Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Only in Novels

The North Koreans have been posturing about testing a new ICBM, probably the reported Taepo Dong II or Taepo Dong-X prototype. The US has been posturing for them not to try it. Now, there is a report about how if the North Koreans actually do fire the thing off, we might use the opportunity to shoot it down with the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense system that is being made operational incrementally. Background on that, here. (Please forgive the broken eDefense links. Can't be helped.)

Now, there are all sorts of reasons not to take a shot at the North Korean ICBM: chief among these is the embarrassment of failure. But come on, sometimes you just have to take a shot. If only for the theatrical beauty of the act.

The funny thing is, North Korea's erratic testing regime with regard to its ballistic missile capability is the sort of activity that prompted accelerated deployment of the GMD to begin with. The US missile defense system, based primarily around interceptor missiles based in Alaska with attending radar and command and control systems, could not defeat any sort of determined attack by China, let alone Russia. However, US defense industry officials have expressed confidence that the GMD, as currently configured, could indeed defeat a one-off, two-off attack from North Korea. And, indeed, it is the expectation that an attack would be launched as the regime collapsed, or in some other obscure and undeterable circumstance, that is the GMD's reason d'etre.

Is the North Korean test launch, if it happens, likely to be a sneak attack? Hardly. Neither the missile nor its payload have been tested. And the North Koreans haven't sounded erratic enough to be ready to go out on such a potential train-wreck of prototypes. So there's every reason to just sit back and watch the launch fail or succeed.

But it would be cool to take the shoot, wouldn't it?


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