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Tilting at Windmills

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June 22, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

NORTH KOREA UPDATE....William Perry, Secretary of Defense in the Clinton administration and Wes Clark's choice for best SecDef ever, has an op-ed in the Washington Post today saying that he favors a preemptive strike on North Korea:

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.

....Therefore, if North Korea persists in its launch preparations, the United States should immediately make clear its intention to strike and destroy the North Korean Taepodong missile before it can be launched. This could be accomplished, for example, by a cruise missile launched from a submarine carrying a high-explosive warhead.

....In addition to warning our allies and partners of our determination to take out the Taepodong before it can be launched, we should warn the North Koreans. There is nothing they could do with such warning to defend the bulky, vulnerable missile on its launch pad, but they could evacuate personnel who might otherwise be harmed.

Perry believes that South Korea would oppose an attack, Japan would (privately) welcome it, and that Russia and China would basically stay neutral.

Perry co-wrote the op-ed with his former deputy, Ashton Carter. Laura Rozen has more about Carter here.

Kevin Drum 12:58 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (83)

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Comments

I used to be amused, but now I'm alarmed, that anyone is seriously bothered that NK is just now approaching the technology that the US had in 1940.

They don't even have the industrial capacity to sustain a credible first strike force.

This is a threat that's blown way out of proportion. NK should be laughed at.

We need to worry about China, instead.

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on June 22, 2006 at 1:07 AM | PERMALINK

I am sorry to say, as a peacenik from the 60s, and from Gene McCarthy's Minnesota, that I agree with them.

Whacky people only respond to limits. They don't necessarily respond well, but they only respond to that.

If ever we needed to send a message, this is the time. And believe me, I do not say that lightly, and I understand the ramifications.

I'm sorry that Iraq (and that bird incident in Texas) obfuscates the message from our point of view, but it is a message we need to send.

They are testing our limits. We need to tell them where those limits are.

Posted by: Charles on June 22, 2006 at 1:08 AM | PERMALINK

Kind'uv a big gamble, given that North Korea could basically flatten Seoul in just a few hours using conventional weapons already (allegedly) trained on the city.

The unfortunate reality is that I wouldn't trust the Bush administration to do something like this even if I were convinced it was a good idea. That's how arrogant, incompetent, and dishonest this administration has proven itself to be.

Posted by: Augustus on June 22, 2006 at 1:09 AM | PERMALINK

The truth that China is ultimately the more imnportant nation we need to engage with does not negate the fact that we would prefer that Seattle does not become a radioactive, smoking ruin. And that is the only use of this particular launch vehicle. (Or Tokyo, or Vancouver..maybe Portland on a bad day.)

And with this guy, deterrance probably isn't going to work. He's nuts. Really. Nuts.

Posted by: Charles on June 22, 2006 at 1:14 AM | PERMALINK

The North Koreans would just get all Iran-style paranoid, build more nuclear weapons, develop more missiles in secret underground locations with decoys, and we're right back where we started, except that the potential for peaceful negotiations is about 100 times less likely.

With what money? They're completely broke, their society, infrastructure and bureaucracy is rotten to the core. One push and the regime will collapse.

I saw hit them and knock out their stupid missile. They're toothless, they won't do anything.

Posted by: Old Hat on June 22, 2006 at 1:17 AM | PERMALINK

This is the kind of crap that almost destroyed Omicron IV.

I hate to interfere but if we destroy it in time it may cause the nuclear powers to re-assess the risks of a nuclear orbiting platform.

Much of this is documented in my report: Assignment Earth. My sexy assistant is now 62 years old! Roberta Lincoln, I still love you after all of these years.

Posted by: Gary Seven on June 22, 2006 at 1:21 AM | PERMALINK

Kind'uv a big gamble, given that North Korea could basically flatten Seoul in just a few hours using conventional weapons already (allegedly) trained on the city.

I don't buy it. The entire Army would mutiny in a second if they had the chance. The generals must hate Kim Jong Il. When was the last time those guys were paid do you suppose?

Besides, their 1950s-era artillery is probably rusted and useless. The entire country is a time capsule. Have you seen pictures of Pyongyang? It's almost funny how pathetic they are if so many people weren't suffering under Kim's boot.

Either knock out their missile or launch one of our own at Kim's little train that carts him around and kill him. Just get it over with. The Japanese and Chinese would welcome it.

Posted by: Old Hat on June 22, 2006 at 1:24 AM | PERMALINK

Augustus speaks for me.

One casualty of Bush's total batshit insanity has been the ability to actually get tough when it might really mean something. Who would believe their assessments of anything now? Who would trust them to accomplish anything now? We are a superpower with no power. Impeachment is too mild a punishment.

Posted by: craigie on June 22, 2006 at 1:25 AM | PERMALINK

You people are so quick to fall for the paranoia-whipping propaganda your government serves up. And so ready to assume it is your nation's god-given right to strike out against perceived enemies. NK is even weaker than Iraq was, yet you are trembling in fear. Time to grow up and see yourselves as others do. From a rational perspective (possession of dangerous weapons, readiness to use them, craziness of leaders), the US is the scariest country on earth. NK doesn't even rank in the top ten.

Posted by: wataru on June 22, 2006 at 1:25 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin -

Did you intend to imply that Wes Clark wants to start a war with North Korea? 'Cause I don't see anything in the Post article about Clark, and I've never heard Clark make any noises like that.

Is this a case of Political Animus?

Posted by: de Selby on June 22, 2006 at 1:26 AM | PERMALINK

This would be a viable option of NK didn't already have nukes. But the do, and they have countless options on how they could use them against us or our friends if they wanted to. We shouldn't give them any encouragement.

By the way, we had things mostly under control during the Clinton administration. Then Bush really screwed the pooch when he named NK as part of the Axis of Evil, then attacked one of the other members. Under the circumstances what's an insane megalomaniacal dictator supposed to do, anyway? He had no choice but to develop his own nukes and throw in an ICBM for good measure. (And, of course, starve his people some more to pay for it.)

aa

Posted by: aaron aardvark on June 22, 2006 at 1:30 AM | PERMALINK

. . .does not negate the fact that we would prefer that Seattle does not become a radioactive, smoking ruin. Posted by: Charles on June 22, 2006 at 1:14 AM | PERMALINK

As I have said before, I'm sure that this country is filled with neocons who are just shitting themselves with glee at the prospect of Seattle or San Francisco getting nuked.

Oh they'll bluster and put up a good act. Because they're the party of strong defense, and protecting the people. Like they did for New Orleans. But at the end of the day, it's just a bunch of poor stupid commie liberals getting burned, and another excuse to toss hundreds of billions of dollars down the crony-contracting privatization rathole.

And that is the only use of this particular launch vehicle.

So, none of the missiles, including captured German V-2's launched prior to the first successful spacelaunch in the US were good for anything but vaporizing cities?

Did it occur to anyone that maybe there are legitimate rocket scientists in NK trying to re-invent their own launch vehicle for satellites?

I'm sure the assholes in epaulets signing the checks are buying a delivery system for a nuclear deterrent against the US. But that's not the only possible outcome.

And with this guy, deterrance probably isn't going to work. He's nuts. Really. Nuts.

Or maybe he's losing control of his hardliners, and needs a publicity stunt to bring them back into his camp. Depending on how desperate his actions get, it could actually be a good sign of internal instability.

In any case, NK certainly does not have the industrial capacity to manufacture quantities of these missiles, or nuclear weapons that this missile could launch.

It's a long, long road from a "Fat Man" style nuclear device, to something small and reliable enough to put on an ICBM, and high-yeild enough to want to use against an enemy who might fight back. This long road includes the necessity of dozens of actual tests.

The folks who are selling fear here are yanking your chain. Again.

Honestly, I'd be much more afraid if I was a South Korean resident of Seoul. But why worry about that when Kim Jong Il is kicking sand in your eyes?

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on June 22, 2006 at 1:34 AM | PERMALINK

Nobody here really knows how capable North Korea may be of wiping Seoul off the map. But Seoul, with 10.2 million people, is the world's largest city. Would we be so cavalier if we were talking about taking action that posed a significant chance of leading to the destruction of New York City?

Posted by: Tokyokie on June 22, 2006 at 1:34 AM | PERMALINK

Time to grow up and see yourselves as others do. From a rational perspective (possession of dangerous weapons, readiness to use them, craziness of leaders), the US is the scariest country on earth.

hmmmm

Posted by: craigie on June 22, 2006 at 1:35 AM | PERMALINK

In addition to warning our allies and partners of our determination to take out the Taepodong before it can be launched, we should warn the North Koreans.

That's a generous and humanitarian spirit, but is it really a good idea? As I understand it, the missile is already fueled and ready to go. Presumably they've already aimed it and programmed it and done everything else.

If Kim is just sitting there with his finger on the trigger and we tell him that his beloved missile is going to be blown up in an hour, does anyone think he'll just shrug his shoulders and walk away?

Posted by: Oregonian on June 22, 2006 at 1:36 AM | PERMALINK

Bear in mind that a nuke delivered by ICBM has a return address stencilled on it in very large, brightly glowing letters. I don't buy the notion that the NK chain of command would really countenance launching an unprovoked strike against an american city, knowing that within minutes of doing it they would all be dead and their country reduced to a smoking radioactive hole.

The point of having the missile isn't for them to do a first strike. It's to deter us from doing to them what we did to Saddam (i.e. invading).

Aardvark is correct in pointing out that we had a far better handle on this situation before the chimp screwed it up. But the danger we face isn't that Kim will get a wild hair and nuke Seattle for the hell of it. It's that our options for dealing with this very toxic regime are now a good bit narrower.

Posted by: jimBOB on June 22, 2006 at 1:42 AM | PERMALINK

"But Seoul, with 10.2 million people, is the world's largest city."

No it's not.

Posted by: Nit Pickler on June 22, 2006 at 1:45 AM | PERMALINK

"But Seoul, with 10.2 million people, is the world's largest city."

Not for long anyway. :(

Posted by: brooksfoe on June 22, 2006 at 1:57 AM | PERMALINK

The problem with NK isn't the ICBM. It's the nukes. Dear Leader has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to deciding what to do with them. Putting them on ICBMs is about the worst of the options. But wouldn't it be entertaining to slip a couple of them to al Qaeda, then set back and watch the fun? Even better than watching old Judy Garland movies over and over again.

aa

Posted by: aaron aardvark on June 22, 2006 at 2:14 AM | PERMALINK

Bear in mind that a nuke delivered by ICBM has a return address stencilled on it in very large, brightly glowing letters.

Exactly. North Korea is not about to hurl an ICBM at the United States because they know that retribution would be swift, terrible and overwhelming. And you know what else? Designing a warhead that is small enough to go on an ICBM is a far cry from designing and building an atomic bomb. I've seen no indications that North Korea is anywhere close to getting a weapon that would be suitable for use on an ICBM. Regardless of that, you still would have to think that Kim Jong Il is not just crazy but actually totally insane to think he'd launch a nuke attack on the US. I think the man has learned the lesson of Iraq: Get a nuke and get it fast because nukes deter and without them, you're just too tempting a target.

I'm more than a little disappointed with Perry and Carter for this bat-shit crazy op-ed. What is wrong with these guys?

Posted by: Roman Berry on June 22, 2006 at 2:22 AM | PERMALINK

Yes, it would be a gamble, but since a highly competent Clinton Secretary of Defense, who has been closely involved in dealings with North Korea, is willing to publicly advocate this, I would do it.

Posted by: Kevin on June 22, 2006 at 2:26 AM | PERMALINK

What? Launch a pre-emptive military strike unilaterially? Without consulting our allies or seeking permission from the UN? What would Kerry say?

I wouldn't support such strike. The potential costs; war or at least some serious military conflict on the Korean Peninsula that would involve US troops, there are 30,000 sitting between the two Koreas, the loss of SK civilian lives and the economic damage and really pissing off China for messing around in their back yard are far greater than the benefit of destroying a single missile. Especially, if you give them advance warning so as to avoid killing the very people who have the knowledge to build another missile.

Based on this "advice," if Wes Clark truly believes that William Perry is the best SecDef, then he's too stupid to be President.

Oh, and Gary Seven, still have that very sexy cat of yours? lol

Posted by: Chicounsel on June 22, 2006 at 2:26 AM | PERMALINK

I'd suggest using our intelligence assets in the North Korean military to sabotage the missile. Perhaps exploding the fourth stage this time.

Posted by: B on June 22, 2006 at 2:37 AM | PERMALINK

They're supposedly working on ways to fingerprint uranium that would allow one to determine what uranium stock a nuke had come from, after the explosion. Sounds kind of unbelievable to me, but what do I know about nuclear engineering.

In the meantime, a nuclear-tipped ICBM does have a certain immediacy as a deterrent that a nuke in a shipping container doesn't have.

Posted by: brooksfoe on June 22, 2006 at 2:49 AM | PERMALINK

How about we blow up his missile, but send him a super-secret message saying we'll also guarantee him a permanent rotating supply of red-headed call girls and a complete box set of the first 4 seasons of "24", if he'll agree to just make a lot of infuriated public denunciations of the act and not actually retaliate? Everybody looks tough, everybody saves face, everybody gets candy. Just like the Cuban Missile Crisis, with the secret withdrawal of US nukes from Turkey.

Posted by: brooksfoe on June 22, 2006 at 2:53 AM | PERMALINK

Brooksfoe, it's sort of plausible, because presumably the trace contaminants in supplies of uranium from different sources are somewhat different.

As to the merits of this plan, it doesn't seem to achieve very much and results in all sorts of risks. And who's to say North Korea won't turn around and, say, launch a few artillery shells at the Yongsan Garrison, which is right in the middle of Seoul? After all, the US would have attacked a North Korean military target; the PRK could argue that they have the perfect right to retaliate. And what would the US do in response? Launch a full-scale assault on the North and risk a chemical attack on Seoul?

Posted by: Robert Merkel on June 22, 2006 at 3:11 AM | PERMALINK

Seoul is the largest city at about 10.2 million. However, nukes are not known for recognizing city boundaries.

Largest conurbation: Tokyo at 35 million odd; second and third largest Mexico City and N.Y.-Newark at 19+ million.

Anyway, anybody notice that this missiles bottom 2 stages are liquid fueled and they don't seem to know what the third stage is. That's strange. So no quick launch capability and no retaliation ability.

A 3-stage liquid fueled ICBM in the 21st Century?

A test-firing is not in itself a provocation, whatever Bush says, and why wouldn't we want to gather all the telemetrics, performance data, etc.?

Bush is always too ready to provoke and get in peoples' faces. He's the schoolyard wimp hiding behind his older brother, picking fights.

I say treat the administration's hystrionics with a little scepticism.

Posted by: notthere on June 22, 2006 at 3:15 AM | PERMALINK

For what it's worth, a well-known weapons expert in Japan (Kensuke Ebata) thinks the main purpose of demonstrating a missile firing would be so NK can sell them to other countries. In other words, he sees it as a commercial test, for income purposes, not a direct threat. The US would look pretty silly blowing it up in that case, although I suppose some of you would still favor such unilateral and illegal action. If so, you should be consistent and favor blowing up all missile tests by all nations anywhere. And isn't the US the biggest provider of weaponry to other governments?

Posted by: wataru on June 22, 2006 at 3:25 AM | PERMALINK

I say let them launch their fancy new toy & see what happens. My hunch is that it will come apart at altitude but it might just work & land in the Pacific.

I live in Seattle BTW so I understand the risks in this.

"As long as people believe in absurdities they will continue to commit atrocities." - Voltaire

Posted by: daCascadian on June 22, 2006 at 3:35 AM | PERMALINK

Brooksfoe, it's sort of plausible, because presumably the trace contaminants in supplies of uranium from different sources are somewhat different.

Yeah, but don't those contaminants tend to be slightly, uh, dispersed by a nuclear blast? I still find it amazing, if it works.

Posted by: brooksfoe on June 22, 2006 at 3:46 AM | PERMALINK

What does this test really do for NK? It's a propaganda win with the locals- maybe. That we have gotten to the point where we have permitted them the technology and time to threaten to test a launch speaks volumes to the FAILURE of administrative policy. Given the complexity of these weapons systems and the many disasters America has faced with NASA type vehicles, it is inconceivable that the NK could produce a machine of any level of sophistication in such a way that we as a superiorly technological nation could not have prevented its execution well before it ever arrived at the launch pad. And I'm not talking about bombing infrastructure as the idiot Cheneyites are so want to do.

Whether or not the launch is a success or even occurs, there is no excuse for this administration having let this situation get to this point. Team Cheney needs to have its keys taken away by their own logic, because they have through their actions enable this whole NK fiasco its chance of occuring. It's not like the situation has arrived suddenly out of a vaaccuum!

Is the NK going to nuke Alaska with this launch? No Way. Are they going to nuke Tokyo or Seoul- only if they want to be a smoking pile of rubble before the day is out. Do they have more than one missle they can fire even without serious time consuming set up? NO WAY. They are not remotely competitive with our existing tech.

They know this. We know this. We all know that we all know this. Interfering overtly with the launch is just theatrics. Interfering discretely with a launch in such a way that they don't know you've done it. That's a real demonstration of power. And that my friends is a power we have had well before the Jr/Cheney administration was a glimmer in Barbara Bush's eyes. Why we haven't used it - criminal negligence or incompetence take your pick.

Yes Perry and Carter are the real deal. But this launch or non-launch does nothing other than act as a theatrical back drop. Perry and Carter know this and are only op-edding for the benefit of public discussion and education. Yeah they are smart guys, yeah they know what they are talking about, but the current article ironically acts more as a diplomatic aid than an attempt at direction. Because both Perry and Carter know that Cheney and the rest of the administration NEVER listen to anyone outside the administration on anything, so an attempt to influence them via op-ed is completely inneffective. Hence the real purpose here is diplomacy rather than advocacy, and of course a little personal PR doesn't hurt either.

Posted by: patience on June 22, 2006 at 3:55 AM | PERMALINK

absolute insanity. i really like wes clark. i'd like to hear what he has to say about this idiotic statement from perry. i'd be shocked if he supports it.

Posted by: Jones on June 22, 2006 at 4:29 AM | PERMALINK

This would be a great idea but the Chicoms could call in their loans...better hit Beijing too while yr at it. Kerry was okay back in the day and when he said this...

' I don't like Communists,' Kerry said. ' In fact, I hate them.'

Sharia law is not the main problem today. Its red fascist imperialists and they all gotta go. Any political writer worth spit knows that. Marxist-Leninism has to follow Hitlerism down the toilet of history and if it takes a nuke or two hundred well that is a price I consider worth paying that is not difficult. ( Just try and not go over 400 nukes - that nuclear winter territory)
Thanks for a good post K. You earned your donut today.

Posted by: professor rat on June 22, 2006 at 4:46 AM | PERMALINK

How do we deal with the refugee problem and with providing aid?

When we strike Korea, all the dying suddenly will be our problem. There are a bunch of malnurished, uneducated, and uneducable people in NK. WTF are we supposed to do about that. Not to mention the the occasional brainwashed and the subversives and spies that will be hidden among refugees.

Posted by: aaron on June 22, 2006 at 4:56 AM | PERMALINK

Bolton and Cheney must be truly triumphant.

They have successfully poisoned any attempts at diplomacy with North Korea.

Our diplomacy seems to be summarized as, "Do what we say or we will kill you".

Posted by: Jim Ramsey on June 22, 2006 at 4:59 AM | PERMALINK

And what do we do when they spray Seoul with artillery in retaliation? Taking out the missile would be an act of war which, because of Iraq, we are in no position to prosecute.

Posted by: bob h on June 22, 2006 at 6:43 AM | PERMALINK

I agree with kevin here. William Perry is first rate and I would consider the option if Perry recommends it.

Posted by: Matt on June 22, 2006 at 7:15 AM | PERMALINK

Meanwhile, William Arkin isn't impressed(http://blog.washingtonpost.com/earlywarning/2006/06/north_koreas_nonthreat.html#22309):

Much ado about nothing I say.

North Korea, starved for attention and with its own fish to fry domestically and in its own region, may or may not be preparing some rocket for launch, and it may or may not be attempting to use its missile as a bargaining chip or a PR stunt, and it may just be attempting to put its own satellite into space. What should be crystal clear though in a world of risks and balances is that North Korea's missile, even if it exists, is hardly a threat to us.
------------------
Lurking behind the story of course is the image of a long-range North Korean missile capable of hitting Alaska and even Los Angeles.

It is a false image, and one that even if true, would be the least of America's worries.

North Korea, which can barely feed its own people and is not, shall we say, known for its technological prowess, may have succeeded in sinking all of its national treasure into developing a third rate missile. But so what?

North Korea has conducted all of two live long-range missile tests since 1993. In August 1998, when North Korea launched its Taepo Dong 1 missile over Japan, the U.S. and other nations protested and Cold War alarm bells were sounded. But the missile ended up being an unsuccessful attempt to indeed place a North Korean satellite in orbit. The whole thing was a failure after the small third stage failed and the satellite, such as it was, was destroyed. (This according to a March 2006 report from the National Air and Space Intelligence Center entitled Ballistic and Cruise Missile Threat obtained by Hans Kristensen of the Federation of American Scientists.)
------------------
Many in Seoul are dismissing the reports of fueling and the military dimensions of a launch, stressing that all evidence appears to point to another attempt to launch a North Korean satellite. They point to the above ground obvious preparations and their own intelligence that indicates no warhead. What is more, according to South Korea news media reports, officials of the National Intelligence Service (NIS) told the National Assembly Intelligence Committee that North Korea does not even seem to have completed fueling the object on the launch pad, contrary to The New York Times and most U.S. reporting.

Posted by: Kurzleg on June 22, 2006 at 8:22 AM | PERMALINK

If there is anywhere in the world where such a strike had a real chance of succeeding flawlessly and having exactly the desired effect, it would be NK.

But if there is anywhere in the world where such a strike could also result in a retaliatory action that kills hundreds of thousands of innocent people, it would be NK.

I'm not sure I really want to play chicken with a man like Kim Jong-Il. The potential upside is huge, but the potential downside is unthinkable. If we intend to do something this crazy, we'd better have a contingency plan prepared for a massive strike to decimate their air force, artillery, and armored divisions on short notice, in case they decide to fight back.

And it should go without saying that I don't trust the current administration to devise a contingency plan for running out of toilet paper in the East Wing, let alone something like this.

Posted by: ajl on June 22, 2006 at 9:09 AM | PERMALINK

Ummmm. Suppose some country decided to object to our military tests by a direct attack on U.S. forces. I believe we would probably consider ourselves at a state of war with that nation. Do we really want to start another war over this?

Posted by: demisod on June 22, 2006 at 9:17 AM | PERMALINK

We need to think outside the box. Let's give Kim permission to go ahead with the missile test BUT it has to be done on the Fourth of July in honor of US independence from England.

He gets his launch but we get the good PR. Candy all around with cake for dessert.

Posted by: Tripp on June 22, 2006 at 9:18 AM | PERMALINK

Like Dirty Harry said, "A man's got to know his limitations." The same is true for a country--its leaders need to know its limitations.

Posted by: Mazurka on June 22, 2006 at 9:21 AM | PERMALINK

This op-ed is nuts.

Like others have said, we are not threatened by a North Korean missile test anymore than we are in its absence.

Dropping bombs on North Korea is an act of war that has the potential to cause hundreds of thousands of deaths. This single instance of impediment to NK missile tech development is not at all worth the potential costs. This is the same logic that has kept us from all the other unilteral military options so far: the situation is the same.

Posted by: glasnost on June 22, 2006 at 9:39 AM | PERMALINK

Am I the only guy who gets the sense that vast swathes of our elites no longer fully inhabit this plane of existence, but instead have opted for some Platonic realm of pleasing abstractions? You'd think that after our glorious Iraq adventure -- which didn't start all that long ago, still seems to be dragging on, and hasn't exactly lived up to its pre-launch marketing campaign -- the leadership caste might have second thoughts about laying down the Hammer of Thor at the first whiff of vaporware threats. But that would be letting base experience get in the way of a pleasing solution.

Un-fucking-believable. And I suppose other leadership caste types write thousand dollar checks to Perry, just to hear him talk from a podium.....

Posted by: sglover on June 22, 2006 at 10:00 AM | PERMALINK

There's also another factor to consider, which is that a cruise missile strike could, if it had been done by the Clinton Administration, have been accepted by the rest of the world. A lot of the parties in the region wouldn't have liked it, and it wouldn't have been popular, but it would have been understood that Clinton and his team weren't reckless and would have had some sound policy reason for doing what they did.

In this case, though, any strike would be carried out by the Bush regime and so, justified or not, would immediately be dismissed by everyone as the work of drunken yahoo cowboys who shoot before they think. No one could publicly back us on this because of our recently established reputation for deceit, incompetence and aggression. Just like in the case of the Iraq War, you don't get the cruise missile strike of the Clinton Administration you wish you had -- you get the cruise missile strike of the Bush regime, with all the mismanagement that implies.

Hell, at the end of the day Bush would probably hit South Korea instead because it has better targets....

Posted by: Stefan on June 22, 2006 at 10:00 AM | PERMALINK

This would be a great idea but the Chicoms could call in their loans...better hit Beijing too while yr at it. Kerry was okay back in the day and when he said this...

' I don't like Communists,' Kerry said. ' In fact, I hate them.'

Sharia law is not the main problem today. Its red fascist imperialists and they all gotta go. Any political writer worth spit knows that. Marxist-Leninism has to follow Hitlerism down the toilet of history and if it takes a nuke or two hundred well that is a price I consider worth paying that is not difficult. ( Just try and not go over 400 nukes - that nuclear winter territory)

Help me out here. I can no longer tell if this is satire, or an executive summary of the latest Heritage Foundation foreign policy white paper.

If he were alive today, Jonathan Swift would really have to scramble to make a living....

Posted by: sglover on June 22, 2006 at 10:06 AM | PERMALINK

obody here really knows how capable North Korea may be of wiping Seoul off the map. But Seoul, with 10.2 million people, is the world's largest city.

Not relevant to the central point, but while this may be technically true (in terms of the most number of people within the legal boundaries of the city -- some online sources say it is, others say its not) it is, at any rate, somewhat misleading, as the entire population (more, actually) of the urbanized area around Seoul is within the official city limits; quite a few cities are much bigger than Seoul in terms of population of the urbanized area.

Posted by: cmdicely on June 22, 2006 at 10:40 AM | PERMALINK

And NK can use it's prison industry to fund the reconstruction. Outsourcing our prison system will do wonders to reducing the deficit.

Posted by: aaron on June 22, 2006 at 11:00 AM | PERMALINK
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.

This asks the wrong type of question, which is why it gets the wrong answer. The US doesn't have a simple choice to allow or not allow results like this. If you ask "Should we allow {abstract condition to occur}?" and then let your policy in specific cases be strictly dictated by the answer to that question, you are on the road to bad, poorly thought through policy.

The question instead should be "What is the net cost to the US of this specific instance of X occuring?" (cost here is not in financial terms, but in terms of the degree to which the interests, including moral interests, of the US are damaged) and then, "What is the cost to the US of preventing this specific instance of X?" (in the same sense, including all reasonably foreseeable consequences of the best approach to preventing X).

Perry may have been the best SecDef ever (there's not much point in discussing that), but he's also clearly nuts.

Perry believes that South Korea would oppose an attack, Japan would (privately) welcome it, and that Russia and China would basically stay neutral.

That's, well, with the exception of China probably a pretty good rundown of the overt reactions. Realistically, Russia and China might welcome it privately (and not to the US), as it will advance their efforts to get other countries to join their new security alliance, as it underlines the importance of having a committed major power guarantor of security as a deterrent.

I wish people who matured politically during the Cold War would stop trying to find ways to return to that arrangement.

I'm not so sure Japan would welcome it even privately; I suppose that depends on the form that any retaliation would take.

Such an act of aggression would be illegal, immoral, and unlikely to have any pragmatic benefit; so while Perry may have once been a decent SecDef, I'd have to say he's completely off his rocker now.

Posted by: cmdicely on June 22, 2006 at 11:05 AM | PERMALINK

A few threads ago someone was nattering about the "Pre-cautionary Principle" which asserts that a prudent state must take action if a 10% chance exists of some absolutely horrific consequence of not taking action. I believe this was in reference to Al Gore's movie.

But the same logic can be applied to NK nukes and, for that matter, the possibility many of us apprehended in 2003 of Iraq having WMD's.

It comes down to what do you fear the most? Who do you trust to be the judge of a reasonable fear? Who do you trust to orchestrate a pre-emptive response to a looming disaster?

Actually, I still trust George Dubya Bush in all these spheres. I think he is generally level-headed. No, he didn't push the panic button as soon as he could have on Hurrican Katrina, but then who could have guessed that the local officials would have been so incompetent? My idea of federalism is that the federal government should be given a cushion by state and local governments in reacting to anything except war and WMD terrorism.

Sure, Bush has "muddled through" the Iraq war. All in all, the "War on Terrorism" has been almost indefinable from the start. The current leftist position seems to be that we should have hunkered down in Fortress America and done nothing but throw bouquets of love-roses at the troubled regions of the world that spawn terrorists.

My judgment is that international terrorism has been seriously set back by Bush's aggressive policies. If I am allow to write the history of this era, I will point out that no one estimated at the outset that we could occupy both Iraq and Afghanistan with fewer than 4,000 dead. That will have to stand out in history as a remarkable achievement rarely duplicated before or since by anyone. (The British matched it with their 1920's occupation of Iraq but other outsiders always pay a heavy toll invading these realms.)

I will also strenuously maintain that the terrorists have been generally on the defensive ever since the Bush moves and that Afghanistan and Iraq really are changing in ways that will discourage international terrorism down the road.

Iran and NK are different stories. Without the agressive neo-con policies of the last six years would the situation be better or worse? My thinking on up-and-coming bullies is that it is never good to show them weakness.

Still, pragmatism and patience are about the only policies we really can have, and this is where Bush's fundamental level-headedness comes in. I guess if before Jan 2009 rolls around the US has done some type of grand pre-emptive strike I will be proven wrong.

My biggest fear in this regard is that I am sure that by late summer both Iraq and Afghanistan will be clearly pacified (a great area of Iraq has been quiet for months.) This will free up a lot of American force. . .

Posted by: Mike Cook on June 22, 2006 at 11:15 AM | PERMALINK

HR 861 says that "The terrorists have declared Iraq to be the central front in their war against all who oppose their ideology."

Why are the Republicans lying in HR 861?

It is Bush and Cheney et al who've said this, along with their lemming followers, not the terrorists.

What else are they lying about?

Everything.

================

Hey, lemmings, feel free to link to the statement of any terrorist who has proclaimed that "Iraq is the central front in their war against all who oppose their ideology."

(Gee, and I thought Iraq was Bush's war; after all, he's the "War President" - [you may begin your laughter at any time . . .])

Posted by: Advocate for God on June 22, 2006 at 11:20 AM | PERMALINK

Actually, I still trust George Dubya Bush in all these spheres. I think he is generally level-headed.

AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Thanks, Mike Cook, for giving me a good long laugh before lunch. That was priceless! Really, you're too funny....

Posted by: Stefan on June 22, 2006 at 11:28 AM | PERMALINK

Actually, I still trust George Dubya Bush in all these spheres. I think he is generally level-headed.

Y'know, if you'd opened your post with this statement, I could've skipped reading the three or four paragraphs that preceded it. Please be more considerate in the future.

Posted by: sglover on June 22, 2006 at 11:30 AM | PERMALINK

Kind'uv a big gamble, given that North Korea could basically flatten Seoul in just a few hours using conventional weapons already (allegedly) trained on the city.Posted by: Augustus

Try about fifteen minutes. Then add Sapporo and Tokyo.

A first strike against N. Korea would end up killing tens if not hundreds of thousands of people, many of them supposedly our allies, as we couldn't launch missiles or scrabble jets fast enough to stop the first wave of N. Korean short range missiles. They have radar too, you know, and N. Korea is not Iraq.

I guess Perry is trying to out-crazy McCain, who believes Japan should have nuclear weapons.

Posted by: JeffII on June 22, 2006 at 11:31 AM | PERMALINK

the terrorists have been generally on the defensive ever since the Bush moves and that Afghanistan and Iraq really are changing in ways that will discourage international terrorism down the road....My biggest fear in this regard is that I am sure that by late summer both Iraq and Afghanistan will be clearly pacified (a great area of Iraq has been quiet for months.) This will free up a lot of American force. . .

AHAHAHAHAHAHA! HAHEEHEEHEHEHEHE! OHAHAHAHAHA! Stop it, stop it, you're killing me! I can barely read anymore for the tears of laughter in my eyes....where do you come up with this material? Do you write your jokes yourself or do you have help?

Posted by: Stefan on June 22, 2006 at 11:32 AM | PERMALINK

Madness! Absolute madness!

How can any slightly liberal thinking person endorse this crap?

Proof again that America is becoming the Prussian empire of the 2000s. Every delusional future-maybe-whatiff danger should be met with pre-emptive force? Arent Vietnam and Iraq enough proof for you dead-brains that (1) Our vision of future events is strongly skewed by our paranoia, and (2) war spawns all sorts of unforeseen consequences, none of them good.

The idea that a nation with nukes might actually use them on someone, when even the craziest dictator knows it would bring the wrath of the whole world down on his head and cause his end, is ludicrous.

During the cold war we faced some pretty crazy saber rattling characters in the Soviet union, but when the possibility of actually using their nukes came up, as in the Cuban crises, they sobered up really fast.

Chances that this would happen to Kim whatsisname: 100%. Chances that an attack would boomerang on us in unexpected ways: 100%

Posted by: James of DC on June 22, 2006 at 11:34 AM | PERMALINK

If he doesn't have help, he better get some.

Posted by: craigie on June 22, 2006 at 11:35 AM | PERMALINK
HR 861 says that "The terrorists have declared Iraq to be the central front in their war against all who oppose their ideology."

Why are the Republicans lying in HR 861?

They aren't. They are telling the truth the way Bene Gesserit tell the truth; the truth they are speaking is not what you think you are hearing.

It is Bush and Cheney et al who've said this, along with their lemming followers

Exactly. Which means...

Posted by: cmdicely on June 22, 2006 at 11:41 AM | PERMALINK

My idea of federalism is that the federal government should be given a cushion by state and local governments in reacting to anything except war and WMD terrorism.

So no need for that federal anti-gay marriage amendment that Bush proposed then, is there?

Posted by: Stefan on June 22, 2006 at 11:42 AM | PERMALINK

Lawmakers Cite Weapons Found in Iraq

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.), chairman of the House intelligence committee, and Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) told reporters yesterday that weapons of mass destruction had in fact been found in Iraq, despite acknowledgments by the White House and the insistence of the intelligence community that no such weapons had been discovered.

"We have found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, chemical weapons," Santorum said.

The lawmakers pointed to an unclassified summary from a report by the National Ground Intelligence Center regarding 500 chemical munitions shells that had been buried near the Iranian border, and then long forgotten, by Iraqi troops during their eight-year war with Iran, which ended in 1988.

The U.S. military announced in 2004 in Iraq that several crates of the old shells had been uncovered and that they contained a blister agent that was no longer active. Neither the military nor the White House nor the CIA considered the shells to be evidence of what was alleged by the Bush administration to be a current Iraqi program to make chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.

Last night, intelligence officials reaffirmed that the shells were old and were not the suspected weapons of mass destruction sought in Iraq after the 2003 invasion.

-----------------------------------------------
Proof positive that conservatives will never, never stop lying about Iraqi WMDs and trying to save Bush's bacon with the most outrageous of lies.

Posted by: Advocate for God on June 22, 2006 at 11:42 AM | PERMALINK

cmdicely: Exactly. Which means...

Big, big grin!

:-)

Zogby has a new round of polls out for the WSJ. GOP leads in just 5 of the 17 senate races tracked.

Ouch!

Posted by: Advocate for God on June 22, 2006 at 11:46 AM | PERMALINK

Why do people insist on making him out to be crazy?

He's not. He's played off the US as well as any foreign leader. He's (and his "crazy" dad) built a force that has kept us at bay for 50 years. He's held his country together in the face of world wide embargo and massive famine. His people are not "ready to revolt" - why should they, when he can legitmately point to the embargo and say "the reason you suffer is because the United States and their lackeys at the UN refuse to let us trade."

Brutal? Sure. Egomaniacal? Sure, but little worse than the cult of personality that pervades our own government (anyone catch the children signing Bush's praises for helping New Orleans?). Live a lot better than his people? Well, no shit, compare how our president lives compared to people just 3 miles away. Show me a world leader who suffers with his people.

We had a great policy in place that was slowly bringing NK into the world community. NK and SK were reconciling, even allowing families to travel back and forth. Bush wrecked all of that.

We need to sign a peace treaty and non-aggression pact with NK. That would stabilize the region by orders of magnitude.

NK isn't going to collapse. Attacking it will give Kim more support than he has ever had before.

He's NOT going to launch a pre-emptive strike on the US. He is not seeking martyrdom. He has wisely decided that he needs nukes to stand off the US, because the US IS a country that will pre emptivly invade other countries it disagrees with.

I would be very surprised if NK didn't retaliate if we take down their missile. Not with full war, but certainly with a similar small strike of their own - perhaps a dirty warhead at a US base. WE would then strike disproportionately, and they would likely flatten Seoul.

Its time to put adults in charge of our foreign policy. Perry is making a big mistake here.

Posted by: Mysticdog on June 22, 2006 at 11:55 AM | PERMALINK

Many very good posts. For late posters or skimmers, read wataru, Cheny's third nipple, Augustus, Osama_been_forgotten, StefenI could go on. The most condensed wisdom I have seen on this subject.

Posted by: James of DC on June 22, 2006 at 12:11 PM | PERMALINK

Zogby has a new round of polls out for the WSJ. GOP leads in just 5 of the 17 senate races tracked.

Which team are they counting Lieberman in?

Posted by: craigie on June 22, 2006 at 12:12 PM | PERMALINK

Democratic war pigs urge preemptive strike on North Korea?!!

Anathema upon them.

Posted by: Hostile on June 22, 2006 at 12:13 PM | PERMALINK

Patience writes, That we have gotten to the point where we have permitted them the technology and time to threaten to test a launch speaks volumes to the FAILURE of administrative policy. Given the complexity of these weapons systems and the many disasters America has faced with NASA type vehicles, it is inconceivable that the NK could produce a machine of any level of sophistication in such a way that we as a superiorly technological nation could not have prevented its execution well before it ever arrived at the launch pad.

This is nonsense. Just what would expect a president (any president) to do when the NKors have demonstrated that 1) they'll lie 2) they'll continue to develop their technology and 3) they're willing to take some very big chances to do so?

Your options as president are very limited, as it turns out, and that's why this problem hasn't been solved. Neither Gore nor Kerry would have solved it. A conventional war leads to millions of innocent civilians dead. A 'quick strike' only guarantees war, because you can't count on capping Kimmie. Sanctions don't work well as we've seen, multi-lateral talks aren't working well, and bilateral talks only put us in the position of making concessions to the NKors. The NKors will pocket those, thankyouverymuch, and then continue to lie to us and work on their technology.

Why? It's all they have. Kimmie can't loosen the grip he has on power, can't turn his country towards solving the food problem very well, can't back away from 100% juche, without becoming dead. He has to push the nuclear and missile technology because that's all he has to keep power. So 'negotiations' about his nukes become negotiations about his staying alive and in power. No big surprise there that Kimmie won't negotiate that.

Mysticdog says the the North Korean people won't revolt because Kimmie can blame all their suffering on us. That's so simplistic as to be laughable. The people won't revolt because they know there's no realistic chance of doing so, and they -- and their extended families -- will be dead.

A peace treaty is more laughable. Kimmie has demonstrated that he'll lie whenever necessary to advance his own situation. Think he'll respect a peace treaty? Ditto for a non-aggression pact -- think such a pact would lead to the removal of the artillery tubes pointed at Seoul? Don't be silly, of course not.

Negotiations don't and won't work. War would be a disaster for the world and particularly for the Korean people. The only choice here is one that is hard, difficult to maintain, and difficult to justify -- containment.

That means staying calm and not responding to provocation. The so-called missile test isn't a test, it's a provocation. Kimmie wants to provoke us. Perry and Carter are wrong to advocate shooting it down if they really mean that, but they're smart if what they are really going after is good containment -- we show the NKors that they don't particularly rattle us, because we have the technology to settle their hash.

For this particular situation -- as long as the Taepodong doesn't hit American or Japanese soil, we stay calm. Don't shoot it down; track it, use it as a dry-run exercise for the anti-missile systems, and sit back. Make a few taunts -- is that all ya got? But containment, always, until North Korea implodes.

Posted by: Steve White on June 22, 2006 at 12:28 PM | PERMALINK

This is a judo move by Perry. There's no way the administration is going to do what he recommends. Meanwhile, he gets to out-batshit the wingnuts. I'm not sure what the point is, but maybe that's the point.

Posted by: TomB on June 22, 2006 at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

Or, is this little episode a political gift from Kim Jong-il which gives the Bush Admin. a chance to talk tough and force NK to "back down"?

Posted by: tom on June 22, 2006 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

If senior Democrats in the House and Senate propose it, legislation authorizing or requiring such a strike will surely pass and the President will be obliged to carry out the attack. Let's see whether any Democrats holding elected office propose any such action.

Also, if the U.S. announces the attack, the NKOR government will transport thousands of civilians onto the site to serve as human shields.

I would suggest that Perry and Carter have not thought this through.

Posted by: republicrat on June 22, 2006 at 1:18 PM | PERMALINK

The unfortunate reality is that I wouldn't trust the Bush administration to do something like this even if I were convinced it was a good idea.

Then you're a hypocrite. Pure and simple.

You're also an exact carbon copy of every other lefty on this thread.

I read these boards when I want a snapshot of the mindset of the far, far fringe left.

Posted by: sportsfan79 on June 22, 2006 at 2:06 PM | PERMALINK

sportsfan79: You're also an exact carbon copy of every other lefty on this thread.

Funny, you are a carbon copy of a statue of somebody with their lips pasted to Bush's ass.

I read your post when I want a snapshot of the mindset of the criminally insane - it saves me a trip to Bellvue.

Posted by: Advocate for God on June 22, 2006 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK
Then you're a hypocrite.

Not believing that Bush is competent or trustworthy to carry out a policy even if in broad outline the policy is a good idea isn't hypocrisy.

Posted by: cmdicely on June 22, 2006 at 2:19 PM | PERMALINK

Wes Clark just dropped off my 2008 short list. Not that that should make the campaign tremble; I'm sure this kind of macho posturing will attract much more in the way of money and flattering op eds than it will cost him among the nobodies.

Posted by: Nell on June 22, 2006 at 4:19 PM | PERMALINK

What would be the legal basis for such a strike?

What would be the lesson other countries take from such a strike?

How did pre-emptive military action work out in the advancement of non-proliferation in the past?

Mr. Secretary, step away from the crack pipe.

Posted by: Carl Nyberg on June 22, 2006 at 7:25 PM | PERMALINK

BTW, what stops the North Koreans from launching a strike at Japan in retaliation?

Striking Japan won't exactly offend South Korea or China.

Posted by: Carl Nyberg on June 22, 2006 at 7:27 PM | PERMALINK

Carl: BTW, what stops the North Koreans from launching a strike at Japan in retaliation?

They have nothing on a launch pad to do that. It takes time and effort to put a liquid-fueled missile on a launch pad, and the NKors don't have solid-fuel, long range missiles. We'd see new activity long before it was ready.

Carl: What would be the legal basis for such a strike?

Self-defense. Unless the NKors follow establish protocols for declaring, in advance, a satellite launch, we have no way of knowing for sure what the payload is. I don't think the NKors have been able to make a nuke small enough to sit on a missile. I'd hate to be wrong.

Carl: What would be the lesson other countries take from such a strike?

That it's not a good idea to leave the U.S. in doubt as to what your intentions are when prepping an ICBM for launch.

Posted by: Steve White on June 22, 2006 at 7:56 PM | PERMALINK

Of course, people with pointy or really odd-shaped heads can not recognize a level-headed person, even if pointed out to them. The really neat thing about history is that, in the long run, it is written by the survivors, which must take some intelligence.

I know Stephen Jay Gould and some others think that primate survival since 650,000 years ago was only a matter of luck and not intelligence at all. I don't doubt if Gould was still above room temperature he would be out in public sneering at Bush and especially at us working-class neo-cons, who are too stupid to understand our own best interest is always upheld with tenderness in the heart of the Democrat Party.

But here's the key to the paradox. If survival IS really only about luck and blind chance, then the long evolutionary process that ultimately produced American flags and golf balls on the moon, not to mention heart transplants and cloning sheep, was simply a matter of "freaks of nature" getting REEEAAALLLLYYY lucky.

Time for a clue. Suppose one believes that nothing in this universe ever happened by chance or by accident? Then the formation of our solar system with one blue planet, stocked with all of the natural elements and lots of water, would not be an accident. Chemicals working out the amazingly intricate reactions that produce life would not be an accident, nor would the evolution of living things from ugly protozoans up the ladder to peacocks, race horses, supermodels, and other lovely lifeforms.

Actually, the crusades, Christopher Columbus, and the Holocaust would none of them have been an accident, nor 9-11, nor Dubya happening to be in office to invade Iraq. Absolutely nothing is an accident. I do happen to think that the material world dictates what we are which compels the understanding that absolute mechanistic determinism equals absolute predestination.

They just hate to admit it, but a lot of theoretical physicists can be pressed to admit that the only way you really ever get phenomena like "time-reversed light" or particles being identical to their anti-particles traveling backwards in time is if the whole damn universe is really just a frozen plateau and ALL chance, probability, "accidents", or free will are simply deceptions or illusions induced by our narrow, moving window of consciousness.

So, never fear, victory in Iraq by Fall, most troops start coming home after the election no matter who wins or loses.

I am pre-destined to go to bed now having revealed all these profound matters. G'night Gracie.

Posted by: Mike Cook on June 22, 2006 at 11:56 PM | PERMALINK

On the Iraq WMD, I think spinning the old chem weapons as vast supplies of wmd is really dumb.

It would make much more sense to use for proper perspective, reminding people that when they say "No WDM were found in Iraq" that they mean it figuratively, not literally. They just didn't have large large, fresh stocks and weren't actively producing WMD.

Posted by: aaron on June 23, 2006 at 2:18 AM | PERMALINK

I think we are giving former Secretary William Perry too much credit because of his previous record, which I admit was complete and admirable. But his column in yesterday's Washington Post was hasty and misguided, something that only exacerbated a tense situation in East Asia.

Kim Jong-Il might seem eccentric, but he's far from irrational. It is not his perrogative to instigate war; rather, his regime survived the Cold War because it did just that--survive. Amidst the saber-rattling and provocation, Pyongyang is sending a message with the launch: a desire for direct relations with the United States. The six party talks were a means to an end, but the past failures only highlighted the main crux of the problem: a distrust between both United States and North Korea. Broken promises, political rhetoric, and stubborness have brought us to this point.

We are certainly capable of striking their missile silos, but do we want to?

Perhaps I am giving North Korea more credit than they deserve, but I'm calling their bluff and grudingly acknowledging the political ramifications of this action. While they are provoking the United States, Japan, and most certainly South Korea, they are at the same time bringing the international spotlight back to the Peninsula, a seemingly forgotten place in today's war on terror.

Political engagement of the North is the first step we can take to heal wounds left over from the Cold War. I'm not advocating for concession, but rather discussion. And you cannot have a meaningful discussion with someone you, as President Bush once aptly put it, "loathe".

A hardline approach did not work in the past, perhaps it is time to try something new.

Perry was right when he said we need to deal with the nuclear situation in North Korea, but I disagree with the methods he proposes.

Posted by: Eugene Lee on June 23, 2006 at 10:41 AM | PERMALINK

I am alarmed at Wm Perry's advocacy for a pre-emptive strike at N Korea's missile sites. During the nineties, I was impressed by Perry's diplomatic efforts to defuse tensions between the US and NK but have been severely disappointed since. American defense officials love to characterize NK as a rogue state intent on upsetting the international security structure. They use words like crazy, madman, irresponsible, etc to demonize NK's ruler, Kim Jongil. But back in 1998 when NK launched a missile for testing, the reaction was more measured and less alarmist. The result was a self-imposed moratorium on further testing. After George W Bush became president he lashed out at the NK regime naming it as a member of the "axis of evil" though NK had no formal or informal connection with any Middle Eastern country. The deterioration in relations has continued but NK maintained its self-imposed moratorium on missile testing until now. To me this means that the current reaction is overblown and does not merit the sort of rhetoric that one is hearing on CNN by former officials of the Clinton administration.

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