Missile Defense, Then and Now

Readers of a certain age will recall the battles over missile defense that raged during the Reagan administration. Virtually all Democrats opposed all forms of missile defense, deeming the concept not only unfeasible–“like hitting a bullet with a bullet,” as though that were impossible–but destabilizing as well. John Kerry’s denunciations of missile defense were typical: “a dream based on illusion, but one which could have real and terrible consequences,” As recently as 2008, Barack Obama said that he didn’t “agree with a missile defense system” and promised to slash funding for development of such systems. He did, too.

I was reminded of all of this by a low-key, matter of fact story in today’s newspapers:

The Obama administration will add 14 interceptors to a West Coast-based missile defense system, reflecting concern about North Korea’s focus on developing nuclear weapons and its advances in long-range missile technology, officials said Friday. …

The Pentagon intends to add the 14 interceptors to 30 already in place in California and Alaska. That will expand the system’s ability to shoot down long-range missiles in flight before they could reach U.S. territory. …

“As we think about our homeland missile-defense posture, we do not have a ‘just-in-time’ policy,” [James Miller, defense undersecretary for policy] said. “Our policy is to stay ahead of the threat — and to continue to ensure that we are ahead of any potential future Iranian or North Korean ICBM (intercontinental ballistic missile) capability.”

Well, that is good news. Still, one wonders: has anyone ever asked Secretary of State John Kerry whether he now admits that he was wrong about missile defense being a “dream based on an illusion,” with “real and terrible consequences?” Or how about the Democratic Senators and Congressmen, many of them still in office, who bitterly attacked President Reagan for wanting to develop missile defense systems, and President Bush for wanting to deploy such systems? Does anyone ever ask whether they have changed their minds, or how they now feel about our ability to defend against North Korean missiles?

Being a Democrat means never being reminded of the times when you were wrong.


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