A “Pain and No Gain” Approach to Missile Defense

Adm. James Winnefeld, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, strongly cautioned potential adversaries against shooting missiles at the US or its allies. “We want potential adversaries to know that not only is there a price for attacking us or our friends, but that the attack may not succeed in the first place, resulting in pain but no gain,” said Winnefeld during a May 19 Center for Strategic and International Studies speech in Washington, D.C. The Defense Department’s paramount priority is to the ground-based, mid-level missile program in order to prevent catastrophic attacks against the US. “The number of nations trying to achieve that capability is growing, not shrinking,” said Winnefeld, who noted that North Korea is the “most immediate concern” because “they are closest in terms of capability.” However, he acknowledged Iran is a close second. “A robust and capable national missile defense is our best bet to defend the United States from such an attack,” said Winnefeld. He also urged Asian powers to take a stand against growing nuclear missile threats in that region in an effort to de-escalate growing tensions. “The most helpful thing that Russia or a China can do is to persuade North Korea and Iran to drop their ballistic missile programs,” said Winnefeld. “Unfortunately, we don’t see that happening.”