As the headlines are all telling us today, North Korea test-fired a bunch of missiles this morning. And the country's much-rumored and much-hyped long-range missile was, as far as we know, a dud, plopping into the Sea of Japan with barely a whimper. The rest were short-range missiles that have been tested before and pose no threat to the United States. So Kim Jong-Il isn't the all-powerful adversary with the ability to incinerate Los Angeles and Seattle after all.
A few points to note. Obviously North Korea's done a bad thing here, and no one should be happy about anyone firing missiles anywhere anywhere, but all things considered, this seems to augur well. North Korea has now fumbled away one of its few bargaining chips. And the United States can no longer overinflate the threat of North Korea and still be taken seriously. So perhaps this means the two sides can now go back to the negotiating table and try to work out their differences like grown-ups.
The botched test also lays bare the foolishness of various suggestions a few weeks back that we should launch a "pre-emptive" strike against North Korea, which was always a ridiculous proposition. (As Jim Henley put it, William Perry and Ashton Carter were basically envisioning a country "so crazy it might nuke the United States without provocation but so sane it won't retaliate with provocation ") And finally, Philip Coyle of the Center for Defense Information notes the fact that the U.S. military is, at present, apparently unable to tell whether North Korea fired six or ten missiles or what. That hardly bodes well for missile defense advocates, no? Hard to stop incoming rockets if you can't even figure out how many have been launched