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Wednesday, December 25, 2013

US only needs to defend against ICBMs & terrorists

The US has a a great deal of geographic defense from foreign enemies. It has two great oceans on each side and is only bordered by two countries- both of them friendly. Its nuclear arsenal alone is a strong deterrent to any attacking country, even one with nuclear weapons.

The US faces a very low risk of attack by conventional weapons from either land, air, or sea. There are only two main dangers. The greater one is enemy ICBMs, which are already deterred by US missiles and the lesser threat is terrorism.

Satellites & radar are needed to detect launches and track ICBMs. The US already has plenty of these- probably too many. NORAD currently tracks, or tries to track, all objects entering or inside US airspace. Its primary mission during my life has been tracking Santa's sleigh and defending against jet bombers. I'm not sure which of those is a bigger waste of time. The only nation whose bombers are in range is Russia and they have ICBMs anyway.

Enemy ICBMs can only be launched from outside the US. Shouldn't the early warning stations be far from the coasts and borders? Why not forget the radar entirely and just put up more satellites? All we need to know is who launched the missile so we can retaliate.

As for the case of a so-called rogue nation launching a missile, I fail to see why that would not be deterred by the threat of retaliation. There's no use in throwing a rock at someone if they have a gun pointed at you.
I have heard talk of terrorists possibly using ICBMs or other nukes, but that is even less likely. Nukes are very hard to make, only a few countries have them, and they are guarded carefully. Since the goal of terrorists is to do as much damage as cheaply as possible, there's no way they'd waste their time or money on nukes. That's why they favor cheap things like homemade bombs.

Speaking of terrorism, there are few basic principles that must be kept in mind. The first is the goal of terrorism is not to kill or destroy, but to alter public opinion. Terrorist attacks rarely cause mass death or destruction- the first purpose is to get attention and the second one is to provoke retaliation. The first goal is designed to demoralize the enemy and the second is designed to boost recruitment. The US can't control how the media portrays terrorist attacks, but it can minimize their impact by not over-reacting.

I realize saying that is a bit like closing the barn door after the horse has run off, but there it is. It is very hard to catch terrorists before they attack, so the only real defense is to try to starve the terrorist groups of new recruits. The best way to do that is avoid heavy-handed retaliation to terror attacks. The US unfortunately has been doing the exact opposite.

You can't kill a fly with a sledgehammer. But if sneak up slowly and calmly, you can swat it. You don't need to kill all the flies in the world either- just the ones that manage to get in your house. 

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