This genuinely surprises me.


This genuinely surprises me. William Perry and Ashton Carter have an column in Thursday’s Post in which they argue that President Bush should use a cruise missile attack to destroy the Taepodong missile now sitting on a launch pad in North Korea and apparently being prepared for launch. (There is also an article in the Post that discusses the significance of the article.) This latest version of the Taepodong missile can reportedly hit the United States.

Here are some key portions of the piece …

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.

This is a hard measure for President Bush to take. It undoubtedly carries risk. But the risk of continuing inaction in the face of North Korea’s race to threaten this country would be greater. Creative diplomacy might have avoided the need to choose between these two unattractive alternatives. Indeed, in earlier years the two of us were directly involved in negotiations with North Korea, coupled with military planning, to prevent just such an outcome. We believe diplomacy might have precluded the current situation. But diplomacy has failed, and we cannot sit by and let this deadly threat mature. A successful Taepodong launch, unopposed by the United States, its intended victim, would only embolden North Korea even further. The result would be more nuclear warheads atop more and more missiles.

All sorts of people write all sorts of columns. But Bill Perry isn’t some nut. Far from it. He was Bill Clinton’s second defense secretary. He’s a very shrewd, level-headed guy. And he’s been deeply involved in the North Korea issue for years. Carter was an assistant secretary of defense under Perry.