Polish Missile Joke Revisited

This Polish missile-defense system walks into a bar at noon and says, "Give me six shots of vodka."

"How can you afford to get drunk in the middle of a business day?" the bartender asks.

"Easy," the Polish missile-defense system replies. "I don’t work."

There’s a good reason nobody ever accused John McCain of being overly bright. His reaction to the Obama administration’s decision to cancel the Polish missile-defense system that doesn’t work was proof positive that McCain, as well as the rest of the right-wing warmongery, is dumber than a quarry.

Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) said, "The president has disgraced this nation by breaking his word to loyal and courageous allies in the Czech Republic and Poland." Obama didn’t break his word. The "word" on the missile-defense deal with the Czechs and the Poles actually came from George W. Bush, and it was a bad idea.

John Boehner, the insentient Republican representative from Ohio’s eighth district, said, "Scrapping the U.S. missile-defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic does little more than empower Russia and Iran at the expense of our allies in Europe." It actually helps our allies in Europe.

Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said, “This is going to be seen as a capitulation to the Russians." It actually caused the Russians to capitulate to us.

Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut said Obama’s decision means we will have a "less capable missile-defense system to protect the United States and our European allies against the Iranian threat." We’ll actually have a more capable missile system to protect our European allies.

McCain said the decision "calls into question the security and diplomatic commitments the United States has made to Poland and the Czech Republic." The Obama decision actually gives far more diplomatic and security commitment to the Czechoslovakia and Poland than the half-baked Bush plan.

The scheme Bush promised to Poland and Czechoslovakia was the mid-course interceptor system, one that genuine experts (as opposed to Franks and McCain and Lieberman and so on) say will never work. Philip Coyle, who used to oversee weapons testing at the Pentagon and is now a specialist with the Center for Defense Information, told a congressional panel, “National missile defense has become a theology in the United States, not a technology. As a result, U.S. missile defenses are being deployed without well-established operational criteria.”

Dr. Richard Garwin, a physicist who has been a longtime adviser to the government on nuclear weapons, told Congress, “Should a state be so misguided as to attempt to deliver nuclear weapons by ICBM, they could be guaranteed against intercept in midcourse by the use of appropriate countermeasures.”

U.S. intelligence has recently reconfirmed that Iran does not have a nuclear weapons program, and it doesn’t have an intercontinental ballistic missile program either. But if Iran did have nuclear-tipped ICBMs, the mid-course interceptor system wouldn’t have protected anybody from them, so why should Poland and Czechoslovakia want us to dump our junk in their backyards?

The Obama administration has instead offered Poland and Czechoslovakia the SM-3 missile system, which is designed to kill a ballistic missile in its terminal flight phase. This is the missile system that defense contractor Raytheon is developing for sale to Israel. The SM-3 could reasonably be expected to protect much of Europe from missiles launched by Iran. The SM-3 substitute is the smartest move the Obama administration could possibly have made.

That’s assuming that Iran actually has missiles it will put nuclear warheads on and launch at Europe, which is a false assumption. Iran would never launch nukes at a major power or a friend of the U.S. if they had the nukes to launch (which they don’t have and most likely never will have).

Obama has, in fact, made good on the bad promise made to the Czechs and Poles by George W. Bush, even though it’s a promise nobody had to make.

Hopefully, Obama will be able to undo the damage the Bushniks did in our relations with Iran. Dick Cheney’s mob accused Iran of everything from arming Shi’ite militias in Iraq to seeking nuclear weapons to destroy Israel. They never proved any of these allegations, yet they managed to pollute the information environment so thoroughly that many Americans actually believe that poor Iran, a nation whose defense budget is less than one percent of ours, is the country that presents our greatest "challenge." We should all have such challenges. With enemies like Iran, who needs friends?

In 2003, shortly after the staged fall of Saddam Hussein’s statue, a two-page fax arrived at the State Department. As the Washington Post reported, "It was a proposal from Iran for a broad dialogue with the United States, and the fax suggested everything was on the table – including full cooperation on nuclear programs, acceptance of Israel, and the termination of Iranian support for Palestinian militant groups."

The Bush administration blew the proposal off, then established the "make them an offer they can’t accept" policy by demanding that Iran cease all uranium refinement before talks could take place. The UN Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty guarantees Iran’s pursuit of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes as an "inalienable right." Iran will not give up the right, nor should they. Developing and independent nuclear energy industry is just the strategic move they need to make to emerge as a regional Middle Eastern power in the post-peak oil age.

The Obama administration has, at long last, dropped the ludicrous precondition to direct talks with Iran, and a summit will take place with the Persian country and the six-nation UN group of France, Britain, Russia, China, the United States, and Germany. Foreign policy chief of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council Ali Bagheri says the package involves "settling problems such as terrorism, drug trafficking, and environmental concerns.” The package also proposes to address nuclear proliferation issues.

It’s a shame that Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is such a knothead. I can’t tell if he was trying to look tough to the Muslim world or just had a craving for the taste of his foot, but he timing of his latest Holocaust denial was the kind of political stupidity one grew to expect from George W. Bush. Here’s hoping the major powers can cope with Ahmadinejad better than they coped with Bush, and will be able to inject some sanity into the Iran situation come October.

Russia has harshly criticized Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust denial and announced that it will scrap plans to deploy Iskander missiles near the Polish border. Since the Iskander is only a short- to medium-range missile that would only have been a threat to Poland, Obama’s decision to reverse Bush’s misguided commitment actually makes Poland safer. Russia’s Deputy Defense Minister Vladimir Popovkin called Obama’s decision a ”victory of reason over ambitions.”

It was indeed a victory of reason. I’m starting to think that Obama may yet get America’s rabid militarism under control and end the madness spawned by the Bush/Cheney administration.

Author: Jeff Huber

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (retired), was a naval flight officer who commanded an aircraft squadron and was operations officer of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, the carrier that fought the Kosovo War. Jeff earned a master of arts degree in post-modern imperialism at the U.S. Naval War College. His weekly satires on U.S. foreign policy high jinks are archived at his blog, Pen and Sword. Jeff's critically applauded novel Bathtub Admirals, a lampoon of America's rise to global dominance, is on sale now. Jeff lives with dogs in a house by the beach on Chesapeake Bay in Virginia, and in the summer he has a nice tan.