What Reagan Knew About Missile Defense
It would take only 33 minutes for a missile to reach the U.S. from anywhere in the world. That’s a sobering thought when North Korea is taunting America with threatening video propaganda about its nuclear capabilities and Iran is advancing its nuclear program.
In response to these threats, the Obama Administration announced Friday that it would increase the number of Ground-Based Midcourse Defense Interceptors protecting the U.S. from 30 to 44. These 30 interceptors allowed White House spokesman Jay Carney to state that the U.S. is “fully capable of defending itself” against a North Korean ballistic missile attack.
He didn’t mention that the Obama Administration has tried to undermine the long-range missile defense program since it came into office, including announcing the "restructure" of the advanced SM-3 IIB interceptor program designed to protect the U.S. and allies from a long-range ballistic missile threat. As Heritage’s Michaela Dodge explained:
When the Administration took office four years ago, it scaled down the number of interceptors protecting the U.S. from 54 to 30. This included cutting 10 interceptors in Poland and 14 in Alaska. The Administration justified its step by saying that the missile defense threat has not progressed as fast as the Bush Administration expected—this despite the fact that both North Korea and Iran have been very public about their efforts to develop long-range ballistic missile capabilities.
President Obama famously told Russia’s then-President Dmitry Medvedev that after the 2012 election, he would have more “flexibility” on missile defense. Just last Friday, his new Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, announced a restructuring of U.S. missile defense priorities to focus more on Alaska-based and California-based missile interceptors. This shift away from commitments to deploy advanced interceptors to Poland and Romania is exactly what the Russians have been demanding.
Thirty years ago this week, President Ronald Reagan asked a question that is just as vital today: “[W]hich part of our defense measures do we believe we can do without and still have security against all contingencies?”
>>> Watch Reagan’s 1983 speech about the Strategic Defense Initiative
To protect America, all contingencies must be covered. And as Heritage President-elect Jim DeMint has said recently, missile defense works. It works because the only sure way to deter an attack against the U.S. is to make certain it isn’t worth it for the attacker. As Reagan said:
“Deterrence'' means simply this: making sure any adversary who thinks about attacking the United States, or our allies, or our vital interests, concludes that the risks to him outweigh any potential gains. Once he understands that, he won't attack. We maintain the peace through our strength; weakness only invites aggression.
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Today, The Heritage Foundation and the George C. Marshall Institute are co-hosting an event commemorating the 30th anniversary of Reagan’s landmark speech on missile defense and discussing the challenges of protecting our nation, then and now. Speakers include Ambassador Henry Cooper, Dr. Lee Edwards, Dr. Kim Holmes, Jeff Kueter, Representative Mike Rogers (R-AL), and Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH). The event runs from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. ET, and you can watch online throughout.
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