Just Above Sunset
December 19, 2004 - Faith-Based Missile Defense

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There are limits to what having a positive attitude can accomplish.  It was physically impossible for this system to work.  Almost eleven billion dollars spent from this year’s military budget, of the eighty billion spent so far, with a projected further eighty billion to be spent.  Many dollars spent trying to prove that faith that this would work would overcome the laws of physics.  Ya gotta believe!  The money could have been spent on armor for our troops, or maybe on feeding and clothing some folks in trouble.  Ah well….


See Just Above Sunset: October 3, 2004 - The Annuls of Cognitive Dissonance

… That new missile defense system will be deployed in Alaska just before our election – and it doesn’t work (see this and some discussion here) – and it won’t work, and the testing and research that proved it just will not work has ended.  But you don’t believe that - because you don’t want to?

And this week?


Missile Defense Test Never Gets Off the Ground

Los Angeles Times - 7:16 PM PST, December 15, 2004 - John Hendren


The first test of a national missile defense system in two years failed Wednesday, making it nearly impossible for President Bush to achieve his goal of having a basic anti-missile system in place before the end of this year.

In the test of what the administration envisions as a shield over U.S. soil, the so-called kill vehicle was shut down by an automatic safety system at the last minute and could not be launched toward the target missile it was supposed to intercept.

Officials of the anti-missile program said failure to complete the test did not represent a failure of the system, but only a technical mishap that could be remedied.

Critics, on the other hand, saw the latest development in the controversial program as providing new grounds for skepticism.

The plan was for the interceptor to be launched from the Ronald Reagan Test Site on the Kwajalein Atoll in the central Pacific and a target missile to be fired from Kodiak, Alaska; if successful, the kill vehicle would pass close enough to the target rocket to destroy it. …


The Associated Press reported that Wednesday's test had been put of several times because of bad weather, and a malfunction of a recovery vessel not directly related to the equipment being tested.  In July of 2001 it did work once - because the target had a homing beacon.  So if the bad guys are nice enough to put a homing beacon on what they launch against us, and the weather is good, maybe it’ll fire up and launch, or maybe not.


And this Bush guy won the popular vote by a three million-vote margin?


Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin says that Canada is "prepared to accept U.S. citizens who do not want to serve in the war in Iraq," and will not help to fund a missile shield or allow rockets to be stationed on Canadian soil.  He knows foolishness when he sees it.


Fred Kaplan here asks the basic question - Must we spend another $80 billion before we admit missile defense doesn't work?


His opening is classic -

Let's say you're buying the most complicated computer system ever devised. It's still in the early stages. The payments are costing a fortune. The software's riddled with bugs. Some software hasn't been written yet. Several scientists doubt the thing will ever work properly. Finally, just this week, you couldn't even get it to switch on.


Now let's say you're the program manager of the Pentagon's missile-defense agency.


But I repeat myself.


Yeah, yeah…  But Kaplan gets even more sarcastic –


… officials have been trained to appear upbeat, no matter how catastrophic the news.  This time, though, the effort was particularly heroic.  "I definitely wouldn't categorize it as a setback of any kind," chief spokesman Richard Lehner said of the test.  In fact, he added, it was "a very good training exercise."  The program's engineers learned "quite a bit."  No doubt, the Army is learning quite a bit from the insurgency in Mosul, too.


Learning is good.  This sort of leaning is, though, pretty expensive.  But the business is part of a larger whole, of how the folks we elected think - if believe something is going to happen you can make it happen by believing, by having the right attitude.


One must now be reality-based, but have faith –


"The aide (a senior adviser to President Bush) said that guys like me were 'in what we call the reality-based community,' which he defined as people who 'believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. 'That's not the way the world really works anymore,' he continued. 'We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors ... and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do." -- Ron Suskind, New York Times Magazine, Oct. 17, 2004.


It will work.  It will work.  It will work.  It will work.  It will work.  Reality be damned.


Okay, I’m a pessimist and thus unfit for leadership.  But Kaplan has some points here:


There is no need to repeat here the dozens of reasons for skepticism that an antiballistic-missile system has much chance of shooting down a single enemy warhead. … If it can shoot down one warhead (a lucky roll of the dice), the bad guys can simply launch a second warhead—and there hasn't yet been even a rigged test involving multiple targets. Everything about the system is way too complicated—the software; the command-control network; the integration of early warning radars, target-acquisition sensors, and weapons-launch centers. Yes, landing on the moon was complicated, too (to use an example cited by many advocates), but that was child's play by comparison. For one thing, the moon landing was a one-sided enterprise. As the spacecraft approached the lunar surface, the moon didn't suddenly shift direction or turn into a mirage. By contrast, an enemy can easily load a missile with decoys, which can lure an interceptor to the wrong target. Also, the trip to the moon took days; if something went wrong, corrections could be made. The trip to an enemy warhead darting across the heavens at 15 times the speed of sound must be completed in a half-hour or less, everything must be automated (there's no time for human intervention), and nothing can go wrong at all.


Well, you just assume nothing can go wrong.  Kind of like our war with Iraq.  And if something goes wrong, blame the skeptics and realists for having a bad attitude.  Hope and a positive attitude create a new reality.


No.  It doesn’t work that way.  As Kaplan points out -


We can't even count on the rocket getting out of its launch silo, much less the millions of minute operations that must follow. President Bush fielded a half-dozen antimissile missiles and called them "operational." But they're a ruse. The Pentagon's test director, Thomas Christie (a veteran missile engineer and lifelong civil servant who, alas, is retiring next month) has testified repeatedly that the program is not yet ready for deployment, not yet ready to be called "operational."


The Los Angeles Times today recalls Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld appearing on CBS's Face the Nation shortly after the Bush administration took office. Rumsfeld, a longtime enthusiast for missile defense, was asked about critics who charged that the program couldn't work. "We have no intention of deploying something that doesn't work," the secretary replied, "but what the definition of 'work' is, is terrifically important."


A minimal definition might be: You can turn the thing on.


That would be a start.


But I can hear my conservative friend asking why I have to be so negative.  With the right attitude you can do anything. 


Why does that seem so foolish?  Why am I so tied down to reality and empirical facts and logic?  Damn, I feel like a Canadian sometimes.  And why has my conservative friend started humming that Sammy Cahn - Jimmy van Heusen song High Hopes - and tells me the optimists run the show now.


It will work.  We’re winning in Iraq.  We’re all safer now.  The economy is fine.  The environment was never so well protected and preserved.  The world really respects us now, because we do what we say we’ll do.


I must be blind.



Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
The inclusion of any text from others is quotation
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