Missile defense: Tough Calls, Good Calls

Messrs. Crouch and Joseph are senior scholars at the National Institute for Public Policy. Mr. Crouch was formerly deputy national security adviser and Mr. Joseph was formerly undersecretary of State in the George W. Bush administration.

The writers aren’t totally unbiased, but I think their review of the missile defense policy is well worth a read and reflection:

One of the most difficult and consequential decisions of the Bush presidency took place in January of last year: the decision to fundamentally change our strategy by “surging” more U.S. forces to Iraq.

This decision was taken against the backdrop of escalating violence in Iraq, calls for immediate or “phased” withdrawal, prognostications of imminent defeat, and an abundance of political blame directed at the White House. The president’s move was met with skepticism and outright vilification, except for a few principled politicians like John McCain and Joe Lieberman. Today, people are getting in line to claim credit for the “surge.”

Mr. Bush’s decision was guided by a clear strategic principle. The president wanted the U.S. to win, and refashioning our strategy was the best opportunity to succeed in this goal, as well as to leave Iraq policy on a sounder basis for his successor. Whoever wins the presidency in 2008 will be pleased that he did. What a difference a year makes.

The surge may turn out to be Mr. Bush’s most important decision. But he has made other such decisions since 9/11, including to commit ground forces to Afghanistan, to eradicate the regime of Saddam Hussein, to use the CIA to conduct strategic interrogation of high-level terrorists, and to conduct strategic surveillance of terrorists communications.

Mr. Bush has faced so many tough choices over the last seven years that his decision to withdraw from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty has been at least partially forgotten. Yet this decision, announced in December 2001, was no less consequential. It also defied the critics who argued that it would lead to a new arms race, increase nuclear proliferation and ruin cooperation with Russia on nuclear arms control and terrorism.

None of these things have happened as a result of the ABM Treaty withdrawal. But the decision will enable us to counter a still-growing 21st century threat.

RTWT.

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