To Kill or not to Kill

Kim Jong II Back in 2008, US Pacific Command scored big when they knocked down a decaying US satellite with a sea-launched interceptor. Now ABC reports that CINCPAC, Adm. Timothy Keating, is ready to break out the flyswatter again -- this time under operational conditions.

In an exclusive interview with ABC News' Martha Raddatz, Adm. Timothy Keating, head of the U.S. Pacific Commands, said that the military is prepared to shoot down any North Korean ballistic missile -- if President Obama should give the order. If a missile leaves the launch pad we'll be prepared to respond upon direction of the president," Keating told ABC News. "I'm not a betting man but I'd go like 60/40, 70/30 that it will, they will attempt to launch a satellite. There's equipment moving up there that would indicate the preliminary stages of preparation for a launch. So I'd say it's more than less likely."
With plenty of Aegis assets floating around the ring of fire, ground-based interceptors at Vandenberg AFB, CA and Alaska, and a whole mess of radars that put Superman's x-ray vision to shame.... there's no doubt we could pull this off. But, like with all things defense, the question is whether or not we should. Sure, the idea might appeal to those of us whose responsibility for national security and statecraft stop at the "publish" button on our blogs -- watching the Norks hopes for both a space program and a credible nuclear deterrent dissipate in a cloud of interceptor smoke sure to hell appeals to me-- but what about the State department wonks who are responsible for turning off the North Korean nuclear program? What happens if the North Koreans step up raids along their borders, seize an American ship, or send nuclear scientists and supplies to Iran -- or Syria? The North Koreans are, by nature, aggressive creatures. But that doesn't mean they're stupid. In the fifty plus years since the ceasefire, they've frequently pushed us right up to our absolute, no shit limit, then quickly backed down. It's a strange amalgamation of diplomacy, politics, and warfare --a harsh calculus of slaps and handshakes- that the Norks have mastered in their half-century of dealing with the West. In other words, Kim Jong Il is damned good at being a gigantic pain in the ass. So do we provoke him? Is it necessary? Does the benefit outweigh potential cost? I venture a cautious yes (let our new CiC play a little hardball), but what say you? --John Noonan
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