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Obama's Missile Defense Cuts Under Attack

Saturday, 19 Sep 2009 07:28 PM

By Chris Wessling

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As President Barack Obama's campaign promise of cutting back on missile defense gets closer to becoming a reality, critics are worried that America's enemies will be emboldened to act on their evil impulses.

According to a Newsmax.TV Special Report by Kathleen Walter, President Barack Obama is slashing America's missle defense budget by $1.4 billion, or 15 percent, for fiscal 2010. That's about the same amount as just one day of spending in Obama's economic stimulus package.

“In a year where North Korea is lighting off rockets over the Pacific Ocean, the same year we're cutting

our missile defense systems, just doesn't make sense to me,” says Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Fla.

See Video: Obama's Missile Defense Cuts Under Attack - Click Here Now

Missile defense includes a wide variety of programs and equipment that attempt to protect a country or region from intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) through interception by lasers or anti-ballistic missiles, also known as interceptors. The technology is a result of President Ronald Reagan's 1983 Strategic Defense Initiative, nicknamed at the time by detractors as “Star Wars.”

One of the programs getting cut is known as ground-based, mid-course defense, a program at the heart of national missile defense. Designed to stop long-range ballistic missiles, it features long-range, mid-course interceptors in Alaska and California. It also could be deployed in parts of Europe in the future.

Also effective are the airborne laser and kinetic energy interceptor programs current under development.

The biggest concern about missile defense cutbacks, say experts, is that they empower America's enemies, encouraging them to speed up development of their own nuclear programs and then sell their ideas to other regimes.

“When you have a very limited missile defense, you actually encourage the enemy to move faster,” says James Carafano of the Heritage Foundation. “Because when they see that there's just a slight obstacle they say, 'Well I need to hurry up and build my missiles so I can threaten the Unites States. So by actually slowing down our missile defenses, we've had the perverse effect of actually accelerating the development programs in North Korea and Iran.”

In the six months since Obama announced plans to cut the missile defense budget North Korea has conducted 17 ballistic missile tests. That's 70 percent of its ballistic missile testing in the last 10 years. The North Koreans also have conducted two nuclear tests. In that same time period, Iran has also made progress, demonstrating the ability to put a satellite into orbit – the same technology needed to launch a ballistic missile attack.

“I'm not that worried that the North Koreans will fire a missile at Hawaii. They may be strange but I'm not sure they're crazy,” says Rep. Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich. “What I'm most concerned about is proliferation. If North Korea continues the development [of nuclear weapons], will South Korea and Japan also develop nuclear weapons? If Iran gets the point where they've got nuclear capabilities, what will Saudi Arabia do? What will Egypt do? What will other countries in the region do? Will they also then feel a need for a nuclear weapon? That's what I'm worried about.”

Some defense analysts say that a strong missle shield is needed to counter that threat. The recent Bush administration laid the foundation for elements of a missile shield in Poland the the Czech Republic. But Obama is scrapping that plan, after Russia threatened against renewing the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START).

“Missile defense is an important capability that we need to have,” says Hoesktra. “It's a capability that our allies want us to have and that they're going to be dependent on. This is one [issue] where we need to be looking toward our friends and working with our friends before we sell out our friends to get a deal with the Russians.”

Some analysts dismiss Obama's missile cuts as insignificant, including retired Lt. Gen. Robert Gard of the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.

“From my standpoint, I think [Obama] is being reasonably sensible in some respects. Perhaps a bit too generous to some of the programs that I think are not effective.”

Gard also says of the ground-based, mid-course defense system: “That has not proved to work. In fact, authoritative scientists say that there's no way that it could defeat simple countermeasures. So I would not favor the continued deployment of a system that has not been proven to work.”

The START treaty signed by the United States and the Soviet Union in 1991 is set to expire in December. If a new deal is struck, it would likely include a sharp reduction of the nuclear arsenal – a key elements of arms control.

See Video: Obama's Missile Defense Cuts Under Attack - Click Here Now

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