While Trump Tweets, The Grownups Talk North Korea

By John Thorsson

Most Americans who follow politics woke up yesterday to a series of tweets from President Trump. One was a retweet of him hitting a golf ball off of Hillary Clinton. The other was about Kim Jong Un, where Trump referred to him as “rocket man.” It was all anyone could talk about for a good part of the day (and the inevitable Elton John jokes were priceless) however; something else caught my eye. While President Trump was busy acting unpresidential as he usually does, I saw a real politician make a very chilling statement. Diane Feinstein, former Chair and Co-Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee told CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union” that North Korea’s missile systems had become so advanced that they were now capable of hitting any target in the United States. Mrs. Feinstein spoke of how the United States missile defense system needed some work done to it to ensure that we’d be safe in the event that North Korea decided to launch an attack in our direction, and how we’d be better of if we continued to put pressure on China to help in the area. They certainly have their reasons to, and more on that in a minute.

For those unaware, the current U.S. missile defense system was developed in the 1990s, but is limited as to what it will be able to handle. As it stands right now it’s only really of good use against ICBM’s (intercontinental ballistic missiles) from a “less sophisticated” adversary. However, Kim Jong Un and North Korea have no interest in putting a stop to their missile tests, they’ve conducted fifteen launches this year alone after conducting only ten in the fourteen years prior. In response, the United States tested a new defense system in early July and again in late July known as THAAD. THAAD stands for Terminal High Altitude Area Defense. In early July THAAD was not a successful defense system that could be relied upon, but by the end of July the government had launched an ICBM over the Pacific, tracked it and intercepted it using the THAAD system, so it’s definitely showing signs of progress. The question that remains is: if North Korea launched a missile in our direction tomorrow, would it be enough? Would we be able to stop it in time. The answer is a resounding: maybe?

It really all depends on what type of missile the North Koreans launch in a theoretical attack. If they were to launch a basic SCUD, we’d be able to intercept it with little problem. If, however, it something with a higher range and greater velocity then the United States would likely be in trouble. Let me try to explain: if North Korea has a SS-27 Topol M we would only be able to intercept it during it’s launch phase. So without being able to get close enough to it, there’s likely not much that we could do. SCUDS generally come in around Mach 5, so America’s Patriot 3, S-300 would be able to handle those easily. If however, King Jong Un has found a way to build a proper ICBM, they travel at Mach 22. At which point you’re asking for a child to try to cover an Lebron James on a basketball court.  Plainly speaking, once an ICBM is out of the launch phase, it’s moving at too fast of velocity to have any good chance of destroying it before it’s too late, especially when you consider the angle it would be coming in at.

The greatest chance the United States has is to put pressure on China and the Russians. They would both likely sign on to helping stop North Korea from furthering their nuclear ambition because of MAD (mutually assured destruction). In the end, MAD is the greatest deterrent to nuclear war that there is, and it’s stood the test of time pretty well. MAD basically states that if China or Russia or Japan or whatever other nation you want to put out there fires a nuclear weapon in the direction of the United States, then we will fire a nuclear weapon back at them.

For instance, it would be wise of the United States to warn China that if North Korea continues on with its nuclear program and gets a fully functioning nuclear weapon, we’ll be forced to put up more missile defense systems. Doing that would make us less vulnerable to an attack by China and it would make China nervous to being more vulnerable to a potential first strike by the U.S. Suffice it to say, MAD is kinda weird, but it also works.

Sadly, we’re dealing with a psychopath in Kim Jong Un. So no matter how many sanctions the UN puts on him, no matter how much pressure we put on China or Russia to help stop his ambitions; it might not make a difference. U.S. Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, has already said that the UN has “exhausted all the things that we can do at the Security Council at this point.” She went on to hing that the next step would be to turn things over to the Pentagon.

Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that point. It has the potential to be catastrophic to the entire world if it does.

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