Now that many feel less sanguine about what may come dropping out of the clear blue sky, Graham, an old hand at reporting military affairs for the Washington Post, provides a balanced and disturbing overview of America’s capacity to protect itself against incoming missiles.
Simply put, a hostile missile shot at the US has good odds of hitting home, or certainly better odds of hitting home than of being intercepted and destroyed. The why of this is also simple: Nobody has the technological know-how to build a functional missile-defense system. Neither an alarmist nor a proponent of either side in the debate, Graham is able to deliver a concise historical survey of the national missile defense program, from its Cold War days right up through the administration of Bush II. Best known of such programs was Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative, a.k.a. “Star Wars,” which even had hawks shaking their heads at the utter ridiculousness of its fantasies of space-based interceptors and laser-equipped satellites. As Graham points out, during the Cold War the problems were technological and financial. With the end of the Cold War came new questions about how real the threat was and how pursuing such a missile program would disrupt our international relations. But when North Korea launched a long-distance missile in 1998, potential threats became clear and interest in missile defense was rekindled. Clinton encouraged the defense industries to get cracking, but, Graham is glad to note, he didn't have to worry about abridging the ABM Treaty or “decoupling” from NATO because the issue was at that stage largely theoretical. Vast and varied opinions on the matter notwithstanding, technical feasibility and cost “continue to make the whole endeavor exceedingly challenging if not entirely dubious.”
Ought to ratchet the national anxiety meter up a notch, and deflate a few Sunday morning gasbags in the defense industry and on Capitol Hill.