Jeffrey LewisCow Mobile Missile Defense

There has been a back-and-forth about whether the New START Treaty limits or constrains US missile defense capabilities. The central issue is whether a prohibition on further conversion of ICBM silos is a constraint, or irrelevant since the Missile Defense Agency doesn’t plan to do it. (See my contribution, Missile Defense and the Prague Treaty).

In Secretary Clinton’s Senate testimony, she joked that opponents of the treaty would be complaining if the Administration had agreed to not place missile defense interceptors on cows.

Now, the treaty also includes language – and I think this is Senator McCain’s reference to Article 5 – prohibiting the conversion or use of offensive missile launchers for missile defense interceptors, and vice versa. But in fact, we had no intention of doing that anyway. And as General O’Reilly, our missile defense director, has made clear in testimony, we reached the conclusion it is actually cheaper to build smaller, tailor-made missile defense silos than to convert offensive launchers. I mean, we could have had a long list – we’re not going to launch from any moving vehicle like a car or a truck or a cow. I mean, we could have said a lot of things that we’re not going to do. But the fact is we weren’t going to do them and we weren’t going to do this either.

Rose remains stone-faced during the cow reference, which is pretty impressive. Watch the video, the comment occurs at 18:30.

I just happened to find the perfect picture.


  1. Allen Thomson (History)

    > we’re not going to launch from any moving vehicle like a car or a truck or a cow

    I understand that she was speaking on the spur of the moment and not much should be made of the statement, but actually we USians are going to launch ABMs, if not GBIs, from moving vehicles, like Aegis cruisers. As time goes forward, I’d not rule out airplanes or trucks or SBX-like platforms either. That was part of the point of withdrawing from the ABM treaty.

  2. Pentagon_MD_money_whore

    The cow version is about as effective as Aegis.

    Correction: the cow version is probably better when seas are rough.

  3. anon (History)

    It was an amusing moment in the hearing, but she did sort of miss the point of the question. McCain asked why we had an irrelevant provision in the treaty — why did we agree to treaty language on something we weren’t going to do anyway. The correct answer, which Clinton danced around, is that Russia is really peeved about the 5 silos we did convert, and was pressing to get those unconverted, or at least counted in new START; we got them to accept those as grandfathered in exchange for agreeing we wouldn’t do it again. It was an easy trade for us, since we didn’t want to do it again. But someone needs to point that out — we traded something we didn’t want for something we had already done, just to get the Russians to shut up about it.

    There was actually a more impressive moment later in the hearing. Clinton was asked about Keith Payne’s latest salvo of criticism. She sort of slapped him in public, noting that some people just plain oppose arms control and will make things up to push their point of view.

  4. Jun Okumura (History)

    Judging from the way it is mounted, it is obviously a methane-fueled rocket.