Friday, July 07, 2006

Redefining Reasonable

President Bush held a much-vaunted "beyond the beltway" press conference today at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago (where I used to go when I cut class in the seventh grade, but that's another, much geekier story).

During said presser, the president claimed that we had (and presumably still have) "a reasonable chance" of shooting down a US-bound missile fired by reclusive madman and Hollywood film aficionado (connection, anyone?) Kim Jong Il of North Korea. Sounds nice, but, to paraphrase the Oval Office's previous tenant, it all depends on what the meaning of "reasonable" is.

America's missile defense "system" has a less than stellar performance record, with a 50% success rate in tests. Bush might think that's "reasonable", but I think it's a pretty dodgy number when it comes to the threat of thermonuclear destruction.

To make matters worse, the 50% success rate is based on only 10 tests, and, according to Media Matters, "no successful test has occurred in roughly three years and...no test of the currently deployed system as a whole has occurred." I believe things just took a turn from reasonable.


We might have a little work to do yet

To make worse matters even yet still more worse, the 50% figure is suspect, too. A couple of weeks ago, I tuned into the Jim Bohannon Show on the only AM radio station that I could get in Bloomington. His guest was Victoria Samson, a research associate at the Center for Defense Information and a former contractor for the Missile Defense Agency. She noted that the military's tests were conducted under highly controlled circumstances.

The missile interceptor crews knew where the missile was going to be launched from, when it was going to be launched, and what it's intended target was. And they still got it wrong as often as they got it right. Thanks to vigorous intelligence, we may know where the North Korean missiles are going to be launched from, but we don't have the other pieces of the puzzle.

Put all this together and it's apparent that the Bush administration's definition of "reasonable" may not be the same as the one you'll find in Webster's. Well, heck, they don't know what "compassionate" or "conservative" mean, either.
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