He might also ask, what’s a few miles between enemies? As we found out yesterday, North Korea has a ballistic missile capable of hitting the West Coast, which means it can travel approximately 5,900 nautical miles by my rough reckoning. (I’m pretty sure it’s more than 114, anyway.) They also, in case you’ve forgotten, have a fully reactivated nuclear weapons program that will be able to pop a warhead on top of that baby in short order.
Clearly the U.S. response to each case is entirely proportionate, for two reasons. First, Saddam Hussein gassed his own people and now has a missile that can travel almost twenty five miles further than before. To put this in perspective, it would take a fast runner more than two hours to travel that far. Second, no-one would really miss Los Angeles. Come to think of it, Kim Jong-il quite likes movies, so he might target San Francisco instead. Still no great loss. By the time this happens, ordinary Americans will in any event be fully focused on Year Five of the Great Democratization Of Iraq.
Not to worry. As Christopher Hitchens points out, a sudden movement of a very large number of U.S. troops across the Iraqi border, accompanied by a targeted bombing campaign and whatever military engagement with local troops is necessary to subdue the populace “would not be an invasion by most definitions”. In fact, it would not even be a war. Instead, it would merely be “a forcible removal of a hostile regime.”
In much the same way, when a tyrannical loony builds a nuke and has a rocket to deliver it to you with, this would not be something to worry about by most definitions. In fact, it would not even be a problem. Instead, it would merely be a forcible move by a hostile regime.
Coming soon from a hard-headed IR realist near you: a clever explanation of why Kim Jong-il can be deterred from attacking the U.S. even though he’s able to, whereas Saddam Hussein cannot be deterred from attacking the U.S. even though he isn’t able to.