, Salem, MA


April 30, 2013

Column: North Korea's actions reminiscent of the Cold War

“Hitting a bullet with a bullet” aptly describes the challenge of missile defense. North Korea’s threats underscore the importance of this technology.

Other news overshadows but does not remove this threat. On April 26, Seoul announced that 175 workers at the idle Kaesong industrial park in North Korea will be withdrawn. Pyongyang terminated cooperation early this month.

The Pentagon is expanding anti-ballistic missile defenses on the U.S. West Coast, and the Lockheed Martin THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Air Defense) anti-missile system has arrived on Guam, a publicized potential target. In 2009, THAAD was sent to Hawaii during an earlier crisis with North Korea.

A somewhat comparable missile confrontation occurred during the final months in office of President George W. Bush. Plans were announced to deploy anti-ballistic missiles in Poland, with associated radar installations in the Czech Republic. In immediate response to this provocation, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev announced impending deployment of Iskander missiles to Kaliningrad, a forward area close to Western Europe.

In the fall of 2009, the new Obama administration announced that the U.S. would rely instead on a mobile sea-based system, with land-based mobile radars. Conservative critics instantly charged this was appeasement. In fact, President Barack Obama made a good call.

There has been sustained pressure on Washington to develop missile defense for a half-century, dating back to the Eisenhower administration. At that time, defense spending absorbed more than half the entire federal budget, and a larger percentage of gross national product than today.

Ike maintained control over the military primarily, though not exclusively, by putting a ceiling on the overall Pentagon budget, effectively setting the Air Force, Army and Navy against one another for available resources. One byproduct was considerable duplication of effort. Each service developed a separate strategic missile program, jealously guarding research and development information from the others.

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