Undersecretary of Defense Edward Aldridge's claim of a 90% hit rate for the missile defense system against North Korean attack is the scariest thing I have read in a long time (March 19). Although actual tests of the MDS have been rigged to enable the target to be easily tracked prior to interception, the success rate is only 62.5%. The conventional wisdom seems to be that recent threats from North Korea are merely a bargaining stance designed to wring concessions from the U.S. However, North Korea has been a closed state for the last half-century, and most of its current citizens have been born during that period. Perhaps it truly has a paranoid attitude toward the community of nations, an inability to correctly reason about the intentions of others.
If so, might not North Korea fear a U.S. attack and view deployment of the MDS as a threat, an attempt to neutralize its deterrent capability? Under those circumstances, overstating the MDS' success rate before it is tested and deployed (or vice versa) is hardly a prudent thing to do. The danger is that the North Koreans might believe the 90% figure, even though no one here does, and decide to launch a preemptive attack in their own defense if we proceed with deployment. And the North Koreans are thought to have a few atomic devices and missiles capable of reaching California.
As we wage war to see whether Iraq has nuclear weapons (which it could not deliver), it is comforting to know that only one in 10 of North Korea's existing nuclear missiles would penetrate our new missile defense.