According to a Reuters report, the Obama Administration is assessing that Iran could have a long-range ballistic missile by 2015. Now they tell us. Last September, when President Obama announced the cancellation of the program for fielding defensive interceptors in Poland for countering long-range missiles from Iran, it justified the decision on the assertion that Iran was focused on short- and medium-range, not long-range, missiles. Doubtless, the Obama Administration will trash the intelligence community either for being wrong in September or being wrong now. The great thing about being a policy maker is that you are permitted to criticize the intelligence community on whatever grounds you choose.
The bad thing about being a policy maker, however, is that these intelligence assessments can make hash of your policy. So it is with President Obama’s policy to scale back long-range defensive interceptors based in the U.S. from 44 to 30, cancel the interceptors slated for Poland and to phase in its alternative system, called the Phased Adaptive Approach, so that its capability to counter long-range missiles from Iran will not become available until 2020.
During the late 1970s, when the Soviet Union was on the march, the term “window of vulnerability” was coined. The new assessment regarding Iran’s development of long-range missiles means that the Obama Administration’s missile defense policies are opening a new window of vulnerability.
If it wants to close this window, the Obama Administration will need to reverse its policy and restore the number of long-range defensive interceptors in the U.S. to 44, return to the plan of fielding the 10 long-range interceptors in Poland and accelerate it Phased Adaptive Approach to missile defense.
There is an important lesson for the Obama Administration in the current circumstance, which is that effective policy is derived from sound judgment and vision and not short-lived intelligence assessments. In the case of missile defense, sound judgment and vision dictate that it is better to get robust and timely defenses and not be day late and dollar short.