While they might disagree on how best to reduce the deficit, congressional leaders in both parties now endorse the necessity of a strong missile defense as the cheapest insurance against the tragedy of a nuclear attack on a U.S. city. While the U.S. must keep offensive options on the table, they’re certainly more costly. Putting boots on the ground in Iran could cost trillions of dollars and untold lives lost. Even efficient air strike campaigns like the recent one in Libya could cost $2 billion each.
It makes no military or diplomatic sense to weaken our missile defenses just ahead of the most significant nuclear-missile showdown since Kennedy, Khrushchev and Castro faced off 50 years ago. Venezuela’s Iranian-built missile site is now fully operational and must be removed as it threatens a number of American cities, portending another Cuban missile crisis. This belies the fundamental danger of the sequester and the fiscal cliff — it is budgeting blind, allowing arbitrary dollar figures to dictate military and foreign policy without any regard for reality. It’s no way for Washington to address the serious challenges we face, whether confronting Iran’s nuclear ambitions or charting a course out of the Great Recession.
Adm. James Lyons Jr. is retired from the Navy. He was commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet from September 1985 through September 1987.