Dempsey on Missile Defense, Arrows, and Archers

Kingston Reif points to this response from Marty Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to Senator Ted Cruz on why the Pentagon is cutting $500 million from the missile defense budget:

I would also say, you know, ballistic missile defense is a(n) important investment.

It’s also — it can get to be extraordinarily expensive.

And so one of the things we have to do is balance defense and offense. I often use the phrase that at some point you have to stop worrying about the arrow and start worrying about the archer. And I would suggest to our potential adversaries that we haven’t forgotten that we also have capabilities to deal with the archer.

It’s a lot cheaper to target the archer than the arrow. And we already have the ability to do that.

FILED UNDER: Military Affairs, Quick Takes
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. DC Loser says:

    It’s stupid to put most of your money on defense. Problem with missile defense is that the offensive systems are usually a lot cheaper than the defensive systems (e.g., Iron Dome vs. those cheap rockets the Hamas guys fly). You can quickly bankrupt yourself by trying to defend against every incoming missile.

  2. JKB says:

    And I would suggest to our potential adversaries that we haven’t forgotten that we also have capabilities to deal with the archer.

    True we have capabilities to deal with the archer but seldom the political stomach. Look at Israel, they could end the Hamas rocket attacks with a simple troop movement. However, every two-bit pantiwaist in the US and Europe would get their panties in a bunch. So they are consigned to dealing with the arrows.

    We dealt with the “archers” in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars (yes, we also took out the funders, protectors and facilitators) but now all you hear is whining and condemnation from those see advantage in being anti-war….now. Taking out the archers is messy, bloody, and many soon create the Archer’s Rights Coalition.

    So yes, we have the capability to deal with the archers but seldom, as a nation, the will….at least long term.

  3. JKB says:

    Oh, and let’s not forget with today’s warheads, you have to be willing to preemptively take out the archers.

  4. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    This thought lends itself quite readily to both gun control and terrorism. In both cases, there’s a hell of a lot of attention focused on the “arrows,” and little to none on the “archers.”

  5. Barry says:

    @JKB: “We dealt with the “archers” in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars (yes, we also took out the funders, protectors and facilitators) but now all you hear is whining and condemnation from those see advantage in being anti-war….now. Taking out the archers is messy, bloody, and many soon create the Archer’s Rights Coalition. ”

    Well, no, but who cares about facts?

  6. James Joyner says:

    @JKB: That just doesn’t comport with reality. The objections to the war in Afghanistan are over the nation-building, not the targeting of al Qaeda. Virtually no one objects to our killing terrorists.

  7. wr says:

    @JKB: Oh, lookie, JKB is advocating genocide again.