Now we know why Obama reversed course on missile defense

Article Highlights

  • Part of the U.S. intelligence community now believes North Korea has achieved at least a rudimentary capability to put nuclear weapons on long-range ballistic missiles.

    Tweet This

  • The Obama administration deserves credit for bowing to reality, and taking seriously what may be a real threat in the future.

    Tweet This

  • All of this raises questions about what else we don’t know.

    Tweet This

Last month, the Obama administration abruptly backtracked on cutting continental missile defense, and decided to restore the full amount of interceptors in Alaska to an original Bush administration plan. Given the time and cost of the reversal (costing up to $200 million and taking at least two years), many wondered what could have spooked an administration not known for second-guessing itself. Well, this report may reveal the answer: Part of the U.S. intelligence community now believes North Korea has achieved at least a rudimentary capability to put nuclear weapons on long-range ballistic missiles. That, of course, is a game-changer, even if the North can’t yet depend on the accuracy of its missiles (or weapons, for that matter). 

The Obama administration deserves credit for bowing to reality, and taking seriously what may be a real threat in the future. That raises questions, however, about its initial judgments about other threats to the United States, as well as to allies. In particular, it highlights once again the fact that the administration is caught by surprise on timelines. It may have assumed the North wouldn’t perfect weaponization so quickly. Similarly, the administration’s rationale for killing the F-22 stealth fighter in 2009 was that no other stealth competitor was on the horizon; just months later, the Chinese rolled out not one, but two stealth prototypes, both of which appear to be proceeding much faster than expected. 

All of this raises questions about what else we don’t know. WhenIran might have a bomb? Terrorists getting their hands on WMD? Cyber attacks on America’s infrastructure? It’s possible none of those things will happen, but if they do, we’ll need an immediate response, not one that takes years to prepare. Hence, putting back missile interceptors. There are other things we may find wanting, like having enough stealth fighters or cyber defense. Prudence isn’t always about saving money; it’s also about adequately understanding tomorrow’s threats and preparing today.

Also Visit
AEIdeas Blog The American Magazine
About the Author

 

Michael
Auslin

What's new on AEI

Poverty in America—and What to Do About It
image GDP for second quarter: Strong headline, weak innards
image Paul Ryan and the emerging conservative reform agenda in higher education
image Democrats' impeachment fixation
AEI on Facebook
Events Calendar
  • 28
    MON
  • 29
    TUE
  • 30
    WED
  • 31
    THU
  • 01
    FRI
Tuesday, July 29, 2014 | 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Is Medicare's future secure? The 2014 Trustees Report

Please join AEI as the chief actuary for Medicare summarizes the report’s results, followed by a panel discussion of what those spending trends are likely to mean for seniors, taxpayers, the health industry, and federal policy.

Friday, August 01, 2014 | 10:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Watergate revisited: The reforms and the reality, 40 years later

Please join us as four of Washington’s most distinguished political observers will revisit the Watergate hearings and discuss reforms that followed.

Event Registration is Closed
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.