USE OF FORCE….After reading tonight’s story about North Korea preparing to test fire a new missile, it occurred to me that this would make a good real-life test of the “use of force” question. That is, when is it justifiable to use force against dangerous or unstable international regimes? Windy theorizing is one thing, but the rubber hits the road when you have to decide what to do in real time in an actual case.

Here’s the background: the North Koreans are supposedly fueling their new Taepodong-2 missile, which is a sign that a launch is imminent. The State Department has taken the unusual step of directly contacting the North Korea delegation at the UN to warn them against performing the test. The missile could reach the United States and is probably capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.

So: would we be justified in launching an attack on the North Korean test site? What does a neocon like Bill Kristol think? An old-fashioned super-hawk like Dick Cheney? A reformed liberal hawk like Peter Beinart? An unreformed liberal hawk like Hillary Clinton? Or would they all say the same thing and demonstrate that behind the rhetoric there’s not really much difference between them?

Or how about this suggestion from James Robbins?

Sounds like a great opportunity to test our missile-defense technology. North Korea has no right to test weapons over other countries, so they won’t have a leg to stand on legally. And it would be a great statement of our resolve to stand up to their aggressive behavior. Finally, it would be a high-profile way to demonstrate the effectiveness of our missile-defense systems. For example the Airborne Laser system is up for a flight test this year. Why not make it count?

Hell, I could almost sign up for that. After 20 years, it’s time for the missile defense guys to put their money where their mouths are. Of course, Boeing doesn’t even pretend that ABL is operational yet, so that particular suggestion is probably out. But how about GMD? Anyone up for finding out if it really works?

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