A dangerous situation is brewing on the Korean peninsula and it has me, someone who is typically anti-war, of the opinion that we might need to act militarily to stop a potential catastrophe.
The North Koreans are planning to launch a new longer-range missile, called the "Unha-2" on or about July 4th. There are arguments about the capabilities of this missile, but it is generally agreed that at the least, the missile will have the capability to reach Alaska and Hawaii. Some estimates have the missile able to reach the continental United States. See this article from the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists http://www.thebulletin.org/web-edition/features/post-launch-examination-of-the-unha-2 and this article http://www.planostar.com/articles/2009/06/30/plano_star-courier/news/621.txt from the Plano Star for discussions regarding the capabilities of North Korean Missile Technology. The North Koreans have said they will aim the missile about to be launched in the direction of the United States.
North Korean Unha-2 rocket from earlier test
If you combine the capabilities of this missile with the fact that North Korea has tested two nuclear weapons over the past three years, the concern becomes very serious. The UN considered it serious enough to ban all weapons exports from the DPRK. To make matters worse, the North Koreans have threatened to "shower the US with a nuclear fire" if "attacked" see http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/jun/25/north-korea-nuclear-threat and as I mentioned have already said they will target the US with this missile.
Scientists are of the opinion that the North Koreans do not have the technology to miniaturize a nuclear warhead so that it could fit on its new longer ranged missile, but if you were responsible for the defense of the United States, could you take that chance? I don't think I could or would.
If the North Koreans start fueling the missile or otherwise get the missile close to being ready to launch, unless the United States can verify with 100% certainty that it is not fitted with a nuclear payload, I think the missile has to be destroyed on the launch pad. If we attack, the North Koreans would only have themselves to blame. You cannot threaten other countries with a WMD attack and then prepare to launch a missile in their direction a few days later and expect the target country not to react. Being anti-war doesn't include ignoring a situation like this.
This is not an Iraq situation where there is a question if the DPRK has weapons of mass destruction. We all know they do. This is also different from Iraq in that the North Koreans have a verifiable long-range delivery vehicle that can reach US soil. Finally, this is different from Iraq in that virtually every country in the world and the UN agree on all of these points.
President Obama has received criticism from Republicans for not being more firm with his North Korea policy. If in fact the US military hasn't received orders to be ready to destroy this missile if necessary, that criticism would be well founded, but the problem is that OpSec, or Operational Security would dictate that such orders be kept secret. However, there is a hint about what might be going on in terms of US defense.
The Commander of US Pacific Forces, Admiral Timothy Keating, was interviewed by Viola Gienger of Bloomberg News Service and indicated that "the military is ready to handle any orders it might receive in response to North Korea's threatened missile launches and potential illicit shipments." see http://www.honoluluadvertiser.com/article/20090630/NEWS08/906300336/-1/RSS02?source=rss_localnews .
The fact that Admiral Keating allowed himself, and has been allowed by his superiors, to be interviewed on this subject means that a message is being sent to North Korea and it underscores the seriousness of the situation. I wonder if most Americans understand how serious it is. Admiral Keating's statements come on the heels of President Obama's statements a week ago broadcast in an interview on CBS saying "his administration and the U.S. military are "fully prepared for any contingencies" involving North Korea -- including the possible launch of a long-range missile toward Hawaii." see http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/library/news/dprk/2009/dprk-090622-voa01.htm
If an attack becomes necessary, should we stop with the missile and launch pad? Should we expand the attack to the nuclear plant(s) that produce weaponized plutonium and/or uranium? Should we liberate North Korea entirely? Do we even have the ability to mount such a campaign with significant percentages of US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan? Would China react or could we get their buy in to any necessary action? Certainly, the Chinese would not ignore the situation if threatened similarly. Perhaps the Chinese have already been consulted. Such a consultation would not be publicly disclosed for obvious reasons.
What I keep coming back to whenever I think of this situation is that President Obama cannot allow this missile to be launched. ABM or Anti-Ballistic Missile technology has a significant failure rate and you can't take the chance with what might be a nuclear weapon. I hope the North Koreans abort the preparations to launch this missile. If they cannot be convinced to do that, we may be a few days away from a new Korean war.