Friday, September 18, 2009

Obama's missile-shield backtrack

The MSM are all over President's Obama's decision to scrap the Bush plan (with origins going back to Reagan) to install missile-defense shield in East Europe.  The Financial Times provides a fine review of perspectives from all around, including the East European countries (who hate it, and feel betrayed), John McCain (who calls it "seriously misguided"), and uber-neocon John Bolton (who speaks of it as a catastrophe - any surprise there?).  The feeling among many is that Obama is throwing Poland, the Czech Republic, etc., to the wolves (or better, the Russian bear) in return for Medvedev/Putin support on sanctions vs. Iran.

I hope that's not the reason.  More sanctions will accomplish very little, nor is Russia (or China) going to support them significantly in any event.  They've got too much invested in maintaining good relations with Iran.  (Although unfortunately Mr. Ahmadinejad keeps providing possible pretexts for the world at large to step farther away.  The Telegraph and CSM report yet another denial of the Holocaust from him.)

But stepping away from the shield may have some salutary effects on other scores:

1. For the US effort in Afghanistan, and in the energy-rich pipeline heaven that Central Asia is headed toward becoming, the US needs to be able to work with Russia.  Proceeding with the missile shield as scheduled was sure to jeopardize that.

2.  George Stephanopolous raised the question on his ABC News blog this morning: Is Obama using this to deter Israel from bombing Iran?  Remember, the East Europeans are upset because they were counting on that shield as insurance against Russian aggression against them, but it was also intended to be part of a network to defend against the advent of an Iranian missile-delivered nuclear threat.

UPDATE: Have a look at David Corn's take (at the Mother Jones website) on John McCain's anguish over this decision.  It was only recently that McCain was praising the administration for relying more on the ship-based, mobile, tried-and-true missile defense that Obama is now going to trust.  And the corker?  One of the US Navy missile-equipped destroyers that's a cog in the system is the USS John McCain (named for the senator's grandpa and dad!).

UPDATE 2:  Al-Jazeera reports on a new NATO proposal that the US, Russia and the NATO allies link their missile systems to defend against other enemies - i.e., North Korea, and Iran.

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