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[P]
President Bush's ABM Program

By howardjp in Op-Ed
Thu May 03, 2001 at 03:16:47 PM EST
Tags: Politics (all tags)
Politics

On Tuesday, at the National Defense University in Washington, President Bush announced plans for a new missile defense program. This program, similiar to President Reagan's Star Wars or Strategic Defense Initiative, plans to create a "nuclear umbrella" to protect the United States from foreign nuclear attack.


The United States signed the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 1972 and has stood by it since. The Treaty prevents the United States and Russia from developing technology to stop an incoming nuclear missile. However, President Bush now claims that the world has changed enough to throw the ABM Treaty away.

Fundamentally, the Treaty worked to prevent nuclear war. If a nation knows it cannot stop its opponent's retaliation, it is not likely to engage in a nuclear first-strike. Called the theory of mutually assured destruction or deterence thoery, participants in the nuclear game know they can destroy the enemy at the cost of themselves and do not a launch. Without a winner, nuclear war is not worth waging.

President Bush beleives the the time for anti-ballistic missile technology has come. By being the first to ignore the treaty, the United States gives an already overly-nationalistic government in Russia the license to develop its own anti-ballisitic missile plan. Further, Russian military leaders may go further and ignore other disarmament and reduction treaties signed both before and after the fall of the Soviet Union.

President Bush's argument centers on rogue states like Iraq and North Korea and accidental launches by Russia or China. Except for Russia, none of these nations signed the 1972 ABM Treaty and may be developing anti-ballisitic missile technology. However, President Bush would move farther to protecting American from rogue states by encouraging a new ABM treaty to be signed by all nuclear powers. Russia, interested in maintaining the current ABM Treaty would likely support this effort. This may even be unnecessay, though.

Nuclear threats, as they have been known in the past, may be gone forever. It is unlikely that North Korea will have the technology available to prevent a nuclear strike from the United States within two decades. Iraq will not have the technology for at least fifteen years. Most experts beleive even the United States will need at least three years to produce an effective anti-ballisitic missile program. Some place the time frame closer to eight years.

The modern nuclear threat comes from terrorism. With the information needed to build a modest atomic weapon available in any encyclopedia, the most difficult aspect to nuclear terrorism is the availability of weapons grade nuclear materials. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, nuclear material has remained unaccounted for. Significant amounts nuclear-grade uranium missing from Russian stockpiles. It could have gone on the black market and been sold to any number of the rogue states mentioned before. Nuclear terrorism, against the United States or any other nation, is a holocaust waiting to happen.

More importantly, a missile shield program will not protect against nuclear terrorism, except in the unlikely event a terrorist launches a nuclear weapon against the United States. Far more likely, a terrorist would smuggle a weapon into the United States and detonate the weapon on the ground. This has an added benefit to the terrorist of preventing warnings from going out.

The state of the world has changed significantly in the past decade. Modern nuclear concerns have changed and so have the sources of nuclear threats. President Bush, however, is not living in today's world. He is not living in his father's world, either. He is still living in the world of Kennedy and Johnson. Unless the United States takes steps to protect against modern enemies the real enemy will be ourselves.

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President Bush's ABM Program | 85 comments (77 topical, 8 editorial, 0 hidden)
How good a tan... (3.42 / 7) (#3)
by greyrat on Thu May 03, 2001 at 10:35:03 AM EST

...can I get under that 'Nuclear Umbrella'?

And exactly how is this going to save us from the much more likely (in the current political environment) event of somebody transporting a nuclear device to a given target by planes, trains, and automobiles?

Given one hour to live, the student replied: "I'd spend it with professor __ who can make an hour seem like a lifetime."


~ ~ ~
Did I actually read the article? No. No I didn't.
"Watch out for me nobbystyles, Gromit!"

ABM systems already in place (4.00 / 5) (#6)
by Alarmist on Thu May 03, 2001 at 10:39:09 AM EST

The terms of the ABM treaty allow each side to have one point-defense system, I believe. The Russians situated theirs to defend Moscow; we initially had ours covering DC, but moved it later to cover a few Minuteman sites in Colorado, I think.

If this is indeed true, it tells you something about each side's priorities.


I know (2.00 / 1) (#9)
by howardjp on Thu May 03, 2001 at 10:53:58 AM EST

I am aware of this. But this is not important to the discussion.

[ Parent ]
We have a point-defense system?? (3.00 / 1) (#13)
by SpaceHamster on Thu May 03, 2001 at 11:31:43 AM EST

It was my understanding that the abm system we're working on now doesnt work yet. Are you saying that we've had one for years? Where can I find info on this?

Also, is a point-defense system equivelent to a theatre defense system?

[ Parent ]
Point Defense vs. Theater Defense (3.00 / 1) (#23)
by Alarmist on Thu May 03, 2001 at 01:22:14 PM EST

It was my understanding that the abm system we're working on now doesnt work yet. Are you saying that we've had one for years? Where can I find info on this?

The ABM system we have now doesn't work yet (I also think it's technologically stupid and overcomplicated by 2/3rds, but that's another rant). The ABM system we developed in the 1960s, though, might work to some degree.

Also, is a point-defense system equivelent to a theatre defense system?

No. A point-defense system will defend a very small area (on the order of the size of a state or less). Theater defense covers much, much more.

[ Parent ]

Size of point defense (4.00 / 2) (#46)
by pavonis on Thu May 03, 2001 at 07:43:12 PM EST

I was under the strong impression that our various point-defense designs were capable of protecting a city, at best, and that in fact it was far from certain they would work against a good ICBM anyway, or if they worked, be adequate to prevent considerable civilian casualties (as opposed to preserving the ability of hardened missile bases to launch.)

[ Parent ]
Fact checking. (4.00 / 1) (#57)
by Alarmist on Fri May 04, 2001 at 09:25:56 AM EST

I was under the strong impression that our various point-defense designs were capable of protecting a city, at best, and that in fact it was far from certain they would work against a good ICBM anyway, or if they worked, be adequate to prevent considerable civilian casualties (as opposed to preserving the ability of hardened missile bases to launch.)

After a little research (more of which I should have done anyway), I see that you're correct. None of the ABM programs from the 50s-70s was very good; the Nike series (Nike-Ajax, Nike-Hercules, etc.) was aimed mainly at defense against fleets of enemy bombers. While they could, with a lot of luck and nuclear warheads, been used against ICBMs, their effectiveness was much in doubt.


[ Parent ]

Nike/Herc (4.00 / 2) (#19)
by wiredog on Thu May 03, 2001 at 12:55:08 PM EST

Nike/Herc was the missile defense system the US developed in the 60's. There are several old facilities near Washington DC, including one in Great Falls Virginia. To get there: Take Georgetown Pike outbound past Great Falls and turn left on Springvale Rd. It's the fenced in area on the left about 200 feet down the road. Watch for the historical marker on the right, across the street. There are plans to turn it into an astronomical observatory RSN.

The idea of a global village is wrong, it's more like a gazillion pub bars.
Phage
[ Parent ]

Russia and China are threats (3.62 / 8) (#7)
by Rasvar on Thu May 03, 2001 at 10:39:51 AM EST

Call this an old hardline position; but I think Russia is as much of threat now, due to its own fractured government, than it has been in some time.

China continually wants to test the water with the US and considers the US more of an enemy than a partner. I don't trust China. It has nothing to do with the EP-3 incident. Ever since Tiannamen Square, I have felt that China could not be a trusted partner with the US. I have had strong disagreements with our trade policies. Just witness the furor that the Chinese government whipped up in its own people over the EP-3. The US has to take all measures nessecary to protect its people from the threat of a nuclear missle attack, if possible. I am glad to see a hardening of our stance against China.

China and ABM are distinct issues (4.40 / 5) (#10)
by MarkCC on Thu May 03, 2001 at 10:57:15 AM EST

While I agree with you that China is not to be trusted, I think that it's a totally distinct issue from whether or not we should be trying to deploy an anti-missile system.

When it comes to China, there are few people have less trust for them than me. I sincerely believe that the Chinese government is a bunch of foolish, vicious, murderous old men. And there's a personal aspect to it too: my wife is from Taiwan, and we have friends and family there, under threat from those assholes on the mainland.

But when we're talking about ABM, we're not talking about realistically defending ourselves against someone like China. In fact, we're not talking about realistically defending ourselves from anyone.

We're talking about creating a useless system that might be able to defend us from attacks by single missiles launched without the most trivial of countermeasures.

Even if the system works to the best expectations of its designers (which is a pretty doubtful proposition) China and Russia could each easily overwhelm the system.

Even if the system works to the best expectations of its designers, it could be defeated by loading a missle with a warhead, and a collection of 20 mylar balloons.

Even if the system works to the best expectations of its designers, it would do nothing to prevent someone from putting a bomb into a shipping crate, and mailing it to the US. And really: if a terrorist group or a rogue nation really wanted to attack the US, the easy way to do it is with this approach, not with a missile. It's a hell of lot cheaper, a hell of a lot more reliable, and a hell of lot less traceable.

There's the real point. We're talking about discarding important treaties, angering potentially serious enemies, and spending hundreds of billions of dollars, all in the name of a system that accomplishes nothing.

[ Parent ]

Bush's Anti Logic Shield (4.50 / 4) (#30)
by eLuddite on Thu May 03, 2001 at 01:50:46 PM EST

China has made it known that they will reply to any American missile defense initiative with a nuclear weapon build up of their own, destablizing the region of Russia, China, India, Pakistan, etc. Thus the madness will begin all over again.

There's a nice article about this on Slate called Bush's Anti-Logic Shield in which the author refutes each of Bush's bullet points for unilaterally putting an end to the peace and the peace of mind that we've managed to buy with Mutual Assured Destruction.

Of particular note regarding the new, improved terrorist nation threat,

The basic rationale for missile defense has long been that people like Saddam Hussein and Kim Jong-il are savages not subject to the deterrent logic of mutually assured destruction. These men, Bush said, are "gripped by an implacable hatred of the United States of America. They hate our friends. They hate our values. Many care little for the lives of their own people. In such a world, Cold War deterrence is no longer enough."

But of course, Cold War deterrence was never premised on enemy leaders sharing our values, liking us, or even caring whether their own people died. As I've noted before in this space, deterrence assumes only that enemy leaders don't want to die themselves. If Bush thinks Saddam Hussein and Kim Jong-il don't care about their own survival he should say so, but so far the evidence suggests pretty strongly that these guys are survivors. Of particular relevance: During the Persian Gulf War, after Secretary of State James Baker made a veiled threat to respond with nuclear force to the use of chemical weapons, Hussein kept his ample supply of chemical weapons sheathed.


---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

bush lives in the wrong time ... (3.70 / 10) (#11)
by gullevek on Thu May 03, 2001 at 11:01:53 AM EST

I think Bush is a little bit out of Date. I see this from the Eyes of an Outside (I am from Europe).

Starting the ABM program is like starting the cold war again. Perhaps not with Russia (lack of money), but with China.

Do we want the same bullshit again?? Hell, we live in the year 2001, where does Bush live ? Instead of spending Billions of Dollars for this stupid army crap, he should spend if for education. This is far more important than this.

And, for US sake, I wouldn't fool around with China. They are far more capable of, then we all think. And they have a nationalism at the moment, no other country had before.

I hope this all will cool down soon, and we have a little bit brighter future, then a nother nuclear thread. I don't want to raise my children in a nuclear shelter, just because some people think it's funny to play war games ...

mfg, cs
--
"Die Arbeit, die tüchtige, intensive Arbeit, die einen ganz in Anspruch nimmt mit Hirn und Nerven, ist doch der größte Genuß im Leben."
  - Rosa Luxemburg, 1871 - 1919
Lemonade anyone? (4.00 / 6) (#12)
by Mad Hughagi on Thu May 03, 2001 at 11:02:41 AM EST

Here's a story that I submitted on this topic last year: National Missile Defence

There was quite a good discussion about the various technologies themselves. Hopefully this story will generate a bit more in the way of political and social commentary.

While I don't think that having a ground based solution would present a problem (Moscow has had a system set up for years), I think the whole Star Wars solution is a bit too nationalistic for my liking. If the US is going to implement something on that scale, to prevent nuclear strikes from rogue nations and whatnot, then I think it should operate regardless of the intended target - not just us, our allies or whatever, it should be instated to protect the entire world.

Right now Bush is using it as a leveraging tool to solidify the US's position as the world superpower. He seems to be of the opinion that either you join the US as an ally (and accept his plans whole-heartedly) or you sit out in the open trying to swat mega-ton warheads out of the air with a 29 year old treaty.

In the end though, I'd just like to point out a common feeling among most skeptics. Shooting a missle down is not an easy thing to do. Unless they are holding some really advanced devices behind closed doors, I highly doubt that such a system exists. Look at how recent tests have faired. An ABM system has to be waterproof, even if 2 or 3 missiles get through you're in for trouble. With multiple warheads being deployed from the same missile, that increases the number of targets. If some rogue nation decides to employ a nuclear strike on the U.S., I highly doubt they are going to ride on just a single missle.

Bush is going to go down as a real winner in the history books. This is a lemon of a project, and when the public realizes how much money he's spent on it....


HUGHAGI INDUSTRIES

We don't make the products you like, we make you like the products we make.

Shooting down a ballistic missile is easy (3.50 / 2) (#42)
by physicsgod on Thu May 03, 2001 at 05:34:21 PM EST

If you have reflexes on the order of microseconds. The recent test failures are all the result of unreliable launch vehicles, in the one test that didn't have launch problems the system worked. That says to me that we should be doing some more research into reliable launch systems (or use commercial launchers). There is still the problem of decoys, but that is only a problem if the attacker has MIRV technology, which only China and Russia have.

At the very least this will spark some innovations in sensor and computer technology.

--- "Those not wearing body armor are hereby advised to keep their arguments on-topic" Schlock Mercenary
[ Parent ]
Decoys; launch vehicles. (4.00 / 3) (#58)
by Alarmist on Fri May 04, 2001 at 10:17:32 AM EST

If you have reflexes on the order of microseconds. The recent test failures are all the result of unreliable launch vehicles, in the one test that didn't have launch problems the system worked. That says to me that we should be doing some more research into reliable launch systems (or use commercial launchers).

Part of the reliability issue, I think, is due to the fact that a lot of these tests are using boosters that were originally designed for other purposes. Some of our standard boosters (Titan, perhaps, and maybe Delta) are of reasonable quality but probably too expensive for an effective defense in the quantities desired.

Why nobody's been building new boosters to handle this is probably a cost issue, but it seems a good idea to me. Ideally, the booster in question would be low-cost, low- (or no) maintenance, and high-performance. Solid rockets seem to be the way to go on this, but for some reason we use liquid propellants an awful lot.

With regards to decoys, these are less of an issue if you throw away the hit-to-kill idea (which has always seemed pretty silly to me in this case) and use fragmentation or tacnuke warheads (the latter, though, are a serious issue and would probably never be employed, despite their efficacy). Further, if you used a big booster, you could have multiple interceptors per launch. Why not meet a cloud with another cloud?

Lastly, any decent ABM system will be multi-tiered. Theoretically, you'd be using space- or plane-based systems to hit incoming missiles during the boost phase and ground-based systems to attack them during the ballistic phase, with many layers of defense. While no defense can keep out a truly determined attacker, the point of ABM is to make a first strike cost ineffective; if you have to expend 50 boosters to hit one target, you've lost unless you can afford to do that and hit all your other targets as well.


[ Parent ]

When in doubt, be a bully. (4.18 / 16) (#14)
by domesticat on Thu May 03, 2001 at 11:36:00 AM EST

Just remember, when they build missiles and missile defense systems, it's aggression - but when we build them, it's "protecting America from rogue states."

No wonder the rest of the world thinks we're assholes.


[ boring .sig here ]
Wow (3.72 / 11) (#15)
by trhurler on Thu May 03, 2001 at 11:51:13 AM EST

Look at all the mistakes. Here's a short list:

First, despite the horse shit to the contrary, the odds of nuclear terrorism are nearly nil. This is a pipe dream spouted by various defense agencies right after the cold war ended while they were still frantically looking for reasons why we should still fund them. The difficulty in nuclear terrorism is much, much higher than most people think. First, you have to acquire the weapon. This means either a whole weapon or a weapon and fuel as two purchases. The latter is the only way you're going to find it. You can't make your own weapon, either, unless you've got the resources of a small nation and ten years time to tinker with it or maybe you just don't care if it actually works. This is precision engineering on a scale terrorists have no experience with. Then, you have to deliver it. Guess what? You aren't just going to have it shipped to Canada and then drive it down in a panel truck; it probably cost your entire budget for ten years, and you're going to get caught doing that. Trucks are inspected and so on. You're going to need a lot of planning and logistics. Then, when you get it to the target, you have another problem. Terrorism isn't very terrible if there's nobody left to tell about it. You're relying on the media to show how horrible it was; they can't do that after the military blocks off the whole area and refuses to let anyone in or out. This, all around, no matter how destructive, is not good terrorism. Terrorism isn't just about killing and destroying; there is a MESSAGE involved. In addition, this sort of thing would get your group's sponsorship by the Iranians or whomever dropped like a hot potato; they don't want to even admit you were ever there if you're going to do things like that, because the US might INVADE over something like that.

Second, in the near to mid term future, nuclear missile launches ARE a very real possibililty. Many small nations might correctly guess that we'd be hesitant to nuke them for fear of destroying their neighbors and also because we know they probably only have a couple of nukes, so they might be willing to use a nuke or two as an advantage(real or imagined) in something they decided to do. They would not do this if they knew their weapons would be both traced to them immediately and also foiled.

Third, the system Bush is talking about includes some fairly well proven technology; these ground based interceptors that keep failing are only one part of a larger plan that includes the space based laser. Laugh all you want, but this bigger cousin to the Air Force's air based laser looks like it will probably work, if we put the funds into it.

Fourth, the idea of anyone but the US and the EU having enough money to develop and deploy significant ABM technology is ridiculous. The Russians can be nationalist all they want, because they're also dirt poor. The Chinese can bitch and moan until they're hoarse, and it makes no difference; we are and can easily remain so far ahead of them in military technology and deployment that they will always be at a huge disadvantage. There's nobody else even worth laughing at.

Finally, despite what everyone claims, we signed the ABM treaty with a now nonexistent nation, and it ENDED with that nation. Russia's unilateral claim to have taken on the USSR's treaty obligations is just that - we are under NO obligation to honor that. In addition, the ABM treaty forbade the deployment of ABM technology. It did not prohibit developing it, which we've been actively doing for a long time.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

Degree of difficulty? (5.00 / 4) (#35)
by wiredog on Thu May 03, 2001 at 02:15:03 PM EST

...You can't make your own weapon, either, unless you've got the resources of a small nation and ten years time to tinker with it ...

Depends on the weapon. Thermonuclear? Absolutely too complex for all but nations.

Plutonium fission? One was designed by an undergrad at Princeton in the 70's (he wrote a book, Mushroom, about the experience), but, as you said, building it does require precision engineering.

Enriched uranium? Dirt easy. The "little boy" bomb dropped on Hiroshima was basically a cannon which fired a slug of U239 through a ring of U239. Delivery of a U238 device would be easy. A couple of hemispheres, each about half a grapefruit in size, the rest can be picked up in country. Then just build it into a Cessna and fly over Wall Street, or the Pentagon, for an airburst.

Interesting reads are "The Making of the Atomic Bomb" and "Dark Sun: The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb" by Rhodes. It should be noted that a computer was required to design the first h-bomb. ENIAC. Think the work could be duplicated on a PIII or Mac running Mathematica?

The idea of a global village is wrong, it's more like a gazillion pub bars.
Phage
[ Parent ]

Dirty bombs even easier (4.00 / 3) (#37)
by weirdling on Thu May 03, 2001 at 03:13:54 PM EST

A clean bomb is devilishly difficult to make, but a fizzle, or a bomb that fails to explode but does spread radiative material everywhere, could be easily made by anybody with access to the radioactives. Cobalt would be ideal. Just make a batch of diesel nitrate with some sort of even mild radioactive and you'll cause enough paranoia to stop an entire city from working, which, incidentally, is more important than killing people to terrorists.
However, doing such a thing is still likely to get your sponsoring country turned into a plowed field by the US Air Force, so isn't a wise move. Terrorism only works so long as it doesn't sufficiently anger the target into engaging in terrorism of its own. I would support strategic carpet bombing of any country that allowed the kind of infrastructure needed to build an atomic or biological device to exist in its borders...

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
[ Parent ]
Well, if I didn't have a country... (3.33 / 3) (#40)
by greyrat on Thu May 03, 2001 at 04:47:56 PM EST

...but rather an ideology, the USAF wouldn't have much of a field to plow, would they? I also like the way you turn most of trhurlers protests on their head (sorry buddy).
~ ~ ~
Did I actually read the article? No. No I didn't.
"Watch out for me nobbystyles, Gromit!"

[ Parent ]
You still need land (3.50 / 2) (#43)
by physicsgod on Thu May 03, 2001 at 05:41:06 PM EST

For training, coordination, etc. If you were based in, say, Iran and pulled a stunt like this shortly after Iran ceases to exist you'll have a hard time finding a place that won't hunt you down and kill you.

--- "Those not wearing body armor are hereby advised to keep their arguments on-topic" Schlock Mercenary
[ Parent ]
So are you going to bomb... (3.00 / 2) (#54)
by greyrat on Fri May 04, 2001 at 08:59:01 AM EST

...Iran, Lybia, Afghanistan, Ukraine, Columbia, Ireland, Argentina, and Montana? Just a random few bits of land one could be based in simultaneously. Isn't distribution of the community what we tout here so much?
~ ~ ~
Did I actually read the article? No. No I didn't.
"Watch out for me nobbystyles, Gromit!"

[ Parent ]
Do you have ANY idea what you're talking about? (3.50 / 2) (#61)
by trhurler on Fri May 04, 2001 at 11:01:12 AM EST

You don't just build a damned nuclear weapon in your basement. You need a huge set of facilities, some of which are quite specialized. Someone is going to notice that; the only way you could get away with it is if the government approved, and no government is going to approve of a terrorist nuclear weapons program. That's a one way ticket to having your country erased from the map.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Maybe, maybe not. (3.00 / 1) (#64)
by greyrat on Fri May 04, 2001 at 12:17:34 PM EST

So, you're not buying the concept of a dirty bomb as mentioned above? It would match up with your explanation of what terrorism is for much better than an ICBM. Well, OK. If you don't want to concentrate on what to my mind is a more likely risk...

BWT, I would like to see Kentucky in orbit. It would make Mammoth Cave a whole new experience!


~ ~ ~
Did I actually read the article? No. No I didn't.
"Watch out for me nobbystyles, Gromit!"

[ Parent ]
Dirty bomb (3.00 / 1) (#65)
by trhurler on Fri May 04, 2001 at 12:39:19 PM EST

Yeah, those could be done, but the thing is, they really aren't any worse than a well chosen and well dispersed biological, and the biological would be a whole lot cheaper and easier to get. I guarantee you Osama bin Ladin, for instance, could get his hands on just about any disease he wants in less than two years time, whereas buying weapons grade fissionable materials... well, that's just plain hard, no matter how much money you have. Possible, but hard - and therefore, fantastically more expensive than it would be "expected" to be.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Then, I'd rather spend my tax dollars... (3.50 / 2) (#70)
by greyrat on Fri May 04, 2001 at 01:23:20 PM EST

...on something more likely than nuclear terrorism from a nation that is established in the world communiuty, easy (relatively) to retaliate against, and unlikely to attack us in the first place! Especially when the whole thing is based on shooting down missles with missles or other currently unreliable technology.
~ ~ ~
Did I actually read the article? No. No I didn't.
"Watch out for me nobbystyles, Gromit!"

[ Parent ]
Well, (4.00 / 1) (#71)
by trhurler on Fri May 04, 2001 at 03:13:44 PM EST

First of all, the whole thing isn't based on interceptors, and secondly, for all that this is controversial, the amount of money involved, while huge, is not that big for a defense project. I'm willing to guess that the people running the show know more than either you or I about the actual likelihood of a missile threat, regardless of the payload, and I'm willing to bet that NMD is more likely to actually be necessary than, say, the hordes of new fighter planes we're building - and I say that even though my current job somewhat depends on those fighter planes.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
I agree (3.00 / 1) (#77)
by weirdling on Fri May 04, 2001 at 06:24:48 PM EST

This project has the potential to make future bases of operation safer for everyone. The Patriot system did that for the Gulf war. Let's not forget that conventional warheads can be loaded on ICBMs, and, if the target is high-enough priority, it makes sense to use them. An ICBM defense network would allow the US to stop all kinds of threats.
Now, the really hard part: stopping cruise missiles...

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
[ Parent ]
Nuke makin' (3.00 / 1) (#67)
by Mitheral on Fri May 04, 2001 at 01:03:44 PM EST

It seems the only difficult part needing equipment not found at an average university or large high school would be the enrichment of the uranium. Assuming you could steal and or buy it someplace the rest is just machining and engineering. As the main article points out a significant amount is known to be missing in the countries of the former Soviet Union. It wouldn't surprise me if the US has misplaced some somewhere as well.

[ Parent ]
yep, (5.00 / 2) (#73)
by physicsgod on Fri May 04, 2001 at 05:24:36 PM EST

And getting to the moon is just a matter of getting enough rocket fuel, the rest is just engineering. Watch out for those "engineering problems" they'll bite you in the ass real quick.

--- "Those not wearing body armor are hereby advised to keep their arguments on-topic" Schlock Mercenary
[ Parent ]
Not so much. (4.50 / 2) (#45)
by pavonis on Thu May 03, 2001 at 07:40:25 PM EST

I am afraid your post is at times shortsighted, at others somewhat bizarre.

Describing a space based laser which has never flown as proven technology seems somewhat peculiar. It has very little to do with the Air Force's laser, which is supposed to be used on short-range missiles in a co-flying situation. A space-based laser is supposed to function by disabling an ICBM as it pokes up past most of the atmosphere. A very brief summary of the problems: powering said laser requires either nuclear explosions, which along with many other concerns we have signed a treaty against using in space (UN, 1967); or large power sources that are problematic to launch. The laser and the missile have high relative velocities, requiring very high power since lock-on can only last an instant. The laser needs to deal with all the problems of countermeasures that have been described in any other context, including radar decoys, heat decoys, cooled missiles, computer attacks, visual decoys, hardened missiles, and attacks against the laser itself. Solving these problems will be neither cheap nor simple nor swift, if indeed they are soluable. Few scientists associated with Star Wars in the past are prepared to endorse this system, though many military minds would like to imagine the answer is right around the corner.

Regarding money and the ability to develop ABM technology, it is quite plausible that within the minimum-ten-year timeframe before we've managed to really deploy the thing, any number of other nations can afford it, particularly as our designs are unlikely to remain a perfect secret. China's economy in ten (or twenty) years could be as far beyond its current state, as our 1950 economy was beyond our 1930 economy. I do not guarantee that this will happen, by any means, but it is in no sense laughable.

Regarding the 'nonexistent nation': This is a point often raised by certain inflammatory public figures and many folks on the internet, but rarely suggested by any diplomat or international lawyer. In, say, the last hundred and fifty years, it has become pretty well-established that a successor government in a nation, which has achieved power in some nonconstitutional but at least somewhat orderly fashion, inherits the rights and commitments of the previous government. See multiple governments of Germany, France, most of South and Central America, and so forth. The anarchy that would result if this were not the case is to no one's advantage, just as it would not be good if the US were freed of all treaties every time we changed Presidents. In the particular case of Russia, it would imply that they are exempt from a number of rather important arms control treaties, and at a key moment in 1990 would have implied that an immense arsenal of nuclear weapons outside Russian territory didn't belong to anyone in particular. The fact that Russia has moderately less territory than, and a different name from, its predecessor is of no particular importance; in fact all that is important, is that the international community, Russia, and the World Court are all quite clear that they think this would be a violation of treaty.



[ Parent ]
Huh? (4.00 / 1) (#49)
by physicsgod on Thu May 03, 2001 at 09:05:34 PM EST

Several of your comments make no sense, and others make sense, but are just wrong. For instace, the Air Force laser is a chemical laser, which means no explosions, and no massive power supply, instead you have to fly a fuel tank up ever N fireings, but that's not so bad. Any offshoot of the Air Force technology is probably going to hit the missile is late boost phase, which means decoys aren't an issue. As for a hardened missile, you can't just slap some armor on the thing and expect it to work, deploying this ABM system would make every ballistic missile program aimed at us obsolete overnight, they'd have to start again at the beginning, while we're looking at upping the power and making sheilding even harder. I also hope you're aware of the little tiff we were involved in between 1930 and 1950, and how that might have affected our economy.

--- "Those not wearing body armor are hereby advised to keep their arguments on-topic" Schlock Mercenary
[ Parent ]
I stand semi-corrected (5.00 / 1) (#51)
by pavonis on Fri May 04, 2001 at 12:15:15 AM EST

Did some looking up and it is indeed a chemical-powered laser. I triple-dare the Air Force to tell us how many times it can fire before replacement. :-)

Okay, let's have a shot at ascent-phase BMD. The idea here is that rather than hitting the small, fast, relatively cold, whatall warhead when it's in midflight, you have a shot at it while it's taking off and still has the boosters on.

The good things about this: it's a good bit more likely. You have an easier target by far, and the missile probably has less of a shot at evading.

Bad things about this: okay, there are a lot of different boost-phase designs. Many of them involve the sort of systems we are hoping to use in theater defense, positioned relatively near the launch site- intercepting missiles. Others include a possible use of the air force's airbone laser, or a space-based laser.

Now, how much easier is the target? Against lasers (as opposed to explosives) it does seem like there's some leeway for hardening the missile, which would need to either be very good at reflection and heat-dispersion, or be able to take a substantial hit. To date we've mostly filled our launchers with all the payload they can carry, which doesn't leave room for something like armored plating, but concievably one could use lighter payloads. It's hard to know the numbers since the air force is a little shy about details.

Lasers or missiles, we would need a response time of about a hundred seconds to be able to catch the target in time. This is possible with system upgrades of defense spysats and the associated computers and such, but that's handleable, assuming no one takes out our spysats before they launch, or times their launches for zero coverage (Indian nuke test, anyone?)

The missile systems, land or sea, would require a major effort to deploy for anything like global coverage. You need to put a bunch of ships out there. Potentially, of course, you need to protect those from attack, too, which seems like it could be problematic. If the world is angry at your policy and doesn't want your ships refueling at their ports or sitting in their waters, or your missiles on their territory, you've gotten into some pretty complicated operations. Not necessarily impossible, but deploying weapons around the globe that the globe doesn't like is, at least, a ticket for a very expensive job. The US has had quite a bit of international relations trouble based on armed forces deployment already, if you recall...

Russia has offered, vaguely, to help us on seaborne BPI, because we can't hit mainland russia or china with seaborne interceptors. Of course, this also cuts heavily into their utility, in my mind, and certainly isn't compatible with the idea of making everyone else's missiles obselete. They've also suggested a joint land-based site in Vladivostok, aimed at North Korea. Personally, I think we're playing unlikely games of demonization with North Korea, but at any rate, we've given no indication of interest in their proposals.

I think space-based intercepts, were they to work, would be a fabulous way of offering ICBM defense to the whole world. Will they work? Well... maybe. They are still subject to spoof launches; I don't find it too hard to imagine China deciding they're going to launch an empty rocket once a month just to keep our satellites wearing out. Satellites themselves are vulnerable to attack, something that hasn't really played out to date but can; all you need to knock out a satellite is a successful rendezvous, within the capability of several governments and a number of large companies, not all of them American. More likely countries would just try to overwhelm the system with a large number of simultaneous launches, or confuse the laser about the target's location in the ways discussed elsewhere. A large set of lasers, usable repeatedly, could overcome this, particularly if most of the world were not conspiring against them. It remains ineffectual against other modes of nuclear attack, and its unknowable impact on world diplomacy and world arms policy also remains.

Whether or to what extent Bush is talking about a BPI initiative is quite unclear; but the fact that he's still talking about US-based interceptors as well, suggests to me that some very confusing or moneygrabbing things are happening at the Pentagon these days. If there's a working BPI system, missile interceptors come with an awfully expensive price tag for a backup plan. If BPI isn't going to work... well, the plan seems unclear. I'll leave it at that.

[ Parent ]

Space lasers (4.00 / 1) (#53)
by pavonis on Fri May 04, 2001 at 12:32:13 AM EST

I should have added that the Air Force team has the first all-up test flight for the space-laser system scheduled for 2012. That would seem to make a policy statement about space-based lasers, other than "We will continue to develop them as aggressively as possible", bizarre at this time, as there will be nothing to deploy or even budget to deploy for at least three presidential terms. I am in favor, though with regrets, of that continued development.

[ Parent ]
ASAT (4.00 / 1) (#60)
by Alarmist on Fri May 04, 2001 at 10:31:07 AM EST

all you need to knock out a satellite is a successful rendezvous, within the capability of several governments and a number of large companies, not all of them American.

Most of them not American, in fact.

The Soviets did a lot of ASAT tests in the 1960s and 1970s, and had vehicles designed for the purpose. These were usually proximity-fused fragmentation warheads, though some of the more outlandish schemes involved piloted craft armed with recoilless guns or rockets.

The United States did some comparatively half-assed work. What we have to show for it is ASAT, a big rocket slapped to an F-15 and launched from the atmosphere. An interesting idea, but one that will probably not be employed since there's been a moratorium on the project since the mid-1980s and we didn't have all that many to begin with.

And so far as satellite rendezvous is concerned, it's not, as you said, such a hard thing. All you need is a killer satellite and some fuel for it.


[ Parent ]

Two things (4.00 / 2) (#62)
by trhurler on Fri May 04, 2001 at 11:13:14 AM EST

First of all, SBL is indeed a boost phase intercept, but I think they're talking about huge, heavy batteries rather than the Air Force's chemical design. The story is they have a design that can fire 20 times in a row, and of course given time you can recharge those.

Second, go look up the physics of an ICBM. You can't armor the damned things. That's silly. Given the forces due to acceleration straight up during the boost phase, if you even moderately weaken the structure on one side, it will fold. Now, you put armor on it. Presumably, this is intended to ablate, because you sure as hell aren't going to reflect that laser without generating a lot of heat. When it does, you have a weight imbalance. Guess what happens when you have a weight imbalance on an ICBM with an engine generating ridiculous constant thrust? That's right - it'll do pretty much the same thing a bottle rocket with no tail does. Have a nice day.

The main problem with this system is, as you stated before, getting the batteries into orbit and defending the satellites. Getting them into orbit is a bitch, but it is doable, so who cares; the US government could probably put Kentucky into orbit if that was what it felt necessary. Defending them is easier: just as we always did during the cold war, you say to people, look, it is our policy that an attack on these satellites is a nuclear assault on the US, and if you do that, we WILL launch against you. Problem solved.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
orbiting and defending satellites (3.00 / 1) (#66)
by pavonis on Fri May 04, 2001 at 12:50:39 PM EST

The main problem with this system is, as you stated before, getting the batteries into orbit and defending the satellites. Getting them into orbit is a bitch, but it is doable, so who cares; the US government could probably put Kentucky into orbit if that was what it felt necessary. Defending them is easier: just as we always did during the cold war, you say to people, look, it is our policy that an attack on these satellites is a nuclear assault on the US, and if you do that, we WILL launch against you. Problem solved.

As far as orbiting them goes, I certainly agree it could be done; the question is, at what level of bitch-ness does it become a less viable method of securing peace than other methods? For instance, suppose it would cost $60 billion to build a ground-based ABM system that would do nothing except defend against North Korea. Well, we could BUY North Korea for $60 billion, you know?. Or we could bomb [I'm not advocating this!] North Korea into the stone age, and use the money to buy back international goodwill afterward by paying off our UN debt. In a very real sense, when we pour money into classified military projects, we make the world poorer, as Dwight D. Eisenhower pointed out, and nowadays it really looks like a poorer world is a less stable one. So "BMD at any cost" is not really necessarily a logical doctrine.

As for declaring attacks on the satellites an act of war... well, that helps, but it's not necessarily enough, is it? For instance, suppose the European Union decides our satellites aren't acceptable and starts shooting them down. Not too likely, but it wouldn't be the most harebrained thing they've ever come up with, either. Do we want to go brinksman with the EU over that? Or suppose that since we're positing a country that wants to launch a nuke at us anyway, that they're perfectly willing to go to war over it. Concievably they could make knocking out the satellite and their missile launch simultaneous; or knock out satellites in a fashion that disguised who the perpetrator was. Or a country like China could call our semi-bluff and just go ahead and attack the satellites; what's our retaliation plan? We probably aren't doing ourselves a service by going into a full-scale war with China over that, are we? So, air strikes on Chinese missile installations or something, I guess. Okay... but the question is, how much safer have we ended up because of the satellites, than we were before.

The state of US relations with the world in the fifties and sixties isn't a model we exactly want to fall back on- in fact, it's a situation it might be suicidal to return to, in the modern weapons environment.



[ Parent ]
Er... (4.00 / 1) (#68)
by trhurler on Fri May 04, 2001 at 01:13:26 PM EST

Unless and until Europe can defend itself against potential Asian aggressors, I doubt they'd ever attack anything owned by the US. The probable result would be us pulling out of Europe. They can't even defend themselves from each other without us, much less any outside enemy. (Yes, there are exceptions, but there's more US military power in and around Europe than European military power, you know.)

The possibility of attacking the satellites but not letting it be known who did it is real, but seeing as we currently locate and track every space launch of any kind whatsoever, you'd need a hell of a plan. If you can think of one, I'll be a lot more concerned.

Finally, let's face it, if you just attack and launch simultaneously, you're going to hit us, we're going to hit you, and the difference is, unless you're Russia, we will still be there afterward(some of us anyway, not including me, seeing as I'm located at one of the primary targets in the whole world,) whereas you will not. If the system prevented even a tenth of the enemy missiles from landing(or even one, whichever is more,) it would easily pay for itself. The cost of being hit with a nuke is absurd. Russia isn't going to attack us; their posturing is about still being a world power, rather than being our enemy. They know they can overpower any defense we put up, but they don't want to see us doing things they can't do. Surprise, surprise.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Antisat techniques (3.00 / 1) (#72)
by pavonis on Fri May 04, 2001 at 05:14:21 PM EST

Launch a satellite, well in advance, into a normal orbit. Report that it has ceased responding, and have it go radio silent. If you want you can paint it black, but as long as it isn't too big that's probably unnecessary. If you want to be more high-tech about it, it can instead transmit by relaying data through another satellite, and still look dead. At the appropriate time send a "move to intercept and explode" signal. The Air Force has been talking about such a capability since at least 1960, and there is some suspicion that they've tried it.

Alternatively, you could also piggyback a second, small satellite on a legitimate launch. Launching multiple sats on one booster is fairly common nowadays.

[ Parent ]

Nice, but... (4.00 / 1) (#75)
by trhurler on Fri May 04, 2001 at 05:35:56 PM EST

Two details. First off, you can't do this to the US - we track every single man made object larger than a wrench that has ever been launched, so we're going to know who did it, where, and with what. Second, a satellite with a laser mounted on it ought to be capable of hitting that incoming satellite; for a good portion of its path, it will be headed essentially in a straight line towards its victim. Rotate using attitude thrust, hit target with laser, then adjust orbit slightly. With no atmosphere to diffuse or absorb the beam, there probably will be no functional electronics left on the attacker. Laugh uproariously. Then vaporize the capital city of the offending nation with groundbursts just for show.

Alternatively, go ahead and ignore the space weapons treaty. This way, you can just EMP any satellites that become aggressive. Not particularly nice, but neither is nuclear war. That's life.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
NORAD (5.00 / 2) (#76)
by physicsgod on Fri May 04, 2001 at 05:39:51 PM EST

Tracks everything bigger than, IIRC, 2". I mean EVERYTHING, they've got entries for everything from dead satellites and boosters, to wrenches and gloves. If they saw a "dead" satellite suddenly light up and head for their laser platform their first responce would probably be "kill it".

--- "Those not wearing body armor are hereby advised to keep their arguments on-topic" Schlock Mercenary
[ Parent ]
Self-defending? (4.50 / 2) (#74)
by physicsgod on Fri May 04, 2001 at 05:32:12 PM EST

My idea for a NMD (whicb is of course perfect) would have the laser platforms in rather high (probably geosych) orbits, that should give the platforms plenty of time to identify threats to themselves and deflect them (use the laser to vaporize one side of the projectile)

--- "Those not wearing body armor are hereby advised to keep their arguments on-topic" Schlock Mercenary
[ Parent ]
ABM Problems (4.00 / 1) (#69)
by Mitheral on Fri May 04, 2001 at 01:20:22 PM EST

You made alot of good points on how a ABM system could fail. I'd like to add the question "What if it doesn't fail but generates a false positive instead?" The worse case false positive I can think of would be if the system were to cause the destruction of the first (or any) Chinese manned space launch. After all, the Americans already blew away an embassy; China and it's citizens maybe less likely to believe the "accident" story again. Especially when it's someone who is likely to be a national hero dies.

[ Parent ]
Lasers vs. other means. (3.00 / 2) (#59)
by Alarmist on Fri May 04, 2001 at 10:24:52 AM EST

The laser problem as applied to full-grown ballistic missiles won't be solved for a long time yet. While there's a system being tested right now (THEL, for use in Israel against Katyushas), the system is mainly point defense against relatively slow targets in an atmosphere. As you say, it will take some time before it's a viable solution.

The smart pebble idea was tested and thrown around a lot in the mid-80s: seed LEO with a number of small missiles that will home in on warheads or launchers and kill by a proximity-fused frag warhead or by impact. While this idea has a lot to recommend it, it has a lot against it as well: the cost of getting all the missiles in orbit, even if you launch several at once; maintaining control; littering LEO (an issue for many but not for anyone really serious about stopping something that can kill millions with one shot), etc.

If lasers were employed at all, they would probably be a small part of a tiered defense, and used mainly for lucky shots and press demos.


[ Parent ]

Expensive? Maybe. Worth It? Most likely (3.00 / 2) (#16)
by WinPimp2K on Thu May 03, 2001 at 12:18:30 PM EST

So the US develops a working ICBM defense (work with me here). An enormous amount of money will go into it of course. But once it is done everybody will want one. And I'm sure that France and Japan will be happy to sell to any nation that the US doesn't want to.

Some folks mentioned a space based component to this. The one thing I'd do is require any space based components be manned (some little changes to international law could do the trick - maybe even a ruling from the World Court) - That way the US could justify pulling out of the Space Station :)

Recent Opinion Piece (3.50 / 4) (#17)
by gauntlet on Thu May 03, 2001 at 12:42:15 PM EST

I sent an opinion piece to my local newspaper yesterday on this topic. Here's the crux:

The US has nothing to lose from an arms race, which the NMD will cause. They are far enough ahead of the competition that they will win any race, whether it be for offensive or defensive power. In the meantime, they will be able to defend themselves, and their allies. The NMD will not provide any deterrent to firing that doesn't already exist, and even it's most avid supporters are willing to admit that it might never work. So why do it? For the arms race. Technological and economic stimulation. Not only does the US Army, Navy, and Air Force require new technology, so will the US' allies. If you're Israel, and you find that Iraq is building up its supply of arms in order to be able to overcome a system that shoots scuds out of the sky, what are you going to do? Buy arms. From who? The US. Money, money, money.

It's only an issue for states that don't want an arms race because they can't afford it, or perhaps they desire peace. It's only a problem for those many many sovereign nations out there whose missile launches will effectively be at the permission of the United States army.

This is really, really bad international statesmanship. But, I suppose Bush only has 3 years in which to start a war to justify leaving him in power. This is as good a start as any.

"It is difficult to catch a black cat in a dark room. Especially if there is no cat there." - Confucius

Oh no (3.66 / 3) (#55)
by strumco on Fri May 04, 2001 at 09:07:00 AM EST

The US has nothing to lose from an arms race
I believe this is profoundly untrue.

Over 40 years ago, Dwight Eisenhower warned the American people about the danger from the military-industrial complex. The American people didn't listen.

40 years on, America has won a Cold War - but this victory did not come without a price. Vast proportions of the American economy are now so entangled with peri-military activity that it's doubtful whether the economy would survive the surgery necessary to remove the cancer.

The American right has developed an ideological vocabulary and behaviour which is virtually indistinguishable from the communist propaganda they copied it from. I'm no fan of militia-style talk of "New World Order" threats, but elements of that arrogant centralism do exist - and they're all justified by "National Security" - a blanket catch-all, justified in turn by the Cold War habit.

Beyond America's shores, another arms race would have disastrous consequences. True, the rebels of Ruritania aren't going to buy ABM's - but they'll buy the cast-offs from the country that's buying the cast-offs from the country that building ABMs.

Americans may not care about Ruritania (but I don't belive that's true), but the global instability engendered by such recklessness would hurt America deeply - in a series of brushfire wars in which Americans would be involved, and in the interruption in world trade.

If you need a technological/economic boost - build a pyramid, land on Mars, solve world hunger - anything but another arms race.

DC
http://www.strum.co.uk
[ Parent ]

What are Ruritania's other options? (none / 0) (#82)
by roystgnr on Tue May 08, 2001 at 06:39:29 PM EST

Beyond America's shores, another arms race would have disastrous consequences. True, the rebels of Ruritania aren't going to buy ABM's - but they'll buy the cast-offs from the country that's buying the cast-offs from the country that building ABMs.

That sounds wonderful to me. I don't expect the USA to be nuking any small countries any time soon, but I'd rather base that expectation on an ABM system than on good faith in my government.

But I've got a question:

What would Ruritania do in a world without ABMs? Buy ICBMs instead. That is one of the major reasons to develop ABM technology: a lot of governments have a lot of missiles which should be rendered obsolete before those governments decide that nukes are cheaper to sell than to dismantle.

[ Parent ]

Look around you (none / 0) (#85)
by strumco on Wed May 09, 2001 at 08:57:08 AM EST

What would Ruritania do in a world without ABMs? Buy ICBMs instead.
We've had a world without ABMs for the last 40 years (forever). ICBMs aren't that common, are they? The question is, what would the world be like with ABMs? Would those few countries with access to ICBMs feel the need to use them before they become obsolete? Would some countries feel the need to develop technologies to overwhelm/bypass ABMs? Where do the obsolete armaments (and the personnel needed to develop/maintain them) go?

DC
http://www.strum.co.uk
[ Parent ]

Nope, sorry... (2.25 / 4) (#21)
by pulsar on Thu May 03, 2001 at 01:04:14 PM EST

The United States signed the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 1972 and has stood by it since.The Treaty prevents the United States and Russia from developing technology to stop an incoming nuclear missile. However, President Bush now claims that the world has changed enough to throw the ABM Treaty away.

Nope, sorry, that's just plain wrong. The US signed the treaty with the Soviet Union which is now dead. Russia has not followed the now defunct treaty and has continued to improve their defense system to this day (and why should they?)

Uhm, no (3.66 / 3) (#22)
by howardjp on Thu May 03, 2001 at 01:06:33 PM EST

Russia agreed to abide by all the Soviet treaties and for good reason.

[ Parent ]
Really? (3.00 / 1) (#24)
by pulsar on Thu May 03, 2001 at 01:29:27 PM EST

From what I've seen, they haven't honored the defense system part of it. They've continued to develop theirs, why shouldn't we? Unfortunatly I cannot find a link that shows this (I'll keep looking.) However I'd be happy if you could prove otherwise!

[ Parent ]
Defense vs. Treaties (3.00 / 2) (#25)
by howardjp on Thu May 03, 2001 at 01:32:54 PM EST

Continuing to develop weapons is not against the treaties. There are just certain terms for amounts and types in the ABM treat, START (is that it was called? I was much younger then...)

[ Parent ]
Here... (3.00 / 2) (#28)
by pulsar on Thu May 03, 2001 at 01:41:21 PM EST

This wasn't quite what I was looking for, but is close enough. Link.
Snippet:
Second, for such time as the ABM Treaty was legally binding upon the U.S. and the Soviet Union, only the United States adhered to its prohibition on territorial ballistic missile defenses. As is made clear by the following excerpts from a landmark essay by the CIA and DIA's former Senior Intelligence Officer William T. Lee, published in the April-June 2000 edition of the journal Comparative Strategy, first the Soviet Union and now the Russians have deployed such a defense. It turns out the only missile defense the Kremlin opposes is ours. Moscow's opposition, however, should not be a basis for either delaying by one more day the deployment of the most effective possible missile defenses -- or for pretending that such a deployment is not wholly incompatible with the terms of the obsolete, violated and defunct ABM Treaty.

Close enough?

[ Parent ]
Echos of the Bomber Gap (3.00 / 2) (#29)
by howardjp on Thu May 03, 2001 at 01:48:54 PM EST

Isn't this the same group that kept saying there was a Bomber Gap in the 50s and ended up over estimating the number of Soviet long ranger nuclear bombers 10-fold? Thought so. CIA estimates are never to be trusted.

[ Parent ]
Fine. (2.00 / 2) (#34)
by pulsar on Thu May 03, 2001 at 02:06:38 PM EST

It was the best link google could find.

[ Parent ]
Free Republic? Come ON! (4.00 / 1) (#31)
by jonnyfantastik on Thu May 03, 2001 at 01:50:49 PM EST

Really. Let's pretend, for a second, that all media sources are biased. Let's even go on a limb and pretend some are more biased than others. Now, in such a world, would all links be as equally valid as others? Let's see hard and fast proof that Russia has deployed a missile defense system which even approaches what is being planned.

[ Parent ]

Yes... (3.00 / 1) (#33)
by pulsar on Thu May 03, 2001 at 02:05:17 PM EST

That was just a link that google found. I agree. Short of going into space and looking at each device, there really isn't any way of knowing 100% for sure.

[ Parent ]
Russian ABM- questionable believability (4.66 / 3) (#47)
by pavonis on Thu May 03, 2001 at 07:52:58 PM EST

To my knowledge, hard evidence regarding deployment of this system is not availible, and this claim was not made publicly until various people were trying to justify funding. That does seem suspicious, particularly since most other Soviet military activities were not, in fact, that covert.

Of course, if it is true, that has really fairly little effect on most of the issues being raised here. We could make the info public and declare the treaty broken, which might or might not be a good move, but then we'd still have no good reasons to try to build the system. Incidentally, if we know there's this Russian system and we think it works, could we maybe copy it, instead of spending $60B to invent our own, using technologies the Soviets most definitely did not have?

Look, America has a very strong tendency to approach international diplomacy with the finesse of a four-year-old in a sandlot. Even Abe Lincoln knew quite well that there was more to it than a big stick. Preventing the world from being blown up, does in fact take more sophistication than a vocabulary of "I can beat you up", "You broke the promise first", and "I'm not speaking to you" allows. This lack of sophistication may, in fact, be related to various evidences of our skills, like our inability over the course of a hundred years to get a small island ninety miles off our coast to behave in a fashion we can live with...

[ Parent ]

Heh. (3.00 / 2) (#32)
by eLuddite on Thu May 03, 2001 at 01:56:04 PM EST

Seems like the son is destined to reinvent the father's Cold War. ABM treaties surive Russia and all it Republics at George Bush Sr.'s insistence. This is strictly a unilateral decision on Dubya's part.

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

Russia's ABM System (4.00 / 2) (#36)
by AzTex on Thu May 03, 2001 at 02:50:15 PM EST

pulsar wrote:

Russia has not followed the now defunct treaty and has continued to improve their defense system
You must be thinking of the small "point defense" ABM system which supposedly shields Moscow.  This is allowed by the 1972 ABM Treaty.  The U.S. had one but scrapped it.

alarmist and wiredog discussed this earlier.  Look at earlier posts and you'll see it.



solipsism: I'm always here. But you sometimes go away.
** AzTex **

[ Parent ]
I'm not Condi Rice, but (3.33 / 3) (#26)
by yankeehack on Thu May 03, 2001 at 01:35:21 PM EST

I'm sorry that I didn't catch this article before it got voted so high, there are a number of theoretical flaws in the piece that I'd like to point out.

  • First, the arguement *for* the ABM system is that the current treaty system is flawed because it takes a long time for the treaties to be signed, sealed and delivered. Anyone heard of SALT II?
  • Second, it does not matter that North Korea/Iraq, et al. does not have the capability for an ABM system. Or that they would not be interested in signing an ABM treaty with us. Realistically what does matter is that they have the ability to lob missles (intentional or not). And if you have forgotten, China has their missles trained at our cities.
  • Third, the policy detractors who are against ABMs hold this one arguement dear, that if one nation has an ABM system, the other nations who do not would be more likely to strike first in case of an attack. Why? Because no ABM system is foolproof and that even if one missle could get through to attack, it would be worth it. It was this reasoning that lead to the original treaty in 1972. This is the real gem that you failed to uncover in your article.
I do agree to some extent that a Larry Bond-esque like nuclear terrorist threat is something to worry about. But saying a terrorist threat is most likely is being a bit simplistic.

"Please people, if you have no knowledge in a field, don't try to write a grand all-encompassing treatise on it." --Delirium

How Do You Think Foreign Powers Will React? (3.50 / 4) (#27)
by AzTex on Thu May 03, 2001 at 01:37:07 PM EST

People in favor of deploying this ABM system don't seem to realize that foreign governments will have to react to it to preserve their own security.

Think about nations like China or Russia who possess a strategic nuclear arsenal in the current world where no one has an ABM system.  Assuming they want to exterminate the U.S., why havn't they used their weapons against the United States already?

They havn't used their weapons because they know that if they did use these weapons, retribution from the United States would come swiftly.

Also look at it from the point of view of the Chinese or Russians.  Are they afraid that America will attack them with strategic nuclear missiles?  No.  Because they know that if attacked, they could retaliate and inflict unacceptable damage to the United States.  So the United States won't try it.

Don't believe it?  Mutual Assured Destruction has been working since the 1950s.  If anybody ever wanted to destroy anybody, it was the US and USSR.  But neither side never tried it.  Both knew that they would both suffer unacceptable casualties and damage in any nuclear exchange no matter who started it.  Mutual Assured Destruction prevents nuclear war.

Now consider the hypothetical situation where the U.S. deploys an ABM.  What will the Chinese and Russians do?  First they will realize that they are suddenly vulnerable to attack from the U.S. because the U.S. can launch nuclear attacks against them without fear of retribution.  Second they will react by building more strategic missiles and implementing counter-measures to overwhelm and undermine America's ABM system and maybe start developing an ABM system of their own.

Don't believe it?  Okay, consider the hypothetical situation where suddenly we hear that the Chinese have deployed an ABM.  Suddenly we Americans realize that we are vulnerable.  Those Chinese can now attack us without fear of retribution!  What can we do? We'd suddenly start building enough missles to overwhelm any foreign ABM system.

So, under any scenario, after deployment of an ABM system by anyone, there will be enough nuclear weapons in the world to overwhelm that system and still carry out an attack on the nation deploying that system.

Now tell me how this ridiculous ABM system is supposed to make anyone safer.



solipsism: I'm always here. But you sometimes go away.
** AzTex **

Why exactly? (3.00 / 2) (#38)
by jmullman on Thu May 03, 2001 at 03:48:17 PM EST

People in favor of deploying this ABM system don't seem to realize that foreign governments will have to react to it to preserve their own security.

Why exactly would foreign governments _have_ to view this as an act of aggression?

[ Parent ]
Re: Why exactly? (3.50 / 2) (#39)
by AzTex on Thu May 03, 2001 at 04:30:26 PM EST

jmullman asked:

Why exactly would foreign governments _have_ to view this as an act of aggression?
I didn't say that they would have to view it as an act of aggression.  I said that they would have to react to it to preserve their own security.

Sure, they could opt to not react to a threat to their security.  But then their security would be diminished.  I think I detailed the reasons why in my post.  That was the whole point of my post.

Nations will not sit idly by and let their security be threatened.  The U.S. certainly doesn't.  Why should anyone else?

When people say that this ABM system is destablizing or will cause a new arms race, this is what they mean.



solipsism: I'm always here. But you sometimes go away.
** AzTex **

[ Parent ]
General question (2.00 / 2) (#56)
by jmullman on Fri May 04, 2001 at 09:08:36 AM EST

I am sorry if you thought that I was attacking your essay, which I wasn't. I was simply questioning _why_ are we doing this? Why would they(whom so ever 'they' may be) want to try to keep up with the US? I am not asking about logic, I am asking about why do we as a species have to engage in these 'pissing contests'? What are we trying to prove? If the US has a huge 'defense' system, why does someone else have to upgrade their system? Does that mean that the US is building up a new offense system to attack other nations? I suppose I spend far too much time thinking in terms of effecient and ineffecient to understand why we would waste money that could go to education food, and other necessities on a totaly useless system that doesn't even work. Heck, it makes as much bloody sense to send an NT server up in a rocket to the ISS... heh. It just makes no sense to me.

[ Parent ]
We will be safer. (3.00 / 2) (#44)
by physicsgod on Thu May 03, 2001 at 05:50:26 PM EST

Ok, so the Bad Guys (TM) build up thier missile strength to overwhelm our shield. Now we're in the exact same mess we're in now, nobody does anything because we don't want to die, BUT now if there's an accidental launch we don't have to worry about it. I really don't like trusting my life to the infallability of one bunch of engineers and military planners.

--- "Those not wearing body armor are hereby advised to keep their arguments on-topic" Schlock Mercenary
[ Parent ]
You won't hear me disagreeing (none / 0) (#81)
by roystgnr on Tue May 08, 2001 at 06:28:33 PM EST

Mutual Assured Destruction prevents nuclear war.

You won't hear me disagreeing. Of course, I mean that literally...

For exactly how many centuries do you want to risk nuclear winter, based on the narrow success of half a century in which we almost exchanged nukes with both China and Russia?

Okay, consider the hypothetical situation where suddenly we hear that the Chinese have deployed an ABM. Suddenly we Americans realize that we are vulnerable . Those Chinese can now attack us without fear of retribution! What can we do? We'd suddenly start building enough missles to overwhelm any foreign ABM system.

That would be nice, except that the cost of us expanding our missile forces is dependent on limited resources (fissionable materials, and people we trust to handle nukes), and the cost of them expanding the ABM would be marginal due to completed R&D and economies of scale. If any country can afford the R&D costs to complete a working antimissile system, then the manufacturing costs to expand that system beyond any attempt to "overwhelm" it would be comparitively trivial.

[ Parent ]

Why does Bush expect other countries to cooperate? (3.66 / 3) (#41)
by bjrubble on Thu May 03, 2001 at 05:29:44 PM EST

One talking head summed up Bush's position best: "we're going to rip up the rules on nuclear weapons as they exist in the Cold War, and these are the new rules, take them or leave them."

The ABM treaty is one of the few things that various fractious and self-interested nations have been able to agree on. Bush's rejection of the ABM treaty reads a lot like his rejection of the Kyoto accord -- he brings up some arguable points in his favor, but in the end he's dismantling existing agreements without implementing (or even proposing!) anything to replace them. Bush seems to think it's enough for him just to reject these things, that everybody else will go off and hammer out new agreements and humbly submit them for his approval.

Also, the ABM treaty doesn't exist in isolation -- there are non-proliferation treaties, biological/chemical weapons treaties, arms sales treaties, troop deployment treaties, the list goes on and on. If the US decides it's no longer convenient to comply with the ABM treaty, and that an acceptable solution is to simply drop it, it has to be prepared for other countries to simply drop any treaty that they find inconvenient.

Because it's part of the treaty? (none / 0) (#80)
by roystgnr on Tue May 08, 2001 at 06:00:20 PM EST

From the actual treaty:

Five years after entry into force of this Treaty, and at five-year intervals thereafter, the Parties shall together conduct a review of this Treaty.

In other words, the value of the ABM treaty was based on the current technological and political state of the world, which was expected to change, and the treaty was supposed to be reviewed regularly to see if those changes had removed that value.

Each Party shall, in exercising its national sovereignty, have the right to withdraw from this Treaty if it decides that extraordinary events related to the subject matter of this Treaty have jeopardized its supreme interests. It shall give notice of its decision to the other Party six months prior to withdrawal from the Treaty. Such notice shall include a statement of the extraordinary events the notifying Party regards as having jeopardized its supreme interests.

I think the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the increasing requirement for "finger in the dyke" attempts to keep nuclear weapons away from hostile states, both count as "extraordinary events". Avoiding antimissile system development was intended to avoid destabilizing the mad MAD doctrine. Now that the US and USSR are no longer at each other's throats, and there is no fear of a first strike by either of them, antimissile systems aren't a concern. However, there are still a lot of ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads out there, under an increasing number of independent controlling groups, and so missile launch by a rogue leader that does not fear reprisal, or by simple error, is a more serious threat.

[ Parent ]

Important Link- FAS study (5.00 / 2) (#48)
by pavonis on Thu May 03, 2001 at 08:09:45 PM EST

The Federation of American Scientists concluded a large study of the issues surrounding NMD last year. No one should argue on this topic if they haven't read it. The link is to the summary, but I highly recommend the entire report, also availible at this site. They also have archives of basically all pertinent public information on arms control, if you browse around.

To summarize very minimally what the report talks about, the questions are: What are the threats to the US? Which among those threats can the proposed BMD systems potentially guard against? Will the system work against those threats? This goes a bit beyond technical questions; often in the course of arguing over technical issues, the somewhat broader scope is ignored. Frankly, this is because the system's ability to stop even the simplest possible missile is so often in question, that the point that this simple missile is not the real threat is ignored.

The organization is highly credible. It exists to study pressing issues in which science is intertwined with public policy, with a particular emphasis on military concerns. It has sometimes been described as left-leaning, but it is composed simply of scientists who choose to be members, and its board of sponsors includes very nearly every american to have won a Nobel Prize in science. These are people accustomed to doing their absolute best to find objective truth. They are in general much more interested in determining factual consequences, than advocating policy. They are neither recipients of nor distributors of funding of any sort, other than dues and contributions to support their studies and publications.

Few of the points in the report have been successfully responded to, except by claims that there are secrets we are not privy to. Myself, I find those claims an inadequate argument, but you can believe whatever you like.



Just because (3.66 / 3) (#50)
by physicsgod on Thu May 03, 2001 at 09:21:51 PM EST

You win the Nobel Prize does not mean you're impartial or immune to bias, in fact there are plenty of stories out there of lauriets who were adamantly opposed to scientific advanced they disapproved of (e.g. Einstein and Quantum Mechanincs). In fact this report is rather dangerous, since it's essentialy a group of very intelligent people trying to figure out how to break a system. This report only argues against the coast phase intercept, which is easiest to do, but it's also the easiest to decoy. If NMD were to include boost phase and terminal phase kills decoys would be much harder.

--- "Those not wearing body armor are hereby advised to keep their arguments on-topic" Schlock Mercenary
[ Parent ]
Just because (3.00 / 2) (#52)
by pavonis on Fri May 04, 2001 at 12:28:12 AM EST

I did not argue that a nobel prize granted immunity to bias. I argued that an organization supported by, not one, but virtually all of America's Nobel Prize winners, was a fairly good shot at objective analysis. Einstein was not opposed to quantum mechanics; Einstein was, in fact, a founding father of quantum mechanics, who, despite some philosophical misgivings regarding the theory, analyzed it with absolutely unfailing objectivity.

The report responded to the system as it was being proposed at the time., which was coast and possibly terminal phase intercepts. There is a great deal of further commentary on boost-phase intercept on the AFS's web site; in general, it is hopeful about technical feasibility but skeptical about actual defense effectiveness.

[ Parent ]

The threat of terrorism... (3.00 / 1) (#78)
by Kasreyn on Sat May 05, 2001 at 12:04:01 AM EST

Now, I'm often one of the leftist types who sees right-wingers talk up the threat of terrorism to grab more powers, and am appalled. However, you have to consider how truly dangerous these people have become.

Imagine some raving nutter working for some Jihad or Secret Society or Group of Really F-U'd In the Head folks who have a chip on their shoulders. Imagine they want to kill as many americans as possible in ONE hit. If they intend to, all they need to do is brainwash some sheepman, fill him up with religeous fire so that no logic or pity or compassion can move him (he's doing this for your sake so SHUT UP AND EAT YOUR RADIATION), and send him to Times Square with an H-bomb.

The way we humans cluster up in giant concrete anthills, we stand to lose more people to a single rogue bomber than we lost in World War I or possibly WWII. ONE semimodern A- or H- bomb will wreak exactly 100% fatalities on, say, manhattan island.

However, all this claptrap of rogue states is misleading. Anti-missile systems do not prevent war; they will CAUSE IT. Imagine you're a tinpot dictator with delusions of godhood, and you hate some other country, but the only reason a frothing madman like you doesn't nuke the shit out of them is because you know they'll nuke you right back.

Suppose you suddenly learn they have an anti missile system due to go online in 2 months. You now have two choices:

Sit back and lose all ability to fight them until some startling new breakthrough in weapons technology. This is unlikely to happen as your mismanaged tiny little despotism won't have the time or resources to accomplish such research, plus there's no guarantee of it finishing withing your rulership and you wanna fuckin kill things before you're oustered.

OR

Launch your nukes before their defense system goes up. That way you go out with a bang and presumably the Supreme Being in whose name you rule will be very happy with the heathen body count.

Honestly, I could go on, but I lost my point about 15 minutes ago and now all I can do is think of new sickening possibilities. This was just nukes. Don't even get me onto biological weapons and super-ebola. I just reread The Stand last night for chrissakes. I'm gonna go play violent video games now.


-Kasreyn


"Intolerant people should be shot." - the best one-sentence troll I have ever seen.
ABM are useless when a superpower gets to the Moon (4.00 / 1) (#79)
by georgeha on Mon May 07, 2001 at 03:07:00 PM EST

cf. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

A good ABM can turn an incoming nuclear warhead into a heap a highly radioactive debris that makes a 10 foot wide crater.

A good ABM can make a 10 foot wide crater on an incoming 100 ton piece of rock, and maybe move it's point of impact 5 feet.

So, all we need to do is make a Cliff's note version of The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, or maybe one of those comic book versions, and get Bushie to read it. Boom, we're setting the moon.

The entire concept is outdated. (4.00 / 1) (#83)
by John Thompson on Tue May 08, 2001 at 10:16:35 PM EST

The very idea of building an ABM system is archaic. We should not waste our money on such a thing for the same reason we stopped developing supersonic manned bombers. They simply have no relevance in today's world.

Here's my nightmare scenario: a terrorist group or rouge state aquires several tactical nuclear warheads on the black market. They smuggle them into the country and deploy them at various locations. Then they make a public ulimatum to the government: either meet our demands or we set off a nuke. To demonstrate the validity of the threat, they reveal the location of one of the devices, which is found to be authentic. The others remain hidden and a sufficiently brief time interval is allowed for the government to respond without allowing adequate time to locate the other devices.

Don't think it could happen? Guess again. Smuggling a tactical warhead into the country would be much cheaper and easier than building and deploying a ballistic missle delivery vehicle. A recent visit to the Air Force Museum in Dayton OH demonstrated to me that tactical warheads can be quite small -- around the size of a large suitcase, say. These may not have the destructive capability of a missle-born strategic warhead, but even a small tactical warhead would exceed the Oklahoma City bombing by several orders of magnitude. Considering the tonnage of illegal drugs and other contraband that finds it's way across the borders I don't if there would be any serious impediment to smuggling the warheads in.

So, the real threat is not missles, but the availability of nuclear weapons to terrorists and rouge states. Better to spend our money on that than pouring it down the corporate-welfare rathole of an ABM defense system.

-John

That's great if you're a terrorist (none / 0) (#84)
by roystgnr on Tue May 08, 2001 at 10:36:25 PM EST

Smuggling a tactical warhead into the country would be much cheaper and easier than building and deploying a ballistic missle delivery vehicle.

It also wouldn't accomplish the same things that an ballistic missile would. Sure, if you're an evil terrorist bent on taking human lives from the Great Satan, then you're not going to bother with a missile for your nuke. But then, a terrorist in this sense isn't going to be able to support their own nuclear weapons program in the first place, and so we can fight against this sort of nuclear attack by trying to control black market proliferation of nukes.

ABM defense is aimed not at the terrorist who wants to see Americans die for death's sake, but at the dictator who wants to use nuclear weapons to threaten America. When exactly is such a dictator supposed to smuggle these bombs into the US? Will he do it while his country is at a state of peace with us, and risk the smuggling being discovered and retaliated against? Or will he try to do it while we are on alert or at war, and have our borders patrolled for a smuggled weapons attack? The hypothetical scenario for nuclear attack is something like:

Petty dictator S doesn't want to be dethroned or to stand trial for war crimes. S has a tenuous grasp on his country, and/or has skirmished with the UN, so he may be in power for ten months or ten years. Does he ship his nukes to the US right now, and pray that they remain undiscovered for years, so that they can be used to prolong his rule rather than curtail it? I wouldn't. A ballistic missile launch requires 30 minutes warning, not 30 days. That's an incredibly valuable factor for S, who can use the very existance of an ICBM as a credible threat, but who would have to *succeed* at smuggling multiple nuclear bombs on short notice through an alerted border security before he could even read off a list of demands.

[ Parent ]

President Bush's ABM Program | 85 comments (77 topical, 8 editorial, 0 hidden)
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