Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Death of the "Imminent" Standard

I never believed the Iraq War debate (that continued until President Bush left office) that said military action against a country on the threshold of WMD is only justified when the country in question is about to gain the capability. The threat, we were told, has to be imminent. I wondered how we can be sure of that status. And here we are with North Korea.

It is quite possible that we've missed that "sweet spot" of imminence to strike North Korea of when they almost but still don't have nuclear weapons.

The new conventional wisdom is that we have a window of opportunity to deal with North Korea before they have ICBMs (no word of the ability to fire shorter-range ballistic missiles at closer targets):

At the start of the year it was estimated that North Korea would need a decade before they could launch intercontinental ballistic missile with nuclear warheads, Government sources said. That has now been slashed to just a few years.

Very recently, the conventional wisdom was that we had a decade. Now? Maybe not I guess.

Is the estimate of years a new hard estimate?

"This is the North Koreans showing us, or at least portraying, that their solid-fuel missile program is improving at a steady rate," David Schmerler, research associate at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey's James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, told CNN.

One photo of Kim reveals a poster on the wall clearly mentioning a missile called "Pukguksong-3," a potential successor to the previous two versions of the missile which were both solid-fuel, medium-range projectiles.

Is North Korea trying to show us a real capability to deter our attack or just trying to make us think that they have more ability to deter a potential attack on them.

Or do we really believe this was an accidental reveal?

And do we know for sure which of those explanations is accurate?

And if we don't know what explanation is accurate, what does that say about our ability to determine when a nuclear threat is imminent?

Good Lord, if we are already speaking about the risk of nuclear war with North Korea, we've missed the window of opportunity for a non-nuclear military solution, haven't we? How did that happen?

As much as we've had problems with securing Iraq, I think we can all be happy that Saddam and his evil spawn don't sit in power in Iraq with oil and WMD--which eventually would have been nuclear--to threaten the region and slaughter their own people.

So thank goodness we didn't listen to the people that wanted the "imminent" standard for dealing with the Iraq threat. It is the only state in the Axis of Evil (Iraq, Iran, and North Korea, for you kids too young to remember) that has a hope of being a stable and valued member of the international community.

I've noted this problem with the "imminent" standard before, but figured it deserved its own post.