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The Great Eastern Retreat

11:55 AM, Sep 18, 2009 • By JOHN NOONAN
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A friend texted me early yesterday, wondering "what's the big deal?" with our tail-tucked missile defense retreat from Eastern Europe. This is coming from a guy who just finished a masters in security policy. And no doubt the Great Orator will be trying to convince a distracted citizenry that Czech and Polish air defense has little to do with them.

The European Missile Shield was sold -- wrongly, I think -- by the Bush administration as a noble effort to erect a strategic vanguard over our Western allies. Though that's true in a certain sense, realistically it was more of a first and second layer of North American defense against Iran's rapidly modernizing ballistic missiles. Effective missile defense is predicated on the principle of redundancy. Anyone who has studied how our nuclear-powered carriers defended themselves against long-range Soviet bombers and attack subs during the Cold War understands the importance of developing a sound mix of weapons specifically tailored to intercept sorties in different levels of proximity to their targets. The missile shield that we've developed in the Pacific is wholly in line with that triple-redundant philosophy, with AEGIS ships, ground-based interceptors, the last-resort THAAD system, and a variety of powerful tracking radars deployed at various distances between North Korea and the U.S. mainland. If one level of defense fails, sound missile defense strategy dictates that there be an additional 2-3 backups to catch any enemy sorties which slip through the cracks.

Few Americans realize just how important our European missile sites were to developing that redundancy concept against Iran, whose missile program has surpassed that of North Korea. I've heard estimates that Iran could field a fully functional ICBM within the next 7 years, enough time for them to finish off a nuclear reentry system. Doesn't the Obama administration realize how dangerous that is? If Iran can credibly hold Washington and New York City at risk, we'll be essentially locked in to a Cold War style deterrence paradigm with Tehran -- a country that will have no problem unleashing their proxies against US interests and allies (like the Soviets did) without fear of serious conventional reprisal.

The president has at his disposal two tools to ensure that Iran can never threaten the United States: either an offensive, decapitating, conventional strike on Tehran's leadership, ballistic missile inventory, and nuclear weapons program, or a defensive missile shield so tight a bottle rocket couldn't slip through. In a critical juncture in history, where the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans can no longer assure our security, Obama has opted for neither.