Ballistic Missiles Don’t Kill People, People Kill People. But Only Rarely with Ballistic Missiles.

Over at the Diplomat, I share my “meh” about ballistic missile proliferation:

Cooperation between North Korea and Iran has become a great concern, especially with the relative success of North Korea’s latest launch. Syrian missile use has raised fears that Assad’s government might take further escalatory steps, such as using chemical weapons. These efforts have highlighted ongoing multilateral and domestic steps to manage ballistic missile proliferation, and particularly to stop “problem” states from further developing their missile capabilities. This attention has elevated ballistic missiles to the illicit plateau normally inhabited by chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons. It is unclear, however, that ballistic missiles deserve this attention; the historical record of ballistic missile effectiveness is mixed at best.

26 comments on this post.
  1. Semanticleo:

    There has been a lot o hand-wringing wrt to Syrian chemwarfare, and the drumbeat should be received with more skepticism, since this is SOP for disinformation dispensers with a covert agenda.

    I remember the very effective campaign for Reagan’s ‘Peacekeeper’ funding complete with boards displaying the superior size of the ancient liquid-fueled ICBM’s of the Soviets, compared to our state-of-the-art solid fueled boosters.

    A picture is worth a thousand lies.

  2. Just Dropping By:

    I don’t support intervening in Syria, but the chemical weapons issue there is way more plausible than it was in Iraq. Iraq’s chemical weapons program was dismantled after the first Gulf War. Syria’s chemical weapons program has never been subject to any publicized dismantling that I’m aware of (and definitely not under international inspections), so Syria almost certainly has significant chemical weapons stockpiles given that it’s been manufacturing the stuff since the mid-1960s.

  3. joe from Lowell:

    since this is SOP for disinformation dispensers with a covert agenda.

    What is “this” in your sentence? Is it “the expression of concern about chemical weapons?”

    Do you really mean to argue that we should not take expressions of concern over a chemical weapons threat seriously, based solely on the observation that it is an expression of concern about a chemical weapons threat?

    How is this reasoning any different from the dismissal of any concern about gun violence as “gun-grabbing?” Or the dismissal of any concern about racism as “playing the race card?”

    George Bush’s WMD scam wasn’t a scam because it dealt with the subject of chemical weapons. It was a scam because the claims made about such weapons weren’t backed up by any evidence, and were in many cases refuted by evidence. The lesson to learn from that episode should be to look closer at such claims and allow ideology to play less of a role in understanding the threat level, not to lump all such claims together as a category and the judge them as a category.

  4. Marc:

    Syria is not a signatory of the Chemical Weapons Convention, so I assume that means there is no basis under international law for enforcing inspections or dismantling of any associated weapons or programs.

  5. joe from Lowell:

    Noting that Syria is not mandated to produce evidence that it has no chemical weapons does not rebut the point that, unlike in Iraq, there is no such evidence.

    Meanwhile, officials from the Syrian government backed into an acknowledgment that they have chemical weapons this past July.

  6. Just Dropping By:

    I’m not alleging that there is such a basis. I’m just pointing that out in the context of explaining why Semanticleo’s disbelief about allegations of Syrian chemical weapons is misplaced. If someone opposes intervention in Syria on the grounds that “Syrian chemical weapons are a lie,” they are likely going to end up with egg on their face in the event that intervention eventually happens because Syria almost certainly actually does have stockpiles of such weapons. It would be better to oppose intervention on other, sounder, bases.

  7. Major Kong:

    Ah yes. My old “Russian Military Power” book talks about the Russians being “experts in liquid fueled missile technology”.

    This is roughly equivalent to saying they were experts in steam-power.

  8. Semanticleo:

    since this is SOP for disinformation dispensers with a covert agenda.

    Hmmm. I believe the answer to your query is found in the preceding sentence, which you did not find contextual, since you are swallowing the Flounder, whole.

    the drumbeat should be received with more skepticism

  9. joe from Lowell:

    since you are swallowing the Flounder, whole

    I know you don’t realize it, but you just lost the argument.

  10. joe from Lowell:

    BTW, “skepticism” that only goes in one direction is not skepticism.

    It’s just ideological bias.

  11. Semanticleo:

    I did not say Syria has no WMD, but I am skeptical about the public relations firms insisting it is an imminent threat. The ‘lies’ were side-sourced to RWR and cohort wrt the need for the ‘Peacekeeper’ and the very efficient machinery for such promulgation.

  12. Semanticleo:

    I know you don’t realize it, but you just lost the argument.

    Declares victory at half-time, then leaves the field.

  13. joe from Lowell:

    If someone opposes intervention in Syria on the grounds that “Syrian chemical weapons are a lie,” they are likely going to end up with egg on their face

    More than that, by treating the question of fact as something that is important to dispute, such an argument implicitly acknowledges that a chemical weapons threat could justify intervention, so being proven wrong doesn’t just make those making this claim look wrong on the facts, but also serves as an affirmative argument for the cause they set out to oppose.

  14. joe from Lowell:

    I’m not going anywhere, hon.

    In fact, I was writing my second argument below while you were writing…this little masterpiece.

  15. Semanticleo:

    Heh. Argument that goes one way is called playing with yourself.

  16. joe from Lowell:

    Good thing you won’t leave, then.

    Replace “Syrian chemical weapons” with “climate change,” and your contributions here are indistinguishable from a standard climate change denial piece.

    Hey, man, I’m just saying we should be skeptical. Skeptical of dumb beats. You really have to swallow the propaganda whole hog to be against skepticism.

  17. Major Kong:

    Unless you use them in large numbers, ballistic missiles really aren’t the best way to spread chemical weapons. The stuff doesn’t cover nearly as big an area as you might think it does.

    These things were originally intended to disrupt NATO airbases if the Soviets and NATO went at it during the Cold War.

    The best way to spread chemicals is with something like Katushya rocket launchers that can cover a wide area.

  18. Semanticleo:

    Heh. You ‘argue’ like Loomis, the Whirling Dervish.

    Begone trollop…..

  19. SpiderBat:

    Conventionally-armed scuds may be pathetically inefficient weapons of war, but if they pose any threat, however miniscule, to friendly civilian populations, that creates immense political pressure to expend massive resources trying to hunt down the launchers or intercept the missiles, like in 91.

    I wish we were the kind of country that could sit down and realize that it’s a better use of public funds to save 100 lives through any number of possible public health investments than to save one life from something dramatic and explodey, but that’s not the world we live in.

  20. Robert Farley:

    In fairness, the liquid fueled designs used by the Soviets by the end of the Cold War were considerably ahead of liquid fueled designs in the West. It’s not completely an issue of backwardness; also involved choices to pursue particular paths rather than others.

  21. Jon H:

    “I don’t support intervening in Syria, but the chemical weapons issue there is way more plausible than it was in Iraq.”

    The question is the threat to us of them having it, and whether the threat of Syria using such weapons on their own citizens is justification for outside intervention, when killing tens of thousands of their own citizens by conventional means hasn’t been.

    I do think that the recent over-hyped rumors about Syria filling shells or moving chemical weapons and components, had a strong whiff of propaganda being disseminated by the rebels in an attempt to provoke Western action. You know, the same sort of crap Chalabi and Laurie Mylroie were pushing pre-Gulf War.

  22. cpinva:

    the difference being that saddam had actually used chemical weapons against the kurds, pre-gulf I.

    You know, the same sort of crap Chalabi and Laurie Mylroie were pushing pre-Gulf War.

    of course, that was in 1988, when poppy bush was in office, and they were perfectly ok with that. so much so, they even sold saddam more conventional weapons, with the sellers making rather tidy profits. it wouldn’t at all surprise me to find out it’s the arms dealers pushing this. ramping up hysteria is always good for business.

  23. cpinva:

    it was a scam, in part, because the use of those weapons would have had absolutely zero affect on the US, had they actually existed.

    George Bush’s WMD scam wasn’t a scam because it dealt with the subject of chemical weapons. It was a scam because the claims made about such weapons weren’t backed up by any evidence, and were in many cases refuted by evidence.

    for the same reason that north korea getting nuclear weapons has little, if any, practical affect on the US. absent the desire for suicide, north korea will have expended a lot of scarce, allocable resources, so it can claim to have a big dick. a big dick that glows in the dark, but that’s about it.

  24. cpinva:

    and then hope the wind is blowing in the right direction.

    The best way to spread chemicals is with something like Katushya rocket launchers that can cover a wide area.

    what chemical/biological weapons are really good for is psycholigical damage, more than actual physical damage. one person, observed suffering a gruesome death, will be far more disruptive to morale, than an artillery shell exploding in their midst.

  25. Spud:

    But it is annoying for those living in South Korea and Japan.

    If not for the worry of a Nork nuke strike (extremely unlikely) than for the annoyance of large rocket bits falling all over their countries.

    My inlaws live right in the path of most of Mini-Kim’s ballistic missile tests and I would rather not have their house squashed by a faulty piece of DPRK propaganda.

  26. Njorl:

    Their threat also causes soldiers to carry extra gear, and engage in extra training.

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