17 September, 2009

Ah sweet realism


Good news today regarding the Obama administration's desire to move to a more realist, interest-based foreign policy rather than one of faux-moralistic neoconservative sabre-rattling. Obama, backed by SecDef Gates and apparent unanimous approval of the Joint Chiefs, has decided to stop a long-range ballistic missile defense program whose ostensible purpose would have been to shield Europe from missiles from Iran.

However, given Iran's decreasing interest in long-range missiles, more likely focus on the Middle East rather than Europe, the lack of evidence that the shield would actually work, and the fact that it wouldn't be deployed until 2018, its been obvious for a while that the true purpose of the shield was quite different. Since the shield would have been based in Eastern Europe, those ex-Soviet satellite states saw it as a way of committing the US to their defense in the case of further Russian imposition into their internal affairs. It makes sense why Poland and others would want us to do that, but its much less clear why we would want to do that. We need to be able to work with Russia on some of the most important issues of the moment - two primary ones being a coordinated policy against Iran and North Korea's nuclear programs.

Neoconservatives have been very, very bad about making cost-benefit analyses in the realm of foreign affairs, and this is another example. Pissing Russia off to make a self-righteous statement about its interference in Eastern Europe is a large cost. And its benefit - maintaining our strong relationship with set of medium-important allies and providing deterrence against an Iranian offensive - can be gotten in other ways. In fact, the alternative missile shield being proposed will do the latter better, sooner, and cheaper, by focusing on the short- and medium- range missiles that Iran is actually producing and stationing the defense much closer to Iran itself, in Turkey and the Balkans.

Obama's decision is just the kind of sober, considered, responsible and delicately-calibered judgment that know-nothing Republicans love to demagogue to the detriment of our national security.

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