The Capability of the U.S. Ballistic Missile Defense System
Some would argue that if not a realistic threat today, North Korea and Iran may become a real threat in the future. But if they do, the limitations of the administrations planned initial missile defense capability were revealed by an unusually candid admission in the MDA FY-2008 budget request, "This initial capability is not sufficient to protect the United States from the extant and anticipated rogue nation threat." 
This remarkable statement comes from the first sentence in the following paragraph which is worth reading in its entirety:
"Close Gaps and Improve this Capability
This initial capability is not sufficient to protect the United States from the extant and anticipated rogue nation threat. We therefore must close the gaps in the system and improve its capability to keep pace. Three key elements of this effort are additional Aegis BMD sea-based interceptors, the introduction of four transportable Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) fire units consisting of radars and interceptors, and the introduction of a land- and sea-based volume kill capability (Multiple Kill Vehicle program) to address potential countermeasures. Additionally, to ensure full coverage of the United States against threats from the Middle East, we will upgrade an Early Warning Radar in Thule, Greenland. This radar, in conjunction with the radar at Fylingdales, UK provides the ability to track threats to the U.S. and Europe from the Middle East. Because we must protect these radars or risk losing the "eyes" of our system, we are planning to field ground-based interceptors and an associated ground-based midcourse radar site in Europe. This achieves four goals: protecting the foreign-based radars, improving protection of the United States by providing additional and earlier intercept opportunities; extending this protection to our allies and friends; and demonstrating international support of ballistic missile defense."
This paragraph also reveals that the MDA sees the proposed missile defenses in Europe as a first line of defense to protect existing radar sites in Greenland and the United Kingdom necessary to defend the U.S., not first and foremost to defend Europe.
And it certainly justifies the statement in the Union of Concerned Scientists report, Technical Realities, now nearly four years ago, "The ballistic missile defense system that the United States will deploy later this year will have no demonstrated defensive capability and will be ineffective against a real attack by long-range ballistic missiles."
Indeed, today the GMD system still has no demonstrated capability to defend the U.S., let alone Europe, against enemy attack under realistic operational conditions.
Eight years ago President Clinton established four criteria against which he would make a deployment decision. The Clinton criteria, announced by the White House in December 1999, a year before he would make a decision, were:
1. "Whether the threat is materializing;
2. the status of the technology based on an initial series of rigorous flight tests, and the proposed system's operational effectiveness;
3. whether the system is affordable; and
4. The implications that going forward with NMD deployment would hold for the overall strategic environment and our arms control objectives." 
But at that time there had only been a very few tests, and because of failures in those tests, the missile defense system was not shown to be effective.
As a result President Clinton did not have to spend much time considering the cost or the international relations aspects of his decision to not deploy the system. The system simply had not been shown to be effective, and that was that.
The Nitze criteria were shorter and even tougher. During the Reagan years, Paul Nitze, the highly regarded scholar and statesman whose name graces this institution, presented three criteria that any - in those days it was SDI - missile defense system must meet before being considered for deployment. Nitze's criteria were formally adopted as National Security Directive No. 172 on May 30, 1985. The Nitze criteria were:
1. "The system should be effective;
2. Be able to survive against direct attack; and
3. Be cost effective at the margin - that is, be less costly to increase your defense than it is for your opponent to increase their offense against it."
The proposed U.S. missile defense system for Europe meets none of the above criteria, not the Clinton critieria and not the Nitze criteria.
In making his decision in December, 2004, to deploy the GMD system in Alaska and at Vandenberg AFB in California, President Bush appears to have had no criteria other than an ideological commitment, some might say a "Faith-based" commitment to missile defense.
But when it comes to missile defense faith is not enough.
Missile defense is the most difficult development the Pentagon has ever attempted, more difficult than any Army tank, Navy ship, high performance jet fighter or helicopter. And those developments often take 20 years or more. With missile defense, the United States has been trying for 40 years.The Worldwide Threat
Beyond the proposed U.S. missile defense sites in Europe, the administration is proposing an immense build up of missile defenses around the world, citing missile proliferation as the justification.
The Pentagon isn't content without a good threat, and to justify its missile defense systems both the Pentagon and the White House have been emphasizing the worldwide threat from the proliferation of ballistic missiles.
To defend the need for missile defenses, in October 2007, the White House announced, "America faces a growing ballistic missile threat. In 1972, just nine countries had ballistic missiles. Today, that number has grown to 27 and it includes hostile regimes with ties to terrorists."
Similarly MDA's Obering has a briefing that claims the threat from enemy missiles is growing and shows missiles in 20 countries. But all but two of those 20 countries - Iran and North Korea - are either friends, allies, or countries from which we have no missile threat, e.g. Israel, India, Pakistan, Vietnam, South Korea, Moldova, Ukraine, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, etc.
Moldova??? Yes, and recently Venezuela was added to the list.
With the exception of Russia and China, none of those 20 countries - including Iran and North Korea - have missiles that can reach the United States anyway.
Because of the number of ICBMs Russia and China have, and because they use decoys and countermeasures - the Achilles heel of missile defense - the most futuristic missile defenses we can imagine would not be dependable against the ICBMs in Russia and China.
Surely the Russian military and scientific establishment knows this. After all, Russia has tried to develop missile defenses also and knows how truly difficult it is. In any case, Russia has so many ICBMs it can overwhelm even the most futuristic missile defenses the United States can imagine.
That's why the US Congress shut down the Safeguard ABM system in the 1970's, just one day after it was declared operational because the Congress knew that Russia could overwhelm it.
China currently has about 20 missiles that could reach the U.S. Some of those have countermeasures which would confound U.S. missile defense systems. However, in response to U.S. missile defense efforts, China could decide to build up their stockpile of ICBMs to Russian levels, so that China also could overwhelm our defenses. If China does that, U.S. missile defenses will have destabilized the international situation.
In 1999, former Secretary of Defense William Perry made what must have been an exhausting series of diplomatic trips to convince North Korea to stop developing and testing long-range missiles. He was remarkably successful. In fact, as news of his success reached the Pentagon, officials there joked: "There goes the threat!" The joke underscored that the most effective route in dealing with nuclear and missile proliferation threats can be through creative diplomacy, not military technology.
Dollar for dollar, Dr. Perry was the most cost-effective missile defense system the United States ever had, and he showed that effective diplomacy is hard to beat.
Unfortunately, the Bush Administration did not sustain and support that agreement, especially that the U.S. would stop threatening North Korea, and so North Korea went back to developing long range missiles.
Now that Ambassador Christopher Hill has achieved diplomatic success with North Korea, not unlike Dr. Perry's success eight years earlier, people in the Pentagon must be saying, "There goes the threat," once again.
If North Korea and the U.S. continue to make progress in face-to-face negotiations and in the 6-party talks, there will be no justification for the presumed-to-be-effective missile defense systems in Alaska, California, and Japan, either.The Future of U.S./Russian cooperation
Ever since President Reagan famous "Star Wars" speech in 1983, the U.S. has been saying it wants to cooperate with Russia on missile defense but through six administrations under Reagan, Bush 41, Clinton, and Bush 43, real cooperation has not been realized. Putin's proposal opened up new avenues for U.S./Russian cooperation.
In any case, if Russia is not an enemy, as Bush says, he should be willing to support serious U.S/Russian cooperation.
Perhaps Russia and the United States will cooperate on missile defenses, but if they acknowledge that these missile defenses are not effective under realistic operational conditions, then the real benefit would be to show that Russia and the United States can cooperate closely on a difficult matter, not to actually defend Europe from Iran.
And if the MDA will not acknowledge that missile defenses are not effective under realistic operational conditions, pretending that U.S. missile defenses actually might work in an all-out war, then they are also pretending that those U.S. missile defenses might work against Russian missiles. If those defenses are located where they might be effective against Russia, this is something which Russia cannot accept.
Russia has indicated strongly that it will not accept U.S. missile defenses being deployed in Eastern Europe. Russia has threatened to pull out of the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty, potentially restarting the Cold War; Russian has resumed strategic bomber training flights; Russia has threatened that it may have to aim offensive missiles at Europe; and Russia has announced the successful development of new offensive ICBMs with maneuvering Re-enetry Vehicles that U.S. missile defenses could not stop.
Russia has also said they want the U.S. to stop the deployment of attack weapons in space, which they also find threatening.
The Russian test on September 17, 2007, of the " Father Of All Bombs," claimed to be four times more powerful than the conventional U.S. 20,000 pound Massive Ordnance Air Burst bomb, also called the "Mother Of All Bombs," was interpreted by many as yet another message to the U.S. that the proposed missile defenses are unacceptable.
If, as Russia claims, the FOAB is more powerful than the U.S. MOAB, then it is indeed a new technological accomplishment, with the explosive force of a small nuclear weapon.
Russia seems to be going through a new period of nationalistic expression with military accomplishments - such as those mentioned above - being the vehicle for this nationalistic expression.
Some would say that this is to impress Russian voters, more than to impress America, and secure President Putin's future should he decide to run for president again after sitting out for a term as can be done under Russian law, unlike the U.S. Undoubtedly, President Putin would not mind if he impressed Russian voters and secured his future, but these developments are aimed more at the U.S. than at Russian voters.Options for Europe, Poland and the Czech Republic
Given the many complications already surrounding the U.S. European missile defense proposal, the Poland or the Czech Republic could follow Canada's example. Three years ago, Canada - surely one of America's closest allies - decided not to participate in the U.S. missile defense system. While expressing its continuing commitment to NORAD, the Canadian government said it would not join the Pentagon's missile defense program. Why? Why did one of our closest partners, and neighbors, take this strong step? Because Canadian citizens were justifiably skeptical of U.S. missile defense plans. Canadians questioned that the United States can develop missile defenses that will be effective against enemy missiles under realistic operational conditions. They were concerned about the costs, and they didn't want to participate in creating a new arms race in space. Canada understood correctly that U.S. missile defense represent the first wave in which the United States could introduce attack weapons into space, that is, weapons with strike capability - shooters, if you will - and Canadians did not want to contribute to that.
While the militarization of space is already a fact of life, the U.S. military relies on space satellites for military communications, for reconnaissance and sensing, for weather, and for targeting, the weaponization of space hasn't happened. There are no strike weapons deployed in space. So deciding not to deploy strike weapons in space was a practical place to draw the line, exactly what Canada did.
Another admirable example of restraint is South Korea. While sharing a border with North Korea, and always mindful of a threat from North Korea, South Korea has opted to take a very different path than Japan. In Japan, political pressures have led to a major build-up of missile defenses. Not that those missile defenses would actually defend Japan from North Korea, but Japan has found U.S. missile defense systems irresistible as a way to show Japanese voters that they are doing something about North Korea. Under the leadership of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, Japan is in the process of deploying Patriot missile batteries, and soon THAAD missile batteries, all across the country, and supporting U.S. efforts to deploy sea-going Aegis missile ships in the Sea of Japan.
By contrast South Korea, will deploy relatively few short range and very short-range missile defenses under the Korean Air and Missile Defense command they decided to establish in late 2006. 
Where Japan will soon be bristling with missile defenses of questionable effectiveness, South Korea has opted to continue its Sunshine Policy of reducing tensions and building up trade and diplomatic ties with the North.Conclusions
The level of debate both in America and in Europe has not been adequate to inform the public about the limitations and liabilities of missile defense.
Thanks to belated but successful negotiations with North Korea, and a new National Intelligence Estimate for Iran, there appears to be no urgent threat, and if there were U.S. missile defenses are not adequate to the task, because of the artificial constraint that an enemy would only attack with one or two missiles, and using no decoys or countermeasures.
The U.S. proposal to establish missile defense sites in Poland and the Czech Republic has alienated Russia to a degree not seen since the height of the Cold War, and for no good purpose since the proposed U.S. system in Europe has no demonstrated capability to defend the United States, let alone Europe, under realistic operational conditions.
It is a truism that Americans and the U.S. military have a tendency to count on technological breakthroughs to solve thorny national security problems. Europeans could hope that technology could be relied upon to solve international conflicts, too. Technology has produced some amazing advances, such as personal computers and the Internet which have changed our lives at home and at work. But too often America relies on technology as the first, best hope to save us from our problems. This is apparent in fields as diverse as defense, medicine, and the environment. By appealing to a single-point technological fix, we hope we can avoid dealing with the long-term problem. In national security, as in other fields, we use our hope for technological relief as an excuse to avoid accommodating or dealing with our adversaries – sometimes at a very high cost in political and economic terms; sometimes in dangerous self-delusion about our own military capabilities in the global environment in which we all exist.End Notes
"Rice: Russia's softening on missile defense won't alter US plans," â€¨by Matthew Lee - Associated Press, USA Today and other newspapers, June 8, 2007.
"Putin Expands on his Missile Defense Plan," New York Times, July 3, 2007; "Putin Proposes Broader Cooperation on Missile Defense," Washington Post, July 3, 2007; "Russian Experts to Visit Missile Defense Base in Alaska," RIA Novosti, August 1, 2007.
RIA Novosti, October 26, 2007
"Long Range Ballistic Missile Defenses in Europe, updated July 15, 2007, Congressional Research Service, RL-34051.
"U.S.: Iran Halted Nuclear Weapons Program in 2003 -
Officials Say Iran Continues With Uranium Enrichment"
by Walter Pincusâ€¨, Washington Post, Monday, December 3, 2007.
Missile Defense Agency FY-2008 Budget Estimates, Overview, page 5, January 31, 2007.
The Quest for Missile Defenses - 1944-2003, by Richard Dean Burns and Lester H. Brune, Regina Books, Claremont California, 2003, pages 97 and 178.
South Korea Takes Different Path To Japan For Missile Defense
by Martin Sieff, Washington (UPI) Dec 28, 2006.
Autor, Philip E. Coyle, III is Senior Advisor Center for Defense Information