Why do policy stories during election years suck? Because of leads like this one:
A new Republican plan to set up a missile defense site on the East Coast has attracted election-year fireworks, with Democrats accusing the GOP of pushing the idea to undercut President Obama’s national-security credentials.
Good Lord. Must everything be about political tactics now? Why aren’t the Democrats spending more time asking if this system is a vital use of time and money?
The missile defense site has been proposed as protection against “the rising threat of Iran’s missile development.” One of the latest bits of news we heard in regards to this development was back in mid-July; that night’s episode of The Situation Room discussed the possibility of Iran having an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) by 2015, and their existing possession of a missile that could reach U.S. shores “if it could put it on a ship and move it to within 600 miles of the American coastline.”
Scary stuff – until you consider that they would have to transport such a missile across the ocean without detection, which based on Iranian geography would require sailing through the Strait of Hormuz, where U.S. naval ships have been building up for months. The idea of how they would accomplish this is amusing when you consider how often their nuclear capabilities have been tripped up by computer viruses.
Even if Iran could get a 600-mile-range missile that far, why would they bother? The aforementioned naval ships are appealing enough as targets. Even so, Iran would have a better probability of racking up casualties if they aimed straight for Israel. Not a great probability, considering Israel’s short-range missile defense shield, but better. And who has been Iran’s favorite enemy for the past five years at least? The U.S. is their sideshow; Israel is their headliner.
Proponents of the East Coast shield have pointed out that Iran’s cozying up to Latin American nations increases the risk of an attack on the U.S. Again, this is about need; countries such as Venezuela supply Iran with an oil partner, and consequently revenue, which they need more than a partner in attacking the Great Satan. If one or both tried it, they would get blown to hell. I’m talking Nagasaki-level hell. The U.S. doesn’t maintain its own stockpile for naught.
If American land-based defense truly has a gap this wide, we can consider the East Coast shield rationally. Until then, the likelihood of Iran or any of its allies trying to attack the U.S. is at least as low as the likelihood of Congress keeping election politics out of it.