If World War 3 were to break out between the United States and North Korea, there is good reason to believe that the highly-touted missile defense system, the very same system hailed as a success last week by the Pentagon, might not be able to protect the U.S. from North Korea's ballistic missiles (nuclear-tipped or otherwise). According to a former congressman, the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system is not as good as advertised and, as real evidence shows, might not be up to the task of stopping any of North Korea's missiles.
In an op-ed written for the New York Times, John F. Tierney, a former congressman from Massachusetts and one-time chairman of the National Security and Foreign Affairs Subcommittee, noted his concerns over the $40 billion missile defense system. Now the executive director of the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation in Washington, D.C., he warned that the defense system was being presented to the American public as something it is not: fully capable of defending the U.S. from a missile attack.
In fact, Pentagon officials announced on May 30 that they had successfully conducted a first-ever missile defense test that involved a simulated attack by an intercontinental ballistic missile. As was reported by Reuters, a missile from the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system was fired from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California to intercept an ICBM fired from the Marshall Islands toward Alaska and succeeded in doing so. It was hailed as an "incredible accomplishment."
But John F. Tierney begs to differ.
"The larger context, however, tells a very different story," he wrote.
"Of the 10 tests of the system since 2004, when the Bush administration prematurely declared it operational, six have failed to destroy the target, including three of the last five tries."
The tests, Tierney wrote, were done under optimal weather conditions and unrealistic battle situations, not to mention that, in his experience as a member of Congress, the results of which were presented in congressional hearings by "Pentagon officials [who] repeatedly overstated confidence in the program, understated technical limitations and dismissed concerns from physicists and other experts."
Tierney's op-ed also comes on heels of yet another North Korean missile test. This time, Pyongyang confirmed that it had tested a new type of cruise missile on Thursday (June 1) designed as an anti-warship weapon. As ABC News reported, it was the fourth successful testing, according to Pyongyang, of new types of missiles this year by North Korea.
Since the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States, the rogue state has increased its bellicose rhetoric and threats against the U.S. and its allies in the region. Statements from its leader, Kim Jong-un, and the state-run media have constantly promised preemptive and retaliatory nuclear strikes, prompting alarmists and pragmatists alike to question whether North Korea would risk a potential military move that could trigger World War 3.
John F. Tierney's opinion piece might not read as alarming, but it does point out the disingenuous nature of military reports, congressional hearing testimony by military officials, and what is being released to the public via the media. The United States is not adequately protected against the growing threat of North Korea's missile programs. To illustrate his point, Tierney listed a couple of detractors of the missile defense system. The Pentagon's chief weapons evaluator offered in a report that the missile program has "a limited capability to defend the U.S. homeland." And the Government Accountability Office stated a year ago that the missile tests have been "insufficient to demonstrate that an operationally useful defense capability exists."
Making the case that the offense has the advantage in this type of military gamesmanship, Tierney insisted that all North Korea has to do is to simply overwhelm the system in place. This could be done by building more missiles than the U.S. has interceptors.
To make matters worse, Tierney wrote, lawmakers are attempting to expand the program instead of canceling it or opting for a different system. This expansion, he maintained, will do "damage," meaning that dollars spent on the missile system would be dollars not able to be spent on other "critical defense and national priorities."
And if John F. Tierney's warnings were not disturbing enough, it has been reported that there is no guarantee that, Pentagon public statements to the contrary, North Korea does not already have the capability of firing and directing ballistic missiles that can score a hit inside the continental United States.
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