News | Jan. 27, 2017

Regional Missile Defense from a Global Perspective

By William A. Taylor Joint Force Quarterly 84

Dr. William A. Taylor is an Assistant Professor of Security Studies at Angelo State University and author of Military Service and American Democracy (University Press of Kansas, 2016).

Regional Missile Defense from a Global Perspective

Edited by Catherine McArdle Kelleher and Peter Dombrowski

Stanford University Press, 2015

328 pp. $29.95

ISBN: 978-0804796354

In Regional Missile Defense from a Global Perspective, Catherine M. Kelleher and Peter Dombrowski analyze the history of missile defense, U.S. policy debates, the resulting acquisition programs, and challenges and opportunities of the past, present, and future. The genesis of the volume was two workshops on the topic held at the Naval War College during 2011 and 2012. While seemingly dated, the work remains timely given the elevation of regional missile defense in the U.S. National Security Strategy and Russia’s provocations in the Baltics and Ukraine. The anthology should prove useful to policymakers, scholars, and students interested in the complexities of missile defense around the globe.

The editors’ objective is simple: “to explain the origins, the evolution, and the implications of the regional approach to missile defense that has emerged since the presidency of George H.W. Bush.” Kelleher and Dombrowski assemble an impressive array of international subject matter experts to contribute to the volume, organizing their resulting work into 14 chapters. To structure these, they divide the volume into three parts, in turn examining U.S. policies and programs, regional dynamics, and critical global analyses. The various contributors employ an extensive array of sources: government documents, scientific reports, policy papers, and intelligence estimates, as well as relevant interviews, speeches, addresses, and statements by key policymakers.

The first five chapters examine missile threats to the United States, the dichotomy between national and theater missile defense, technology, and the role of Congress. But the bulk of the work resides in the second part, which gives extensive coverage to the questions, prospects, and consequences of missile defense in such specific regions and countries as Europe, Russia, Israel, the Arabian Gulf nations, South Asia, China, and Japan. The last two chapters consider the positives and negatives of missile defense in terms of grand strategy and costs. Throughout the work, the contributors pay particular attention to President Barack Obama’s European Phased Adaptive Approach.

While focused on missile defense, the book also offers cogent considerations of far-reaching concepts, including an evenhanded evaluation of the trials and benefits of collective defense and the role of technology as an enabler and limiter of grand strategy. The work also demonstrates the importance of resources to national and international security, both in real terms and as a result of tradeoffs and opportunity costs. Finally, the volume explores the political and symbolic nature of missile defense and offers valuable reflections on the essence of the security dilemma. Of particular relevance in this regard is the appropriate balance between offensive and defensive capabilities, both in one’s own arsenal and in the perceptions of allies and adversaries.

One of the particular strengths of this anthology is its regional approach, revealing how international security issues such as missile defense reside within a specific context in any given country or region. In this regard, the treatment of Israel’s Iron Dome antirocket system is excellent. Ariel Levite and Shlomo Brom’s chapter, “From Dream to Reality: Israel and Missile Defense,” stands out as the best among many excellent chapters for its detailed analysis of the potential benefits of missile defense.

The book also explores significant joint issues such as the proper roles and missions of the various U.S. military Services, including the Navy’s ballistic missile defense–capable Aegis ships armed with SM-2 and SM-3 interceptors, and the Army’s Patriot PAC-2 and PAC-3 batteries and Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system.

Overall, Regional Missile Defense is a valuable contribution to understanding the vital and sometimes contentious debates on this mission area, which will grow in importance in the future. The book is the first volume in some time to analyze missile defense in a serious and comprehensive way and is a welcome addition to the existing literature, much of it overly broad. In their conclusion, Kelleher and Dombrowski point out that “officials and elites are again struggling over topics such as offense-defense tradeoffs, the adequacy of missile defense technology advances, projected deployment schedules, funding priorities, and the new participation of allies and friends in key burden sharing.” Such a situation magnifies the importance of informed debate on these critical issues. In the end, Regional Missile Defense presents a balanced assessment that is likely to become the standard work on the topic for quite some time. JFQ