Wednesday, December 15, 2004


Our missile defense system failed another test today, what The New York Times calls “an $85 million failure” because it’s (appropriately) too hung up on objectivity to call the program “a $90 billion failure.”

The story did not say whether this test was faked, as others have been, by putting a global positioning device in the attacking “warhead” showing our missiles where it can be found and destroyed. It does point out that the test had been delayed several times by “weather and other factors” and that its predecessor (was it really as long ago as December 2002?) also failed.

So what the Times points out, implicitly, is that it’s not so much that tests were rigged, or that some still didn’t succeed — but that even when weather and other factors permit a test, we can’t reliably get a missile in the air!

A target rocket carrying a mock warhead was successfully launched from Kodiak, Alaska. But the interceptor, which was to have gone aloft 16 minutes later and picked off the target 100 miles over the earth, automatically shut down instead because of “an unknown anomaly,” the Defense Department's Missile Defense Agency said.

Despite the disappointment, today’s event was not a total failure, said Richard A. Lehner, an agency spokesman. He said “quite a bit” had been learned from the aborted test, which he called “a very good training exercise.”

A very good $85 million training exercise.

Considering it’s been almost two decades since Star Wars began, when can we expect a test to work when we want it to — and succeed honestly, rather than relying on a homing beacon cheat? Could it be another couple of decades?

In the meantime, if we have such an urgent need for missile defense, isn’t our utter failure rather provocative to anyone against whom we need the defense? If our failure doesn’t convince these enemies to attack, isn’t that rather convincing evidence that we have no need of such a shield? If we continue to project a need for this system far into the future, doesn’t that suggest an ongoing, in fact, unending, and equally immense failure of diplomacy and conventional force, if not a complete surrender?

These are questions worth considering before another $90 billion go down the tubes — then to be shot harmlessly into the sky.


Indri said...

Two words: briefcase nukes. Two more: anthrax spores. Two more: box cutters.

Twenty years and we're still looking in the wrong direction.

The whole missile defense shield idea is a fantasy--like, say, Santa or the Easter Bunny--that a distressing number of adults want so badly to believe that they will ignore any and all evidence that it is a bad plan. It's an embarrassment.

Scape7 said...

The Times expanded its missile-test article (it appeared on Page One!) to include the following:

"The launching had been delayed several times because of bad weather or problems with equipment at the Pacific test range on Kwajalein Atoll, where officials must now try to determine what went wrong on Wednesday.

The last test of the interceptor, on Dec. 12, 2002, was also a failure, as the interceptor failed to separate from its booster rocket, missed its target by hundreds of miles and burned up in the atmosphere.

But shortly after that, President Bush ordered the Pentagon to proceed with initial deployment of a limited system, a goal that he campaigned on in the election this year.

In 2003, a test of another part of the system, based on Navy ships, also failed."

Et cetera. In other words, Bush ordered the Pentagon to deploy the system as though it worked, when it absolutely does not work. This is nowhere near working. It certainly fits the pattern but ... good lord, how can this demented toddler be our president?