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Interceptor Missile Fails Test Launch 1039

jangobongo writes "The US missile defense system suffered a serious setback today, just 2 weeks before it was scheduled to be activated. A target ICBM was launched from Alaska, but crashed harmlessly into the ocean as the interceptor missile based on an atoll in the Pacific Ocean shut itself down due to an unknown "anomaly". The cause of the failure could have been anything from a software glitch to a major hardware malfunction."
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Interceptor Missile Fails Test Launch

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  • Is it worth it? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Thunderstruck ( 210399 ) on Thursday December 16, 2004 @01:20AM (#11100942)
    I read this article, and all I can think is, "Gosh, that target ICBM must be expensive."

    Bliss is having no idea how much my federal government spent on the rest of the program leading up to this test. Just let me worry about this ICBM lying on the bottom of the ocean.

    • by pHatidic ( 163975 ) on Thursday December 16, 2004 @01:22AM (#11100962)
      Spoiler twice encoded in ROT13 below for extra security:

      $85 million

      • It was just that test that cost 85 million. The actual program costs many orders of magnitude more. Also, the ICBM was a dummy... no worries.
        • by Jace of Fuse! ( 72042 ) on Thursday December 16, 2004 @01:46AM (#11101137) Homepage
          the ICBM was a dummy... no worries.

          The ICBM isn't the dummy that worries me about this failure...
    • Re:Is it worth it? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by bstadil ( 7110 )
      Bliss is having no idea how much my federal government spent on the rest of the program

      What about the $200B we are pissing away in Iraq? Makes you feel good?

  • How? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BWJones ( 18351 ) * on Thursday December 16, 2004 @01:20AM (#11100946) Homepage Journal
    I try and be non partisan here but I have a few questions: How much money is this system costing? How are we supposed to justify the cost in addition to the $100 Billion (approx 25 Billion more than Bush said we would need before the election) we are going to spend in Iraq and Afghanistan next year? How are we supposed to pay for this with the dollar at an all time low against the Euro? How are we supposed to pay for this and have the tax cuts made permanent? How are we supposed to pay for this and reduce the deficit (at an all time high off of a budget surplus just five years ago)? How are we supposed to pay for this and the new stealth spy satellite program that is currently under congressional review? If we are truly at war, then we have to consider some history: There has never before been a time in the history of the United States where during a time of war, we have had a tax cut. If our soldiers (Semper Fi) are paying the ultimate sacrifice (1,344 US Military and a significant number of British, Spanish and Iraqi troops in addition to unpublished numbers of private contractors), then we should at home be expected to sacrifice as well.

    The performance of this program really does make one wonder what we are getting for our tax dollars and investment given all the dramatic failures this program has endured.

    • Re:How? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by zennor ( 802932 )

      Driving to work this morning (in Australia) the discussion on the radio was about the half trillion USD current account deficit and the half trillion USD budget deficit. Using my basic maths but woeful understabding of economics this still adds up to a lot of money the US owes. That some high paid US citizens now have their desperately needed tax cuts (after all, new cars are expensive - not to mention Country Club dues) I guess the rest of you will just have to work a bit harder to pay it off. :(

      On readi

      • Re:How? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by bucuo ( 795414 ) on Thursday December 16, 2004 @02:05AM (#11101265)
        Well, this has been the US's wet dream for a long time. If we're able to shoot down other people's nukes we get to own the world and all that. Also, this isn't nearly the first time we've failed miserably at it.

        We're shouldn't be talking about how much money has been poured into this thing this year, we should be talking about how much has been poured into it since at least the 80s, and probably before that.

        On an aside, here at MIT a Professor Postol gave a very convincing lecture a year or two ago on the fraud surrounding the first National Missile Defence test, and the subsequent cover-up of the allegations by MIT's Lincoln Labs and others. Needless to say, he's received a lot of "pressure" from all over the place. More info here. []
        • Re:How? (Score:3, Insightful)

          by andr0meda ( 167375 )

          We're shouldn't be talking about how much money has been poured into this thing this year, we should be talking about how much has been poured into it since at least the 80s, and probably before that.

          The rest of the world is thinking "the more the better". Seriously, if the US has one more expense channel to have to pour money into, it means the rest of the world can watch the US deficit grow ever larger. Ultimately, superpowers bring themselves down. It's history lesson number 1.
    • Re:How? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by rufey ( 683902 )
      I can't find my sources at the moment, but the cost of this test is probably pocket change compared to the money the United States Government has to pay in interest on the loans that were (and are continually) taken out to finance this (and the entire Federal Budget).

      This story reminded me of another story [] that was in the press the past few days about a very expensive spy program that a few US Congressmen critized. We're talking about billions of dollars here.

      I have to wonder how long it will be be

    • Re:How? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by dj245 ( 732906 )
      How are we supposed to pay for this and reduce the deficit (at an all time high off of a budget surplus just five years ago)? How are we supposed to pay for this and the new stealth spy satellite program that is currently under congressional review? If we are truly at war, then we have to consider some history:

      We are at war. However the war is against none of the usual suspects. Not terrorism, not poverty, not Iraq, not Drugs, not even Comminism or totalianism. We are fighting our economy right now. And

      • Re:How? (Score:3, Interesting)

        And the sad truth is that the only way our country can sustain itself is by having a massive expenditure on the military and an even larger spending on private contracting.

        Is that the true "truth"?

        While spend $100 Billion on the military and private contractors to stimulate the economy would work, but spending $100 Billion to get the homeless off the streets and into a job, with much of the money going to private contracotrs, would work just as well, if not better.

        We spend $100 Billion on military contr
    • Re:How? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by DM9290 ( 797337 ) on Thursday December 16, 2004 @02:24AM (#11101365) Journal
      How are we supposed to pay for this with the dollar at an all time low against the Euro? How are we supposed to pay for this and have the tax cuts made permanent? How are we supposed to pay for this and reduce the deficit (at an all time high off of a budget surplus just five years ago)? How are we supposed to pay for this and the new stealth spy satellite program that is currently under congressional review?

      I dont think there is any intention to pay for any of this (at least no intention to pay it off). The idea is that the States should become bankrupt. This would make it easier for global corporations to more directly run the country (world) without needing to answer to democratic institutions.

      If you think that the public has to much power, then how better to put the unwashed masses under control than by bankrupting the only institution which must (at least partially by way of elections) answer to it.

      When the government spends billions of dollars on this or that defense project, (it doesn't matter which one) who do you think gets most of the money? (answer: privately owned global corporate conglomerates).

      Sure it creates a few "temporary" jobs. Just as any government spending project creates jobs. But it creates a lots of profit.

      It doesn't matter if missile defense works, as long as it costs a lot of public money.

      Not only should taxpayers expect to pay more (not less) taxes during war, but corporations should be compelled to contribute to the war effort by providing services and goods(for the war effort) AT COST. no profit (from those war based earnings). This is morally equivalant to the draft (except that morally corporations do not have rights, whereas the soldiers we compell to fight do)

      War should not be a profit making exercise, and if this makes investers shy of going to war, perhaps it would be for the best. War should be waged because it is morally necessary. Not for profit.
  • So... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AnimeFreak ( 223792 ) on Thursday December 16, 2004 @01:21AM (#11100948) Homepage
    And the United States wonders why we're [Canada] reluctant to join the missile defence programme...

    It doesn't work, that is why.
    • Agreed (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ashitaka ( 27544 ) on Thursday December 16, 2004 @01:30AM (#11101025) Homepage
      Prepare for the chants of "but it will after more development!"

      Doesn't matter. It isn't needed. It tries to address a threat that is not there now and NEVER will be. Even the most hare-brained dictator knows that lobbing ICBMs at the U.S. mainland isn't going to work and will just result in the "liberation" of their country.

      At least some of the world is trying to abandon the path of large-scale war and high-tech weapons as a means of resolving disputes and protecting your interests. Financial war can be messy but at least you don't get this [].
      • Re:Agreed (Score:3, Interesting)

        by AnimeFreak ( 223792 )
        The main question is whether or not there is a real threat to the United States. Twenty years ago, it was conceivable that the USSR would roll into Canada and attack the United States, or would start raining hellfire on the country as a whole.

        These days, the threat is from countries that have limited missile capabilities. North Korea has the ability to fly only a few hundred kilometres with their existing missiles, and the same is for Iran and all those Middle Eastern countries.

        As a Canadian, i do not se
      • and the terrorists that did Sept 11 used $20 of box cutters.

        What really frustrated the military and Busg about Sept 11 is that they had nobody to point the might of aircraft carriers at.

  • That way we wouldn't need new ways of blowing things up
    • Why can't we all just get along?

      Simple. Because you and I have different views of what getting along is. Now multiply the number of people who have different views by the worlds population.

  • Waste of Time (Score:2, Insightful)

    by egg troll ( 515396 )
    Unfortunately this expensive, worthless boondoggle will only continue. Meanwhile, the cost of university tuition is skyrocketing.
  • by uniqueCondition ( 769252 ) on Thursday December 16, 2004 @01:22AM (#11100960)
    if it was software related it was probably due to a fault in the scheduling algorithm re: data sharing between processes most problems in RTS come from an excessive amount of world inputs that aren't properly accounted for by data structures then again.. it could of just ran out of gas
  • And so... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bravehamster ( 44836 ) on Thursday December 16, 2004 @01:22AM (#11100970) Homepage Journal
    The cause of the failure could have been anything from a software glitch to a major hardware malfunction."

    And let's all speculate aimlessly until we know which.

  • Damn... (Score:5, Funny)

    by JessLeah ( 625838 ) on Thursday December 16, 2004 @01:24AM (#11100978)
    Stupid rackafratchin' metric conversions ;)
  • My concern (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Frennzy ( 730093 ) on Thursday December 16, 2004 @01:27AM (#11100993) Homepage
    Ignoring for the moment the cost and the dubious necessity for such a system, what worries me more is:

    'failed to launch due to an unknown anomaly'

    What kind of engineering is this? With all of the possible metrology, the system 'shut down' due to an unknown anomaly? If the scientists and engineers can't grok what causes a 'shut down', then they need new jobs...possibly in the NYC sanitation department.

    The system 'shut itself down'...ergo, a failure condition (anomaly) must have existed. I fail to understand how the 'system' knew about a problem that was bad enough to shut itself down, yet somehow the folks running said system aren't able to discern exactly what that was? Hell, even Windows has 'event viewer' and kernel dumps.

    This cash cow needs to have her neck severed.
    • by Dun Malg ( 230075 ) on Thursday December 16, 2004 @01:47AM (#11101153) Homepage
      'failed to launch due to an unknown anomaly' What kind of engineering is this? With all of the possible metrology, the system 'shut down' due to an unknown anomaly? If the scientists and engineers can't grok what causes a 'shut down', then they need new jobs

      The talking head who said "unknown anomaly" probably talked to the engineers first. They probably said something like:

      "The primary system dumped core with error 0xEA09, which indicates the fizgig wasn't able to spin up to polarity. We need time to dump the logs and figure out if it was the metabalancer, the interflexor, or maybe even the sky modulator that miscued the fizgig."

      To which he says, "I'll just tell 'em we don't know what happened yet"

  • by crumbz ( 41803 ) <<remove_spam>jus ... o spam>> on Thursday December 16, 2004 @01:27AM (#11100998) Homepage
    Some have said: A shameful waste of American money. An inducement to start a new nuclear arms race. Another dangerous precedent for continued American unilateralism.

    Meanwhile, the thousands of cargo containers entering American ports everyday are rarely inspected.

    Meanwhile, tons of radioactive materials are left unsecured in the former USSR.

    And more nations are pursuing nuclear weapons as a bargaining chip to keep the U.S. from invading their countries.

    Someone want to educate the current administration on asymmetrical warfare? And how the next threat is likely to be immune to missile interceptors.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 16, 2004 @02:04AM (#11101257)
      And how the next threat is likely to be immune to missile interceptors

      Just like there is no alquaeda in Iraq, there will be no falling ICBM.

      It will come through the ports on a container ship that isn't inspected and detonate somwhere down the road.

      So you're right, it will be immune to missile interception.

      Meanwhile countless americans don't have healthcare.

      This is "morals and values" for you folks.
  • by hunterx11 ( 778171 ) <hunterx11@gma i l . com> on Thursday December 16, 2004 @01:28AM (#11101009) Homepage Journal
    Ideologically at least, I support the idea of national missile defense. But one has to look at this from a cost-benefit angle. A system that could probably stop ICBMs would be worth spending quite a lot on (though not necessarily any obscene amount of money). A system that can maybe stop ICBMs under ideal conditions will probably not stop them in real life. It's still worth a lot, but not billions and billions. This is money that could be much better spent actually protecting America. For example, what's to stop somebody from landing a nuke on our shores in a small boat? How many thousands of times less would it cost to patrol our shores effectively than fuel some military-industrial boondoggle?
  • by Tom7 ( 102298 ) on Thursday December 16, 2004 @01:35AM (#11101053) Homepage Journal
    as the interceptor missile ... shut itself down...

    Well, it could have been worse! Nothing like going from one incoming ICBM to one ICBM and one haywire interceptor...
  • by Stripsurge ( 162174 ) on Thursday December 16, 2004 @01:38AM (#11101077) Homepage
    Just a thought. If I was a terrorist (I'm not honest!) and I heard Americans going on and on about how great this system is knowing full well its faulty I'd probably put it to the test. Seems like that would be the ultimate slap in the face. "Your billions and billions of dollars STILL can't stop us" An unfounded claim just begs to be tested.

    Its like those "indestructible" CD holders they sell in those little booths at the mall.... Lets just say I'm not allowed back in that mall for a while.

    Wow. That sounded bad. Ok. No more writting in the first person as a terrorist.

    To sig or not to sig
  • by the_skywise ( 189793 ) on Thursday December 16, 2004 @01:48AM (#11101156)
    It was too broadly programmed and decided to become a conscientious objector...

    (Now there's a sci-fi story waiting to be written... an AI that refuses to do non-efficient work that it was designed to do..."This job is stupid, I'm not doing it...")
  • by DougDew ( 94589 ) on Thursday December 16, 2004 @01:49AM (#11101168)
    Critics of anti-ballistic missile defense systems have often pointed out the futility of trying to build a missile defense system. As the critics have explained, it will always be easier to build an effective missile offense than it will be to build an effective defense.

    So, it seemed tragically humorous when the press spokesman for the missile defense effort inadvertantly agreed with the critics when the press spokesman proclaimed that although the interceptor had failed, the target missile had functioned properly.

    With all of the money being spent on this program, it seems to me that it ought to be possible to hire a more savvy spokesman.
  • by dghcasp ( 459766 ) on Thursday December 16, 2004 @01:50AM (#11101170)
    The Missile Defense Agency has attempted to conduct the test several times this month, but scrubbed each one for a variety of reasons, including weather problems [...]

    Important Notice to Rogue States and Terrorists: If you plan to attack the US, check the weather first and make sure it's a calm, clear day so our missile defence system has a chance of working. Love, the US government.

  • by No. 24601 ( 657888 ) on Thursday December 16, 2004 @01:51AM (#11101180)
    up here in Canada we're celebrating. This means we can procrastinate further on whether to help you guys start the next arms race. After his recent trip, Bush had a lot of people up here arguing about whether it's in our best interest to help with missile defense.

    Personally, I hope the defense project fails... otherwise Canada will be forced to disagree again with American policy. I'm sure there'll be economic consequences.

    • Procrastinate further? Well I suppose we've done a fair share of it lately, but Martin said yesterday that until he gets an official written document asking for our participation along with a detailed list of what is being requested, there is no debate. It will not happen on Canadian soil and not one Canadian cent will be spent on Missile Defence until that happens, and if it does, it will go to parliment.

      Pretty definitive I'd say... and I must say I very much approve of this approach (and policy of not jo
    • This means we can procrastinate further on whether to help you guys start the next arms race.

      America may not be out of the gate yet but Mr. Bush's arms race is already well underway. [] Before too long Russia will have missiles inherently capable of penetrating any missile defense shield we can build.

      The White House, of course, will probably continue to claim there was no reason to continue those ballistic-arms-buildup treaties we had with the USSR.
  • by Steamhead ( 714353 ) on Thursday December 16, 2004 @01:55AM (#11101206) Homepage
    I wrote this for an English teacher of mine so I won't bother to reformat it, but it shows why us Canadians are reluctant to join into this program.

    Winnipeg is among Canadian cities where a North Korean nuclear missile could land if the U.S. shot it out of the sky with its ballistic missile defence technology.

    Although the chance of Winnipeg getting hit is distance, it's still a sobering thought for Prairie dwellers at a time when U.S. President George W. Bush is pushing Canada to sign onto his plan.

    If the U.S. hit the feared missiles early enough, they would make it no farther then the arctic before landing or breaking apart. But a few minutes delay and a missile could fall much closer to its target, such as in southern Canada.

    The anti missile technology works by destroying the rocket's booster rocket.

    The Nuclear warhead would either break apart and scatter radioactive material over a wide path, or continue intact but come short of it's target, if it did hit the ground it may, or may not explode.

    U.S analysts haven't thought much about the consequences for Canada, which lies in the path or a nuclear missile from North Korea, or of Berlin and Edinburgh, which lie in the path of a nuclear missile from Iran. A United States official commented that saving New York is worth killing one or two of our reindeer.

    If you draw a line on the globe from North Korea to Chicago, it passes quite close to Yellowknife, The Pas, Kenora, and Winnipeg . I suppose Chicago is worth the three reindeer in Assiniboine Park, and 600 000 Winnipeggers eh?

    The trajectory to Washington passes not far from Toronto.

    If Canada joins this plan, we would have to demand protection of our major cities, but more then likely if we do join this, we will just end up being a target.
  • OBSOLETE (Score:5, Funny)

    by GISGEOLOGYGEEK ( 708023 ) on Thursday December 16, 2004 @01:57AM (#11101219)
    The system is a total waste.

    It is obsolete before it is even functional.

    Why do I say this?

    Because to overcome the defense, all you need to do is send more warheads and make the warheads travel faster. A CHEAP EASY WAY TO OVERCOME A TRILLION DOLLAR SYSTEM. They can be real warheads, they can be decoys, just put lots in the air at once, the US won't be able to shoot them all down. Make them move faster, and the defense system can't keep up.

    This does not require very many missles.

    The new Russian system announced recently does all this. Each missle carries more warheads (10 or 12), and the missle travels much faster than previous missles.

    Now, how about the other issue .. the fact that the system has never yet worked properly under normal expected conditions?

    The ONLY time the system has EVER shot down a missle has been when the target missles have been set to travel and a greatly reduced speed AND have been made to emit a homing signal for the defensive missle to follow in.

    Do you really think any 'rogue states' are going to slow their missles down and put nice friendly homing beacons on them? dumbass.

    Hmmmm maybe that's why DUBYA is such good friends with the nuclear military dictatorship of Pakistan, as well as the well known terrorist leader of Libya who has murdered hundreds and has billions in the bank to fund any terrorists he wants ... wouldn't want any real threats to test the system, better to just invade the imaginary threats that never had any WMD's.

  • Contractor - Boeing (Score:5, Informative)

    by Artifakt ( 700173 ) on Thursday December 16, 2004 @02:00AM (#11101238)
    Primary contractor for the interceptor missile system is Boeing. Four previous tests have been successful as tests of at least some parts of the system. At least 1 previous test was spectacularly unsuccessful after the missile boost stage failed to separate, and others have had less obvious problems.
    Orbital Sciences Corp. is an alternate contractor for a booster system in case the Boeing design doesn't meet final acceptance, and several companies such as Lockeed-Martin also have standby programs.
    The warhead that may ultimately be deployed is technically an EKV (Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle). Raethon has the contract for this design. It contains a sensor suite that is supposed to descriminate between actual nuclear devices and decoys. Tests so far have had balloon decoys whose IR characteristics were relatively easy to discriminate vis-a-vis an actual warhead. This test would have been against a wider selection of balloon decoys.

    For more info, and some nice photos, try: html/ []
  • by tji ( 74570 ) on Thursday December 16, 2004 @02:10AM (#11101285)
    This used to happen to me all the time.

    That little sticker that holds the igniter [] up in the engine probably came loose. Either that, or the alligator clip came off the igniter.

    Estes is usually good to deal with, just call their 800 number and they'll send a new pack of igniters.

    There is a helpful guide here [].

  • by Jah-Wren Ryel ( 80510 ) on Thursday December 16, 2004 @02:11AM (#11101297)
    Despite what all the official propoganda says, this system is primarily an offensive weapon.

    As others have pointed out - no two-bit dictator with a nuke is going to launch it at the US (or any of our allies that might be geographically closer) because they know it is a sure ticket to "liberation."

    But, what the US military, and anyone who bothers to think about it for 30 seconds, does know is that if the US premptively liberates a country from its two-bit dictator, then any nuke that guy has at his disposal will be launched just as soon as he can hit that red button.

    Ballistic missile defense is designed to neutralize that retaliatory threat and thus make it "safe" for the US to liberate a country like Iran or North Korea. That's the reason all the talk about how "it will never work" because of decoys and whatnot doesn't make an impact on development - they don't (plan to) need to deal with a well-funded and well-planned attack, only the last-minute, "if I'm going down, I'm going to take as many of them with me" kind of attack.

    Speaking as a US citizen and a WORLD citizen, I tend to think that the less free the US feels to throw its weight around, the better off the planet is in the long run.
    • You have made a very good post and you seem to be able to see through a lot of propaganda. The only thing I object to, and which makes your post a bit scary, is how you use the term "liberate" without quotationmarks or marks of any kind, when in fact you are talking about invasions.
  • by Edmund Blackadder ( 559735 ) on Thursday December 16, 2004 @02:25AM (#11101372)
    This is evidence of the Bush's administration new policy of testing and deplying at the same time. The idea is that when the government used to test before deployment, Boeing would actually have to create a working system in order to get the bulk of their money. But they would much prefer it if they start getting their money before their system even works.

    There were several tests of the missile defense system some of them succesful some not, but there were certainly not enough tests to ensure that the system would be operational. Yet the DoD decided to go ahead with building the system before testing was complete.

    Now we know there is some kind of problem but we can't make major design changes because the whole thing is already being build. Lets just hope it is a software glitch.

    Now everyone knows that a system as complex as that cannot work on the first time, but that is why you do tersting before you actually start depoying. This way you can iron out the bugs before you spend several billion dollars on a bunch of hardware that might turn out to be useless.

  • No Confidence (Score:5, Interesting)

    by phalse phace ( 454635 ) on Thursday December 16, 2004 @02:40AM (#11101451)
    I haven't seen this mentioned yet, but has anyone else noticed that the previous five (out of eight) tests of the tracking and targeting system were highly scripted []?
    In earlier testing of tracking and targeting systems, which critics derided as highly scripted, missile interceptors went five-for-eight in hitting target missiles.

    The chief weapons tester doesn't even have confidence in the system [].

    The current chief weapons tester, Thomas Christie, said in a written reply to Reuters that the test, if successful, would increase confidence that the system "has some operational capability against a North Korean threat ballistic missile."

    Coyle said the tests so far and the coming one gave him no such confidence.

    "The target launch time and location, the flight trajectory, the point of impact, what the target looks like, and the make-up of other objects in the target cluster have all been known in advance to plot the intercept," he said. "No enemy would cooperate by providing all that information in advance."

    I don't see how this system will ever work unless our attacker warns us in advance of the missile's launch time, its location, flight trajectory,....etc. What a waste of taxpayer money. People should be outraged.

  • by gtoomey ( 528943 ) on Thursday December 16, 2004 @02:49AM (#11101498)
    David Parnas [] predicted in the 1980s that software for missile defence was impossible to test.
  • by kravlor ( 597242 ) on Thursday December 16, 2004 @09:55AM (#11103121) Homepage
    I'm surprised I haven't seen mention of several publications by the American Physical Society [] regarding the missile defense shield. As a physicist, I looked forward to the APS' findings, as it is one of the most prominent and well-respected professional organizations of physicists.

    Physics Today [] has several [] articles [] dealing [] with the subject, and the actual report can be obtained here. []

    The verdict: living under the physical laws we all have to obey, boost phase missile defense really doesn't work -- even if the interceptors can get off the ground. Continuing on in with the fiendishly expensive and marginally beneficial program (beneficial in terms of the defense contractors' job security) in the light that it is not physically possible to expect a reasonable chance (or sometimes even a chance) of success is a demonstration of the Administration's ignorance of science and fact, as well as pork-barrel spending at its worst.

    So, I'm not surprised at all about the failure -- and wouldn't be even if they launched the interceptor successfully. It's too bad that we won't see any sort of rational discussion of the topic of missile defense in Congress now that the topic is so politically charged.

  • by Jeppe Salvesen ( 101622 ) on Thursday December 16, 2004 @10:05AM (#11103245)
    If I wanted to blow up New York City using a nuclear device, it would be by far easiest to load it into a container onto a container ship, offload it onto a speedboat off-coast (probably drop it off and have the speedboat pick it up so that the security people can't see what happened on the radar) and have a suicide bomber set it off inside New York harbor. Of course, you'd need a collusive captain on the ship.

    However, answer me this: If you had an atomic bomb, wouldn't you agree that this is an easier and cheaper way to destroy New York City than to aquire, arming and sending off an ICBM?
  • Bob said it best (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jeremi ( 14640 ) on Thursday December 16, 2004 @12:43PM (#11105498) Homepage
    I think Stephen Notley says it best []:

    In order to understand why NMD is so stupid, it helps to take a look at global strategy-making in the nuclear age. During the Cold War, the prevailng idea was deterrence based on the principle of Mutually Assured Destruction (the acronyms just keep comin'!). That is, Russia had missiles and America had missiles, so if one launched an attack on the other, he knew that he himself would be wiped out by the retaliatory strike. Nobody wants to commit suicide, so nobody launches that first attack.

    Now, with the emergence in the minds of many of America as the sole Superpower, we're out of MAD and into just AD: Assured Destruction. Anybody who attacks America with a missile will be wiped off the face of the Earth. Deterrence, it seems, has become total and one-sided; under these strategic conditions, who would possibly launch an attack of this kind that would require an NMD to shoot down? The stated bad guys are "rogue nations", by which we mean North Korea or Iraq before we took over or whoever gets on our shit list this week. These are nations, suposedly, run by out-of-control lunatics who could at any moment decide to obliterate themselves and their nation in a futile stab at the belly of the Beast, or something. The problem is that the people who run countries tend to have stakes in remaining alive, so the principle of AD means they're not gonna be launching any surprise attacks on us.

    Now, there are some people out there who have demonstrated that they *are* willing to kill themselves in order to stab the Beast, those few thousands of people out there who actually fit the label "terrorists". They'd love to launch a missile attack if they could, but they don't run countries so they just don't have any nuclear missiles. If they had a nuke they could very well try to sneak it into a harbor on a boat or something, but there's not much a faulty system of anti-missile-missiles in Alaska is going to be able to do about that.

    So why do we need a missile defense system to shoot down missiles nobody's gonna shoot at us? Because make no mistake, the Bushites are rushing the job on this. Incredibly, they're even suspending experimental and test requirements that are supposed to determine if these things actually work in their haste to get some kind of system up and running by, I think, 2005. They're desperate to deploy these systems, insisting on getting stuff that doesn't even work in place as soon as possible, just so they have something. Why? Part of it is simple Greed, of course. Those billions go into well-connected pockets and it's easy to keep the money tap flowing. But I think there's more than that; they really think they're going to need to be able to shoot down missiles somebody's fired at them. But where are those missiles gonna come from?

    The stinky secret is that there *is*, in fact, a use for NMD in Bush's sick interpretation of the Assured Destruction world. By the principles of AD, nobody is going to launch a pre-emptive attack on America. Nation leaders have too much to lose and terrorists don't have them. So who would ever fire a nuclear missile at America? Why, somebody who'd already had a nuclear missile fired at them, of course. Deterrence will ensure that nobody launches an attack on you, but if you've already attacked them you can't really expect to deter them any more. The purpose of NMD is to provide a shield, not from pre-emptive attack, but from retaliatory attack from an enemy or its allies. It's to preserve America's ability to use nuclear weapons without fear of consequence.

    Despite their ideological fixations and internal history-rewriting, the Bushites must be capable of understanding that America's conventional military is stretched rather thin at the moment. They're bogged down in Iraq, their soldiers are exhausted, and they just don't have a lot of conventional muscle to throw around right now. If something flares up and threatens their interests in a new l

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