This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume" from October 3, 2007. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LT. GEN. HENRY OBERING, MISSILE DEFENSE AGENCY: We fired an operationally configured interceptor out of a silo at Vandenberg Air Force base, and it flew out, and was successful in intercepting the target.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUME: what that means is that they fired an anti-missile missile and it hit a missile in the air and took it out — not something easily done, and something a lot of people thought could never be done.
Some thoughts on this now from Fred Barnes, Executive Editor for The Weekly Standard, Mara Liasson, National Political Correspondent for National Public Radio, and the syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer, FOX News contributors all.
So what is the significance of this? And what effect will it have on the U.S. defenses, and possibly the defense of Europe?
FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Well, it could have lot.
The first thing was it was successful on these particular tests of a long-range missile defense system that were now six-for-nine. But this worked at every local [level], which is important. It worked at the command and control level, the radar level. Obviously, the interceptor hit the missile. It worked with the conference calls that have to be made.
Of all these things that need to be done, particularly in this system, if you are going to take out not a whole arsenal of nuclear weapons, only the Russians have those, really. The Chinese may have some, but a rogue missile from a country like North Korea or Iran, where the leaders there are not people, you can deter by normal means, or terrorists.
And I think it strengthens the case for putting some of these missile defense interceptors in eastern Europe. The Russians may not like it, but I think the eastern Europeans should be encouraged by the fact that the system works.
MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Clearly, the next step is that the Europeans have to agree to let them be stationed there.
This is so far so good on the technology. They have a couple more tests to go through, like they have to be able to differentiate between a decoy and the actual missile. They didn't have a whole bunch of things to choose from in this test, but they will in subsequent test.
But now the question is, will the Europeans agree to have them station there?
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, it is not only will the Europeans agree, [it is also] will the Democrats agree? The Democrats in Congress are withholding the money for the European deployment, and this continues a 20-year tradition of Democrats opposing missile defense as a kind of a religion.
It makes absolutely no sense. This is the century of the missile. It was invented in the last century, but only great powers had the capacity to develop and deploy them. In this century anybody will be able to.
North Korea is approaching the capacity for intercontinental, Iran certainly. And we are the only country with the high technology integration — the experience with missiles — to actually shoot this stuff down. It is a bullet hitting a bullet, [which is] extremely important.
So we have the defensive weapon of the century, and Democrats, as always, are resisting. And they argue the Iranians are not going to have the capacity. Of course they will. It is not hard to get. In might [even] be imported from Pyongyang.
And also, if you have a system in place — a defensive system in place — it tells the rational Iranians in arguments inside the government [that] they can argue it if the Americans have a system which can neutralize any investment in ballistic technology, [but] why should we waste the effort?
And it could deter the development. And if people argue they're going to develop over time decoys, well, do the Iranians really want to get into a technological arms race with the U.S. in this area? When the soviets did that in the 1980's on star wars, they not only ended up with a losing proposition, but it was ruinous.
BARNES: Politically this is a very good issue for Republicans. Missile defense is popular.
There is something about the American people that has been true for 220 years, since we've been a country — they want to be defended against attacks. And [with] a missile attack [it] is certain, whether it is a single rogue missile from terrorists or whether it is a bigger attack, [that] they want to be protected. Missile defense is popular.
Republicans would be crazy if they do not step up and argue very strenuously and make the case for this system and for deploying it in Eastern Europe.
Democrats argue that we spend 100 billion on this, but that in a quarter century, which, if you do the math, is about 4 billion a year, which is trivial in a budget of three trillion.
And also, look at the damage inflicted on 9/11 with a non-nuclear weapon of mass destruction — an attack of about $100 billion in one hour. If you can prevent a single North Korean missile from hitting Los Angeles or San Francisco, you have the same, not only hundreds of thousands of lives, but a huge amount of infrastructure.
And the idea that we would not invest in this makes absolutely no sense.
HUME: Are the Democrats really going to fight this, Mara, do you think?
LIASSON: I think that if this test, this successful test, is followed by other ones that are also successful are more complicated, like being able to differentiate a decoy from a missile, I think that the argument is going to shift.
I think [what] the argument has been from a lot of Democrats is, this is and it was not going to work. And there were plenty of tests that did not. And, I think, to the extent that they can show that this works, I think the debate will change.
HUME: When we come back, North Korean leaders vow to disarm their nukes. Are they for real, or are we buying the same rug for the umpteenth time? Stay tuned.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We want to make sure that we set it up in such a way that when it came time for North Korea to dismantle its programs we would be able to verify it and be able to keep them at the table and keep them progressing.
And that is where we are today. And it takes awhile to get all this in place.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUME: As the president suggests, it is in place now. North Korea really, really is going to dismantle its nuclear and its main nuclear facility in Pyongyang.
Back with our panel to discuss this — Charles, what about it?
KRAUTHAMMER: It is a bad deal, but I would sign it anyway.
KRAUTHAMMER: The reason is, it is all that we have. We have no leverage over the North Koreans. We are, as you said, purchasing the rug for the fifth time over.
It is a bad deal because despite what the president implied, it is not a dismantlement, it is a disabling. And you can disable a car by removing a tire, and it is easily re-abled. So it is going to be a disabling of the reactor.
It is a promise that they had made in February that they were going to disclose all nuclear facilities within 60 days. Well, now, we're told it is going to happen by the end of the year. So another promise withheld and promised again.
They have a record of lying. They are Stalinist, after all. It comes with breathing the air in the morning. And they export material, possibly even to Syria — there was an Israeli attack on Syria.
However, there are no other cards, and whatever you can get, you take. If we can have it disabled, OK. If we get a declaration involved about their nuclear facilities —let's see – [which] includes the clandestine uranium enrichment which they, one, submitted and are now are denying.
And let's see what kind of inspections we are going to have on the ground. But if you have nothing else, you take what you can get.
LIASSON: This is about plutonium, not uranium. And, as Christopher Kill said today, he said, look, we have to keep our eye on the ball. We just do not want a 50-kilo plutonium problem to become 100-kilo plutonium problem. In other words, just even slowing it is worth something.
And I agree with Charles, this is not like Libya, this is not a wholesale foreswearing of the nuclear program. But you have to stay engaged with them, and if there is any access that the U.S. gets to actually verify what they're doing, that would be better than nothing.
HUME: It wouldn't be the U.S., it would be the IAEA.
LIASSON: I would be [for] the IAEA, but it is better than nothing.
HUME: That is the U.N. agency.
BARNES: Well, keeping our eye on the ball is not signing a piece of paper with the North Koreans, it is making certain that they comply with what they have agreed to do.
We already know, as Charles mentioned, the 60-day deadline in February — they had to give this full accounting they did not do. They have already violated that.
We know they tossed aside the treaty they signed with the Clinton Administration back in the 1990s.
And we have to recognize that Kim Jong-Il has two objectives in mind — in life. One is to stay in power, and the other is to be a nuclear power, to maintain his nuclear program.
Under duress, he has agreed to this treaty. But there is every reason to believe that he is going to want to violate it. I think it is a mistake for the U.S. to start paying the $25 million we are going to give him before he even comes through.
HUME: I thought that is why you don't even pay.
BARNES: Apparently not.
BARNES: I do not think so. There is a new $25 million in, either that or fuel oil worth $25 million.
Maybe we should demand that he give that accounting, and a full accounting of everything that they have done in the nuclear area, what they have right now, what they may have transferred to another country, perhaps Syria. My guess is this accounting will be skimpy and vague.
KRAUTHAMMER: We have one piece of leverage, the Beijing Olympics. Between now and August, Beijing has a lot of national interest, but it cares above all about a great, big success coming out for the party — a Berlin 1936 in their homeland.
And they want everything quiet and contained between now and then. That is probably why if anything is happening in Pyongyang, it is happening on the count of Chinese pressure. Ours is nonexistent.
And we ought to use that leverage, knowing China's interest in having an issue off the table between now and next August, in pushing them to actually put pressure on the North Koreans.
HUME: Now, if the North Koreans do these various things, it is still believed that they have some bombs, or the materials to make bombs already.
BARNES: That is what they're required to account for. That is a part of the deal. How much they have, even whether it is uranium or plutonium—
HUME: So our missile defense system, which we talked about in the last segment, might protect us against a bomb. But the question is would they slip the technology to others, such as the Syrians?
BARNES: They certainly have done that with missile technology. We know for certain they have given that to the Iranians and others. So there is every reason to believe that they might do that with nuclear technology as well.
Charles mentioned the inspections. The inspections might not be important on a trade treaty with Germany, but here [are] these people with nuclear weapons, and they do violate treaties. So we need very invasive inspections, with no notice before you inspect a facility, and so on.
The North Koreans will not want that, but maybe we can get the Chinese to push for it.
KRAUTHAMMER: If they are stuck with just a few of the existing bombs and nothing else, and missiles, then our missile defense will be exactly what we need to protect against it. And it is neutralized as a weapon against this.
LIASSON: The administration was not making a lot of great claims for what happened today. Bush talked about being able to keep them at the table, keep them progressing. This is not being claimed to be something—
HUME: Rose colored glasses.
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