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Bush Defense Follies (continued) | The Nation

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Katrina vanden Heuvel

Katrina vanden Heuvel

Politics, current affairs and riffs and reflections on the news.

Bush Defense Follies (continued)

Here's another nominee for the Best Bush Folly--the Administration's latest plan to expand its "missile defense shield" by locating a radar base and 10 missile interceptors in the Czech Republic and Poland, respectively.

While too few among our pundit and political class are willing to expose the insanity of this plan, Czech and Polish citizens appear to have more sense --and guts.

According to the Financial Times, 70 percent of Czechs oppose the shield and Poles are evenly split – the latter is especially "surprising in a country that sees itself as the most pro-American in Europe."

Jan Neoral, the mayor of the Czech village of Trokavec where the radar site would be positioned, "…feels the US and Czech governments are lying about the dangers posed by the radars and the possible economic benefits that will accrue to villages in the area." In a village referendum on the radar 71 of 72 votes were against!

"Trokavec will get nothing but this harmful radar," Neoral told the Financial Times.

Many Poles would agree with Neoral's assessment. Even Radek Sikorski, Poland's Secretary of Defense until February of this year (and also a former fellow at a neocon think tank in DC who maintains many close contacts and friends in the US government), thinks this plan is a terrible idea. Writing in a Washington Post op-ed Sikorski put it bluntly: "… the war in Iraq has dented Central European trust. The spectacle of the US secretary of state at the UN Security Council solemnly presenting intelligence that proved unreliable shook our faith. Our old-fashioned expectation that the United States would show gratitude for our participation in Iraq also proved misplaced. Public perceptions of America are plummeting, while opposition to U.S.-led military operations, and above all to the proposed missile site, grows." Sikorski is particularly strong in laying out the potential for this proposal to "provoke a spiral of misunderstanding, weaken NATO, deepen Russian paranoia and cost the United States some of its last friends on the continent."

Indeed, the Bush proposal is further evidence of what Russia scholar Stephen Cohen (full disclosure: my husband) described last year in a Nation cover story as the current state of affairs between the US and Russia: "The cold war ended in Moscow, but not in Washington." Cohen notes that the US unilaterally withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in an attempt to build this missile defense shield which would also give the US first strike capability. It has abandoned real and meaningful reductions of nuclear stockpiles while developing new weapons. These actions "have all but abolished long-established US-Soviet agreements that have kept the nuclear peace for nearly fifty years," and a "dangerously provocative military encirclement of Russia and growing Russian suspicions of US intentions" will now only increase.

And for what?

"Their whole reason for what it is supposed to defend – the continental United States, The United States and western Europe, Europe only? – keeps shifting, depending on the political winds," says Victoria Samson, Research Analyst at the Center for Defense Information. "Now they're talking about creating a whole new interceptor - the two-stage version, which would presumably require a whole new testing regimen. But you don't hear about that last part. And what is this threat anyways? I think that the Administration is trying to create institutional momentum for missile defense so that whatever happens in the 2008 election, it will continue to steam ahead. The more money that gets spent on this program, the more voices are raised when discussions are made of future cuts. If you can get other countries involved in lobbying for this to continue, all the better from the perspective of the missile defense regime."

Samson notes that missile defense already receives more annually than any other Pentagon weapons system – $10.85 billion in FY 08 – despite the fact that it has "demonstrated [no] capability to defend the United States against enemy attack under realistic operational conditions."

Last year, Joseph Cirincione, senior vice president at the Center for American Progress, wrote in an op-ed that the Bush administration "broke the bars that had caged the nuclear beast." The latest missile defense follies only serve to make the beast more difficult to recapture. It's time for some sanity – call on Congress--and the Presidential candidates-- to end this missile defense fraud.

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