North Korea Missile Test: preemption? Posted by: Jon Henke
on Thursday, June 22, 2006
After years of anti-preemption talk from the Left, I'm pretty surprised to read this column by Ashton Carter (Asst. SecDef under Clinton) and William Perry (SecDef under Clinton) advocating a US missile strike against 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. The Bush administration has unwisely ballyhooed the doctrine of "preemption," which all previous presidents have sustained as an option rather than a dogma. [...] [I]ntervening before mortal threats to U.S. security can develop is surely a prudent policy.
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.
The points — including the distinction between preemption as an implicit option and an explicit threat — are compelling and deserve serious consideration. Unfortunately, I've yet to see the most important question—about which, more shortly—either asked or answered.
First, some worthwhile observations from the bloggerati:
War and Piece argues that this is just a feint for attention and leverage:
...is this just more Kabuki? From a colleague knowledgeable about the issue: "Everyone is trying to depict North Korea as so unpredictable and crazy. It’s just the opposite: They’re totally predictable. All this is just another bluff to get more aid and to strengthen their bargaining position. South Korea already came out today and said they didn’t think Pyongyang was going to launch. It’s just another act in the North Korean kabuki."
The hype kicked into high gear when the New York Times claimed that the Norks "completed fueling a long-range ballistic missile" over the weekend. But the report is getting fishier by the second. The Norks generally rely on a highly corrosive gasoline-kerosene mix for their missile fuel, and an oxidizer containing nitric acid. It's nasty, metal-eating stuff. And once fueled up, the missile has to be launched quickly — two or three days, I've been told — or else the missile is basically ruined.
It's now been four days. And there's been no launch. Which means it's becoming increasingly unlikely that a missile has been fueled. So much for Perry's demand "to strike the [missile] if North Korea refuses to drain the fuel out."
Bryan Preston at Hot Air misunderstands the position Carter and Perry take on preemption — they criticize the rhetoric, not the concept — but this is correct...
there’s no indication that I’ve seen that North Korea has miniaturized any nuclear weapon to the point that they can arm their Taeopodong-2 or any other missile with a nuke. The vehicle currently on the pad is a test fire and a threat in that its range is sufficient to hit Hawaii and Alaska. [...] North Korea is using the missile as a means to force the US into bi-lateral talks over its nukes. That has been the North Korean goal for years–divide the US from its allies and from China and force us to deal with Pyongyang directly.
the morality of such an act would be doubtful. I don’t want to go into the details of Just War Theory here and now but the rule of thumb is that preemptive war may be moral; preventive war is unlikely to be moral. Unless Carter and Perry have evidence in their possession that this is no test but, in fact, an attack, destroying the missile would clearly fall into the category of a preventive strike rather than a preemptive one.
Finally, Wretchard at The Belmont Club comes closest to the most important question:
Kim Jong Il is a sitting head of state and, should the Taepodong be blown up in his face, can patiently devote his time to discovering how to revenge himself given he "has obtained six to eight bombs' worth of plutonium since 2003 and is plunging ahead to make more in its Yongbyon reactor". If Kim remains defiant, what do we do for an encore? Everyone knows the answer, but they ought to spell it out now, lest people say they didn't know the facts before they signed up for the ride.
At the end of the day, the most important question should be: "Then what happens?"
From North Korea to Iran and beyond, there will surely be negative consequences. Perhaps there are also negative consequences to allowing North Korea to stage, or even to fire, the missile. But if we decide to forestall those negative consequences, which new problems do we create and how do we respond to them?
The DPRK keeps saying, that they have EVERY right to test this missile. They’re RIGHT. And I don’t think anyone is going to acccuse me of being a charter member of ANSWER or some Leftist Moonbat.
Nazi Germany didn’t forfeit all rights because it was Evillllll. I mean we couldn’t NOT take prisoners, simply because Germany was evil. So too the DPRK. I believe that they have a legal requirement to notify an International body with the orbital parameters of the launch, that’s about it. And they might not even have to notify someone about THAT if the payload is NOT going into orbit. They would PROBABLY have to notify the ICAO so that it might inform the relevant Air Traffic authorities that certain areas we now "No Fly Zones" for a certain period of time.
Bottom-line: it’s not ILLEGAL to launch IRBM’s. I really don’t see how we could premept or prevent. I’m fairly certain we’d owe compensation to the government of the DPRK were we to shoot the missile down with an ABM, UNLESS the missile was a threat to sovereign airspace.
First, the laws are made and interpreted by politicians to their own best interest. The international community believes that we ignore laws we don’t like all the time.
But ... for those of you who think it matters you should note that the Korean war ended in a truce not a peace treaty. We are still in a legal state of hostility with them.
The real question is, is it to our advantage to blow up the missle?
If we blow up the missle, they won’t know if it works, so we have stuffed their R&D process. They might well blow up Seoul in retaliation however. They can do the with conventional artillery. Is that a good trade for us? If the answer is yes, then blow it up. If the answer is not then leave it alone.
After the billions we have spent on ABM it would seem that if we can’t shoot it down, we should cancel the program. It would send a strong message to the world if we knocked it down in flight. It would not be an attack on their soil so it might not meet with the same retaliation as if we blew it up on the ground. We have the right to test our stuff too, right?
Yet we have a right to seize these missiles if they are sent to sea, unfueled and unarmed, in a ship? Or to tell them that they cannot sell these missiles to a third party?
1) Under an a multi-lateral framework established with OTHER Nations, designed to prevent the spread of WMD related systems, of course. It is a legal framework. 2) We can’t stop YOU from developing your own missiles. We are stopping you from giving them to SOMEONE else.
But yes, fundamentally we "gave" ourselves this "right" because we can...if that’s where you’re going with this. HOWEVER, we don’t have the power to enforce this "right" on development programs WITHIN a nation, otherwise the DPRK, the PRC and Russia would use that right against the US, or the PRC fears that India would exercise that right... International Law kis, in part, "Realpolitik"-based.
You’re a . . .
I’m a what, Terry? A pragmatic, libertarian-conservative Republican? Indeed I am...
I believe that Israel exersized its "right" to end Iraqs WMD development in 1981. I believe the US invoked its "right" to end Iraqs WMD development (again) in 2002. I believe that Bush has talked about exersizing our right to end Iraninan WMD development as well.
Perhaps these were all against international law, but since when have we cared? Really, what’s one more?
Well CindyB WMD’s ARE NOT Missiles... we have a legal framework to prevent the SPREAD of missiles and missile technology, NOT the indigenous development of missile technology. Whereas Iran IS a signatory of the NPT. Something I don’t think India WAS, for just this reason. But I could be wrong about India’s NPT status. So develop nuclear weapons BAD, we stop... develop missiles BAD, but we aren’t allowed to stop... Sell and SHIP missiles, bad, we stop.
In what is being called the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), eleven nations led by the U.S. have issued last month a set of agreed principles for interdiction — on the basis of reasonable suspicion — of air, sea and land cargo linked to weapons of mass destruction.
India is believed to be examining the legal implications of the PSI and making an assessment of it in the larger context of its non-proliferation policy and its long-standing commitment to preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction.
At the United Nations General Assembly last month, the U.S. President, George W. Bush, explained: "Through our Proliferation Security Initiative, 11 nations are preparing to search planes and ships, trains and trucks carrying suspect cargo, and to seize weapons or missile shipments that raise proliferation concerns."
So, under this initiative, we could seize WMD related material and missile shipments...I think the missile downing would fall under this category no problem.
Not saying we should do it, but I think we’d have a case.
The reasaon the Clintonians are talking about taking the NK missile out while it is on its pad is that they dragged their feet on developing the intercept system which would blast it out of the air. Therefore, they are not only recommending a course of action that would lead to war on the Korean Penninsula (if not elsewhere, when alliances are considered), but also trying to cover their backsides for their poor judgement.
After years of anti-preemption talk from the Left, I’m pretty surprised to read this column...
I believe that several of the Left’s positions on the Iraq war will come back to haunt them in the future. In an excellent essay, Lawrence F. Kaplan of the New Republic explains how the Left’s Iraq rhetoric has painted them into a corner on the Darfur issue:
Some other problems that a future Democratic administration might encounter:
1. GAINING APPROVAL FROM THE UN: When the Clinton administration wanted to intervene in Kosovo they were unable to garner UN approval, so they went around the UN and used NATO. When Bush was unable to get the UN’s blessing for the Iraq War he did something similar, using a "coalition of the willing". In Bush’s case the Left decided that the lack of UN approval made the war illegal.
Suppose that a future Democratic administration is faced with a situation that they believe constitutes a threat to the security of the Unites States. They decide that military action is warranted, but one country on the UN Security Council succeeds in blocking UN approval for that action. Does the future Democratic administration abandon their plans to defend the security of the United States and defer to the UN, or do they act without UN approval, after comparing Bush to Hitler for doing the same thing?
2. PRE-EMPTION: When the inspectors left Iraq in 1998, Clinton bombed that country for four straight days in an attempt to pre-emptively destroy whatever WMD’s Hussein might have. After Bush invaded Iraq a few years later over the same issues, the Left decided that pre-emption is illegitimate. If a future Democratic administration is faced with a threat that could one day result in an apocalyptic attack on the United States, do they wait until an American city is destroyed before using the military, or do they launch a pre-emptive strike after calling Bush a war criminal for doing the same thing?
3. INTELLIGENCE ESTIMATES: In 1998, President Clinton received intelligence that a factory in Sudan was manufacturing chemical weapons. Calling it an "imminent threat to the security of the United States" in a televised address to the nation, Clinton bombed the factory pre-emptively without waiting for Congressional or UN approval. It was later alleged that the intelligence Clinton received was wrong, and the factory was producing aspirin.
President Bush considered Iraq’s continuing refusal to account for its WMD’s a threat to world security, and he relied on the estimation of US intelligence agencies that Iraq most likely had hidden stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons in making his decision to go to war against that country. When those intelligence estimates were determined to be incorrect, the Left called for Bush’s impeachment. So, does a future Democratic administration act on intelligence estimates or ignore them?
Of course the extreme elements of both the Right and the Left wings indulge in over-the-top rhetoric all the time, but I think that the silence of the cooler heads in the Democratic party on Iraq has allowed the extreme Left an unparalelled opprtunity to frame the debate on this issue, and that mistake will come back to bite the Democrats in the ass again and again in the next several years.
The reasaon the Clintonians are talking about taking the NK missile out while it is on its pad is that they dragged their feet on developing the intercept system which would blast it out of the air
Yes, those evil Clintonites. They somehow sabotaged 20 years of SDI work, and all the tests (many failures), inclouding the ones from the last few years of the Bush administration !! The contortions which people will go through to blame Clinton are astonishing.
On another note, there is a non-proliferation regime called the MTCR, but thats voluntary and holds only for signatories. NoK is not a member. There is no legal framework under international law for stopping the spread of missile technology (the PSI is not a legal framework, its an understanding).
I believe that several of the Left’s positions on the Iraq war will come back to haunt them in the future
There is no one Left position on the Iraq war. The reason this article surprises people is that they have some caricature of "Left" in their mind to mean wimpy, unwilling to take action etc. [ One should point out that CLintons DefSec was a Republican in his later years]. Positions on the left vary greatly.
BEsides, the Right changed its positions quite dramatically on interventions after Clinton left office. And the positions of the Right and Bush on nation-building also seem hugely changed.
Why wouldn’t the positions of the Right in supporting democracy and nation building even at the cost of half a trillion dollars, come back to haunt them ? The isolationist streak in the Right is as least as strong as the anti-war streak in the left. So far most have been muted because of party loyalty, but it would be amusing to see future Republican Senators decry a Democratic President as a woolly dreamer for wanting to build democracy abroad.
I think the main impact will be that both Republicans and Democrats will be more skeptical of military intervention, open ended committments and nation building committments.
To add quickly to my previous message — I think the PSI is a good idea. However, its legality is still doubtful if you try and board a vehicle flying the flag of a country that is not a member. You can board a Liberian vehicle since its a signatory, but not a North Korean vessel (that would be an act of war).
the Right changed its positions quite dramatically on interventions after Clinton left office.
Well Lurking we did. The Right generally opposed nation-building and Dubya called for a more "humble foreign policy"-taken to mean we were going to try to come home from the Balkans.
And 9/11 changed that. Prior intervention meant Somalia, Haiti, Rwanda. You HAD to have the UN and all the NGO’s show up. We had to talk, and talk, talk, and then occasionally shoot someone. It seemed interminable and pointless, because the US and the "international community" really didn’t seem like they were solving anything, because we had to be "sensitive."
9/11 changed that. NOW the US could root out the Taliban, now the US could transform the Middle East. We didn’t have to have the UN and a bunch of translators to "negotiate" a "solution" that was amenable to the parties. The US could get rid of some of the parties and tell the other parties what was or was NOT acceptable, to the US, as a part of the post-war solution.
So to an extent the Right HAS changed it’s tune about intervention. As long as intervention seemed to be Haiti, Somalia and the Balkans, it seemed pointless, merely SLOWING the bleeding, but not really changing anything. When intervention came to mean the END of the Taliban or the Hussein regime(s) it was more appealing.
s long as intervention seemed to be Haiti, Somalia and the Balkans, it seemed pointless, merely SLOWING the bleeding, but not really changing anything. When intervention came to mean the END of the Taliban or the Hussein regime(s) it was more appealing.
So you’re saying that the right objects to interventions that are done with small budgets and with small forces. What they prefer is large interventions that are done with half trillion dollar budgets and 150K plus troops. So much for the virtues of limited government !!
The US could get rid of some of the parties and tell the other parties what was or was NOT acceptable, to the US, as a part of the post-war solution.
That has worked well in Iraq, ennit ?
FWIW, the isolationist right is still pretty strong. 911 put a floor under American isolationism, but Iraq put a ceiling on American interventionism. The isolationist right is willing to stick with GWB out of party loyalty just as the anti-war left was willing to stick with Clinton out of party loyalty.
There is no one Left position on the Iraq war. The reason this article surprises people is that they have some caricature of "Left" in their mind
Actually, there has been remarkable uniformity of opinion on the Left on the Iraq war. Democrats and Leftists who think outside of those lines (think Joe Lieberman or Christopher Hitchens) have almost become pariahs. My ideas about where the Left stands on issues such as taking pre-emptive military action are not based on a caricature but on some five years of participation in internet discussion forums such as this one. At a minimum I think it has to be conceded that the anti-war Left has been on center stage for the last few years while the "adults" have been standing quietly in the wings. Only now, midway through 2006, are the Democrats in Congress trying to forge a responsible position on Iraq.
That is not to say that there is no mature or responsible anti-war position. My point is that the rhetoric has been so over-the-top on this issue for so long, with comparisons to Hitler and calls for trying the Bush administration in front of war crimes tribunals, that a future Democratic administration that is faced with a foreign policy crisis will be hamstrung with it. I urge you again to read the essay on Darful that I linked in my original post to see what I am talking about. It is this over-the-top rhetoric that makes Left wing opposition to various Bush administration tactics different than Right-wing criticisms of interventionism.
Actually, there has been remarkable uniformity of opinion on the Left on the Iraq war.
False. You can see the votes a few days back in the Senate to see how Democrats are split on the war even now. There were plenty of pro-war liberal columnists and writers (although many split later over occupation problems) prior to the war.
Democrats and Leftists who think outside of those lines (think Joe Lieberman or Christopher Hitchens) have almost become pariahs.
The objection Lieberman isn’t solely based on his support for the war. Its based on his seemingly unlimited willingness to brown-nose Bush, unwillingnes to point out any adminsitration error (which even Republican Senators do at times), to suggest that any dissent is unpatriotic.
The equivalent on the Republican side may be someone like Lincoln Chafee although he has the excuse of being in one of the bluest states. I haven’t seen much love for Chafee in the Republican party.
My ideas about where the Left stands on issues such as taking pre-emptive military action are not based on a caricature but on some five years of participation in internet discussion forums such as this one.
And you don’t think internet discussion forums represent a caricature ? That its not the most shrill and vehement people who participate on those
My point is that the rhetoric has been so over-the-top on this issue for so long, with comparisons to Hitler and calls for trying the Bush administration in front of war crimes tribunals, that a future Democratic administration that is faced with a foreign policy crisis will be hamstrung with it
Over the top rhetoric ? You may conveniently forget the Clinton years, but I don’t. I remember the rhetoric circa 1992-2000 (and that despite not having an issue anywhere near as divisive as the war) and it was at least as bad as that against Bush.
After the Waco disaster, Clinton and Reno (Jackboot Reno became a very common phrase) were routinely denounced as Hitler. It was routinely said that they had deliberately burned the Branch Davidians to death as punishment. I would suggest looking through the USENET newsgroups from 1992-1995. [Clnton was also blamed for Ruby Ridge by some, which is bizarre since it took place under Bush Sr.]. Talk radio, USENET newsgroups (and in the final years, web sites) were as vicious as any left wing blog today. When the administration suggested the NSA Clipper crypto key escrow, Clinton was attacked as a facist.
Furthermore, a lot of mostly right-wing people actually formed so-called militas to protect themselves. Remember those halycon days ? Various Republicans, including elected officials at various times supported the militas. [ Although a lot of that stopped after Okhlahoma City]. Leftist groups may indulge in over the top rhetoric, but last I heard they had not formed a moderately broad based armed movement pledging armed resistance to the FBI or other Federal police.
Conspiracy theories ? The right dripped with them, all the stories about multiple explosions at Okhlahoma. And those 30 person death lists ?
Elections ? Despite the fact that Clinton won cleanly each time, without any of the controversy of 2000, plenty of Republicans were perfectly willing to call him an invalid president because he didn;’t get 50% of the vote (although he got more than Bush and far more than Dole).
And lets look at the WSJ. This is not a fringe paper, its one of the most respected, wide circulation papers in the US. Its editorial page attacked Clinton so many times over the years that they made 2-3 books out of it. They attacked Vince Foster so relentlessly that it contributed to his suicide. And then they had the gall to print conspiracy theories about how Clinton might have contributed to Foster’s death). They accused him of smuggling drugs in at Mena. After the Elian Gonzalez case, they suggested that Castro might have blackmailed CLinton with wiretaps from the Soviet era.
So please spare me the talk about over the top rhetoric being largely the province of the left. We see plenty of over-the-top rhetoric NOW at Dems like Hillary, Kerry, despite the fact that the right holds most federal positions of power.
Also, Aldo, lets talk about foreign policy in the Clinton years. He was attacked on Bosnia and Kosovo. Check out how many Republicans voted against the Kosovo war. Rush limbaugh attacked Clinton furiously over the mistaken bombing of a pharma factory in Sudan. When he bombed Iraq after the inspectors were kicked out, Tom Delay used the phrase "Wag the Dog".
And of course, Bush expressed opposition to nation building in 2000, now he’s practically Wilsonian in his support.
You talk about the problems the lefts rhetoric will pose for the Democratic party, but ignore the fact that the rights rhetoric can cause equal problems for the Republicans.
We can see that above in this thread — we have a right winger saying that North Korea has the right to launch this missile and we have no right under international law to destroy it. Well, what right did we have under international law to attack Iraq (forget UN resolutions — those have to be enforced by the UNSC, not the US) ? In practical terms, it makes no difference, but in rhetorical terms it makes a lot of difference.
And lets look at some more rhetoric. We have heard the pro-war rhetoric that invading Iraq and spending $500 Billion plus is worthwhile even if (as it seems) Iraq had no active WMD programs, and at most a few old (possibly degraded, possibly forgotten) shells because of the possibility that he might have restarted his programs (or even based on how many people could be killed by a degraded shell).
In that context then, the idea of attacking North Korea’s missiles seems to be almost mandatory, since with a possible nuke and missiles that could potentially reach the US, the North Korean threat is arguably at least an order of magnitude greater than any threat from Iraq and we would justified in spending an order of magnitude more effort (and treasure) to stop that threat. And however serious the consequences of such an effort, its not an order of magnitude more serious than the consequences of invading Iraq have turned out to be (assuming that China does not intervene). Otherwise you’re saying that you don’t really believe that Iraq was worth the cost in blood and treasure or that you’re not really serious in the other rhetoric about the 1% solution, its really more like (1%, but we can tolerate much higher if the target is tough).
And I agree that Darfur presents a problem for the pacficistic left. It also presents a problem for the noecon right that claims that Iraq would be worth it even if the only result was that it removed a cruel dictator. [ Why Iraq, why not Darfur, Congo ? Why not spend that half trillion saving far more lives in Africa anyway]
Rhetoric is rhetoric, but either left or right will perfectly easily change positions when it suits them.
Bombing NKorea’s missile on the launch pad is a very, very stupid idea, so much so that I’m looking for the catch I don’t see.
We’ve had this 20-year crisis with North-Korea’s WMD precisely because we’re afraid that overt aggression might lead N. Korea to kill several million of their own and South Korea’s citizens. Nothing in this equation has changed, as far as I know. Bombing this launch pad is the riskiest thing I can think of since a ground invasion of Cuba during the missile crisis, or using nuclear weapons on Vietnam in the 70’s. I don’t see NK’s knowledge gains from one lousy missile test as being worth it.
It’s a good thing to uphold international law, but the gotcha games are endless, because everyone breaks it.