- Our military installations give the region
economic stability And a big red target under our feet.
- Lost in this summer,s endless revelations
about the White House sex scandal were a report on nuclear proliferation
and an object lesson in nuclear politics courtesy of the North Korean government.
In July, a panel of experts led by former U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald
Rumsfeld concluded that the ballistic missile threat from unstable governments
was far greater than anticipated. In August, North Korea lobbed a short-range
ballistic missile 300 miles across the Sea of Japan. The missile splashed
down just off Vladivostok, Russia. The North Koreans have admitted that
they have gone into the arms business in nuclear weapons: Pakistan tested
a Korean-made weapon shortly after its neighbor and rival, India, conducted
underground nuclear tests. Korea has also supplied missiles to Iran and
- U.S. Congressman Norm Dicks, a defense
expert who also serves on the House Intelligence Committee, is concerned
about the threat but believes that the threat of terrorists using more
conventional weapons is a bigger problem (and hardly comforting). Dicks
says that "U.S. troops stationed in South Korea and Japan are at risk
in the present situation." Why should we care? Because the technical
sophistication required to make a short range ballistic missile provides
the foundation for developing an intercontinental ballistic missile. In
three to five years, those living in the western United States could find
themselves the objects of nuclear blackmail. The large, sophisticated submarine
base at Bangor on the Kitsap Peninsula, Ft. Lewis and McChord Air Force
Base make South Puget Sound a primary target.
- A major nuclear strike at Bangor would
destroy most of the U.S. nuclear submarine fleet in the Pacific Ocean.
A strike at McChord would impair the ability of the United States to deploy
troops and materiel. With the closure of Ft. Ord in central California,
Ft. Lewis has become the Army,s most significant base of operations on
the West Coast.
- Bases insulate our economy against bad
times and provide a source of educated professionals to local businesses,
but they come with attached risks. Geopolitics matter in an immediate sense
when you and your loved ones could be toasted.
- The Rumsfeld Commission Report
- The report of the Commission to Assess
the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States was unanimous. The nine
member panel was composed of Democrats and Republicans who have held senior
positions in the nation,s national security agencies. The results of the
six month study were grim. The potential for several rogue nations, including
Iraq, to develop ICBM,s in the short term is very real. The timeline for
such development projected by the commission was much shorter than that
assumed in the Central Intelligence Agency forecast. The CIA had forecast
that development of ICBM capability by a variety of competitors was 15
years away. The commission concluded that three to five years was a more
- Countries which pose an ongoing threat
to the United States, such as Iraq(which had developed short-range ballistic
missiles prior to the Gulf War), have the knowledge to develop long range
missiles in a relatively short span of time. The commission concluded that
it would take only three to five year for a technologically sophisticated
country to develop an ICBM from the point at which it decides to develop
such a weapon.
- The breakup of the Soviet Union, far
from providing a breather from the threat of nuclear weapons, has probably
increased the rate at which such weapons are spreading across the globe
as technicians and technology are sold to the highest bidder.
- Intercontinental Range Not Necessary
For Weapons Of Mass Destruction
- Rumsfeld points out that short- and medium-range
ballistic missiles"missiles with a range of up to about 1500 miles"are
portable. They could be moved on cargo ships and launched from the deck
of the ship. They could be placed in another country,s territory close
to a target country and launched from there.
- Short-range missiles in the hands of
any unstable government increase the terrorist threat to the United States.
Unstable governments are less likely to retain control of their weapons
inventory. "In some ways, I agree with Admiral James Woolsey, the
former CIA Director, who said that the world was a much safer place when
it was the U.S. vs. the Soviet Union," Dicks said.
- Intelligence Capabilities Eroding?
- On July 15, 1998, CIA Director George
Tenet issued a copy of a letter sent to senior members of Congress which
responded to the Rumsfeld Commission report. Tenet wrote: "The differences
center more on when specific threats will materialize, rather than whether
there is a serious threat. In our March, 1998 Annual Report to Congress
on Foreign Missile Developments, we underline the significant threat posed
today by medium-range missiles, our continuing concern about existing and
emerging ICBMs, and the immediate danger that comes from the proliferation
activities of countries that possess or are developing such systems."
- Rumsfeld believes that over 20 countries
are engaged in such development.
- "It,s important that we have multiple
sources of intelligence," states Dicks. "Intelligence is a big
force multiplier." He says closed societies such as North Korea are
among the most difficult challenges to our intelligence capability. "North
Korea is a hard target, and one of the hard targets where we don,t have
great capability." Dicks believes that the risk of massive retaliation
toward any country or group which attacks the U.S. will continue to act
as a deterrent to such activity.
- Dicks Says U.S. Strength Still Poses
A Credible Deterrent
- "If you have 18 Trident submarines
with 24 launchers times x number of warheads, you have a credible deterrent,"
according to Congressman Dicks.
- Dicks believes that "smart"
conventional weapons such as the B-2 Bomber provide the United States with
strategic options. "With the B-2, we could stop the invasion of South
Korea or destroy a cache of biological weapons. In a dangerous situation,
the ability to use air power and control air space would give us maximum
leverage in a variety of situations."
- Dicks says that rational actors aren,t
going to take on the United States. "Our strength is in precision
weapons. Smart weapons on the B-2 can hit targets from 45,000 feet up.
There is a huge risk in attacking the U.S. with the type of devastating
capability we can bring down on our adversaries," Dicks said.
- Dicks believes that small-scale terrorist
activity against U.S. cities should be of greater concern to citizens than
a rogue nation using missiles. Nonetheless, he supports actions to defend
our nation against the missile threat.
- An Anti-Ballistic Missile Strategy?
- Dicks supports continued exploration
of anti-ballistic missile technologies, but he does not believe that the
U.S. should make a major investment in an unproven technology, but rather
a series of research and development investments that might lead to a technology
which would be effective against both ballistic missile and cruise missiles
(which are harder to detect than ballistic missiles). "The use-a-bullet-to-hit-a-bullet,
strategy doesn,t work. That was proved in the Gulf War. If the scud missiles
had been more accurate, we would have been in a lot of trouble."
- The Rumsfeld Commission report specifically
endorses the acquisition of a defense against the ballistic missile threat.
- North Korea: the Last Stalinist State
is Poor, Starving and "Negotiating" with Missile Technology.
- "North Korea is not self-sufficient
in food. People live under the harshest of conditions. It,s one of the
last Communist regimes," said Congressman Dicks. He said negotiations
are under way to try to improve the food situation.
- In an interview last spring, Kathy McCaul,
a spokeswoman for a major relief organization"World Vision"expressed
concerns about the distribution of food within North Korea. World Vision
discovered that grain distributions delivered for the general populace
were being diverted to the military. World Vision solved the problem by
using feeding centers for children as direct distribution sites rather
than putting supplies in the hands of the government.
- Some expert observers believe that the
North Koreans are attempting to use the sale of missile technology as leverage
in negotiations with the United States.
- Former U.S. Ambassador to South Korea
Donald Gregg, in a copyrighted interview with The Washington Post, said
he believed that North Korea was unhappy with the state of its agreement
with the U.S. to suspend its nuclear weapons tests in exchange for fuel
- In the target-rich environment of South
Puget Sound, we can only hope the United States government takes decisive
action against further weapons developments by North Korea and other powers
with the habit of testing our will.
- Specific Findings of the Commission to
Assess the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States
- Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
is a sensible conservative who is taken seriously by the leaders of both
parties. Rumsfeld has run major corporations and has an educated view of
technology. The former ambassador to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization
has also served as the chairman and CEO of General Instrument Company and
G.D. Searle Pharmaceuticals. (He,s the man to thank or curse for the development
of Equal sweetener.) He has also served as chairman of RAND, a think tank
specializing in defense analysis, and chairman of Gilead Sciences, a company
which is a leader in IDS research. The other members of the bipartisan
commission were equally well pedigreed.
- 1) "Concerted efforts by a number
of overtly or potentially hostile nations to acquire ballistic missiles
with biological or nuclear payloads pose a growing threat to the United
States, its deployed forces and its friends and allies."
- 2) "The threat to the U.S. posed
by these emerging capabilities is broader, more mature, and evolving more
rapidly than has been reported in estimates and reports by the intelligence
- 3) "The Intelligence Community,s
ability to provide timely and accurate estimates of ballistic missile threats
to the U.S. is eroding."
- 4) "The warning times the U.S. can
expect of new, threatening ballistic missile deployments are being reduced."
The United States Senate has endorsed the findings of the commission by
specific resolution, sponsored by Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and John
McCain of Arizona. The resolution stated in part that "North Korea
is developing the Taepo Dong intermediate range ballistic missile, which
is expected to have sufficient range to put at risk United States territories,
forces and allies throughout the Asia-Pacific area. Multi-stage missiles
like the Taepo Dong class missile can ultimately be extended to intercontinental
range." The resolution directs that "the recommendations of the
Commission to Assess the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States
should be incorporated into the analytical processes of the United States
intelligence community as soon as possible."
- The resolution also states that the United
States should accelerate cooperative theater missile defense programs with
- Catherine Rudolph