Soft on Wolfowitz
Jude Wanniski
July 31, 2001


Memo To: Bob Novak
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Missile Shield

I’m glad you noted at the end of your CNN program this week that you are not as “hawkish” as your guest, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, but I have to say you treated him rather gently on the matter of a national Missile Defense Shield. Wolfowitz and his Pentagon boss, Don Rumsfeld, keep coming up with new arguments on why we should unilaterally break the 1972 ABM Treaty with Russia so we can proceed, poste haste, with deployment of a national missile defense shield. First we were told we had to “break ground” as soon as possible because the “rogue states” like Iraq, Iran and North Korea could have nuclear-tipped ICBM’s pointed at us, if they really tried, by 2005. When Moscow, Beijing and our NATO allies found that reasoning smelled like bad fish, especially after the Pentagon undermined Colin Powell’s diplomatic efforts with Pyongyang and sent a spy plane over China’s air space, there was a new reason. We had to have anti-missile missiles all over the place to protect the U.S. against an accidental launch of a nuclear ICBM by our Russian and Chinese -- or French, or British, or Israeli friends. More bad fish. There was no “accidental launch” during a half century of Cold War when the missiles were plugged in. In peacetime, why not just pull the plugs? To develop a national shield to cover the contingency of an accidental launch from the U.K. would really cost a zillion dollars. After that trial balloon went down, what next?

Now, Wolfowitz says we have to break the ABM Treaty because it prevents us from testing anti-missile missile systems. He says the critics should not be saying the national shield will cost $100 billion, on top of the $60 billion already spent, because if we could only test the way we want to test, we could make the shield much less expensively!! I waited for you to ask Wolfie what kinds of tests he had in mind, and why such testing would violate the ABM Treaty. But there were no questions from you, or your partner, Albert Hunt. If the Pentagon wants to demonstrate that an ABM system can knock down an incoming missile with an outgoing missile, let them continue the testing they are doing now until they get it right.

We now know that if the Pentagon plans very carefully, it can SOMETIMES hit an incoming missile IF IT KNOWS EXACTLY WHEN IT IS BEING FIRED AND EXACTLY WHERE IT IS BEING FIRED FROM AND AT WHAT ANGLE WE CAN EXPECT IT TO COME IN FROM. WE ALSO KNOW THE SUCCESSFUL July 18 test included a BEACON that accompanied the incoming missile, to guide our outgoing missile toward it by going ding-ding-ding. Read about it, Robert. The story notes that the Pentagon missile experts did not attempt to hide this fact from the press, but of course there was no mention of it in the first news accounts of the SUCCESS. It was up to the reporters of Defense Week to clear that point up and have the Pentagon experts say the “beacon” would have to be included in the next several tests, while they get the hang of it.

If you had asked Wolfie about what kinds of testing he can’t do, he would of course have told you that the 1972 Treaty prohibits testing of MOBILE anti-missile systems, like the AEGIS space-based defense. But the Russians agreed to dispense with that technicality a few months ago and Putin clearly is willing to do so now that President Bush, in Genoa, offered to cut way back on our nuclear forces if they do too. Will the Chinese agree to the Pentagon testing the Aegis system? Why not? They are not party to the ABM Treaty anyway. What concerns them is DEPLOYMENT of a national shield that could undermine what little threat they have of countering a massive attack by us with a counter-attack that blows up San Francisco or Honolulu.

You did ask Wolfowitz about immediate threats, which is what he has been yapping about, and what did he come up with? He drags out the dead horse, Saddam Hussein, and you let him get away with it. He had the nerve to cite the Gulf War, when one of Saddam’s missiles hit a hotel outside Tel Aviv. Is this why we are going to spend a zillion dollars in peacetime? You know as well as I do that there never had to be a Gulf War to start with, that Saddam was ready to sue for peace before the first shot was fired, but we wanted to teach him a lesson!! Hell, when he asked for our permission to invade Kuwait, as the Emir was stealing his oil and cheating on oil production to boot, he got the green light from our State Department. Your friend Deputy Secretary Larry Eagleburger made another of his famous boo-boos that had to be covered up.

I’m afraid you are getting soft, Bob. Maybe it is temporary. Maybe you overdosed on Gary Condit, CNN’s story of the century! Next time, please get the Big Cheese, Rumsfeld himself, on the show, and see if he can explain away this giant boondoggle. Ding-ding-ding.