Chicago Boyz

                 
 
 
What Are Chicago Boyz Readers Reading?
 

 
  •   Enter your email to be notified of new posts:
    Loading
  •   Problem? Question?
  •   Contact Authors:

  • Blog Posts (RSS 2.0)
  • Blog Posts (Atom 0.3)
  • Incoming Links
  • Recent Comments

    • Loading...
  • Authors

  • Notable Discussions

  • Recent Posts

  • Blogroll

  • Categories

  • Archives

  • Shooting Down Missile Defense

    Posted by David Foster on August 22nd, 2008 (All posts by )

    In late June, the U.S. Missile Defense agency conducted a successful test of THAAD, the Terminal High Area Defense system. THAAD is intended to provide the upper level of a multilayer defensive shield, with a lower-level defense provided by Patriot or a similar system. It is particularly intended as a defense against short- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles, although it also offers some capability against intercontinental missiles.

    I don’t think Barack Obama would be much of a THAAD supporter. In this speech, he says he would cut investments in “unproven missile defense systems” and indeed seems pretty hostile to defense technology programs in general.

    I guess THAAD counts as an “unproven technology,” given that it has not yet been combat-tested or even deployed. The radar-and-communications network that protected Britain from air attack during WWII was also an “unproven technology” when it was deployed: it is very fortunate that Neville Chamberlain, rather than Barack Obama, was Prime Minister of Britain at the time.

    THAAD is a hit-to-kill system: it destroys its targets via force of impact, rather than with an explosive charge. This is basically “hitting a bullet with a bullet,” an idea that opponents of missile defense have long mocked.

    An aerodynamicist once supposedly “proved” that it was impossible for bumblebees to fly; however, the bumblebee continues flying happily, unaware of the impossibility of its behavior. Similarly, THAAD “hits a bullet with a bullet,” not deterred by the supposed impossibility of this action.

    Very clearly, “progressives”–and even many mainstream liberals–have long been hostile to the very idea of missile defense. They were hostile to it when the principal threat was from the Soviet Union, and they are hostile to it when the principal threat is from rogue states, terrorists, and a brutish theocracy. They were hostile to it when the latest thing in computer technology was the IBM System/370, and they are hostile to it several generations of technology later. It seems to really bother them that any system should be so presumptuous as to interpose itself between Americans–and citizens of allied nations–and those who would launch missiles at them.

    Why?

     

    28 Responses to “Shooting Down Missile Defense”

    1. Lexington Green Says:

      Because they think the United States it the most dangerous country in the world and they want us to be vulnerable to threats and attacks by foreigners to keep us in line.

      On a less psychopathological note, they also fear that the existence of an effective missile defense will make the use of conventional force more appealing and more likely.

      In other words, to “Progressive” thinkers, the USA, the source of the evils of Globalization, the hegemon, is the main source of violene and disorder in the world and it needs to be deterred.

    2. Robert Schwartz Says:

      “They were hostile to it when the latest thing in computer technology was the IBM System/370, and they are hostile to it several generations of technology later.”

      Still protecting the Soviet Union.

    3. Ginny Says:

      Not unlike those who see the average merchant with a gun under the counter as more dangerous than the thug who walks in wielding one.

      I’ve come a long way on gun control thanks to the people on this blog. Someone asked me lately why I was happier than ten years ago. I think beginning to believe in others (while acknowledging the need to protect ourselves from their – and indeed our own – worst instincts) explains much. How unhappy must an American be who thinks Poland shouldn’t defend itself – and certainly America shouldn’t. It’s like an adolescent who finds some strange satisfaction in cutting his own arms.

    4. Shannon Love Says:

      Leftist oppose weapons because preventing conflict with military power does not raise the status of articulate intellectuals. Instead, they want to deter wars by using the power of articulate intellectuals to (1) alter the behavior of our own non-intellectuals and (2) using articulation to persuade enemies to alter their behavior. They want the country to pursue solutions that put them in charge of effecting that solution.

      It doesn’t matter what the weapon, tactic or strategy is. Anything that isn’t talk marginalizes them.

    5. Shannon Love Says:

      The really good news is that THAAD and similar systems can reliably get within a few dozen meters of the target virtually every time. That in turns means we can put a small nuke onto of them and get a near 100% kill rate. I imagine that we have already done this covertly.

    6. gs Says:

      Twenty-five years after Reagan’s speech, they finally discriminate between a single warhead and a single penaid.
      ******************
      The Left has global warming. The Right has missile defense.

      Concern about global warming might motivate development of geoengineering technologies for coping with serious climate change if and when it occurs.

      SDI was so easy to defeat that for the longest time I couldn’t formulate a guess as to why it drove Soviet negotiators berserk. I suppose it’s because a technological breakthrough, however unlikely it might seem, would completely tilt the strategic balance.

      Unfortunately, perceptions of global warming and missile defense are heavily influenced by special interests whose agendas are distinct from the ostensible issues.

    7. mhatlau Says:

      Gs said “SDI was so easy to defeat that for the longest time I couldn’t formulate a guess as to why it drove Soviet negotiators berserk.”

      Congratulations, Gs. I have never seen a talking point proof of the effectiveness of SDI put more distinctly than the quote above :) The reason why SDI drove the Soviet negotiators berserk is because they knew that SDI is NOT so easy to defeat.

      Consider this. For a decoy to be effective, it must faithfully emulate certain aspects of the behavior of the real thing. This requires any decoy to exhibit mass and volume, both of which are in very short supply in a missile nosecone. So for every decoy you put into the nosecone, something has to be taken out. Well, the only thing available to take out is a warhead. So the Soviets or Russians have a choice. They can launch a nosecone with six warheads in it, or they can launch a nosecone with three warheads and four or five decoys.

      In other words, SDI effectively destroyed three nuclear warheads from that missile, warheads that would have killed a million people, without a single anti-missile leaving its launcher! And before you dismiss the value of that, consider that it is you and your family that had to be dropped from the target list to make way for that decoy.

      And before you say “they can just build more missiles”, remember, missiles are delicate, extremely expensive things that are annoyingly difficult to hide. One can afford only so many. The Soviets tried that against the SDI program back in the 80’s. And no more Soviets.

    8. Jonathan Says:

      What Mhatlau said. Missile-defense opponents used to say, and perhaps still do, that missile defense is futile because even if we stop some warheads other warheads will get through and cause us intolerable damage. But if we stop just half of our enemy’s warheads we effectively double the cost of his missile program. And it is not unreasonable to expect that our defensive systems would stop a larger percentage of warheads than 50%. We have a lot of money and a technological edge, so our forcing our enemies to double/triple/quadruple (or more) their expenditures on nuclear weapons exploits our strengths and bankrupts our enemies if they try to compete.

    9. fred lapides Says:

      THAAD works? Not what our own military asserts here
      http://www.fas.org/spp/starwars/program/news99/b03291999_bt127-99.htm

      I love the way Chamberlain is here cited as a hero and elsehwere a sell-out who should have known better about Hitler. Which is it?

    10. gs Says:

      The economic argument for antiSoviet BMD was legitimate–antiChinese might be different today–, but a technical assessment is an input into the economic case.

      According to Jonathan, But if we stop just half of our enemy’s warheads we effectively double the cost of his missile program. That depends on how much overkill was built into his missile program and on the start-up costs of his manufacturing operation. And it is not unreasonable to expect that our defensive systems would stop a larger percentage of warheads than 50%. I have no idea what the kill rate would be, but, per the original post, only now has a BMD test distinguished a warhead from a decoy–under who-knows-how-(un)realistic conditions. The 50% might come to be the case when the number of missiles is capped, but there is no assurance that the number will stay capped after a BMD is deployed.

      According to Mhatlau, The reason why SDI drove the Soviet negotiators berserk is because they knew that SDI is NOT so easy to defeat. The Russians inherited Soviet missiles, and the Chinese have missiles too. If SDI was effective, then where is it?

      I continue to believe that the Soviets feared a technological wild card. Even back in the mid 1980s, they may have recognized, in effect if not in so many words, the emerging importance of Moore’s Law.

    11. Shannon Love Says:

      Fred Lapides,

      The article you link to is 10 years old.

    12. Shannon Love Says:

      Gs,

      If SDI was effective, then where is it?

      Seriously, do actually think that just because a technology finds no political support that it does not work?

      Decoys won’t work economically because nukes are cheaper than missiles. The idea that someone can churn out missiles to fire vast amounts of decoys just so a few nukes can sneak through doesn’t make sense on the economics. The Soviets knew this.

      The biggest advantage granted by SDI, and one completely unrecognized by its naive critics, is that it would greatly elevate the uncertainty involved in planning any premeditated attack. Somebody might have huge reams of guesswork but no one would know how effective the system was against a real world attack until someone launched one. The entire point of a premeditated nuclear strike is to destroy the enemies nuclear weapons. If SDI improved the survivability of the weapons enough, no planner could hope to formulate a successful attack.

      SDI would also deter limited or pot-shot wars in which an opponent seeks not to exterminate but simply to intimidate by wiping out a city or two. SDI could also deter all “decapitation” strikes in which an enemy seeks to nuke the command and control systems and prevent retaliation.

      SDI’s contribution to the end of the Cold War took the form of convincing the Soviets that the U.S. was willing and (eventually) capable of placing the U.S.S.R in a position of permanent military inferiority. That allowed reformist to argue that a confrontation attitude and a permanent war footing was a fools game.

    13. Shannon Love Says:

      Another thought:

      A lot of air war planning in the 1930’s was based on the idea that, “the bombers will always get through”. In the mid-30’s multi-engine bombers flew faster and higher than single engine fighters and mechanical computers could not aim ground based guns. Politicians in several countries blocked anti-bomber spending as futile.

      All weapons have counters. It has always been so. The idea that the nuclear tip ballistic missile represents an unstoppable technology shows an ignorance of technological history.

    14. Jonathan Says:

      Yes. If an enemy doesn’t know whether our anti-missile system’s hit ratio is 50% or 75% or greater, then this uncertainty by itself increases the enemy’s costs.

      Also, for rogue states like NK and Iran, that are likely to have few nuclear warheads (and that will not be allowed to produce any additional warheads if they are caught using any of their existing warheads), the prospect of a 50% loss rate might be enough to deter their use of missiles entirely.

    15. gs Says:

      Shannon Love asks, Seriously, do actually think that just because a technology finds no political support that it does not work?

      Seriously, do you actually think that just because a politically and emotionally appealing technology has support within the military-industrial complex, it works?

      Decoys won’t work economically…

      The whole area of penaids, CM, CCM etc is highly classified, and rightly so. I don’t see an objective basis for discussion.

      The biggest advantage granted by SDI, and one completely unrecognized by its naive critics, is that it would greatly elevate the uncertainty involved in planning any premeditated attack.

      Broadly true, but not necessarily under all scenarios. For example, in a two-party nuclear standoff, the side with BMD can undertake a first strike with greater confidence than the side without it. This might incentivize the disadvantaged side to launch a strike before the BMD is deployed. And to invest in nuclear-tipped cruise missiles and stealth.

      SDI would also deter limited or pot-shot wars in which an opponent seeks not to exterminate but simply to intimidate by wiping out a city or two.

      This is a legitimate point. However, since iirc it was invoked well after the strategic rationale for SDI, I wonder whether, to some extent, an overhyped underperforming solution managed to identify a tractable problem.
      ***********
      In case my original comment might be misread, let me be explicit. I favor work on BMD, and I support expenditure of my tax dollars on climatology research and geoengineering development (reversible geoengineering, if at all possible!). My concern is that BMD and climate change are being seriously mishandled because of special interests: bureaucratic, economic, political, and emotional.

      Then again, I don’t know how a civilization should react to existential threats with a low annualized probability and a serious cumulative probability.

    16. virgil xenophon Says:

      “Then again, I don’t know how a civilization should react to existential threats with a low annualized probability and a serious cumulative probability.”—Gs

      Unfortunately, the norm is usually something like the attention to which all levels of government–local, State and Federal–paid to the problem of levee design and maintaince in New Orleans and environs pre-Katrina. In fact, I am constantly amazed at the continued commitment to the ABM program over time in the face of the most intense opposition from the left–both in and out of government and the ability of successive administrations (even under Clinton) to move the program forward in a concrete (as opposed to paper studies) manner.

    17. gs Says:

      Virgil Xenophon, I’d like to see more awareness of and openness to potentially game-changing technologies.

      As far as moving toward deployment goes, I’d like to see tests that give the offense (and defense) some latitude about, e.g., how to configure the penaids & signal processing and when to launch. A range of such tests, including paper studies, scaled-down lab studies, small rockets and ICBM flights, might give useful data.

      The Missile Defense Agency notes that in the latest test, “Soldiers operating the equipment were not aware of actual target launch time.” Creditable, but were they aware of the launch date? What did they know about the penaids?

      Did the powers that be have their thumbs on the scale?

      Trust but verify… ;-)

    18. Anonymous Says:

      Fred..”I love the way Chamberlain is here cited as a hero and elsehwere a sell-out who should have known better about Hitler. Which is it?”

      I do not cite Chamberlain as a “hero” but rather as an individual who, despite his many deficiencies, did invest in Dowding’s radar-communications system and also in the Spifire and Hurricane fighters. He bet a great deal, wrongly, on Hitler’s trustworthiness, but he also put a hedge in place.

      Would Obama have done the hedge?

    19. david foster Says:

      “Anonymous,” above, was me.

    20. peter jackson Says:

      Uncertainty is the lynchpin of deterrence. The Soviets didn’t view nuclear weapons in the same way we did and still do. Their objective wasn’t deterrence. While we view nuclear weapons as a wholly different kind of warfare, the Soviets viewed nuclear weapons as simply one weapon in their arsenal, one aspect of their entire military force, sort of like really big artillery. As Freeman Dyson put it, we were playing poker while they were playing chess, mutually assured destruction vs. “strategic initiative,” the name the Soviets gave their nuclear doctrine. It’s probably not an accident that our anti-missile program was called “strategic defense initiative, no? SDI blew strategic initiative apart. Even a system that was only 20% affective could vastly increase Soviet nuclear planners uncertainty, plus give a way for the US to counter Soviet weapons numbers without having to go to the expense of deploying additional weapons of our own.

      yours/
      peter.

    21. virgil xenophon Says:

      One major conceptual problem most people have in this area is confusing deterrence with defense(what happens when deterrence fails). MAD was a concept of McNamara’s, lets remember. It was based upon the proposition that if one had a survivable second-strike capability with the ability to inflict a 25% loss of Soviet industrial capacity, armed forces, and population each, it would deter the Soviets from initiating nuclear war. Unfortunately this figured was derived from what he (McNamara) thought would deter HIM if he were a Soviet leader. Some academics at the time pointed out that Lenin, in order to save the revolution in WWI gave away 94%
      of all Russia’s steel mills, 89% of all working coal mines and some 20% of it’s most educated population in order to get Russia out of the war at the Treaty of Brest-Litovisk–so what made anyone think that the loss of 25% of anything would deter the Soviet leaders if they thought they could emerge triumphant, they pointed out.

      These critics of MAD were proved correct when the fall of Communist Russia opened up both official planning documents and interviews with key decision-makers in both the Soviet Armed Forces and the CCCP. Indeed, they had never bought into the MAS concept for a second, it was confirmed, but rather were only deterred not by prospects of horrible losses, but by the size of our total force and the very real prospect they might actually “lose” such a conflict.

      Apparently the finer points of deterrence theory so beloved of western academics were totally lost on the Soviets, who “old school” as they were, (and still are, witness their actions in Georgia) believed in the ironic (for a movement that rejected religion) “God is on the side of the bigger battalions” operating philosophy of the superior wielding of brute force as the determining factor.

      So—Peter Jackson is pretty much on target.What all this points to is that we had ought to ve VERY careful in our haste to pare down our nuclear forces–because it could be very dangerous to get ahead of the game as so many on the left are advocating, using McNamera’s version of MAD as an operating philosophical justification for reducing to laughably low numbers.

    22. Shannon Love Says:

      Gs,

      Seriously, do you actually think that just because a politically and emotionally appealing technology has support within the military-industrial complex, it works?

      Certainly not. I was merely pointing out that opposite is likewise not true as you asserted. I would point out however, that history shows that political decisions have more often prevented the adoption of new technologies than they have driven the adoption of new worthless technologies. Existing technologies and tactics have people invested in their existence who will fight to maintain them long after their usefulness has ended.

      I don’t see an objective basis for discussion.

      It is trivial to show that the total cost (manufacturing, deploying, maintaining, manning etc) of the delivery system dwarfs the cost of any payload. We’re talking 80%-90% percent of the cost of a nuclear ballistic missile lays in the missile itself. There really isn’t a possible model in which it would be more cost effective to put decoys on the missile rather than nukes.

      This might incentivize the disadvantaged side to launch a strike before the BMD is deployed.

      Unlikely. Simply being put at disadvantage is unlikely to provoke war especially since the advantage will not occur all at once but will simple grow over a number of years. By this reasoning, any actor who suspects that an opponent can manufacture more nukes than the actor should launch a preemptive strike regardless of any other circumstances.

      Defense also raises the uncertainty of attack since no one can predict how well the defense will actually work under real world circumstances. Without defense, the odds that any weapon launched will hit its target is very high (75%). With defense nobody would ever really know.

      MAD was a concept of McNamara’s, lets remember.

      Jon Von Neuman inveted the concept in, IIRC, 1954 but he did not name it.

      These critics of MAD were proved correct when the fall of Communist Russia opened up both official planning documents and interviews with key decision-makers in both the Soviet Armed Forces and the CCCP.

      A lot of people got suckered by this. Remember that the Soviets never created any information, even scientific, without first considering its propaganda uses. The documents you refer to were propaganda aimed at the soldiers in the Soviet nuclear forces and Westerners. The Soviets wanted their soldier to believe in a winnable nuclear war so that they could be confident they would use the weapons when ordered. They wanted the West to believe that the Soviets believed in a winnable nuclear war in order to increase deterrence.

      However, since iirc it was invoked well after the strategic rationale for SDI, I wonder whether, to some extent, an overhyped underperforming solution managed to identify a tractable problem.

      You recall incorrectly. The game theory of nuclear defense was worked out in detail during the 50’s. Jon von Neuman himself wrote on the matter. Remember, we had an operational anti-ballistic missile defense for over 10 years back then. The threat of nuclear war poised a threat to the survival of humans as a species. We did not set policy based on dorm room bull session. Enormous resources went into studying every possible permutation of the problem including many variants based on hypothetical technology.

      The public debate in the 80’s devolved into a strawman argument about an immediate and perfect defense but that does not mean that people who took the matter seriously had not been thinking about it for decades.

    23. virgil xenophon Says:

      Shannon Love:

      You have confusedly combined quotes from me in with the comments of “Gs.” True, Von Neuman and other game theorists predated McNamara on the concept of MAD, but it was McNamara who operationalized it by putting hard per-centages to the equation, which in turn drove and also limited (in order not to expensively exceed what was necessary) the procurement of actual weapons systems. And my point was that McNamera was dangerously wrong in the amount of damage he thought it would take to deter the Soviet leaders.

      You are exactly correct about your characterization of Soviet planning documents and SOPs for nuclear war (think pictures of Chinese cavelry charges through post-nuclear explosions with gas masks on their horses) but that is only part of the story. Soviet civil defense planning in general, the building of
      massive underground bunkers for the protection of the nomenklatura, and efforts to protect key
      industries from blast damage to key machine tools, etc., (even if bldg collapsed around them) by plans for extensive sandbagging–all pointed to a belief that it would be possible to ride out a general nuclear war and not only survive, but to emerge capable of rebuilding triumphant. Such attitudes and plans do not bespeak of a leadership cowed by the prospect of even significant losses. Remember, unlike our attitudes towards civilian casualties, the Soviet leadership didn’t give a damn about how many millions of non-Russians might perish in the “stans.”

    24. peter jackson Says:

      When you view the atom bomb as just that, a (very large, very effective) bomb, as the Soviets did, attempting to harden oneself against nuclear destruction is a perfectly logical, even ethical thing to do, no different than providing protection to the public from an enemies conventional bombs. But when you believe in a doctrine where nuclear weapons are the pieces of a completely different game, a game fraught with the moral implications of the destruction of humanity merely by possessing these pieces, much less using them, then building missile defenses and public bomb shelters are ethically distasteful, a hedge which dilutes mutually assured destruction, the primary means by which humanity is protected.

      yours/
      peter.

    25. Jonathan Says:

      MAD was always inadequate as a doctrine because 1) the Soviets didn’t believe in it and 2) it provided no guidance on what to do if deterrence failed and we had to fight a war. IOW it was more religion than strategic doctrine. Fortunately we did not rely on it completely.

    26. virgil xenophon Says:

      Let me tell one and all what REALLY kept the Soviets at bay. It was the simple fact that we trained and equipped as if it were really possible indeed to fight a limited “tactical” nuclear war in Europe without it expanding into a world-wide thermonuclear conflagration. .This scared the bejesus out of both the Russians and our Allies–especially Germany. This was because we kept talking about the “defense” of Europe, as opposed to “deterring” the Soviets, and the prospect of even a “tactical” nuclear war mainly fought on German soil was not a pleasing prospect. The SU thought we were nuts also, because every scenario ever wargamed by either us or them had such a “tactical” nuclear war quickly expanding into general war very rapidly. (this is so because the destructiveness and paralyzing impact of the use of the biggest weapons gives great advantage to the side that uses them first, and if you are likely to end up there anyway, the tendency is to skip all the intermediate rungs on the ladder and use the “big one” now. (How, for example to treat the airfields in England from whence American planes are launched to deliver a “tactical” nuclear wpn on a “tactical” battlefield in Germany or Poland?)

      So–we held the Russkis at bay because we adhered to a truly “insane” doctrine. And the Russians were deathly afraid that we would trigger a nuclear war, as we had publicly eschewed a “no first use” policy by frankly stating that as NATO conventional forces were no match for the Warsaw Pact forces in numbers, NATO/US reserved the right to answer any border incursions by the WP with tactical nuclear weapons. And as the old maxim goes: “you fight like you train;”
      and we trained to use tactical nukes, and therefore the Soviets were afraid we really meant it–as unlikely a successful a strategy as it might seem.

      Why did we adopt such a policy? Strictly from weakness. There was no public support in the West to fund the kind of conventional forces needed to oppose the WP on the one hand, and on the other the equally depressing fact that nobody in America wanted to risk getting NYC blown off the face of the earth in defending Hamburg. Thus out of desperation we came up with the concept of a “limited” or “tactical” nuclear war as a way to make our commitment to defend Europe against the SU/WP forces credible. And it worked! It worked because everyone thought we were serious about it, and paradoxically were all in agreement that it could never work. But since we showed a stubborn determination to make it work, everyone humored us
      so as not to trigger a conflagration. That is, no one would have taken seriously any American President who said he was going to incinerate the world to save Hamburg. But almost everyone believed that successive Presidents and the Pentagon foolishly, truly believed a limited nuclear war in Europe to be possible without putting American cities at risk, and would have had no qualms whatsoever in initiating nuclear hostilities in Europe–believing we could keep the war thusly limited.

      That everyone else believed we could not, (correctly, IMO) caused them to handle us with kid gloves. The “insanity defense” winning yet again.

    27. peter jackson Says:

      Well, the weaknesses of MAD being whatever they are, the score is still MAD 1, Everything Else 0.

      yours/
      peter.

    28. peter jackson Says:

      And although the US doctrine had us foreswearing a nuclear first strike (a massive nuclear attack) but not first use, the Soviets’ doctrine had them proclaiming no first use but refusing to pledge no first strike.

      yours/
      peter.