Morning Bell: Mixed Signals on Missile Defense
Rob Bluey /
President-elect Barack Obama is sending mixed signals on America’s planned missile defense sites in Europe following Russia’s heated rhetoric last week. An Obama adviser said this weekend America’s next commander in chief hadn’t decided if he would continue work on the U.S. missile shield. Although Obama is still months away from taking office, now is not the time to reverse course.
This is nothing new from Obama. Throughout the presidential campaign, he shifted his views on missile defense. For instance, a video he recorded for the Priorities Action Fund flatly stated, “I will cut investments in unproven missile defense systems.” When asked about that statement by a TV reporter in August, Obama said he simply wanted to make sure missile defense actually worked:
I think it makes perfect sense to deploy a system that works. But we have to make sure that the technology works. And without having reviewed the technological capabilities of the system that’s being deployed in Poland, I’ve said that Congress should review it. But there is no doubt that after the Russian invasion of Georgia that NATO allies like Poland need to know that they are going to be protected if there is encroachment on their territory.
When he was pressed to say whether the investment is a good idea for the United States, Obama answered: “I think there’s no doubt we should make the investment. I think the capacity of Iran or North Korea to send a rogue missile is one that we have to take very, very seriously.”
The Bush administration this year signed agreements to put 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar station in the Czech Republic. Now, in the wake of Russia’s threat to deploy short-range surface-to-surface missiles within reach of NATO allies, Obama is keeping quiet on his intentions for the missile shield in Europe. Following a call with Lech Kaczynski, the Polish president came away with the impression the U.S. would move forward with the plan. But later in the day, Obama foreign policy adviser Denis McDonough said, “His position is as it was throughout the campaign, that he supports deploying a missile defense system when the technology is proved to be workable.”
Obama’s insistence on a “system that works” is understandable. But he should know the system being tested by the Missile Defense Agency does work. It’s hard to dispute the near-perfect results since 2005. Secondly, punting missile defense to Congress shows a lack of leadership and sets up the program for failure. Ardent liberal opponents would no doubt attempt to strip the agency of funding.
The threat to missile defense is one of the reasons The Heritage Foundation will release a documentary early next year that tells the story of the danger hostile nations and rogue dictators now pose to the world. A trailer of the film, “33 Minutes: Protecting America in the New Missile Age,” is being released today. (Click here to watch.)
After inking the deal with Poland in August, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice summed up its importance: “Missile defense, of course, is aimed at no one. It is in our defense that we do this.” Obama would be wise to follow that logic and build on the success as president.
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