THE TROIKA OF STUPID

Behold the conservative pant-shitting over the President's decision to remove "anti-ballistic missile" (ABM) systems from Poland. It's a cowardly retreat, a stab-in-the-back, an unspeakable betrayal of our noble Polish allies. As the internet's resident Polack I feel compelled to point out three things.

First, you do realize that ABMs don't actually work, right? I don't mean that in the grand strategic sense. I mean they don't work. In the illustrious history there have been some impressively expensive and idiotic boondoggles, but the five-decade quest to develop a missile that can intercept and destroy another missile is easily the most grandiose. From Nike Zeus to Skybolt to Skybolt II to "Star Wars" to the Patriot Missile to the latest iteration of this stupidity (THAAD), ABMs have been Moby Dick to generations of Republicans and military fetishists. Just imagine, a protective umbrella under which we could act with impunity! The problem is that after pouring literally billions of dollars on this problem for five decades we are no closer to solving the monumental technical obstacles from basic target-launch-intercept issues to they systems' vulnerability to simple countermeasures. Jack Hitt and Frontline do an excellent job of explaining that no matter how hard Raytheon, the DoD, and others try to rig the tests to make these things look successful, they're not. The long version is too long, so the short version is that under optimal conditions (i.e., a DoD test in which the slowest, biggest, simplest, easiest-to-hit target is fired on a predetermined flight path and the ABM system is given all of the target flight characteristics in advance) these things stand about a 15% chance of intercepting a target as sophisticated as a 1960s Soviet IRBM. In real world conditions – you know, the exact opposite of all of that – that falls to 1 or 2%. If it rains, it's effectively zero. Or if the entity launching the missile invests $100 in hollow metal or plastic decoy warheads (i.e., one real warhead and a slew of dummies on one missile in a MIRV configuration) and the offensive warhead has a better chance of being struck by lightning than an ABM. Understand that. Even if we vomit another $100 billion into this technology, any advances we achieve can be defeated by cheap metal cylinders shaped like warheads.

These things are fucking useless. That's kinda important.

Second, no offense intended to any of my Polish brethren, but the United States does not give two shits about Poland. Nor should it. Sorry. Russia is in the top five nations on Earth in terms of military size and oil & gas reserves (which they are currently using to strangle Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, and, increasingly, Western Europe into submission). They are an economic and military power. Poland is Poland. Strategically – and American strategic interests are supposed to be the important thing here, right? – it is about the least important place on Earth. It is surrounded by nations either far more powerful (Germany, France, etc.) or far crappier (Belarus, Estonia, Moldova, etc.) and thus more desperate and easily bought when the U.S. decides it needs an ally of convenience in the area. That Barack Obama is unwilling to antagonize the unstable Russians over Poland shouldn't be flooring anyone. Bellyache all you want about "betrayal" or how we "sold Poland out." You're goddamn right we did, because doing otherwise doesn't make the slightest sense if it complicates our relationship with Russia. My people are in an unenviable position. If the U.S. needs something it will ask Germany, and if it wants something it will dangle some money in front of Azerbaijan or some other collection of hovels. Poland's smack in the middle and thus irrelevant.

Third, in what universe is "We can't show weakness in front of the Russians!!" a winning issue in 2010, 2012, and beyond? Does the GOP think that resonates with anyone under the age of 55 anymore? We know these people just cannot come to grips with the end of the Cold War and they've been searching for a way to keep fighting it since its conclusion, but this is how the Republicans are going to claw their way back to electoral relevance? Good luck with that, kids. Seriously. You really have your finger on the pulse of the American voter, not to mention a keen understanding of contemporary geopolitics.

Those three things need to be said; they provide crucial context in which to frame the pant-shitting.

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17 Responses to “THE TROIKA OF STUPID”

  1. Break the Terror (Evan) Says:

    For most sane people, "The damn things don't work!" usually suffices. It's good to have a more thorough rebuttal to the pant-shitting from Greater Wingnuttia.

    It really is weird. I think you're maybe a year or two older than me, and I remember being a kid when the Berlin Wall fell, having experienced childhood hearing about the USSR, the great enemy…I guess we're just young enough that we got to experience that as conflict, conflict, RESOLUTION, and the utter insanity of the Cold War just didn't leave its indelible mark on our souls. So, it is indeed weird that the GOP, even the younger pant-shitters, are simply aping their parents' paranoia, as if that's a good thing, as if it has any resonance with voters south of, as you said, 55 or so. But as this weekend's Valyews Voters Sexytime Mixer & Potluck showed us, the only thing the GOP really is committed to is being tone deaf on any and all issues.

    Combine a good old Red Scare with this weekend's lesson in "all porn is gay porn, because when dudes look at naked chicks, it makes them gay" (worked for me), and they'll surely be back on top in no time!

  2. jon Says:

    I can actually see the Russians someday possibly invading Poland to get more ports as their natural resources need to be sold faster, but I doubt they'd start off any attack with nuclear missiles. So what does placing anti-missile bases in Poland accomplish other than to increase the chance that our superior technology would be captured in a land invasion by Russia?

  3. Aslan Maskhadov Says:

    First off, the important issue here is that the Polish and Czech people clearly didn't want these missile bases, as is apparent from numerous surveys dating back to the time when the US first raised the issue. The Czechs were so opposed(as much as 75%), that some individuals actually went on hunger strike against it because the ruling parties wouldn't allow a referendum on the subject(only the Communists called for one); such is European "democracy".

    As for a land invasion of Poland, this would be totally unnecessary for Russia, they have the ports from Kaliningrad.

  4. Aslan Maskhadov Says:

    One more thing, Belarus has a better standard of living than Poland. Much lower unemployment; plus it has the best wealth distribution of any Eastern European country, and is considered the safest for women and children. Even Muscovites, who technically have more money per capita, often tell me stories about how shocked they are at the difference between Minsk and Moscow.

  5. displaced capitalist Says:

    But didn't you know? "Everything out of [Obama's] mouth is a lie;" therefore we actually aren't pulling our ABM program out of Poland. It's actually an elaborate ruse to cover up our real activities in Poland which is to allow Russia to invade Idaho and turn it into a communist state. Didn'tcha know???

    Uehehehe! Joe Wilson's given us a fun legacy!

  6. Desargues Says:

    Don't forget another couple of code words they throw around, but only they understand: "appeasement," "1939," and Neville Chamberlain." Every little tin-pot thug in the Third World they don't like is the next Hitler in their popular imaginary. Mention any of these code words to any of them and it makes them sputter with rage, foam at the mouth, and turn blue in the face. The trick is particularly effective with that Kubrikesque character, Chucky Krauthammer: a psychopath who's supposed to be a doctor.

  7. jazzbumpa Says:

    Well, I'm significantly on the far side of 55, and NOTHING Repugnicant resonates with me. They are to Obama as they were to Clinton – AGAINST!

    It doesn't matter what the hell it is, they're against it, because he's for it. What a bunch of knee-jerk, wanking asshats.

    Re: Poland – even Hitler wasn't interested in it. He wanted Russian, and Poland was n the way.

    Oh – Great post, Ed.

  8. Shane Says:

    When they first reported this on NPR it sounded something like this, "Obama did X, many republicans are critical of his decision." To which I responded…duh!

    At this point Obama could start laying Golden eggs with magical cures for every kind of cancer inside and the republicans would still find some reason to demonize him.

  9. Aslan Maskhadov Says:

    Backing up the author's point though- yeah, the US doesn't give a damn about Poland. Poland, like many other Eastern European countries, had industry worth billions. The US was quite happy to watch Soros and co. buy up these industries for hundreds of millions less than they were worth.

  10. Desargues Says:

    Aslan: they were worth billions — to whom?

  11. Johnnyboy Says:

    And all this time I thought it was spelled "Pollack". Like the artist. Huh.

    Agreed, Obama could walk on water, solve global warming, cure AIDS, feed the starving, all the while balancing the budget and the Repugs would still want his head on a spike. They're just wired that way, I guess.

    Let's face it, there's so much to fix from the last 8 years. This was an easy fix and slam-dunk decision. F*ck the repugs, when it's their turn they can try to do something about it. Right now we're in charge, so SUCK IT. (Gosh, I wish congress would adopt this attitude.)

  12. Comrade PhysioProf Says:

    Poland is Poland.

    Well, Poland does control a major global strategic reserve of Slivovitz.

  13. WDK Says:

    I am north of 55(age not i q)and still find Reagan's politics alive and well. The fact that hope for a return to Reaganomics and militarism endures does not bode well for change.

  14. Dr. Derty Says:

    NPR's reporting can be frustrating at times. I find attempts to seem impartial sometimes affects their reporting for the worse. I don't know why they even bother to bring opposing viewpoints to reports that don't really require a debate.

  15. waldo Says:

    The cancellation of the missile program is a monumental achievement by the Obama admin. and was mind-bogglingly underreported. And of course the American electorate, possessing the attention span of a gnat and the comprehension capabilities of a bowl of plastic flowers, blithely ignored the import and ramifications of the decision.
    Gobama!

  16. Prudence Says:

    Bummed to see no reference to our imminent demise via the inevitable nuke attack by "Red China". Clearly, the Wingnuts haven't hit 11 yet.

  17. Brandon Says:

    I pretty much agree with your strategic analysis of ABM systems and firmly supported the cancellation of this unrealistic program. Just a couple of words about your other points. First, I think you sell Poland short. It is one of the world's 20 largest economies. Of course, its economy is much smaller than Russia's is (about one-third the size), because it is a smaller country. That said, Poland is far more integrated into the global economy and attracts far more foreign investment than Russia. Russia's economic growth over the past decade has been sustained almost entirely by exports of natural resources. Second, you kind of seem to be buying into a lot of the rhetoric you accuse your opponents of by admitting that this move is an instance of screwing the Poles and the Czechs. I don't really see it as such (and neither do majorities of the Polish and Czech public). I think we should support and ally with these countries, I just think the ABM system was a strategically stupid way to show this support. Finally, at the risk of sounding ultra-sensitive, I think most Estonians would be surprised to see their country on your list. Moldova is the poorest country in Europe; Estonia has one of the highest standards of living in Europe. Because it is so tiny, can't really throw its weight around in world affairs, but it is far from a lousy place to live.

    P.S.: Mr. Maskhadov, what is your evidence that Belarus has a higher standard of living than Poland? Do you include the absence of any kind of political freedom in your quality of life index? Just curious…