“Those who oppose missile defense are opposed to freedom,” was U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint’s sentiment at a recent Heritage Foundation forum entitled No Grand Bargain With Russia. The forum was held to discuss the need for “Third Site” missile defense systems in Poland and the Czech Republic—and it appears as though the need for Third Site is great. Russian weapons systems pose what is perceived as a great threat to many Eastern European nations, and Third Site missile defense systems would, according to Jim DeMint, intimidate enemies and strengthen friendships. And in a world where international diplomacy can seem to be hanging by a thread, intimidating enemies and strengthening friendships can sound like a very good idea.
Sen. DeMint expressed his regret that President Obama has supported the idea of disarmament for peace—indeed, he has done nearly everything in his power to distance himself from Third Site policies. Sen. DeMint insisted that such an idea has never held up in history. “Unfortunately, hope is not a strategy,” Jim DeMint said, “and abandoning friendships for short-term victories is foolish.”
E.D. The Obama Administration announced today, on the 70th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Poland, that it will not be establishing missile defense systems in Poland or the Czech Republic.
Jim DeMint was followed by Clifford D. May of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. May wasted no time in getting to the important questions: is Obama’s administration truly willing to do whatever it takes to protect America from missile attack? May pointed out that Iran could have intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) by 2015, or sooner if another rogue nation steps up to help them out. Will America be prepared? May posited that the United States should be doing everything in its power to end Iran’s weapons program.
May went on to explain that missile defense is defensive, as the very name ought to imply—missile defense is not meant to be offensive. But then he went on to discuss something previously overlooked: the idea of MAD as it concerns Iran.
May explained that MAD, or Mutually Assured Destruction, was a very effective method of dealing with the USSR in the past. The USSR might have been evil, but it wasn’t irrational—there were “no black-eyed virgins” waiting on the other side for the Communists, May said. He went on to note that for Ahmedinejad, there are major benefits to the destruction of both our nations: MAD is not a threat, but a glorious promise.
Peter Huessy of GeoStrategic Analysis spoke about the same issue, noting that dictators like Ahmedinejad don’t care if the world knows about their weapons programs. It is not a deterrent to Iran that America would notice if Iran set off something. Huessy also discussed the fact that without Third Site missile defense systems, America would be wide open to Russian missile attacks coming up and over the North Pole—our current technologies would be unable to stop missiles in that situation.
Huessy revealed that a new study will soon come out that will show that Iran has much greater nuclear capabilities than anyone had previously assumed. The study will show that Iran’s goal is to create an IRBM weighing 49 tons, with a range of 500 kilometers. This is important, Huessy said, because Iran has shown no sign that it would hesitate in deploying these weapons. “Iran is at war,” he said, “with the Gulf States, Morocco, Lebanon, Israel, Afghanistan, Iraq, the United States.” He concluded by suggesting the use of missile defense, combined with divestment, nuclear forensics, and the active countering of state-sponsored terrorism found in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Helle Dale was the last speaker at the forum. Her main focus was on the international relations side of the conflict, specifically regarding Poland. She began by telling about an experience she had at an international journalism conference: journalists from every country were railing on the United States over the War in Iraq and the debatable presence of WMD. The Polish journalists were the only ones to say: “We don’t care if Hussein has weapons of mass destruction. What matters to us is our alliance with the United States. If the U.S. goes to war, then we do too.”
This, Dale said, was the sentiment found among the Poles. She dared to ask the question: is it right for President Obama to deny Poland Third Site missile defenses under these circumstances? Is it right for President Obama to open Poland up to potential missile attacks from Russia, when the Poles have been such faithful allies of the United States?
Dale expressed her concern for the United States-Poland relationship if Third Site missile defenses are pulled. She explained that at some points, Polish polls have showed that sixty percent of Poles support missile defense, and that Poland will feel neglected and unprotected if America gives up on Third Site. “Poles do not feel particularly secure in their neighborhood; understandably so, given their history of being marched over from the west by Germany and from the east by Russia and the Soviet Union for most of their history,” she said. She went on to point out, with reference to Poland, “No country has worked harder to become a member of NATO.” NATO membership is important to Poland because of the protection it could provide in the case of future international conflict.
However, Dale worried that NATO membership would not help Poland as much as Poland might hope—especially if they are denied Third Site missile defense. She pointed out that while Obama’s approval rating is between ninety and one hundred percent in most European nations, in Poland, Obama’s approval hovers around fifty percent. Poles are worried that Obama may not be as committed to the United States-Poland alliance as Eastern Europeans might like. In addition to the weakness Obama has displayed regarding Third Site missile defense, the President has done remarkably little to ease immigration restrictions on hopeful Polish immigrants. Dale noted that this is distressing because Poland has never attacked the United States; indeed, Poland has been a staunch supporter of the United States for at least two decades. However, the United States policy on immigration still does very little for potential Polish immigrants to the United States. Both of these issues contribute to Poland’s atypical attitude toward the current President of the United States.
The forum concluded with the acknowledgement that the United States faces a critical issue in Third Site missile defense. Vital alliances, national security, and world power stability are all at stake; the United States response to these issues will surely be critical to our lasting security.
Allie Winegar Duzett is an intern at the American Journalism Center, a training program run by Accuracy in Media and Accuracy in Academia.