Charles Krauthammer’s Jan. 7 column says that North Korea is close to the acquisition of a nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missiles and that this is an imminent threat to the U.S.
Of his five solutions, the only practical one was previously advocated by the Wall Street Journal: “Shoot down the test ICBM” — which we can. Wikipedia says the U.S. Navy has at least 30 cruisers and destroyers equipped with anti-ballistic missile defenses.
When the North Koreans practice their next launch of an ICBM, the Navy could simultaneously test our seaborne ABM. We can say: “Oh, did our test ABM shoot down your test ICBM? What a sad coincidence.”
That would send a real message.
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Krauthammer discounts this solution because he believes “it could very well provoke a military response.” Yes, it could — but, realistically, are the North Koreans going to attack?
This gets us into the arena of “mutual assured destruction” that Krauthammer does not mention. MAD successfully deterred attacks by other hostile nuclear powers during the Cold War. If the North Koreans successfully launched a nuclear-armed ICBM at the U.S. (or even an attack against South Korea), they know they would be signing their own death warrant from our retaliation. This is the real deterrent — just as Soviet leaders were deterred from launching a conventional or nuclear attack during the Cold War even as they had nuclear warheads on thousands of missiles.
I say to Krauthammer: stop writing hyperbolic columns and get realistic.