Media Distorts Missile ‘Defense’ Plans

It’s bad enough that the major media take for granted the ridiculous presumption that the purpose behind the proposed US-controlled missile-shield program is to deter a "rogue state" from attacking the US or its allies. As the LA Times put it in announcing that Poland is getting with the program:

The Bush administration has proposed placing missile interceptors in Poland and radar installations in the Czech Republic to deter possible missile attacks from "rogue" states.

The way that’s written implies the Times accepts the government’s aims at face value. But what is worse, still, is misrepresenting the very legitimate fears actually expressed by Russia:

The proposal has met with fierce opposition from Russia, which fears that a system in its backyard could be expanded and used to neutralize its huge missile force.

That statement is surely factual, as it is written, but what it ignores exposes a deep-seeded bias that is universal across US corporate media on this subject. We already have a program that effectively "neutralizes" Russia’s missile arsenal — our own missile arsenal. For more than half a century, the concept of "mutually assured destruction" has kept both sides neutralized. What an effective missile shield would actually provide is relative impunity from retaliation in the case the US decided to launch a first strike.

A halfway-decent journalist would convey why Russia is actually upset. And it wouldn’t even require a call to the Moscow bureau. The Congressional Research Service reported it in no uncertain terms in 2002, under the title "The Russian Response: Concerns about Strategic Stability and Arms Control":

If a nation could intercept missiles launched in retaliation, particularly if it had diminished their numbers in its initial strike, it might believe it could launch a first strike without fearing retaliation. Knowing this, the nation without the defensive system might conclude that it had to launch preemptively, before losing any of its forces in an initial attack. Under these circumstances, stability would be lost and a nation might have an incentive to launch first in a crisis.

Boy does that sound like a terrific argument against ever deploying a missile shield. As much as I may despise the existence of nuclear arsenals, I’m actually reassured that we do not have the capability to instigate that level of instability. But as long as great "liberal" papers like the LA Times refuse to explain just what the missile shield is all about, and instead use ridiculous buzzwords like "defense" to whitewash the real motives, we’re sure to stay on the wrong path.

The AFP story on the tentative agreement, which would see the US bulking up Polish air defenses in exchange for a home for part of the so-called "National Missile Defense" program, missed the same boat a different way. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice tried to allay Russian fears that the US was attempting to deter an all-out first strike by Russia, and AFP thought it important to quote her at length without counter-points or context.

Rice renewed US arguments to skeptics that the US missile shield had nothing to do with the US Strategic Defense Initiative of past decades that was designed to counter a Russian strategic nuclear threat.

"This is not that program. This is not the son of that program. This is not the grandson of that program," she said.

"There is no way that a few interceptors in Poland and radars in the Czech Republic can degrade the thousands of nuclear warheads that the Russians have. And there is no intent to do so," she said.

Of course, it is precisely the son of that program, but who’s really keeping track. Evidently, Rice hasn’t read the CRS memo. Or she’s being (gasp!) deceitful, and AFP is lapping it up.

What’s scariest about all of this, of course, is that the NMD program is in such disarray, and is so unlikely to succeed, that we may well see the Pentagon put a system that doesn’t even work in place, in order to justify its staggering expenditures. Who knows what kind of shit the US will carelessly try if it thinks it can bully the world from behind a false shield.

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