missile 'defense' update
This MetaFilter thread points to a PBS Frontline documentary on anitmissile technology and this Slate article critiquing Bush's L4m3 ABM
pipe dream scheme:
What the president did not say is a) that we've been through this before, many times, with equal exuberance, enormous investments, and no returns; b) that as recently as 18 months ago, the program's top general said it was still at an early stage and warned against rushing things; and c) that, no matter how good defenses might get, any "rogue" with enough sophistication to build and launch a ballistic missile can easily maneuver around those defenses. On this last point, it is worth noting that U.S. weapons scientists and intelligence analysts have known about these maneuvering tricks for more than 40 years; that no one has the slightest idea how to deal with them; and that Bush's current test program does not even attempt to do so.
The United States (and the U.S.S.R.) gave up on nuclear defenses—not just ABMs, but also nationwide fallout shelters—not out of obeisance to deterrence theory, but because the calculations were clear that offense would always beat defense [emphasis mine]. And because the technology seemed out of reach, the effort seemed fruitless, in any case. That's why Richard Nixon and Leonid Brezhnev—neither arms-control softies—signed the ABM Treaty.
...In September 1999, the CIA's National Intelligence Estimate concluded that any country able to develop ballistic missiles "would also develop various responses to US defenses," including such "readily available technology" as decoys, chaff, or wrapping warheads in radar-absorbing material.
...Judging from today's speech, it seems that Bush wants his generals to run the New York marathon before they've mastered the 100-yard dash.