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Rebuttal of Kingston Reif’s and Greg Thielmann’s newest lies – about missile defense

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Kingston Reif – a pacifist propagandist working for the extremely-leftist “Council for a Livable World” – has shown his utter ignorance, as well as his extremely leftist beliefs and desires to disarm the US unilaterally, on quite a few occassions, and in December, I even took the time to completely refute his utter garbage calling for scrapping the nuclear triad. Since then, however, Reif has not stoppped writing his ignorant leftist garbage, and has recently (on June 4th) written a screed in the liberal Time magazine criticizing House Republicans for “all sorts of madness on nuclear weapons, missile defense, and related issues” – especially their proposal to create an East Coast missile defense site in the northeastern United States (e.g. New York state or Maine).

Reif claims that it would be “unnecessary, technically dubious, and cost-ineffective”.

Regarding the latter, he invokes CBO’s estimate that creating such a site would cost $3.6 bn over 5 years, and another by the National Academy of Sciences saying that their proposed “evolved GMD system” would cost $25.4 bn over 20 years.

But those numbers are not only small by themselves, they’re even small when put into perspective on a per year basis. Reif, to exaggerate the cost and scaremonger taxpayers, conveniently omits the “over X years” part of the price tag.

Divided over 5 years, $3.6 bn is $720 mn; that is 0.152% of the DOD’s base budget for FY2014 even under sequestration ($475 bn), or % if sequestration is cancelled (the DOD’s base budget would then be $526 bn).

Divided over 20 years, $25.4 bn is $1.27 bn, i.e. 0.276% of the DOD’s base budget for FY2014 even under sequestration.

So the cost would be tiny – a small fraction of one percent of the base defense budget even with sequestration accounted for. A fraction of 1% of the DOD’s budget is all that it would cost to build an EC missile defense site.

Reif claims it’s “unnecessary.” But the DOD and the Intelligence Community estimate Iran will have an ICBM in 2015/2016. That is just 2-3 years from now. So the US has just 2-3 years to prepare itself for a potential Iranian ICBM threat. Iran has made considerable progress  in long-range missile development, including being able to launch satellites into orbit (e.g. with the Safir space rocket).

Reif invokes the recent statement by VADM James Syring, director of the Missile Defense Agency, that money for East Coast missile defense would not be used in the next FY. Of course, Syring was just expressing the position of the leftist Obama Administration – he can’t speak against his own president. But former Missile Defense Agency Director Henry “Trey” Obering, in a recent article, has expressed strong support for an East Coast BMD site.

In his screed, Reif totally contradicts himself, claiming, alternately, that the current ground-based interceptors in Alaska and California are either sufficient for protecting the East Coast or deficient and unreliable. He alternately claims they already offer adequate protection… or don’t work at all. So which is it, Kingston?

As for thereal experts on the issue (other than Gen. Obering), current Strategic Command leader Gen. Bob Kehler says that:

“I am confident that we can defend against a limited attack from Iran, although we are not in the most optimum posture to do that today… it doesn’t provide total defense today.”

The Commander of the Northern Command (charged with defending the US homeland and Canada), Gen. Charles Jacoby, says that the current GBI system is “sub-optimum.” This is no surprise; the interceptors in Alaska and California would be at the extreme margin of their performance envelopes if tasked with shooting down an ICBM heading for the East Coast.

A “sub-optimum” defense posture is not good enough. Not even close.

Moreover, in March, just 3 months ago, Gen. Jacoby told the Senate:

“What a third site gives me, whether it’s on the East Coast or an alternate location, would be increased battle space; that means increased opportunity for me to engage threats from either Iran or North Korea.”

Also in March, Gen. Jacoby told the House:

“I would agree that a third site, wherever the decision is to build a third site, would give me better weapons access, increased GBI inventory and allow us the battle space to more optimize our defense against future threats from Iran and North Korea.”

Doesn’t this nation owe it to the Northern Command – the one charged with protecting the homeland?

The requirement for a third site to protect against Iranian ICBMs was also stated in the 2010 Ballistic Missile Defense Review, which said:

“… defense of the US homeland will be augmented by Europe-based SM-3 Block IIB interceptors, which are planned to be able to provide an early-intercept capability against potential Iranian ICBMs.”

But the SM-3 Block 2B has been cancelled now, so an EC missile defense site is needed.

Reif also claims that the proposal is “technically dubious” because GBIs supposedly don’t work. Here, he’s wrong as well. GBIs have passed most of their tests, including a recent flight test, and more tests are planned for later months. The interceptors themselves work, as do their current, first generation kill vehicles (kinetic “warhead” counterparts). Critics love to seize on the two failed intercept tests from 2010, but in those tests, it was a new generation of kill vehicles that failed – not the older kill vehicles, and not the missiles themselves. The MDA, in any case, is working to solve the problem.

And even if and when a weapon fails, this teaches us something and doesn’t mean the weapon can never work. Quite the contrary. The Polaris submarine-launched ballistic missile – the first American nuclear-armed missile deployed on submarines – failed the vast majority of its tests: 17 out of 22. Yet, it passed 5, was ultimately proven to work (with President Kennedy watching), and was deployed on 41 USN ballistic missile subs – and later became the basis for the development of the Trident ballistic missile.

Reif bemoans the GBI’s low ability to distinguish real missiles and warheads from decoys. But the MDA actually had a program to solve that problem – called the Multiple Kill Vehicle, essentially a bus carrying dozens of small kill vehicles sufficient to kill all warheads and countermeasures – until April 2009, when President Obama killed the program and when General Obering had already retired. (General Obering, of course, points this out in his piece.)

So the problem of enabling GBIs to discriminate between genuine targets – like real missiles and warheads – and decoys can be solved quite easily, if the MKV program is simply revived.

Reif complains that there is “no guarantee” that this problem will ever be solved and the GBI system made highly effective. Actually, in life, there is no guarantee of anything. There is no guarantee that your car will always start (especially in winter), or that your bus, train, or flight won’t be delayed, or that even the best friends will not fail you, or that even the most reliable weapons will always work perfectly.

There is no perfect person, vehicle, weapon, plane, ship, or anything that humans make.

But if the development and improvement of ground-based interceptors is continued, and the MKV program revived, there’s a high likelihood that these interceptors will become highly effective.

Moreover, Reif and other missile defense opponents are contradicting themselves. On the one hand, they claim that US BMD systems can’t distinguish real warheads from decoys, but OTOH, they also claim that North Korea and Iran don’t know how to mate nuclear warheads to missiles.

But if they don’t know how, they also certainly don’t know how to make credible decoys (or mate them to missiles). Why? Because decoys, in order to deceive anyone, must EXACTLY match real warheads in size and flight patterns – they must look and fly exactly like the real thing. Any decoy not matching a real warhead EXACTLY in size, shape, and flight patterns will immediately be seen on radars as what it really is – a fake.

In order to make a fake of something that exactly matches that “something” in size, shape, and flight patterns, you must first be able to make the real thing. Otherwise, you don’t know how to mimic it exactly. It’s simple logic.

So simple logic alone utterly refutes the lies of missile defense opponents like Reif. It exposes their real motivation – ideological, implacable knee-jerk opposition to missile defense per se, which motivates them to make any false claims, even contradictory ones.

You can’t have it both ways, Kingston. Either North Korea and Iran  can make credible decoys and mate them with missiles – in which case they can do the same with real warheads – or they can’t.

In short, there is a clear need for the East Coast missile defense site; it would be cheap; and if the GBI system continues to be developed and improved, and if the MKV program is revived, the system can become very effective.

Like Reif, ACA’s Greg Thielmann falsely claims that an East Coast missile defense site – and deploying the now-cancelled SM-3 Block 2B missile also intended against ICBM – would be too expensive and that the Iranian ballistic missile threat hasn’t even even begun to emerge. He even claims it’s doubtful that Iran will have an ICBM by the end of this decade.

But that threat has already begun to emerge: the US intel community and the DOD estimate Iran will have an ICBM by 2015/2016, and it could simply buy one from North Korea or China. It has already (allegedly) bought Musudan-ri MRBMs (with a 4,000 km range) from North Korea and has developed its own solid-fuel Sejjil and Ashoura MRBMs with a range of 2,500 kms. Moreover, it has also launched a satellite into space, thus making a huge step towards constructing an ICBM and demonstrating the capability to mate nuclear payloads with missiles.

Again, this truth must be repeated: the technology used to install satellites on missiles is THE SAME as that used to mate warheads to missiles. Fact.

Moreover, the point of defense, including missile defense, is to stay AHEAD of the threat, not to barely keep up with it. Yet, the US intel community and the DOD project Iran to have an ICBM by 2015/2016, so the US now has only 2-3 years to build an East Coast missile defense site.

But Thielmann goes even further, falsely claiming that North Korea doesn’t have ICBMs either and that its successful December 2012 launch of a satellite on an Unha-3 (Taepodong-2) rocket, i.e. on an ICBM. Again, the technology used to marry satellites and warheads to missiles is the same.

Moreover, after that successful launch, the South Koreans retrieved the upper stages and the delivery bus of the rocket from water; TheDailyBeast investigative journalist Eli Lake was the first to report this fact. The retrieved pieces of the missile demonstrated that North Korea DOES have the ability to marry payloads to missiles. CDN’s Defense Issues Weekly duly reported the story.

North Korea’s TD-2 ICBM, capable of reaching the CONUS, was the basis for the successful space rocket. On top of that, North Korea also has the road-mobile KN-08 ICBM, whose existence and genuity were recognized by the DOD (spoken for by Joint Chiefs Vice Chairman Adm. Sandy Winnefeld) in March.

Thielmann also wrongly touts the utterly false numbers given for Russia’s and China’s nuclear arsenals by Hans Kristensen and Robert Norris (for Russia, 466 ICBMs and SLBMs and less than 1,500 deployed warheads; for China, only 300 warheads and 50-75 ICBMs and SLBMs). This is supposed to prove that even the Russian and Chinese nuclear threat isn’t big; like other advocates of America’s disarmament, he dramatically understates the real size of China’s nuclear arsenal.

But both countries have far more weapons than that. Russia has 434 ICBMs and 224 SLBMs (16 for each of its 14 ballistic missile subs), a total of 658 intercontinental missiles, and 1,550, not 1,466, deployed strategic warheads – right at New START limits. (It has significantly built its arsenal up since New START’s ratification, while the US has had to cut its own.)

China has at least 86 ICBMs, plus at least 60 SLBMs on its five Jin class submarines (which, contrary to Thielmann’s blatant lies, ARE operational, and China has 5 of these, not merely 2), plus another 12 on its Xia class sub. And China’s real nuclear arsenal numbers at least 1,600-1,800, not 300-400, warheads.

Thielmann also falsely claims that Russia and China have many common interests that make their attacks on the US unlikely. This is also a blatant lie.

The US and China share no interests whatsoever; their national interests are diametrically opposed. The US wants to safeguard freedom of navigation at sea and in the air, freedom of trade and travel around the world, and to preserve its own and its Pacific’ allies security, as well as the international rules-based order. China wants to replace the US as the world’s top power, turn the Western Pacific into an internal Chinese lake, seize the Okinawa, the Senkakus, the Spratlys, Taiwan, and goodness knows what else, and push the US out of Asia completely.

China has behaved in a very hostile manner towards the US, whether by harassing unarmed American ships, stalking American carriers, blinding American satellites with lasers, threatening war with the US, or launching massive cyberattacks on US networks. The same is true of Russia, whose President Vladimir Putin openly vents his hatred of the US at every opportunity, while conducting an arms race against America, bullying US diplomats, launching his own cyberattacks on America, and supplying America’s enemies around the world (including Iran) with weapons and nuclear fuel.

Russia and the US share very few, if any, interests.

Lastly, Thielmann falsely claims that missile defense is impeding new arms control agreements and “additional” cuts in Russia’s arsenal. This is totally false. Since the late 2000s, Russia has not been cutting anything; under New START, it has significantly increased its nuclear arsenal.

Moreover, both Russia and China know that America’s current and planned missile defense systems are of limited scope and capability – capable enough against Iran and North Korea, but not against Russia’s and China’s much more advanced missiles, let alone the huge arsenals that Moscow and Beijing have. The idea that US missile defense systems pose any threat whatsoever to Russia’s or China’s nuclear arsenals is utterly ridiculous – like everything that Thielmann and his Arms Control Association colleagues write.

Thielmann’s ACA program is ridiculously called the “Realistic Threat Assessment Project”; in fact, it’s a Threat Dramatic Understatement Project and should be called that way.

Thus, Kingston Reif’s and Greg Thielmann’s claims have once again been exposed for what they really are – blatant lies.

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