Pushing for WWIII and blowing billions doing so
The Pentagon’s plan to fire ballistic missiles at terrorists isn’t just a nuclear Armageddon risk. It’s a ludicrously expensive way to accidentally start World War III: each weapon could cost anywhere from a few hundred million to $1 billion.
The Defense Department wants to spend about $240 million next year on the controversial “prompt global strike” project. Eventually, it could lead to weapons that could strike virtually anywhere in the planet within an hour or two. But that quarter-billion would be the tiniest of down payments.
Writes Joe Cirincione at ForeignPolicy.com, “Each missile with its tiny payload could easily go over $1 billion each.” Official price tags are a little lower. The Air Force figures a single demonstration of such a missile might eat up $500 million.
Critics like Cirincione (and me) are worried such conventional ICBMs would look to Russia and China like nuclear launches — risking an atomic response every time one of the weapons was sent into the sky. Maybe the U.S. can put enough safeguards in place to persuade Moscow and Beijing that America’s conventional ICBMs aren’t nukes. (And maybe, the Russian and Chinese radars are functioning well enough to tell the difference.) Maybe.
Prompt global strike first came to prominence during Donald Rumsfeld’s tenure at the Pentagon. Under Bob Gates, the culture has shifted a bit. Common sense, wartime relevancy, and fiscal restraint now figure more prominently in weaponeering. And that’s what makes the embrace of prompt global strike such a mystery. It’s a Rumsfeld throwback – risky, willfully ignorant of how the world works, and ridiculously expensive.