Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Change in Policy

National security is a big issue in the United States especially after the reminder of the September 11 attacks with the trials of alleged terror suspects.  This tragedy awakened a new sense of unity among the American people as well as instilling a new fear of outside threats.  With this fear the national government took steps to further the country's security including the creation of the Department of Homeland Security.  Another step taken by the president of the time, George W. Bush, was the creation of a missile defense program based in Europe to protect against missile threats from Iran.  Early September our current president Barack Obama eliminated this program set up under the Bush administration and is currently under fire for this decision.

            President Bush's plan was to create a base in Poland for interceptor missiles and radar stations in the Czech Republic. The basis of President Obama's decision to scrap the program was that Iran did not possess the ability to launch a missile that would endanger the United States or its European allies.  Defense Secretary Robert Gates defended the decision by stating that the threat of long-range missiles from Iran was not as immediate as previously feared.  Instead of Bush's proposed plan the new policy under the Obama administration would be as follows: "a redesigned system based on mobile land and sea-based interceptors [that] would be cheaper and more effective against the region's greatest missile threat, Iran.  The new system would focus on mobile medium and short-range missiles, rather than longer-range threats." These are the words of Mr. Gates when asked by US News Weekly to describe the new program.

            The new plan has strong opponents in the Republican Party including Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and former presidential nominee John McCain.  Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee said, "This is going to be seen as a capitulation to the Russians, who had no real basis to object to what we were doing.  And at the end of the day you empowered the Russians, you made Iran happy, and you made the people in Eastern Europe wonder who we are as Americans".  Senator McCain made a statement saying "This decision calls into question the security and diplomatic commitments the United States has made to Poland and the Czech Republic, and has the potential to undermine perceived American leadership in Eastern Europe.  Given the serious and growing threats posed by Iran's missile and nuclear programs, now is the time when we should look to strengthen our defenses, and those of our allies".  The United States cannot afford to be seen as a weaker country with the new program in effect, especially by removing the program with the approval of Russia.  Strength in Europe for both the U.S.'s sake and that of our allies is of vital importance to keep potential threats from Iran at bay.  Reputation can be a major factor in the way someone, or in this case a country, is perceived by their opponents. 

            The entire situation and string of events eventually boils down to the truth in the statement regarding our safety from missile attacks from Iran.  In May of 2009 Iran launched a new long-range missile showing the strength of their nuclear program.   The missile was a Sejjil-2 surface-to-surface missile with a range of 2,000 kilometers or nearly 1,250 miles, which is far enough to reach Israel, Eastern Europe, and U.S. bases in the Middle East.  The range is similar to that of their Shabab-3 missile, which is suspected to have been designed for carrying a nuclear warhead.  This missile is the longest-range solid-propellant missile launched by Iran thus far, raising governments officials concern as the to the sophistication of Tehran's missile program.  These types of rockets are of increased concern because they can be fueled in advance,moved and then hidden away.  So with this said how safe are we?

            There is a confirmed danger of attack from Iran with the launch of this missile earlier in the year.  Keeping that in mind, what are President Obama's intentions for changing a program that would protect us, and our allies, from such a threat?  Is he bowing down to political pressure from Russian leadership over their own concerns for their safety? Bush's administration had repeatedly quelled Russia's fears of attack from the U.S. so, as was stated by Senator Graham, this matter really was none of Russia's concern.  So then was the program changed just to save money? No American citizen can really approve of his or her safety being diminished just for a small budget cut.  President Obama and his Defense Secretary Robert Gates have a careful balancing act ahead of them.  Weighing safety with costs, and missile threats with appeasing other countries can be no small task.  Hopefully our president is up to the challenge of making the best decision in all regards to the missile defense program.


-Pirate For Hire


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