Theory and Practice

“In theory there is no difference between theory and practice- in practice there is.”

Missile defense is a neat problem. It is one of the few serious issues we deal with which does not work in theory or practice. Elaine Grossman wrote a piece yesterday for NTI’s newswire describing Strategic Command’s thinking on this subject. If we test something and it does not work their conclusion is to buy more of them. While their thinking is bizarre and foolish it can be followed. In the event that our missile defense system were called upon to stop an actual attack- and knowing that our ground based interceptors fail in tests- it is likely that we would need to use more interceptors per target to be effective. I can understand that. If your job is to shoot down missiles and the tools you have are questionable you’d want to improve your chances.


the larger decision to fund and field missile defense systems (that don’t work in tests)- and to consider such failures grounds for expanding the program are only slightly less crazy than the fact that this doesn’t even work in theory.  In missile defense the attacker has the advantage. They don’t have to rely on a detection network. Time is not of the essence for the attacker. Interceptors have to be technologically more sophisticated than their targets-  thus they tend to be expensive. Decoy’s are cheap. Additional warheads are relatively cheap. This is a race that no one should want to run. (I’ll have more in another post about why missile defense is bad for deterrence relationships) In the face of budget cuts- pricey failures might be considered as areas to shrink- not expand.

Here is a link the their article.

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