I got into a conversation at the gym today on the subject of Kim Jong Il and his proposed missile test. It was started by the wacko suggestion, mooted by William Perry and Ashton Carter, that if they do appear to be going to fire the thing, the U.S. should pre-emptively bomb the launch site and destroy it and the missile. The rationale seems to be that the U.S. shouldn't allow North Korea to develop a long range missile with which it could conceivably fire a nuclear missile at U.S. territory. My gym mate asked what I thought we should do, and my answer was, we should do nothing. We absolutely should not shoot at the thing.
Consider Kim Jong Il, if you can. There are a number of things we aren't sure of about him and his country, starting with do they actually have nuclear weapons and is the Taepodong-2 missile as good as they say it is. The one thing we are sure of is that this guy is a complete wingnut, and one of the ways he stays in power is by waving around the threat that the U.S. wants to invade North Korea. The last thing we should do is give him any support for that notion. The U.S. wouldn't have North Korea if they gave it away with a pound of tea; but of course Kim doesn't think that way. If we shoot at his missile, we've confirmed every paranoid fantasy he's ever had. No.
I've also heard an unnamed genius from the Pentagon say he's "very confident" that if North Korea does fire the missile, U.S. interceptor rockets can destroy it. Is he talking about our missile defence system? The one that's never had a successful intercept, even when we staged the whole test and in essence told it where to point? This is a really bad idea - we absolutely don't want to give the world the notion that if they shoot stuff at us, we can't take it down. Maybe he was talking about the Patriot, which actually did shoot down some incoming during the first Gulf War, although if you look at the analysis, the actual success rate is very unclear and depends strongly on who's counting.
Clearly, our best possible response is not to dignify the effort with a response, as my mother used to say, but just keep encouraging the North Koreans back to the six-way talks.