Missiles as Communication

Iran’s missile test is getting a lot of attention, which is to be expected given the amount of posturing going on on both sides right now. (As an idea of how out of control the media “psy ops” have gotten, there’s this article in Press TV citing Iraqi press reports of Israeli war planes secretly based in Iraq in preparation for an attack on Iran.) To my mind, the missile test launch seems like the kind of signal you’d expect the Iranians to send following the much publicized “training operation” over the Mediterranean and Greece a few weeks back. What’s worrisome is the way in which both sides seem to be pouring media fuel onto a fire that they are simultaneously trying to put out. Mass hysteria has a tendency to take on a life of its own, and military contingencies that dictate higher states of alert come along with higher risks of inadvertent conflict.

On the related question of missile defense, which both Condoleezza Rice and Lt. Gen. Henry Obering (head of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency) wasted no time tying to the Iranian tests, Sam Roggeveen wondered whether the fact that Iran fired salvos of long-range missiles isn’t meant as a further signal that they will eventually be capable of overwhelming American and Israeli missile defense systems. Whether or not that’s the case, the Iranian test did help clarify the logic behind Washington’s decision to press forward with what amounts to a non-operational system, which to me seems three-fold. First, to get the technology on the ground as a way of locking it into development. Second, to publicly re-couple Europe’s defense to American security guarantees in the perception of European opinion. And third, to accomplish one and two quickly, before Russia can do very much to stop it.

With that in mind, the Iranian test seems to play into the hands of the missile defense crowd perfectly. And if I were a Russian general, I’d be wondering whether I was getting a good return on my Iranian investment.