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OPINION

Calabrese: Jobs can’t justify Battle Creek missile site

Dan Calabrese

Yes, I know they all do it. Yes, I know this is “how the game is played.” Yes, I know that no one wants to “unilaterally disarm” in the quest for dollars from Washington.

And I don’t care. If Gov. Rick Snyder, the Legislature and the congressional delegation had the best interests of the nation at heart, they would stop right now in their quest to make Battle Creek the site of a new missile defense site under consideration by the Pentagon.

This is not because of Battle Creek’s relative merits as the strategic location for the site. Maybe it’s the right choice. Maybe it’s not. But the Michigan delegation doesn’t care. All they see is dollar signs and the opportunity to claim credit for economic benefits.

If the Pentagon pays any attention whatsoever to the arguments of Michigan’s delegation, or any other state’s delegation, they are derelict in their duty. The siting of a missile defense installment should be selected on the basis of one factor and one factor only, and that is where it can be most strategically useful in shooting down prospective incoming missiles. Defense strategists need to study the map and assess where defensive installations would be able to cover the most territory representing the greatest risk. And when they pinpoint that spot, that’s where they should put the missile defense installation.

End of story.

It should make no difference how many jobs are created, who needs them, or how influential the congressmen or senators are who are touting this or that site. Of course you want good infrastructure and a good workforce, but what’s the point of choosing a less-than-optimal site from a strategic perspective because a few factors made the project a little easier or cheaper to complete? If you need to build a runway or bring in workers from elsewhere, then you do so.

Yes, Michigan’s champions on this matter are acting irresponsibly. So are the champions of every other state that’s competing for this slice of pork. Hopefully the columnists in their states are saying so instead of cheering them on, although I suspect they will do the latter rather than the former, because that is “how the game is played.” The Michigan crew will argue they are only doing their jobs in trying to promote economic vitality for Michigan in every way they can.

But no, that is not necessarily their job all the time. Those who represent us in Washington have a responsibility first to do what’s right for America. Choosing a missile defense site on the basis of some state wanting the jobs is not what’s best.

U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, Rep. Fred Upton and their colleagues on both sides of the aisle are perpetuating Michigan’s self-defeating dependence on Washington — whether to create federally funded jobs, preserve old stadiums or prop up failing auto companies — by approaching their jobs as the protector of Michigan’s handouts rather than pursuing good policy.

And if every other state does it too, as I know you’re going to argue, then that only means the problem is 50 times as bad.

Dan Calabrese writes for the Politics Blog.