The missile defense shield in Eastern Europe was one of the most ill-conceived security notions to come from the George W. Bush administration, but that's not stopping Republicans from calling foul now that President Obama has rightly put it to rest.
"Scrapping the U.S. missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic does little more than empower Russia and Iran at the expense of our allies in Europe," said House Minority Leader John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, following Obama's announcement Thursday. That's news to our allies in Europe. NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen called it a positive step, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said it was a "hopeful signal" of improved relations, and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced his support. Czech Prime Minister Jan Fischer said the move wouldn't hurt his country's strong ties with the United States.
Boehner wasn't finished, though. "It shows a willful determination to continue ignoring the threat posed by some of the most dangerous regimes in the world," he said. That's news to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, originally a Bush appointee, who said that the Eastern European shield would be replaced by a system designed to counter the realistic threat of medium- and short-range missiles from Iran, not the nonexistent danger of long-range missiles that Iran doesn't, and may never, possess. Further, the new system can be deployed years sooner.
We're still waiting for former Vice President Dick Cheney to loom from the shadows and tell Fox News why Obama's decision endangers Americans. Yet the plain truth is that the missile shield involved immensely expensive technology that still doesn't work, designed for a threat that may never materialize. The shield was the biggest irritant in relations between the United States and Russia, whose support is badly needed on sanctions that could halt Iran's development of nuclear weapons, among other issues. Its abandonment is a victory for diplomacy, taxpayers, security and common sense.
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