While Iran does not currently have the ability to carry a nuclear warhead to the U.S., a recent report warned that its missile program is steadily improving. “Beyond steady growth in its missile and rocket inventories,” the report notes, “Iran has boosted the lethality and effectiveness of existing systems with accuracy improvements … since 2008 Iran has launched multistage space launch vehicles that could serve as a test bed for developing long-range ballistic missile technologies.” If those 2009 intelligence reports said Iran was slowing down its long-range missile development, they were wrong.
Rather than developing defense policy based on meeting threats, the Obama administration seemingly began with ideologically motivated goals, and worked backward.
Stunningly, the National Research Council recommends a third long-range interceptor site much like the one planned for Poland and the Czech Republic. However, it recommends simply placing the system on American soil, either in Maine or New York.
Russia doubtless would strongly oppose such action, and so, President Obama can be expected to ignore the National Research Council’s recommendation in favor of his own foreign policy and arms control objectives. He made this perfectly clear in a rare and candid moment when the hot microphone caught President Obama telling then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, “On all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this can be solved, but it’s important for [Vladimir Putin] to give me space. … This is my last election. … After my election I have more flexibility.”
The House-passed version of the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act contained a provision mandating studies to determine the best options for an East Coast missile defense site. The Senate version, however, did not include that provision.
The National Research Council report rebuts the contention that an East Coast site is unnecessary. The American people and their allies deserve the best defense possible. That should be our primary national security objective, with arms control and diplomacy initiatives regarded solely as means to this end, rather than as ends unto themselves.
Rebeccah Heinrichs is a visiting fellow specializing in national security issues at The Heritage Foundation (heritage.org).