Max Boot: Trump finally gets something rightHistorians in the News
tags: Max Boot, Trump
I have been critical of the Trump presidency because I think it has been a calamity for America and the world. But just because President Trump does something doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Even Trump gets a few things right, and it’s incumbent on his critics to acknowledge it when he does.
Case in point: Trump’s decision this week to withdraw from the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. This was a landmark arms-control agreement between President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev that banned land-based missiles with a range of 310 miles to 3,400 miles. It led to the destruction of thousands of missiles, lowered tensions in Europe and contributed to the end of the Cold War.
But that was then. This is now.
Under Vladimir Putin, Russia has been building an intermediate-range cruise missile, code-named the SSC-8by NATO, that is in violation of the treaty. This is not a figment of Trump’s imagination, such as the presence of “unknown Middle Easterners” among a caravan of Central American refugees. The Obama administration discovered the Russian violation in 2014, and the United States has been working unsuccessfully ever since to persuade the Russians to come into compliance.
Meanwhile, China, which is not bound by the INF Treaty, has been rapidly expanding its intermediate-range rocket forces. It has recently begun deployment of the DF-26 ballistic missile, which has been dubbed both a “Guam killer” and a “carrier killer” because it can effectively target both the U.S. naval and air bases at Guam, and the U.S. aircraft carriers that have been the mainstay of American naval dominance since 1942. The military balance of power is shifting against the United States in the western Pacific, in no small part because of China’s missile buildup.
Because of the limits still imposed on the United States by the INF Treaty, the United States today can only respond with a relatively small number of intermediate-range Tomahawk cruise missiles carried on vulnerable, costly platforms such as Arleigh Burke-class destroyers (cost: $1.8 billion). “Ground-launched systems with an intermediate-range in, for example, Guam, Japan and Northern Australia, would provide planners with a means to augment air and maritime strike platforms with new land component capabilities at a fraction of the cost,” argues Eric Sayers of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. China would have to devote greater resources to missile defenses rather than power projection, he argues, and would find it harder to cripple the U.S. military by striking a handful of major U.S. bases in Asia. Land-based missiles could be deployed in many locations, protecting against a Pearl Harbor-like first strike and increasing deterrence….
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