Monday, October 09, 2006

North Korea Pops a Nuke

As a child growing up near San Francisco I was given a dog tag with my name on it. I didn't think of it at the time but later I figured out that dog tags were designed to identify a person's body. In my case, the dog tags were related to the "duck and cover" drills we had in my elementary school classes. For fire and earthquake drills we would exit the school. But "duck and cover" was designed to protect us from a nuclear attack.

After the successful resolution of the Cuban missile crisis we stopped the "duck and cover" drills. By that time the size of nuclear devices attached to intercontinental missiles was so large that "ducking and covering" would have served little purpose as a defensive response.

I still have my dog tag in a box in the garage. But maybe it's time to get it out again.

With North Korea setting off what appears to have been a small nuclear explosion earlier today there reappears, for the first time since the early 1060s, the possibility of a small nuclear device capable of being delivered to the US mainland by an intercontinental ballistic missile. I have no doubt that North Korea will soon have a rocket large enough to deliver some small piece of its nuclear arsenal as far as the West Coast.

On the other hand, I can't imagine that this missile would be able to hit much of anything within hundreds of miles of what it might be aimed at but that wouldn't be the point. The point would not be a strategic attack but a legitimate threat of a nuclear terror attack against the US if we should one day launch an attack against North Korea.

Of course, the threat of such an attack would be even more unsettling for folks in Japan. (I can see little deterrent value in North Korea aiming such a missile anywere else, either at China, Russia or even against the people of South Korea.)

My guess is that the US anti-ballistic missle defense system already being tested and minimally deployed is more than capable of shooting down virtually any missile that North Korea currently possesses or plans to building the near future. But the day will come when, should it last so long, North Korea (not to mention Iran) could surpass and bypass that level of technical sophistication.

I suppose that even more anti-missile development will be the result of all this. This will, of course, create a new incentive for folks in Russia and China to raise the stakes on their own development of similar technology (in order to maintain nuclear deterrent parity with the US).

This, in turn, will probably create more destabalization in the current world military balance and elevate the anxiety level of powerful countries who do not feel quite as safe as they used to feel.

As always, it will be the United States that will be blamed for destablizing world peace. The US will be seen as the agressor and will be condemned by everyone else for seeking to provide protection for its citizens against such an attack from such unstable and distrustful regimes.

But we would be remiss if we did not pursue such a defense in any case.

I really do not want to see my future grandchildren wearing dog tags and practicing "duck and cover" drills when they get into elementary school like I did.

As for a what should be done about North Korea? I have absolutely no idea. I'll leave that to the politicians who have absolutely no idea what they should do about North Korea, either.