We boomers have repeatedly faced the threat of nuclear missile attack since we practiced duck and cover in elementary school. Many of our generation are concerned about possible impacts to their families as diplomatic and military moves play out on the Korean peninsula over ballistic missile proliferation.
So I thank Rita Morgan for letting me provide this guest commentary to her readers.
I’m speaking up because I have some expertise regarding the strengths and weaknesses of America’s missile defense capabilities. I gained it by working 25 years in the military and in the aerospace industry helping develop the Army’s Mid-course Missile Defense System and analyzing space-ground military operations.
After retiring I published, Gold Fire, a novel about the U.S. facing nuclear blackmail while attempting to deploy a defense to block a threatened ballistic missile attack. I hoped that book would help people grasp the magnitude of devastation that a wisely designed attack, employing a few warheads, could do to our country. I also crafted the story to reveal some of the defender’s engagement difficulties, along with the need for an effective missile defense before a geopolitical opponent surprised America.
Meanwhile, the last presidential administration woefully underfunded the development and deployment of an effective multi-layered missile defense against Iran and North Korean threats.
Unfortunately, portions of that fictional story became reality when recent North Korean ballistic missile launches were accompanied with threats to strike cities from Hawaii to Washington D.C. with nuclear warheads. That reality includes the U.S. scrambling to remove weaknesses in its current defense capabilities.
Additionally, I believe print, radio, and TV debate about how to handle North Korea has NOT served the American people well.
* Because the chatter has NOT addressed why should the U.S. be willing to fight over preventing North Korea from having small warheads on ballistic missiles?
* Because supporters of let’s-negotiate-again don’t confess that that course of action has failed twice because the North Koreans don’t live up to their agreements to not develop and not proliferate nuclear weapon technology.
* Because supporters of our National Missile Defense don’t confess that today, it isn’t a layered defense, it has cyber penetration weaknesses, and test results do not demonstrate it will be 100% effective, Nor do proponents acknowledge that the North Koreans may attack in a surprise way that could penetrate our existing defense.
So here is my view of “the rest of the story” as Paul Harvey used to say on the radio.
Willing to Fight:
North Korea has a record of selling and shipping nuclear and chemical technology to Middle East nations opposed to the U.S. It is working to integrate a small nuclear warhead onto its long-range ballistic missiles. North Korea has the intent to sell such technology to Iran and could later sell smaller nuclear packages directly to Middle East terrorist groups or let Iran do it. So the long-range national security goal of the U.S. is to prevent the proliferation of small nuclear bombs to terrorist groups. Achieving that goal will prevent American families from living in a world where terrorists have transportable nuclear bombs. Preventing proliferation is why the U.S. may use military force in 2018 to motivate North Korea to terminate its nuclear weapons program.
Leak-proof U.S. Missile Defense:
Weaknesses in America’s mid-course missile defense must be rapidly corrected. The quickest improvement is positioning a terminal-layer defense to engage any mid-course leakers by using the Navy’s BMD-capable Aegis destroyers, carrying SM-3 block IIA missiles. The defense gap can be filled with one ship off Alaska, one off the West Coast, one near Chicago, and two off the East Coast. Hawaii’s Aegis ashore facility should also be armed with BMD-capable SM-3s to demonstrate our will to defend ourselves to China and North Korea.
Verifiable & Enforceable Agreement:
Because the North Koreans believe the U.S. does not have the courage to stand up to them, they will push for another non-enforceable agreement and billions of dollars. Just like the Clinton administration signed. But, kicking the nuclear can down the road is dangerous to U.S. families. Our negotiators will seek an agreement with verification inspections by a third party and with an effective enforcement mechanism for violations. Korean negotiators will demand the U.S. promise to never invade North Korea. Unfortunately, it is unlikely such an agreement will be accepted by North Korea or can even be designed. To get the North Koreans to believe the U.S. is not afraid of them, force will be needed, like a naval blockage and a missile launch blockade. Such demonstration of our political will raises the likelihood of significant military conflict along the DMZ.
Notice all three actions come with significant risk. This is why presidents leave office with grey hair.
About the Author:
Ed Mitchell was a foster child who later graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He went on to be an Airborne Infantry Ranger, a RAND Corporation Fellow, an aerospace systems engineer, and a community activist fighting to protect water resources in California. Along the way, Ed became a national award-winning author by weaving his real-world experiences from foxhole to space into his contemporary adventure/thrillers. For more details and photos please visit Ed’s webpage . Also, read his Humorous or Happy Heaven Day blogs.