On Sunday April 5th, the South Koreans confirmed that the North Koreans launched an ICBM from their rocket launch site in Musudan-Ri in the northeastern part of the country. The rocket that passed over Japan on Sunday. The Japanese government said the rocket flew over Japan and its second booster stage had splashed down in the Pacific Ocean, indicating the launch had been successful. The Americans, Japanese, and South Koreans with tacit approval of the Russians and Chinese will try to get harsh sanctions placed within the UN Security Council, for all that is worth.
Western aerospace experts said the new North Korean rocket appeared to be fairly large — much bigger than the one Iran fired in February to launch a small satellite, and about the same size as China launched in 1970 in its space debut.
David C. Wright, a senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, a private group in Cambridge, Mass., said the North Korean rocket might be able to lift a small satellite of 220 pounds into an orbit some 250 miles high. If used as a ballistic missile, he added, the rocket might throw a warhead of 2,200 pounds to a distance of some 3,700 miles — far enough to hit parts of Alaska, and within eyesight of Hawaii. The North Koreans now have the capability of hitting almost every country in the Far East.
For all practical purposes, this makes North Korea one of a few owners of intercontinental ballistic missiles. Which makes the case for the Strategid Defense initiative only that much stronger.
The Strategic Defense Initiative has been a political football ever since Ronald Reagan proposed the concept in the early 1980s. At the time, it was another Cold War gambit; another way to tilt the battle of ideologies in favor of the capitalists in the West. As time as gone on, it has morphed into several different things, depending on what politicians want to portray it as.
George W. Bush made it a keystone to America’s defense against rogue threats. After 9/11, it just made sense; we could no longer accept that rogue nations, and to a lesser extent rogue groups, would never have the capability to attack the American homeland from abroad. And with missile development around the world growing, that threat has grown ever more real.
Democrats in general have been against the ‘Star Wars’ plan from the get go. Initially it was because of costs. It is difficult to estimate how much the entire program has cost in the quarter century of the project, but estimates range anywhere from $150-150 billion so far, though experts seem to lean toward the lower numbers. Also, during the end of the Cold War, Democrats were worried that Star Wars would alter the delicate balance of MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction), which in itself was mad. Records from the Soviet Union now show that even the threat of the program scared the Soviets, because they knew long term their facade could not hold against such a shield. Historians now accept that it was one component in the eventual fall of the communist empire.
Later generation of Democrats then focused on the efficacy of the system. During the Clinton era, missile tests were scuttled because Clinton felt it was a waste of time. Whose missiles would we shoot down anyway?
President Bush reignited the program even before September 11th. After the terrorists attacks, it became a fait accompli; a missile shield of some kind just made sense. And the military pushed forward quickly on implement a skeleton system by 2008. There have been numerous real live successful missile tests at this point, with implementation of several missile systems in Alaska. Additional ship based systems, as well as land based systems in Poland and the Czech Republic.
The system is limited; the complaints of countries like Russia and China that this would limit their nuclear deterrent is farcical. The system doesn’t have the ability to shoot down dozens of missiles; several would be possible. European states were extremely surprised at soft tone the Obama Administration has taken with the ever hard line Russian Government. One European leader compared Obama’s tacit approval of the Russian hard line stance with that of John F. Kennedy in his 1961 meeting with Nikita Khrushchev in Vienna, where the young U.S. president was lectured and bullied by the Soviet leader.
Mr. Bush actually went a step further. He was very multilateral in his approach. He invited numerous countries, including Russia, China, Japan, and India to join the program, stating that each had reason to want the program to succeed. Russia and China, for many reasons, have opted out. Russia has been the most antagonistic, outwardly complaining that missile bases in eastern Europe is provocative. Again, it is a ludicrous assertion based on science, but politics often is.
Now we come to the future. Barack Obama has been less than enthusiastic about supporting SDI. Obama has said that he will ‘not weaponize’ space; even though SDI is defensive, liberals still view it as a weapon. “I will cut investments in unproven missile defense systems,” Obama said in 2008. After taking office, he even made an offer to the Russians that he would be willing to have a quid pro quo; suspend SDI in exchange for their support of our request for harsher sanctions against Iran.
Mr. Obama has proven to be a pragmatist, and one can only hope he is pragmatic on this issue. Liberals can hem and haw all they want about SDI. But the fact is that the threats from overseas regimes is growing. It is very likely North Korea has the capability to hit Alaska and Hawaii already, and will soon have the ability to hit the western United States. That would virtually negate any power we have to dictate conditions to the North Koreans. Obama and the South Korean President promised a ‘strong’ retaliation if North Korea fires their missile. Yes, that will work, considering it is a Security Council mandate that prohibits them from firing the missile in the first place. The US and our allies are basically impotent toward North Korea at this point, and a ballistic missile shield may be our only defense from the potential insanity of the North Koreans.
What is even scarier is that North Korea is now the larger supplier of missile technology in the world, and is willing to sell to anyone with cash. Iran has already launched a satellite (largely based on North Korean technology), and will likely have intercontinental ballistic missiles in less than a decade. Paksitan, although currently an ally, already is well on its way to produce ICBMs. China continues to expand their military arsenal, and Russia seems like a greater threat each day.
I see no good reason not to go forward with SDI. Cost wise, it is one of the cheaper alternatives for deterrents; would you rather attack Iran or North Korea, for example? As for diplomatically, Russia and China will get over it; they will say their systems can avoid our defenses, which is fine. This system is not meant for them anyway. Ultimately, it would give us an amount of leverage over rogue states that may allow us to actually improve chances of diplomatic negotiations with enemies of the United States, which is ultimately what we all want.
The North Korean test launch shows us one thing: our current policy of talks are not working. We have given the North Koreans billions in aid over the past few years, in a multilateral approach, in hopes of getting closer to peace. That has failed. Barack Obama now has to change the strategy if he hopes to make any progress on the Korean peninsula. And in the meantime, the world just got a lot more frightening.