Friday, April 10, 2009

Sign of the times

Back in the early oughts, when it would have been much more helpful, Joe Klein wasn't especially interested in mocking neoconservative fruitcakes like Charles Krauthammer. But now that he feels comfortable doing so, he's pretty good at it.

And there was--oh. my. God.--the failed North Korean rocket launch. The Gates Defense budget is cutting anti-missile defense systems in Alaska. More Obama wimposity! Except that Gates has decided not to spend tens of billions on an anti-missile system (that doesn't work) to counter a North Korean rockets (that don't work) carrying North Korean atomic bombs (that have, so far, fizzled when tested).

People really don't have an adequate appreciation for just how stupid the National Missile Defense program is. There are a lot of low-frequency, high-severity risks that we could be preparing for but don't. We could put all our country's resources into a system that would deflect an incoming asteroid, because if an asteroid were to hit us, it would be that bad. But one reason why we don't is because the success rate of the system would have to be incredibly high. And there wouldn't be money left over for roads, hospitals, soldiers, tanks, etc.

Then there's the fact that a long-range ballistic missile requires government sponsorship to develop (i.e. can't be launched from a cave in Pakistan), and governments, even evil dictatorships, tend not to pursue the vaporization of their own country by U.S. nuclear subs. Then there's the fact that you could shoot down 100% of incoming missiles and still be extremely vulnerable to a nuclear attack on a major U.S. city (suitcase or container bombs).

Anyway, I'm very happy about this "Gates budget" generally. Less money on F-22s, "Future Combat Systems" (more like Ridiculous Gadget Systems), and the like. More money for the stuff that our actual armed forces actually use.

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