President Bush held a much vaunted "beyond the beltway" press conference on Friday at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago during which he claimed that we had (and presumably still have) "a reasonable chance" of shooting down a U.S.-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 only 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.
To make worse matters still more worse, the 50% figure is inflated. A couple of weeks ago, Jim Bohannon had Victoria Samson as a guest on his popular radio show. Samson is a research associate at the Center for Defense Information and a former contractor for the Missile Defense Agency. She was dubious about our chances of shooting down one of Kim's ICBMs, noting that all of the military's tests were conducted under highly controlled circumstances.
The missile interceptor crews knew where the missiles were going to be launched from, when they were going to be launched, and what the intended targets were — and they still got it wrong as often as they got it right. Thanks to vigorous intelligence, we may know the North Korean launch sites, 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.