Saturday, July 4, 2009

Poor Man’s Posse

A stock of ballistic missiles is to today’s nations what the Colt .45 was to the Old West—“the Equalizer.” It is the poor man’s posse; his air force and artillery rolled into one.

The Germans engineered missile technology toward the end of World War II. And while it was too late to win the the war, its potential to wreak havoc terrified everyone.

Nothing is so frightening as the prospect of a missile—armed with Lord-knows-what—hurtling towards our homes. North Korea knows this, and it is that knowledge that drives their missile program. For them, it is a matter of survival. That they are a paranoid state is underscored. But perhaps we are all a bit paranoid, and if not, then perhaps we should be. Missile technology will proliferate, even if nuclear technology does not; (though I fear it will, too.) It is a matter of real (and imagined) threats that drive the development of both.

Today, America is bracing for a North Korean missile launch in the direction of Hawaii, likely around the Fourth of July. Secretary of Defense, Gates, has declared that the “U.S. is ready against North Korea strike.”

Before our paranoia starts to show, let us back p a bit and look at this in real terms: Look at the map, folks. North Korea is literally boxed in. China commands his northern and western borders: behind China, hulking Russia. South Korea straddles its southern border. And Japan, America’s main ally in the region, stretches across Korea’s entire eastern front.

To test-fire a missile, North Korea, basically, must fire it over Japan, and into the vast Pacific beyond. Of course, Japan doesn’t want missiles fired over its territory. That is reasonable. But what other option does North Korea have? They must test-fire their missiles. Why? Ask the U.S. why it must test-fire its missiles. Ask Russia and China and France the same question. Because test-firing missiles, is the only way to know if they work.

Why have missiles at all? Ask the aforementioned nations that same question. To a nation, they will respond, “National security.” So, the real question becomes, “Does North Korea have a ‘National security’ interest, too? Of course they do.

That we are pretending to fear a missile strike on Hawaii is as absurd as Sarah Palin claiming North Korea might try to strike Alaska. (What, to kill a moose?) Let’s be real. Any strike at American territory—anywhere—would virtually end North Korea’s existence as a sovereign state. They know this. If they were to strike American territory, (which they will not, unless America strikes them first,) it would be a real target—like L.A., New York, or Washington D.C. They do not yet have that capability.

There is, however, a narrow stretch of open water between Japan’s Hokkaido and Russia’s Sakhalin islands. It would go a long ways toward easing tensions in the region if North Korea simply advised all parties involved—China, Japan, Russia, South Korea, and the U.S.—of the exact coordinates of their missile launch. They might still make a mistake, but at least we would know their intentions.

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