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The Balance Sheet on the Scrapped Missile Shield

So let’s total up what was gained and what was lost by the Obama administration’s decision to scrap the never-built ballistic missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic. In favor of abandonment:

  • Russia, a much more important country than either Poland or the Czech Republic, viewed it as needlessly provocative.
  • The thing was never actually built, so getting rid of the plans to build it is fairly cost-free.
  • The thing was more about Eastern European political fears of a resurgent Russia, which are better dealt with through diplomatic means.
  • Iran isn’t dreaming of raining missiles down on Prague or Gdansk.
  • Moving Patriot batteries into Poland is an adequate political substitute for Polish anxieties.

[UPDATE: 6: Oh, and there are alternative missile-defense systems like Aegis that would be used as a substitute in a couple of years; plus closer-to-Iran interceptors as well

In favor of continuation:

  • Iran might someday at some point acquire this missile capability and then decide what it wants to do is blackmail European countries into giving it all their gold coins.
  • Russia isn’t an important country and even if it were, the United States ought to cherish the memory of when it was cool to provoke it.

Eric Edelman, the second Bush-administration undersecretary of defense for policy, tells The Wall Street Journal’s Peter Spiegel that he saw intelligence reports on the pace at which Iran is making technological progress on long-range missiles. But you know who sees more intelligence reports on those missiles? Edelman’s former boss, Defense Secretary Bob Gates. If Gates, the model of a pragmatic defense secretary who often discusses the need to reset defense policy around “real” and not “hypothetical” threats, doesn’t see an actual cost to U.S. or allied security, then none exists.

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