Writing in today's Washington Post, two former officials of the Clinton administration call for the US to unilaterally and preemptively destroy the North Korean's long range missile on the ground before it can be launched. Ashton B. Carter and William J. Perry, assistant SecDef and SecDef, respectively, suggest the preferred method of attack is a cruise missile strike.
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. It has applied the doctrine to Iraq, where the intelligence pointed to a threat from weapons of mass destruction that was much smaller than the risk North Korea poses. (The actual threat from Saddam Hussein was, we now know, even smaller than believed at the time of the invasion.) But intervening 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 blast would be similar to the one that killed terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraq. But the effect on the Taepodong would be devastating. The multi-story, thin-skinned missile filled with high-energy fuel is itself explosive — the U.S. airstrike would puncture the missile and probably cause it to explode. The carefully engineered test bed for North Korea's nascent nuclear missile force would be destroyed, and its attempt to retrogress to Cold War threats thwarted. There would be no damage to North Korea outside the immediate vicinity of the missile gantry.
Well, now we know where the Clinton administration got it's penchant (bordering on a fetish) for launching cruise missile attacks. Carter and Perry go on to blithely dismiss the chances of some sort of negative consequences from pulling this little prank. You know, like a war starting or anything.
Is this an attempt by some Democrats to prove how warlike they are? Could be. Is this a smart move politically or militarily? To quote the estimable authors, "We think not". Generally launching missiles at a foreign power with an enormous standing army right next door to one of our allies would be considered, how shall I put this, idiotic? Insane? Dumb as a box of rocks? All of the above, I think.