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Obama Scraps Bush Missile-Defense Plan

In one of the more dramatic departures from the previous administration, President Obama announced this morning that U.S. policy is changing course.
 
 
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OBAMA SCRAPS BUSH MISSILE-DEFENSE PLAN.... George W. Bush crafted a plan to bring a missile defense system to Poland and the Czech Republic. In one of the more dramatic departures from the previous administration, President Obama announced this morning that U.S. policy is changing course.

 

The White House is not abandoning missile-defense altogether, but on the advice of the Pentagon and the unanimous judgment and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the U.S. will " instead deploy a reconfigured system aimed more at intercepting shorter-range Iranian missiles."

As the president explained this morning, "This new approach will provide capabilities sooner, build on proven systems, and offer greater defenses against the threat of missile attack than the 2007 European missile defense program.... To put it simply, our new missile defense architecture in Europe will provide stronger, smarter, and swifter defenses of American forces and America's allies. It is more comprehensive than the previous program; it deploys capabilities that are proven and cost-effective; and it sustains and builds upon our commitment to protect the U.S. homeland against long-range ballistic missile threats; and it ensures and enhances the protection of all our NATO allies."

For the president's Republican detractors, Obama is making a mistake listening to the Secretary of Defense and the unanimous judgment and the Joint Chiefs of Staff -- the president should only really listen to the neo-cons who've been wrong about every major national security and foreign policy challenge in recent memory.

Indeed, all the usual suspects are responding with predictable outrage. The Weekly Standard , John McCain, and Joe Lieberman have led the charge this morning, making arguments that don't make a lot of sense.

Robert Farley responded, "Let's be clear; this is a huge victory for common sense over fantasy, and for responsible defense budgeting. This project had no function other than to serve the pecuniary interest of the missile defense industry, and to sate the ideological lust of conservatives infatuated with St. Reagan. No convincing strategic logic could ever be provided for the program; advocates careened wildly between arguments, desperately trying to see if they could make anything stick."

I'd just add that, in general, most of the rhetoric from the right this morning has been about alleged symbolic victories for one foreign rival or another. It's been labeled a "win for Putin," or a "nod towards appeasement." Conservatives have barely tried to address the substance, or better yet, argue how Bush's fanciful approach would have been more effective.

In a statement, the National Security Network explained, "Conservatives have been quick to go on the attack, arguing that this will leave Europe exposed to an Iranian attack. These arguments are not based in fact, as not only do the cancelled missile defense systems have significant technological shortfalls, but they would also fail to protect against Iranian missiles because of both their location and technological advances in Iranian missile technology. Furthermore, from a geopolitical perspective, the European missile defense was a disaster. It worsened relations with Russia without even providing a credible defense against their nuclear arsenal, further undercutting nonproliferation efforts. Because there is no strategic benefit to maintaining the program -- either militarily or diplomatically -- the Obama administration has wisely has decided to eliminate this program and to develop a more adaptable missile defense system that better protects Europe."

Steve Benen is "blogger in chief" of the popular Washington Monthly online blog, Political Animal . His background includes publishing The Carpetbagger Report, and writing for a variety of publications, including Talking Points Memo, The American Prospect, the Huffington Post, and The Guardian. He has also appeared on NPR's "Talk of the Nation," MSNBC's "Rachel Maddow Show," Air America Radio's "Sam Seder Show," and XM Radio's "POTUS '08."

 
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