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The Time Has Come for
"Unconventional" ABM Countermeasures
By Dieter Farwick
With the Republicans having lost their majority in the Senate, the anti-ballistic missile defense program faces long delays in its high-tech solution. The Democrats will ask for more tests of the technical feasibility and more investigations of the financial affordability. They will point out the reservations of friends and allies, as well as those of China and Russia. They will emphasize that arms control is a success story, which would be jeopardized by a new ABM-inspired arms race.
Many of them will know that this is wrong. But after the Bush Administration's successful tax cuts, they don't want to allow another Bush success and another big bang in this legislative session. They want to buy time until the next election, which they hope to win. They are not going to kill the whole program but use the budget to slow it down. The Bush Administration and the Republicans will fight against it, but they will have to jump many hurdles to succeed.
But the perceived threat will remain, and will even increase over time. There is no time out. The United States' continuing vulnerability will offer the "states of concern" and non-governmental terrorist groups opportunities for political blackmail and disaster. Obviously, the time has come to pay more attention to "unconventional" countermeasures.
There are a wide range of opportunities -- based on mental innovation, creativity and cleverness -- which could lead to rapidly available and efficient countermeasures. Studies should look for solutions in the areas of:
* information warfare;
* electronic warfare; and
* special operations.
Tom Clancy already wrote about these years ago in his book The Bear and the Dragon.
A crucial prerequisite for any of those countermeasures is "strategic reconnaissance" -- especially Human Intelligence (HUMINT), which has been neglected by Western democracies over the last decades. The Gulf War and the Kosovo Conflict proved that space-based reconnaissance has its limits. Well camouflaged silos and underground storage sites for SCUDS were not detected and mock-ups of tanks and howitzers were taken for real ones. There was no reconnaissance on the ground and no pre-war information about hidden weapons.
Without this knowledge there is no chance to target these capabilities. The only chance is HUMINT. Without a doubt, in regimes as brutal as Iraq and Afghanistan there are knowledgeable people prepared to cooperate with the West against the hated regime -- knowing the risk for themselves and their families. The West can not be life-insurance but must be trustworthy enough to guarantee that all possible support will be given.
Knowing as much as possible about the ballistic missile sites will create opportunities to destroy those weapons by unconventional means -- even pre-launch. Penetrating from safe havens in neighboring countries, helicopters with highly-trained and well-equipped commandos can do a lot -- from cutting energy supplies to sealing the doors of silos.
From a distance, hackers can do their job. They could destroy or change Command, Control, Computers, Communications, and Intelligence (C4I) assets. The potential aggressor will -- and should -- learn about these newly developed countermeasures. Success stories should be published. A mixture of information and deception should at least bring uncertainty to potential aggressors. He should not even be sure that his missiles will really hit their programmed targets. In the case of a blackmail attempt, he might be told that the missiles will hit his own territory. Potential aggressors should lose their present comfortable position of relatively low risk. These unconventional countermeasures are much more credible than the threat to use the "big bang."
The unconventional approach also has a huge political advantage. No partner or ally will oppose it for political reasons. The political threshold for joining those activities will be very low. Even the financial burden will be acceptable -- both for the European partners and Japan. There are already countries in the world that have gained a lot of experience in this field. Why not learn from them?
Unconventional countermeasures are not a hundred percent substitute for a high-tech anti-ballistic missile defense, but they can be started tomorrow. They are not very attractive for "big industry," but they make use of Western and Asian "human capital." They might turn the table of "asymmetric warfare" in favor of the West and its Asian partners.
A credible regime of relatively cheap countermeasures would make investments in developing ICBMs politically less attractive and economically too expensive. If political blackmail failed because of unconventional countermeasures, an aggressor would be seen as a paper tiger and would lose any political clout.
Why should we sit on our hands and wait for a better political climate, which might or might not come? The threat will not go away because we turn our back to it.
Dieter Farwick is a retired brigadier general in the German Bundeswehr
and a member of the GlobalSecurityNews.com board of directors.
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