Joshua PollackDefensive Transition

No, not the switch from an offense-dominated world to a defense-dominated one — you might remember that idea from the 1980s, kids — but the switch from a Republican administration to a Democratic one, and what that means for ballistic missile defense.

It’s been the major theme of the week over at

Are You Down With OLC?

The eponymous Paul Kerr kicked things off by relaying an analysis of a recently released but generally overlooked Bush Office of Legal Counsel memo from November 2001, courtesy of an anonymous friend. The analysis starts with a clear statement of perspective:

“I’ve read the whole memo, and I think my head is about to explode.”

The OLC memo proposed a novel doctrine: the temporary, unilateral suspension of selected provisions of a treaty, in this case the ABM Treaty.

(This was just a few weeks after the Pentagon decided to forgo certain tests in order to avoid violating the treaty, and just a few weeks before the U.S. simply withdrew from the Treaty. So the proposed doctrine was never tested or deployed.)

I followed up by recalling some of the legal contortions at the Department of State in the 1980s — there’s that decade again — to reinterpret the Treaty to permit testing that most experts agreed was clearly banned.

Defense Acquisition: What Is It Good For?

I also called attention to a new GAO document that gently suggests to the Obama administration that it should have MDA do more to take combatant command priorities into account, try to measure its own progress, and consider operations and maintenance — not just acquisition — in planning and budgeting.

In other words, MDA should operate as a military program, not a political program.

Strategic ballistic missile defense expresses a worldview in ways most weapons systems do not. It’s unilateralism. Acquiring, testing, and deploying strategic BMD just seem to fit with at-will revision of treaties like peanut butter goes with jelly. And the philosophy of an administration does more to shape BMD’s budgetary footprint than do military requirements as defined by the Armed Services or Office of the Secretary of Defense.

So you want to know where BMD fits into the Obama vision. Don’t we all? It’s not mentioned in the White House’s FY 2010 budget book. Smacks of multilateralism to me.

Random Thoughts: Shallow, Medium, Deep

Other stray missile defense thoughts include an inquiry into the whereabouts of the Sea-Based X-Band Radar, a look at short-range missile defense in Israel, and Paul’s Aristotlean proof of the nonexistence of the ballistic missile threat.

Secretary Gates almost seems to agree.

And there’s oh-so-much more. Check it out.


  1. Allan (History)

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