Tuesday, June 20, 2006

War Games

Yesterday, I said the time had come for the US to display its military strength, and apparently someone agrees. Today, the US began its largest war game in decades off the coast of Guam involving 30 warships, 280 aircraft, and the USS Kitty Hawk, USS Abraham Lincoln, and USS Ronald Reagan, in addition to more than 22,000 personnel.

Yet more attention is being paid to the activation of the US missile defense system from test mode to operational status. The ground-based interceptor system has been the single biggest expense in the US defense budget since its inception during the Reagan administration. Its advocates insist that, despite its public failures, if the system were able to successfully intercept a missile launched by North Korea, it would represent the most significant development in global warfare since the Manhattan Project.

It's a tremendous risk. If North Korea's launch succeeds and our test fails, we elevate North Korea and we look foolish. Whether it's a smart decision depends on information I don't have, information that's probably codeword-classified (despite the few tests that have been discussed publicly): the system's track record. If we can reasonably expect it to succeed, intercepting North Korea's missile would be a spectacular display of US military superiority. It would be the only display more powerful than a weapon test of our own: an indisputable demonstration that North Korea has spent more than a decade developing a missile that we've made irrelevant.


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