Frances FitzGerald has an interesting piece in the current issue of The New Yorker’s Talk of the Town. It regards missile defense, an issue I wrote briefly about when I received a questionnaire from the Republican party. While I knew it was always a favorite program among conservative circles, I had no idea that the United States was continuing efforts to build the system. I thought that the cold war ended talk of such programs, since they have never proven feasible.
“In July, the first interceptor for a national missile-defense system was installed at Fort Greely, Alaska,” writes FitzGerald. “A few weeks later, President Bush announced that the first components o that system would soon “become operational.” Speaking at a Boeing aerospace plant in Ridley Park, Pennsylvania, on August 17th, he praised the efforts of those who are making the deployment possible, and declared, â€œWe say to those tyrants who believe they can blackmai America and the free world, â€˜You fire, weâ€™re going to shoot it down.â€™â€ It will come as a surprise to Americans and tyrants alike that the controversial system is ready to shoot anything downâ€”not much has been heard about it since the attacks of September 11, 2001, redefine the national notion of defense. Yet Bush promised to develop the system in his last campaign, and in December, 2002, a year after the Administration announced that it would withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, he ordered that deployment take place in 2004. The due date became October 1st.”
I would encourage you to read the short piece. It’s an interesting piece of the puzzle, especially when there is so much discussion these days about reactions to terrorism. Many have argued that plans for Iraq were well underway before 9-11. Despite the act of terrorism (or because if it), it gave a green light for these plans to go ahead. The point is that when you learn of plans being formed prior to 2001, it seems this administration has pretty much stayed on plan. The war didn’t seem so much a reaction to specific terrorism, but a part of a bigger plan. One question in the current political debate is whether we get sidetracked from the war on terrrorism. You have to wonder about priorities. Another way to read it is in reverse, that terrorism got in the way of other plans in the works. One way to tell what really matters is to look at the numbers.
“Owing largely to the costs of development and deployment, the missile-defense budget has doubled in the past four years,” writes FitzGerald. “The appropriation for next year is more than ten billion dollarsâ€”about the same as the Armyâ€™s entire R. & D. budget, twice the budget of the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection in the Department of Homeland Security, and nearly twice the departmentâ€™s allocation for the Coast Guard. The M.D.A. estimates that the program will cost fifty-three billion dollars through 2009, but it has underestimated costs in the past.”