Putting 10 malfunctioning telephone poles [sic] in the ground to appease Warsaw and a radar in Czecho despite local public opposition never made strategic military sense. The hair brained scheme was an important lynch pin for the Neocon’s imperial fantasy. First BMD in Eastern Europe. Then roll back along the former Soviet Near Abroad. Followed by ‘lilypads’ across Central Asia. For a few years as a political construct it worked. The Imperial idea fell apart. Then economic collapse buried it in a heap of hopeless debt. Today’s decision to dynamite this anachronistic AgitProp artifact is a political double plus good regardless of motivations.
One should be muted in satisfaction, however. The Pentagon’s — and Gate’s — belated recognition that sea-based boost-phase architectures offer superior options and timetables is military common sense. As a rejection of Neocon grandiosity it comes many years too late. And at great cost. (The Stiftung made this point way back at STSOZ 1.0 when the plan was first unveiled). The geopolitical and strategic damage is already done. One should also recall the JCS as an institution were also props for Russian Expert Par Excellence and Polish telephone pole [sic] proponent Cher Condi et al. Who now recalls her toothy, vapid assurances that she could ‘handle’ the Russians and get them to ‘go along’ with the whole boondoogle?
Obama’s decision will entail domestic political costs. BMD will be another quiver in the Revanchist arsenal. Safeguard already was after the ABM Treaty. Recall back in 1977 the Peanut Farmer was also correct for military logic behind canceling the B-1. Soviet air defense and PVO Strany interceptors were more than capable of defeating a high speed American penetration bomber. Configuring B-52s as stand off launch platforms for cruise missiles (ALCMs) which were stealthier and terrain following? Technically far more effective and negated significant Soviet capital investment. The Peanut Farmer’s technocratic explanations failed to resonate on the essential political plane. His decision became a potent rallying cry for the nascent merger of Neocons and Movement base in the late 1970s: ‘build the Rockwell B-1’.
Reagan of course did precisely that, and the B1-B emerged, now in 1981 a hobbled low altitude subsonic platform whose Eaton electronics warfare suite was so ‘effective’ that when offensive measures were turned on they turned off the aircraft’s defensive countermeasures. (The electronics fiasco never was 100% satisfactorily worked out). And the Air Force became the proud owner of a ill-fated platform it didn’t even bother to deploy for Desert Storm, etc. It makes the Pinto look like a Honda Accord.
We recall this history now because many Movement ‘thinkers’ 2009 are trapped in the Fall of Saigon playbook. It’s what they lived. We say this not based on speculation but actual conversations. They do what they know worked before. Literally we’ve heard Obama is McGovern – a direct quote. (Ignore that McGovern was a bomber hero from WW II). We can expect the Movement to resurrect BMD in a replay politically. This time the meme has the added kicker of ‘homeland’ versus ‘ferriners’ (Iranians and North Koreans). Add to it some form of ‘surrender’ to be conjured up for events to come in Iraq. And mix some synthetic pressure to escalate in Afghanistan for ‘victory’. And presto! Obama is an incompetent traitor – a meme Cheney already floated. As sure as tea bag parties and town hall rage-ins, expect a Committee for the Present Danger Mark IV with BMD as a center piece. Too bad he doesn’t have a Panama Canal to give back — that would be icing on the cake. And a new Reagan emerges. According to the daydreams.
That’s all fine for domestic mud slinging. Does anyone in Seoul or Riyadh follow Joe Wilson or this stuff? What they do notice is that the new BMD architecture is essentially amphibian. Contrary to Krauthammer’s triumphalist ‘Going Ashore’ nostrums in 2003 the U.S. is distinctly pulling back – as an amphibian should. Imperial clients notice these things. Along with an Empire that economically has imploded. For those like ‘the New Europe’ that believed in the Warlord they went all in – to the last chip. And bust out. This is just the first sign of the American tide receding. As American bankruptcy forces constraints expect more ‘strateigc re-assessments’ in years to come.
Poland loses its American hostages. On the anniversary of Stalin’s invasion in 1939. No one ever accused the Americans of being historically literate. Or sensitive. Obama’s promise Thursday via telephone that America stands behind its Article V commitment under NATO must gall. To sensitive Poles (and Zbig) when the rubber hits the road Waraw will need more than a speech. Or an off the record denunciation that Putin is a ‘jackass’.
What worries the Stiftung the most is that the health care fiasco and the preceding six months suggest the Democrats are functionally incompetent as a governing political force. For different reasons than the Movement’s eight years. And with less pernicious impact to be sure. We still doubt they have the acumen to plan, execute and then explain why the periphery is to be let go. It’s a perfect storm for Movement Dolchstoßlegende — and conveniently also the label ‘November Criminals’. Fortunately, at the moment this means largely just even more agitated South Carolinians and assorted others. This shrunken rump base may not always remain so.
At least the U.S. is beginning to make strategic priorities even if by default. This is all to the good. Provoking Russia with a useless BMD construct was an empty gesture. Russia can never accept a carrot and stick immediately for reasons of face. But it’s an overdue accommodation to political realities and U.S. long term interests.
Still, a price at home must be paid. Does Obama understand he must actually govern and not preside? He can’t count on the Democratic establishment to take a stand. Technocratic rationales won’t cut it. The question is when will he stop playing defense and actually lead?