Missile Defense: Putin Rescues Bush from Yet Another “Foolish Thing Poorly Done”

When it comes to the rank incompetence of our pathetic President, George W. Bush, and his reprobate Veep, I’m often reminded of Samuel Johnson’s observation about “a foolish thing well done.” Except, the only “foolish thing well done” by the Bush administration was Bush’s election and reelection as President — and for that, credit must go to Karl Rove, the Supreme Court, the Swift Boat Veterans for Lies, the good folks in Ohio who suppressed the Kerry vote there in 2004 and the rank stupidity of a large segment of the American electorate.

Yet, the abysmally poor performance of the Bush administration during the past six years has me clinging to Dr. Johnson’s phrase, even if in a slightly revised form. Now it’s “a foolish thing poorly done.

Putting aside the illegality and immorality attending his decision to invade Iraq, Bush’s war there certainly qualifies as “a foolish thing poorly done.” It’s his catastrophic gift to the world. And it “keeps on giving.” For that alone, his infamous place in the history books is secure.

But another great example of “a foolish thing poorly done” is Mr. Bush’s recent decision to put ten interceptors (theoretically capable of shooting down ICBMs — intercontinental ballistic missiles — fired by, say, Iran) in Poland and install a radar in the Czech Republic. It was a foolish thing because the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) element touted by the Bush administration — and to be inflicted upon unwitting Czechs and Poles — still possesses no demonstrated capability to shoot down an ICBM, even one fired at the U.S. by North Korea. Especially if its warhead is hidden among decoys!

Readers of the missile defense reports issued by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) might be forgiven for suspecting that GMD has been a fraud, a fleecing of American taxpayers. Simply read GAO Report 07-387, dated March 2007.

On page 1, the report states: “For nearly half a century, the Department of Defense (DOD) has been funding efforts to develop a system to detect, track, and defeat ballistic missiles deployed from enemy launch sites…DOD plans to invest an additional $49 billion in this system, or about 13 percent of its research and development budget, over the next 5 years.”

On page 10, the report notes: “Last year we reported that MDA [Missile Defense Agency] strayed from a knowledge-based acquisition strategy that allows successful developers to deliver, within budget, a product whose performance has been demonstrated.”

On page 24, the report notes: “the GMD program has not completed sufficient flight testing to provide a high level of confidence that the BMDS [Ballistic Missile Defense System] can reliably intercept ICBMs.”

On page 25, the report states: “The reliability of emplaced GMD interceptors also remain uncertain because inadequate mission assurance/quality control procedures may have allowed less reliable or inappropriate parts to be incorporated into the manufacturing process…The program plans to begin retrofitting the previous 17 interceptors in fiscal year 2009.”

Thus, although defense contractors and the congressmen they buy profit nicely, relying on GMD for protection against ICBMs still looks too much like buying a “pig in a poke.”

But, if offering this GMD “pig in a poke” was a foolish thing, the very manner in which it was offered merits the epithet “poorly done.” Consider that the Bush administration “finally admitted it blundered by going ahead with plans to deploy elements of its missile defense system in Europe without asking anyone.” [Pavel Podvig, “A U.S.-Russian missile defense cooperative?” The Bulletin Online, 24 April 2007] Moreover, it not only antagonized Russia. According to Anna Applebaum it also proved to be so unpopular in the Czech Republic and Poland that “New Europe will probably now be killed off completely by [the] American plans.” [“Farewell, New Europe,” Washington Post, June 5, 2007]

Now, however, thanks to President Putin — who has suggested that, instead of placing elements of GMD in the Czech Republic and Poland, the United States should consider using and developing the radar site at Gabala, Azerbaijan — Bush has been given a reprieve from his most recent “foolish thing poorly done.” Just don’t count on this President taking advantage of his reprieve.

For, although the Russians currently lease the Gabala site until 2012 and although it appears to be an ideal location for a missile defense system – perhaps even a boost-phase missile defense system (which some experts believe to be more technologically feasible than GMD) – don’t underestimate the current geopolitical mindset in the Bush administration that sees value in using New Europe to bind Old Europe to American missile defense, encircling Russia and creating uncertainty in Iran (like in North Korea), even if the GMD system never works.

More to the point, the Bush administration has a formidable track record of “foolish things poorly done” to uphold.

Walter C. Uhler is an independent scholar and freelance writer whose work has been published in numerous publications, including Dissident Voice, The Nation, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the Journal of Military History, the Moscow Times and the San Francisco Chronicle. He also is President of the Russian-American International Studies Association (RAISA). He can be reached at: waltuhler@aol.com. Read other articles by Walter C., or visit Walter C.'s website.