions you are as bad as the right at wanting to fear monger. If you are going to predict a whole presidency based on two appointments, and what it will signify for the whole four year term, why not just go ahead and predict that President Bush will enact martial law before January 20 and remain in power.?. After all, he has abused his power before so why not now? Never mind the fact that it would probably lead to riots in the streets.

As for President Elect Obama's appointments, first off, after all the bitterness of the election and the primaries, he needs to show that he is going to live up to the promises he made about working with people, even if he disagreed with them. In this case, he needed to give Senator Clinton some kind of job, and as Secretary of State, she is bound to him. He has the power to let her stay in her position of she carries out his policies, or to remover her and put in someone else if she doesn't. Add to that the fact that she is well known through out the world and some people will think that they kow how to deal with er, and it adds up to probably one of the better choices he could make. Either that or toss her out into the cold and make his life miserable.

As for secretary Gates, yes, he does carry baggage from the Bush era, but honestly, with people already in harms way, there was not enough time from election day until January 20 to get someone fully up to speed on all of the intricacies and all the little things that none of us know about. keeping some semblance of continuity, esepcially as we prepare to hopefully draw down our forces in Iraq, is vital to the men and women who are in harms way. Again, President Elect Obama made probably the ony choice he could make in a field of really bad choices.

It seems like you are really quick on the draw to point out all the things YOU think he has done wrong, even when he has yet to take the reins of power. Once he does, THEN is the time to start kicking and screaming. Is it wrong to say your opinion before hand? No, it isn't. But to try to present it as certain fact that he is just going to go on his merry way being the same as George Bush, before he even takes office, is a little on the premature panic side of things.

Granted it may mean a continuation of the same policies... but what if it doesn't? In that case you set yourselves up as no better than street corner psychics who can't even predict the winning lottery numbers, much less whether their client should take an umbrella to work.

Keep up the great work, but please, stop already with the hysterical right-wing/fox news/neo-con panicky type headlines.

Wicked Scribbler

Frank Munley said...

I would like to make two comments about Gates's statements on deployment of anti-missile defenses and make a brief response to Anonymous ("Wicked Scribbler") regarding the Clinton and Gates nominations.

First, Gates refers to a “state” launching a nuclear missile. That is extremely unlikely. Any state wishing to do us nuclear harm is more likely to smuggle something through our borders, thus hiding its identity and avoiding US retaliation. A missile launch, on the other hand, carries the address of the state sending it, because US satellites or just US radar systems alone can trace the missile trajectory back to the origin, thus telling the US where it came from and practically ensuring a massive retaliation that would destroy the offending state. Any state would have to be suicidal to do such a thing. Of course, a major problem with US foreign policy is that it is based on the idea that our enemies are lunatics, not amenable to normal deterrents. We, our super-nationalists assume, are always eminently reasonable and “value life” more than our enemies.

Second, Gates is neglecting (but only in his public pronouncements) a Russian concern familiar to all who have studied nuclear strategy, viz., the “ladder of escalation.” The ladder is based on the assumption that a nuclear war can be gradually ratcheted up (“up the ladder”). Assuming both sides don’t want to be destroyed, the more steps in the ladder the more slowly the escalation can proceed while avoiding full-scale war and buying time to negotiate an end to the conflict. The side with the most steps in the ladder, especially low-level steps the other side lacks, can exert nuclear pressure at the expense of the other side, which will be reluctant to take a big step up to its next rung, i.e., make a bigger escalation, because this risks all-out nuclear war. Regarding missile defense in Eastern Europe, remember that a shield enhances the value of a sword. If the US can knock out a low-level Russian response, it will prevent them from deterring us from a small attack. I'm sure Gates is fully aware of the intricacies of the ladder and sees missile defense as a great idea to put pressure on Russia.

Will nuclear war really unfold in an orderly “ladder of escalation” fashion? I doubt it! Extreme fear will probably result in a realization of MAD—mutual assured destruction. The only conceivable use for nuclear weapons is deterrence, and that has its own problems. Better to work towards drastically reducing their numbers.

"Scribbler" makes the valid point that we have to wait and see what Obama will do as President. I agree, but this in no way allays concerns about appointing Clinton and Gates, as Scribbler concedes. Scribbler excuses Obama's appointment of Clinton as Sec'y of State because Obama promised to work with those he disagrees with. He has plenty on his plate there from Gates and his fellow Republicans (and, I hope, from some on his economic team like Summers and other Rubin proteges). As for removing Clinton if she doesn't do his bidding, there are a thousand and one ways a skilled bureaucrat such as she can wage trench warfare and as other ways she could make it very costly for Obama to get rid of her. I agree it is good he gave her a job, but why not something related to health care rather than a premier foreign policy position, especially given the charges she made against him in the primaries and the necessity for substantive change from the policies of not just Bush, but vis-a-vis Russia of Bill Clinton too?

On the Gates nomination, Scribbler says (regarding people already in harm's way, in Iraq and Afghanistan I assume), that "...there was not enough time from election day until January 20 to get someone fully up to speed on all of the intricacies and all the little things that none of us know about." That's begging the question to the max. What don't we know about? More importantly, what doesn't Obama know about the mishandling of the situations under Bush that Gates is a part of? Yes, Gates is better than Rumsfield, but hardly embodies the new direction in foreign policy that Obama promised. And whatever intricacies there are, I'm sure there are people in the military who know more than Gates. Gates's position on missile defense is charge enough to lament Obama's appointment of him. As for its being "too late," should Carter have kept Ford's Sec'y of Defense? Should Nixon have kept Johnson's? The sad fact of the matter is that many of the people who supposedly know so much are all too often blinded by hubris and super-nationalism. Given the Clinton administration's record on US-Russian relations, which "Obama and US-Russia Tensions" properly alludes to, an excellent case can be made that Hillary Clinton is not the best person for Secretary of State.

--Frank Munley

Anonymous said...

There are two sides to every story. But one thing that I dont understand is......

ICBM's exist and are devastatingly accurate and effective.

Missile Defense systems save lives and are not fully developed. Why are we attacking systems that protect nations instead of attacking the systems that kill people.

Nothing is wrong with protecting people. Remember, life is priceless. The threat and capability exists. So the cost to protect human life is priceless.