‘Basic physics proves US missile defense system useless’

© Patrick T. Fallon
The US ruined relations with Russia and is doing the same with China over a useless defense system that causes anger and anxiety all over the world, says Theodore Postol, professor emeritus of science, technology, and national Security at MIT.

The US Government Accountability Office released a report on Tuesday that showed the US Missile Defense Agency [MDA] in the last decade has wasted billions of dollars in technology that is unable to protect the country from possible ballistic missile strikes from Iran or North Korea.

RT: The Pentagon insists its defense system is effective, yet the auditors have disagreed. Where do you stand, does the system work?

Theodore Postol: I think basic physics would tell you that this system not only doesn’t work, but it will never be able to work. So, this is nothing to do with engineering technology, it has to do with the basic physics that the system tries to exploit in order to tell the difference between decoys and warheads. This is a fundamental problem with the system. However, I would like to point out that this is not simply a technical failure; it is a mistake to look at the General Accounting Office report as a technical failure. This is an indication of a massive failure in US political leadership with regard to doing sound things for not only the defense of the US, but also for global stability. The mindless pursuit of the system has caused the break with Russia and has created high levels of tension when none of this should have happened. And to no constructive goal for the US, even if one talks only about the US capabilities. So, this is really, tremendously massive failure.

RT: The agency has received billions of dollars and its budget has soared further in recent years. Has it been a huge waste of money? Do you think they will continue with the project?

TP: I think this is not just money lost, although it is a vast sum of money that should have been spent in better ways. The real problem is that we ruined our relations with Russia and we are in the process of ruining our relations with China over the defense that has no chance of working, but is causing anger and anxiety in both China and Russia and elsewhere which in turn leads to a confrontation of gigantic proportions at a political level. That’s what really important about what is going on now. And the reason this is going on is because of domestic politics. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been accused of not being a loyal American because I have raised questions about this missile defense…This is the kind of mentality that has overtaken the American system. It is an American form of Lysenkoism that this people believe that this missile defense might actually work.

© Korea Aerospace Research Institute

RT: How serious are the claimed threats from the likes of North Korea and Iran, especially in light of the US deal with Tehran?

TP: I think it is a US-Russian deal along with other countries and it is a good deal. And it essentially eliminates the possibility that Iran could build a nuclear weapon for at least 15 years and probably longer. If you don’t have a nuclear weapon, a ballistic missile has no significant capability. An average ballistic missile carries four or five times less of the payload of a simple combat aircraft. So, the issue is not delivering a weight of munitions, the issue is a ballistic missile could deliver a nuclear warhead, and if you have no nuclear warhead, there is no threat. In a case of North Korea it is, I think, a very dangerous and potentially unstable state. But North Korea can be dealt with, if the US were truly serious about building a defense against North Korean ICBM [intercontinental ballistic missile], should it emerge. I think the current satellite launch vehicle that the North Korea said it built cannot be converted to an ICBM. The technology in it could be used to build an ICBM. But my guess is that it would be 10 years of additional work and that work would be visible for the entire 10 year time if they try and built an ICBM. In addition, I think it is very questionable whether they have a nuclear weapon that could fly on a ballistic missile that could reach the US. But that still is a problem because if they don’t have a ballistic missile to reach the US, they of course, could threaten South Korea, Japan, China and Russia at least in the region with ballistic missiles that have nuclear weapons on them. So this is a dangerous country and it needs to be dealt with in a sober way. But the way the US is currently claiming it is trying to deal with it is totally ridiculous. There are ways to deal with North Korea and protect the mainland of the US at least from the ICBM attack, should 10 or 20 years from now the North Koreans actually get something together.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.