South Korea the latest to deploy missile defense system
29 July 2016
Sustained North Korea threats, and nuclear weapon and missile tests, have led the Obama administration and President Park Geun-hye's government of South Korea to agree to deploy the Lockheed Martin THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Air Defense) anti-missile system.
Beijing is reacting with consternation, but China's arms buildup and aggressiveness at sea further justify the South Korea deployment. Earlier, the system was deployed on the U.S. West Coast, Guam and Hawaii.
A somewhat comparable missile confrontation occurred during the George W. Bush administration. Plans were announced to deploy a ballistic missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic. Initially, the Obama administration endeavored to limit such weapons to sea-based forces, but Russia's invasion of Crimea and Ukraine led to land-based deployment.
In early July, the Warsaw NATO summit emphasized missile defense and new troop deployments in Europe.
Debate over the best balance of defensive and offensive military capabilities is as old as warfare. Technology complicates, but does not abolish, this dual challenge.
"Hitting a bullet with a bullet'' is the way even proponents of anti-missile systems describe the extraordinary technical challenge. Nonetheless, there has been sustained pressure within the U.S. government for more than a half century to build such weapons. There also has been remarkable success in development of these complex weapon systems.
During the Eisenhower administration, defense spending absorbed more than half the entire federal budget, and a much larger percentage of gross domestic product than today. President Dwight Eisenhower maintained control over the military primarily, though not exclusively, by putting an overall ceiling on the Pentagon budget, effectively setting the Air Force, Army and Navy against one another for available resources.
One byproduct was considerable duplication of effort. For example, each service developed a separate strategic missile program, jealously guarding research and development information from the others.
In the successor Kennedy administration, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara was immediately offended by the lack of formal logic in this approach, and decisively imposed organization-chart order. The Air Force was given land-based strategic missiles, the Navy sea-based submarine systems, and the Army was removed from the game.
Additionally, McNamara and his young civilian analysts rejected arguments for anti-ballistic missiles because any conceivable defensive systems could be overwhelmed at relatively low cost by simply increasing the number of attack vehicles. Under abstract strategic concepts of that time, which McNamara embraced, leaving populations vulnerable to attack was considered stabilizing, and termed "Mutual Assured Destruction." Defending missile sites was acceptable, but could be achieved by placing them in concrete and steel underground silos.
McNamara's domineering style quickly unified the services against him. The Army eventually achieved an anti-ballistic missile (ABM) role. President Lyndon Johnson, in desperate political trouble over the Vietnam War, forced McNamara to resign. President Johnson generously named him President of the World Bank, but also forced him publicly to endorse the ABM.
In the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan promoted space-based missile interceptors, termed the Strategic Defense Initiative. The Air Force became the lead service but the entire Joint Chiefs of Staff endorsed the effort.
An erratic, irrational nuclear armed government or group, actual or potential, argues for developing the defense. Nuclear war strategist Herman Kahn used exactly this argument in print to help the humiliated McNamara when the earlier ABM system was announced.
The radical rogue regime of North Korea, still committed to Cold War totalitarianism, is precisely the sort of threat Kahn had in mind.
Source : chicagotribune.com