Field of Science

Czechs halt missile shield progress

Finally, some promising development on this front. I have talked about the futility of missile defense several times before. In a nutshell, the only time an ICBM can truly fruitfully be intercepted is in midcourse, when it is descending to earth above the atmosphere. At this point it is being guided only by gravity, and it can release thousands of simple decoys from which it will be essentially indistinguishable for an incoming warhead. Several scientists over the last three decades have written articles arguing this point (read the excellent article in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists), and yet missile defense stubbornly refuses to leave the minds of US presidents.

Plus, the underpinnings of missile defense totally miss the point and indicate vastly misplaced priorities. What in the name of Wotan is the possibility that N. Korea or Iran would attack the US with ICBMs and risk being reduced to dust? What on the other hand are the chances of someone slipping a small WMD through the incompletely guarded ports in the US? And what are the chances of alienating Russia by erecting such a shield a stone's throw away from Russian territory?

The former administration did not believe in the laws of physics, nor in the laws of human nature. Seems this one does.


  1. Let's face it, all missile defense systems do is increase proliferation- if only in terms of raw numbers of warheads being used by any side to overcome the defenses. Sheilds don't render arrows obsolete- Y number of shields just renders X number of arrows useless in a volley (and that's in ideal terms).

    Short of levitating a cartoonishly huge steel dome over a country, it ultimately comes down to hueristics. It's called MAD for a reason.

  2. Eminently true. Missile defenses simple increase the resolve of the enemy to increase the offense, some of which will always work. I don't understand why some of the smartest people in the administration never get this simple fact.

  3. 2Wavefunction
    "never get this simple fact" - maybe they simply want's it?

    I'm from Russia and here everyone think (and I also) that those defense system is against Russia, and serve not to protect but to attack . The defense system can be easily used to handle ballistic missiles.

    Hope that cold war will be finished...

  4. Vladimir, you are absolutely right; the Americans have never been able to convince the Russians that the system is not hostile. Maybe they forget that international negotiations are not based on personal trust but on common security.


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