Saturday, June 24, 2006

North Korea's Taepodong Missile

WMD's Redux?

I just had three things going into this North Korean situation.

First things first: This debate over the imminent firing of a test missile into the pacific (I guess that's where it's supposed to go) goes to show how far we have gone drifted in American defense policy in five short years.

When you have "liberal" spokesmen like Walter Mondale, and Democratic "experts" like Ashton Carter and Bill Perry talking preemptive strikes, you can see how much George Bush's doctrines have taken hold of the American foreign policy wonks. Here's a couple of paragraphs from Carter and Perry's Washington Post piece:
Should the United States allow a country openly hostile to it and armed with nuclear weapons to perfect an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of delivering nuclear weapons to U.S. soil? We believe not. The Bush administration has unwisely ballyhooed the doctrine of "preemption," which all previous presidents have sustained as an option rather than a dogma. It has applied the doctrine to Iraq, where the intelligence pointed to a threat from weapons of mass destruction that was much smaller than the risk North Korea poses. (The actual threat from Saddam Hussein was, we now know, even smaller than believed at the time of the invasion.) But intervening before mortal threats to U.S. security can develop is surely a prudent policy....

This is a hard measure for President Bush to take. It undoubtedly carries risk. But the risk of continuing inaction in the face of North Korea's race to threaten this country would be greater. Creative diplomacy might have avoided the need to choose between these two unattractive alternatives. Indeed, in earlier years the two of us were directly involved in negotiations with North Korea, coupled with military planning, to prevent just such an outcome. We believe diplomacy might have precluded the current situation. But diplomacy has failed, and we cannot sit by and let this deadly threat mature. A successful Taepodong launch, unopposed by the United States, its intended victim, would only embolden North Korea even further. The result would be more nuclear warheads atop more and more missiles.
Before Bush, it used to be that when we (in the West) wanted to go to war against weaker entities in the third world, we had to have a pretext. That means a tangible grievance. Reaching way back in history, it could be placing missionaries in harms' way where they could become atrocity fodder (Boxer Rebellion). Or a gunboat could get itself fired upon (Bay of Tonkin). American medical students could be kidnapped (Grenada). Get a battleship blown up (Remember the Maine?)

Not now. The probability possibility of a threat is a sufficient casus belli to mobilize our once 2nd-strike nation to step up and take the first swing.

How like a liberal to do something - in isolation from the big picture - simply because you can do it. Why not stuff the Taepodong missile while it is loaded and in it's silo? We can do it. Why not? Like just what we did to Iraq in 2003? (Because we could do it.) It's so tempting. Far more tempting than trying to shoot it down in mid-flight.

Which brings me to my Second Point:

Slam-dunking the Taepodong missile back down through the bottom of its launching tube is at least technologically less risky than trying to shoot it down. Scrimmaging with the North Koreans over the pacific is not productive. If you miss their missile with your ABM, you really embolden them; if you should hit it, they'll only go back, with useful data, to their drawing boards.

But it's always been my firm belief that Star Wars was nothing more than an innovative movie and a useful bluff against the Soviets. Hitting bullets fired by a hostile enemy with our own bullets has never seemed like a feasible or cost effective measure against catastrophic attack, compared to deterrence-edged diplomacy, anyways. I always thought - and still do - that our greatest danger lies in the suitcase (or shipping container) bomb. Remember, that speech Condi Rice was scheduled to deliver on 12 September 2001 on the Anti-Ballistic Missile defense? It was never and probably will never be delivered. But I have it from a very reliable source which I cannot divulge, that there is not even a pencil smear in it about suitcase or airliner bombs.

But if the ABM supporters and lobbyists want to play football with the Taepodong in the four-dimensional grid iron over the pacific, I say, go for it. Only, I add, lets put some high stakes on this gamble: If you miss, lets bury ABM defense forever, and go back to good ol' D and D: deterrence and diplomacy.

The Arms Control Wonk (ACW) lays down the challenge in a way which cannot be improved upon:
Go ahead, try to shoot it down, I dare you.

This is my challenge: We’ve spent $100 billion over the last twenty years, including $8 billion last year on “missile defense.”

Pentagon officials claim we have a better than 80 percent chance of shooting down a North Korean ICBM.

So, do it. I dare you. I double dog dare you. Shoot it down, because I say you can’t.

The decision to “stand up” the the GMD system is a transparently cynical effort to exploit the public’s concern about North Korea’s missile preparations for a missile defense system that cannot defend.

Keep in mind that the Missile Defense Agency’s Independent Review Team (IRT) opposed further flight testing on the grounds that unsuccessful tests would undermine its ability to deter.

And that MDA has more or less stopped deploying new interceptors to Fort Greely.

Nothing would expend the political capital the Administration is banking for missile defense like an unsuccessful attempt to intercept the missile. And believe me, if they get a shot, they will miss…

... unless the North Koreans are helpful and place a homing beacon on the missile.
On ACW's grounds, I'm wanting to say take the challenge, and miss, and the American people will only be better off for it!

My third point is that we are ill-prepared for a third war theater. Even Cheney seems to realize that dropping a smart bomb or two in North Korea wouldn't be so smart because it will lead to a major ground war when we are already hard-pressed in two other theaters.

11 Moderated Comments:

Anonymous DB Cooper said...

The graphic of a rocket going awry, Vigilante: is that the North Korean ICBM or our anti-ICBM missile?

6/24/2006 11:50:00 AM  
Blogger Recidivist said...

Yes, Vig, re your last point:

A corollary to Bush's preemptive/preventive war doctrine is the bumper sticker,

In the middle of their on-the-job training, chickenhawks Bush and Cheney have learned that air strikes are nothing if not accompanied with a ground war capability.

In these times all Rumsfeld has to offer is a ground-up military.

If North Korea responds with a full-on swarm southward, our troops will get chewed up plenty.

We are not exactly hostages sitting there, holding our dicks. But we are deterring zippo on the peninsula.

6/24/2006 12:57:00 PM  
Blogger Beach Bum said...

A failure to intercept that missile would signal not just that billions had been wasted, they have, but that mighty United States had entered the 21st century a waning power. You don't fall on your face like that and keep the respect of friends and the fear of your enemies. Since it's already built the smart thing to do would be to quietly not mention missile defense and keep it just as a last ditch Hail Mary defense if someday NORAD did see a missile heading for us that had been launched either by accident or by some nut. Why not just shut the thing down? Politics will not allow it to be shut down. Neither party would want the blame for closing Fort Greeley and then having something bad happen. But I believe our biggest worry is a suitcase bomb or a nuke hidden in one of the thousands of shipping containers that enter this country everyday.

6/24/2006 06:39:00 PM  
Blogger leone said...

It's not as if this is the first time that DPRK have tested a missile ..... what is more telling is the OTT reaction in this particular case. It really has more to do with the domestic woes than any coherent foreign policy.

6/24/2006 07:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Pekka said...

Nuclear weapons are great for defence and lousy for offence. Nuclear weapons get you respect and they elevate you to "the major leaque". The fastes way to get the ear of the U.S. and have bragaining power is to have oil or, better still, atomic bomb and oil. I am confident that N.Korea launches it's missile to America around the same time than Canada declare war on the U.S.

6/25/2006 01:37:00 AM  
Blogger Messenger said...

Vigilante says:
Before Bush, it used to be that when we ... wanted to go to war against weaker entities in the third world, we had to have a pretext. That means a tangible grievance....

Not now. The probability possibility of a threat is a sufficient casus belli to mobilize our once 2nd-strike nation to step up and take the first swing....

Recidivist says:

A corollary to Bush's preemptive/preventive war doctrine is the bumper sticker,


This is a hard thing for me, as a Post-9/11 American, to talk about.

During the period of the Cold War and nuclear deterrence - Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) was what it was called - it was generally agreed that a secure and credible 2nd strike capability was more stable than a 1st strike capability. In other words, the USA could say to an adversary (Soviet Union), "Beware: if you hit us with your best shot, we can still come back and bomb you into the stone age."

That made us and the world feel more secure than if we could only say, "Don't make us nervous, or we'll bomb you back into the stone age." That was what we would have to leave it as, if we didn't have an unquestionable 2nd strike capability.

Now, even when our technological superiority over North Korea and Iran (for example) is a quantum degree higher than it was previously over the USSR, Bush wants to retrogress to the most instable period of the Cold War. Bus wants to arrogate for the United States of America - my country - the unique right to bomb to smithereens any country deemed to constitute a threat to us?

Who else asserts that right? Who in the world can expected to agree that Americans have that birthright? To bomb before they are bombed?

Certainly not Canada. Right, Pekka?

6/25/2006 08:24:00 AM  
Anonymous Pekka said...

Messenger, your message came through loud and clear!

6/25/2006 05:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Emily said...

Just thinking about North Korea having nuclear weapons poised to launch at the United States frightens and angers me. In my anger, I want to do what Perry and Carter suggest: fire a missile of our own right down the throat of their gantry. (According to the two professors, such an action does not endanger the people of North Korea.)

It would eliminate the immediate threat. It would undoubedtedly enrage North Korea's political leadership. We would need to repeat it with each subsequent arming of missile/s aimed at the United States. And, the real question is: would it help us move into a viable process of diplomacy and deterrence?

To think that our "Star Wars" program is capable of intercepting and destroying North Korea's (or anyone else's) missile attack on us is to indulge oneself in wishful, fantastical thinking.

6/25/2006 08:40:00 PM  
Anonymous DB Cooper said...

So are you saying, Messenger, that only American skins are rare and cher? More than English, French, German, or Russian, etc.? Only Americans get to live under a nuclear umbrella?

6/26/2006 10:12:00 AM  
Blogger Malfrat said...

North Korea test-fired at least seven missiles over the Sea of Japan on yesterday, including an intercontinental missile that apparently failed or was aborted 42 seconds after it was launched,

Taepodong 2, the intercontinental missile fell into the Sea of Japan before its first stage burned out.

7/05/2006 05:55:00 AM  
Anonymous said...

Look up the data on anti missile defence systems. The facts are in. We in the USA. already have in place extremely effective systems.Not a big secret,however mass media keep the tax playing populace on tenterhooks. Think about it for a moment, how could the military/industrial complex survive without some form of threat to our continent,if there was none they would be out of business.

7/06/2006 09:28:00 AM  

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