R. James Woolsey, former CIA director, neocon, and now director of a Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (yes, it's as Orwellian as you think it is), is joined by Rebeccah Heinrichs, a congressional staffer and long time missile defense proponent, as they take to the pages of the Wall Street Journal to warn us that President Obama's $4 billion missile defense NATO shield, planned to be located in Poland and the Czech Republic, will not shield U.S. territory from the Iranian nuclear ballistic missiles (that don't exist yet). He warns, "If Tehran were to achieve a nuclear missile capability, it could hold American cities hostage—unless, that is, the U.S. builds a robust and comprehensive ballistic missile defense." (unfortunately behind the WSJ subscription page)
Now, for some reason, Woolsey doesn't think that Iran's leaders either understand or follow the whole "overwhelming and devastating response" part of our rather large nuclear arsenal, but wait! There's another reason why we need that U.S. missile defense shield!!
If Iran were to launch a nuclear-armed missile from a ship near one of our coasts—say a primitive SCUD from a fishing boat—we would have very little warning and no protection. Defending the homeland against this threat would require a substantial deployment in and near the U.S. of the type of mobile systems that the administration plans to deploy in Europe.
Further, if the Iranians were to detonate even a primitive nuclear warhead over the United States, it could send out an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) destroying the electric grid and electrical systems across a wide swath of U.S. territory. Iranian military writings show the mullahs recognize the potential of this kind of attack. Depending on where it occurred and how large the warhead was, an EMP attack could cause large-scale fatalities and unimaginable economic devastation. Defending against this kind of threat requires defensive systems that can intercept an attacking ballistic missile while it is still ascending. But the Obama administration has no specific plans to develop and deploy ascent-phase interceptors in Europe.
Wow, if Missile Defense Agency hadn't been developing boost/ascent, midcourse, and terminal defense segments of its $9-10 billion/year ballistic missile defense system, I might be concerned, but in fact it is. The Obama plan is in fact to position SM-3 missiles in Europe as part of the NATO theater missile defense plan, which is all that Iran can threaten, assuming that it does in fact develop a nuclear weapon, minaturize it to fit on a ballistic missile, test it, and then launch it toward Europe in a state of suicidal vengence. It's all open-source, Mr. Woolsey, so please, reposition the tin-foil cap and take another slug of whiskey to steel your courage.
But really, here we go with the "Iranian nuclear missile being fired from a ship off the United States, resulting in the Collapse of Civilization As We Know It." Honestly, it smacks of the most ignorant, fear-based attacks on the American public that I know. It's an argument that's all too easy to counter, and yet the conservative Repubs delight in pulling this one out of their arsenal. Or is it just arse?
UPDATE: Wisco helpfully provides a public link to the WSJ article.