I wrote, a short time ago, about individual self-defense. In this post, I’d like to explore a little bit of the self-defense rights of a nation. Senator Jon Kyle (R, AZ) asked, in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, “What’s at Stake in the Missile-Defense Debate?” His question also raises a larger question concerning a nation’s right to self-defense. I’ll address the second question first, then I’ll talk about the role of missile defenses within that right.
As our Declaration of Independence acknowledges, all men have a right, among other things, to our Lives, our Liberty, and our Happiness. In that earlier post I demonstrated the right, and the obligation, of each individual to defend himself—lethally, if necessary—against threats to himself, his family, his property, and to extend that defense to others whom he might see under similar threat.
Far too often, that individual is incapable of conducting that defense, even acting in concert with a few of his fellows. This is why, as Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, et al., have demonstrated, men come together to form social compacts, nations, with governing structures. Universal among these men’s demonstrations was a purpose of those compacts: to defend the individual members against external threats. Thus, nations are formed for an explicit purpose of defending its citizens—of defending itself.
The right of a nation to defend itself thus flows directly from its members’ individual rights to defend themselves.
Within a national right of self-defense, where do missile defenses fit? Plainly, a nation that does not use all of the tools at its disposal is limiting itself in its ability to carry out its duty of defending its citizens, of defending itself. A nation that disgorges itself of any of the tools it has, and/or turns its back on acquiring all the tools it might, that are useful in defending itself is turning its back entirely on its obligation to defend itself.
This failure is exacerbated in a nuclear world, where one of the weapons of attack is fully capable of destroying an entire city, murdering the hundreds of thousands or millions of people who live(d) there. A missile defense capability becomes critical to national defense, even to national survival, when such offensive destruction is possible. Certainly, a missile defense of the kind discussed by Lyle and dismissed by President Obama is useful only against missiles and is not proof against those missiles. However, with our enemies capable of missile delivery of nuclear destruction, not defending against that threat is not just amoral, it’s actively immoral.
For the United States to walk away from a maximally capable defense capacity solely to appease our enemies who have that nuclear offensive capability is not just amoral, it’s actively immoral. Yet this appears to be the path on which Obama is setting us. He already has withdrawn missile defenses against rogue Iranian missiles from eastern Europe (where they could defend Israel and Europe against Iranian attack) at Russia’s behest. Now he’s telling outgoing Russian President Dmitri Medvedev and incoming Russian President Vladimir Putin that, given time to win his reelection before being pressed on our missile defense system, he’ll then no longer be accountable, and he can give the Russians everything they want in the complete removal of any American missile defense capacity.
Senator Kyle rightly points out legal concerns about this course.
[President Obama] may have to ignore or circumvent commitments he made to Congress to secure support for the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (Start)—among them, that he would deploy all four phases of planned U.S. missile-defense systems for Europe, and that he would modernize the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system for the protection of the U.S. homeland.
Never mind that acceding to Russian demands would eliminate
…the only U.S. theater missile-defense system capable of catching intercontinental-range Iranian missiles, making it important for the defense of our homeland.
Senator Kyle adds
It is questionable whether concessions on missile defense would induce Russia to further reduce its nuclear arsenal. Unlike the U.S., Russia maintains a robust nuclear warhead production capability, and its national security strategy is to increase reliance on nuclear weapons. Russia is also modernizing ICBMs and submarine-launched ballistic missiles.
Indeed. I’m reminded of the Third Punic War. Rome insisted that Carthage disarm itself, and Carthage acceded to the demand. After that, Rome attacked, razed Carthage to the ground, occupied all Carthaginian territory, and enslaved its surviving people.
But Obama has said of his moves to eliminate our missile defenses
As a nuclear power – as the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon – the United States has a moral responsibility….
Sorry. The one who would unilaterally remove our ability to defend ourselves is in no position to discuss any part of our military posture.
Further, the champion of wealth distribution, of “you’ve made enough money,” give up what I’ve determined for you as excessive for me to redistribute; the champion of denying anyone his right to live his life to the fullest of his own potential through that wealth redistribution is in no position to lecture anyone on morality.