Ballistic Missile Defense—Who Needs It?

No one, according to George Friedman in Geopolitical Futures.  The US has installed and brought on line a ballistic missile defense system site in Romania, but Friedman evidently misunderstands the purpose and the need.

The system is designed to block one or a few (the precise number is likely unknown) missiles targeted toward a large area.  This would be ineffective against Russia, should it wish to launch a nuclear strike against Europe, because the system would be easily saturated by a relatively small number of missiles….

Maybe yes, maybe no.  Russia has already threatened Poland with nuclear attack, and it has already attacked the Baltics with cyber weapons—a useful prelude to a nuclear strike.  It wouldn’t take many missiles to destroy those nations, and even fewer to crush them into surrender.  A BMD system enormously complicates such an attack.

The problem with this is that it is unclear why a country with relatively few missiles would launch a strike at all, and totally unclear why their target would be Europe.

This is his biggest misunderstanding.  He can’t posit a rational reason for a country launching a nuclear strike against a nuclear power, therefor there cannot be a rational reason.  But he’s mistakenly applying his logic system—a typically Western logic system—to an enemy nuclear capable nation that doesn’t subscribe to our rules of logic.

It is always posited that the current enemy doesn’t value human life as we do.  Thus, Iran and North Korea might launch attacks.  Kim Jong Un is clearly enjoying playing God too much to spoil that.  In Iran, the sheer corruption is comforting.  People who love accumulating money are rarely suicidal. The madman theory doesn’t work.

Actually, Iran’s leadership does value human life—they just value the end game differently than we do: the path to Heaven is through martyrdom in this life, and what greater martyrdom than to die for Allah?  Iran’s sheer corruption is at a level below the mullahs.  The mullahs are the ones who will make the decision to strike, not any of those alleged corrupt persons.

Baby Kim does like playing God.  What better way to do that than to visit god-like death and destruction on his enemies?  It may be that he hasn’t yet because he hasn’t yet reliable enough delivery means.

A nuclear attack would be terrible, and however unlikely, it is a threat that must be negated.  …  [However] Ballistic missile defense addresses an apocalypse for which even great novelists could not imagine a convincing origin.  …  The money spent on BMD should have been spent on far more probable threats.

Because gun-free zones are so useful in defending against those with guns.  And there’s that need, again, for a specifically Western rationale for a nuclear attack.

His madman theory is a straw man, offered out of lack of understanding of the new reality.  Friedman may be willing to bet millions of lives on his version of rationality.  I’m glad of the BMD installation; we need to spend the bucks to install more such sites around the world.

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