Poll: Attack North Korea!

An overwhelming majority of Americans want to go to war with North Korea over Sunday’s missile test/satellite launch, a new Rasmussen poll finds.

Fifty-seven percent (57%) of U.S. voters nationwide favor a military response to eliminate North Korea’s missile launching capability. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that just 15% of voters oppose a military response while 28% are not sure.

[…]

Support for a military response comes from 66% of Republicans, 52% of Democrats and 54% of those not affiliated with either major political party. There is no gender gap on the issue as a military response is favored by 57% of men and 57% of women.

The survey was taken prospectively on Friday and Saturday.  The key question: “If North Korea launches a long-range missile, should the United States take military action to eliminate North Korea’s ability to launch missiles?”

This demonstrates, yet again, why we don’t conduct foreign policy via polling. Most of the experts believe the consequences of a military attack on the nuclear-armed power would be far worse than doing nothing and that, while undesirable, this is something we can live with.  Further, as Don Snow notes, simply building a missile is the easy part. They’ll still need to fabricate “a nuclear warhead that is small and light enough to fit on (and thus be transported by) a missile to target. Primitive nuclear weapons are too big and heavy to put on the tips of missiles.”  Ultimately, he notes, this launch “may be the first step toward a big deal, but in and of itself, it should give us cause for mild concern, and not much more.”

Story via Memeorandum. Photo from Reuters Pictures.

FILED UNDER: Military Affairs, National Security, Public Opinion Polls, , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. sam says:

    This demonstrates, yet again, why we don’t conduct foreign policy via polling.

    Very especially if the poll has the name ‘Rasmussen’ preceding it.

  2. odograph says:

    I wonder how it would have changed if the word “test” were explicitly in the question?

    (Long range tests missiles are not good, but they aren’t an attack.)

  3. DavidL says:

    Slightly shocking is the Obama adminstration’s apathy to both North Korea and Iran’s nuclear ambitions. I am sure that when, and if, the Norks nuke Hawaii, Obama will give a tough sounding speech, and send a stern note. In the Obama White House, it is always Three AM.

  4. mannning says:

    If it were so simple as ignoring or just keeping a wary eye on individual states that achieve both nuclear weapon capability and long-range missile delivery systems, then our current posture makes some limited sense. We are able to determine who launched a missile by backtracking, and can thus devastate that state in a matter of minutes, if that became necessary, and thus to effect a defacto standoff.

    However, nuclear weapons developed by states that are not part of the non-proliferation treaty represent a direct threat to this standoff posture, since they can and do sell their technology to other nations and other organizations that fall into the rogue category, if not the imminant threat category. We may thus be faced with a nuclear armed AQ in the near future, for example, which is a rather highly undesirable situation.

    At that point, it would be very late indeed to try to put a lid on the nuclear genie, and our risk level would rise substantially. That we have already witnessed this sale of nuclear and missile technology from the likes of N. Korea to Iran, Libya, and perhaps others, is quite unsettling.

    At just what point in this progresion towards an almost fully nuclear-armed world do we stand up and say “enough”, and take steps to end the problem by action, not mealy-mouthed platitudes, n-way conferences, or UN sanctions that never seem to work as advertized?

    At just what point do we realize that we must be better prepared for the loss of one or more of our cities and millions of our citizens. or else to be more proactive in halting the proliferation of nuclear technology? Reductions in our armed forces feeds this situation directly as well, since we become more and more unable to dig out the offending sites using our troop power in hostile nations such as Iran, or in N. Pakistan, the home of AQ.

  5. Rick DeMent says:

    ICBM misses are neither the most effective nor the most likely way a sate like N.Korea would attempt to deliver a nuke so I’m not sure why this is a really big deal for anyone other then the pearl clutchers.

    besides if nukes are outlawed then out outlaws will have nukes right …

  6. Bithead says:

    David’s words, carefully chosen, reveal why the fears about going to war with NORK are unfounded. ‘Nuclear ambitions’, he says, not ‘nuclear capability’. He’s correct in his word choice.

    Rattling a sabre makes noise. Drawing it doesn’t. If NORK were comfortable with the Nuclear capabilty they have, they’d not be making all the bully-boy threats.

    OTOH, since they are making trheats like that, one may assume that they consider the demonstration of pwoer vital. Why? Possibly this was a demonstration run for the benefit of some buyer or another. The afore-mentioned Iran and also Syria, who have both been rather quiet the last several months come to mind.

    Of larger concern, though, even than this, is that this is one of many foriegn policy setbacks this weekend, for America, all of them with Obama at the reins. If nothing else, this missle thing was a test of mettle for Obama one of many, who failed every one of them.

  7. Dave Schuler says:

    We have very little to fear from North Korea for the foreseeable future. Right now they neither have the ability to strike U. S. territory with a missile nor the ability to arm such a missile with a weapon capable of doing serious damage, e.g. a nuclear weapon.

    A more serious threat but still one for the future would be an EMP weapon, i.e. a nuclear weapon of 1 to 10 megatons discharged in the upper atmosphere. Defending against such an attack is a good case for missile defense.

    For those who favor “military action” against the North Koreans, what do you have in mind? We don’t know a great deal about their programs and they’ve done a lot of target hardening over the period of the last 50 years.

  8. Jim Henley says:

    OTOH, since they are making trheats like that, one may assume that they consider the demonstration of pwoer vital. Why? Possibly this was a demonstration run for the benefit of some buyer or another.

    The refusal of the one government on Earth that makes a habit of using military force to overthrow governments it doesn’t like to sign a non-aggression deal with the DPRK would be reason enough.

  9. Mr. Snow seems to be arguing that we need to wait until the ICBM threat is imminent before responding. Is this, um, prudent? Whatever happened to “nip it in the bud”?

  10. Rick Almeida says:

    [T]his is one of many foriegn policy setbacks this weekend, for America, all of them with Obama at the reins.

    How would any alleged “foreign policy setback this weekend” NOT have the president at the reins?

  11. Houston says:

    James, I take issue with several of the points in your post. First, I don’t think 57% makes an “overwhelming majority of Americans,” nor does “a military response” equate to “going to war.”

    And lastly, I’m not sure I agree with this either: “Most of the experts believe the consequences of a military attack on the nuclear-armed power would be far worse than doing nothing.” What would be the potential consequences of a strike of a half dozen cruise missiles to destroy the launch pad used for this NORK missile launch? The loss of life would be minimal if any. The damage would be minor. The message would be significant.

    What exactly do we fear the NORKs would do to retaliate? Or are we worried about what some others would do? The Chinese? Russians?

    I’m just curious what some of these “consequences” you speak of might be.

  12. Bithead says:

    How would any alleged “foreign policy setback this weekend” NOT have the president at the reins?

    No ‘alleged’ about it, Rick. Indeed, if I’m Rahm Emmanuel, I’m breating a harried sigh of releif… the Italian Disaster will take much of the Obama disaster off the tube for the next couple cycles at least.

    Secondly, I word it that way to make allowences for lower level operatives to foul things up, as so often happens. In this case, though Obama’s direct involvement was more overt, and the screwups thereby cannot be explained by anything but a foulup at the top.

  13. James Joyner says:

    I don’t think 57% makes an “overwhelming majority of Americans,”

    I’d agree if it were 57-43, although that’s still a landslide in an election. But when it’s 57-15-28, I’d call that overwhelming. The fers outnumber the agins almost 4-to-1!

    nor does “a military response” equate to “going to war.”

    Blowing things up and killing people in other countries to punish them for behavior we disapprove of is almost a definition of war.

    What exactly do we fear the NORKs would do to retaliate? Or are we worried about what some others would do? The Chinese? Russians?

    They could, say, detonate a nuke in South Korea.

  14. mannning says:

    We should fear the proliferation of nuclear technology and weapons of any size to states that have declared themselves to be enemies of the US, and to organizations that have gone much, much further already.

    We are engaging organizations of this ilk in Iraq for the moment, and in Afghanistan more seriously, with a careful eye on the Pakistani nuclear capabilities.

    We are not engaging Iran, and we are not engaging N. Korea with fire in our bellies. There seems to be one-sided detente now in both cases, while our new President tries to find a non-violent means to solve the problem. This is something that most of the last three or four Presidents have tried, largely with the same crowd of foreign leaders, without any visible signs of real success.

    Whatever else we think should be done, nothing will happen until the current diplomatic string runs out in each case, perhaps forcing us to consider diplomacy by other means. This presents the opponents here with cover for development of their capabilities for the next few years, at least. This time frame would appear to be sufficient for both nations to acquire and perfect nuclear weapon capabilities.

    Personally, I cannot believe that the Iranian case will go too much further without a hard response from the Israelis, which will almost instantly involve the US as well, whether we want it or not. Here is a situation where a foreign nation, Israel, will control to a great degree what we do about Iran in the next year or so.

    N. Korea is a different case. We have no surrogate that is ready, willing, and able to go in to defang NK. Perhaps Obama will offer them yet another trillion or two newly printed US dollars to cease and desist with the nukes. Who knows? If that fails, Obama will have put us in a box that appears to require military action of some type to escape with a whole skin.

    There seem to be no simple and low-casualty military solutions to be pursued. We know well how they fight on their ground from the Korean Conflict. We also know that the NK is able to draw substantial military support from both Russia and China, wich makes a ground war within NK virtually unthinkable for us today.

    That leaves air strikes as a possible solution. One needs to know where to strike for this to succeed, and I am not clear whether we have adequate target information on NK nuclear facilities. Lacking such information, there are few options available to us.

    A blanket attack with nukes on every likely mountaintop in NK in order to cascade the mountains down onto every entry point might be feasibe. But, this would require a large number of nuclear explosions, with fallout that would reach Japan in a short while, which is not so good. It is not clear to me whether an EMP device or two would solve the problem underground, and not disrupt Japan or SK as well.

    Threatening to bomb anything standing in NK cities is yet another blanket type approach. Given the nature of the regime, and its obliviousness to the suffering of the people, such a move would not achieve what we want, and would redound on us from a humaintarian view.

    Well, how about a blockade of the NK coast? Starve them out. With China as a border nation, this won’t work either, if the Chinese come to their support. I would bet on that.

    So we appear to be stymied in all but the bribery approach, and that is looking weaker and weaker as time goes by, especially as the dollar is predicted to tank a lot further in the near term.

    We need some devine guidance!

    But, one out of two ain’t bad!

  15. Dave Schuler says:

    Blowing things up and killing people in other countries to punish them for behavior we disapprove of is almost a definition of war.

    I kvetched about this earlier today. Yes, it’s war. When armies shoot people or blow them up, it’s war. When our army breaks their stuff, it’s war.

    Honestly, I blame the Congress for the fuzziness on when it is or is not a war. They need either to approve and support or disapprove and prevent.

  16. sam says:

    @Bit

    Rattling a sabre makes noise. Drawing it doesn’t.

    There’s a line delivered in the movie Sanjuro by an old woman to a young samurai:

    The very best swords, she says, stay in their sheaths.

  17. Bithead says:

    I’d agree if it were 57-43, although that’s still a landslide in an election. But when it’s 57-15-28, I’d call that overwhelming. The fers outnumber the agins almost 4-to-1!

    Agreement. I would also add the political context of nearly everything being as close on 50/50 as no matter. When the results swing that far for any topic, it’s remarkable, anymore.

  18. Bithead says:

    @ Sam

    The Gargoyle doesn’t strike me as having any more in the way of wisdom than our Iranian freinds. On that basis, and a lot of others we well, I suggest that if he actually had the ability to draw swords, he would.

  19. Bithead says:

    Blowing things up and killing people in other countries to punish them for behavior we disapprove of is almost a definition of war.

    Military action, however, would seem to include a blockade. Not only would that help the situation from the perspective of getting this errant dog back to heel, it would also allow us to monitor the aforementioned buyers of rocket technology.

  20. Bithead says:

    @mannning

    Your comments are well taken.

  21. mannning says:

    Bit: Thanks.

    Another scenario occurred to me. That of decapitation of the NK regime. I am not convinced that we could find the place and time where Kim Jong and son were both present, along with significant others, and be able to place a weapon on that spot before the attempt is detected and the principals disappear. I have in mind that reviewing stand where Kim seems to enjoy watching his army goosestep by…

    A long range missile with a conventional warhead would do the trick, but that is a sure step to war. A heavy mortar in a truck mounting might be viable too, since they can be quite accurate, have a silent descent phase, and do have considerable range. That awning over the review stand, however, looks suspiciously like a painted steel sheet of armor protecting Kim from such an overhead attack.

    Oh well!

  22. Houston says:

    I’d agree if it were 57-43, although that’s still a landslide in an election. But when it’s 57-15-28, I’d call that overwhelming. The fers outnumber the agins almost 4-to-1!

    Fair enough.

    Blowing things up and killing people in other countries to punish them for behavior we disapprove of is almost a definition of war.

    I disagree. My scenario of a limited strike on the launch pad is less than what Clinton did in Sudan.

    They could, say, detonate a nuke in South Korea.

    They’d never do this. Nor a conventional invasion. They know they’d be committing suicide. The guy’s crazy, but he’s not stupid. I think their possible responses to such an action are very limited – maybe pull out of the latest (meaningless) talks?

  23. Bithead says:

    Well, how about a blockade of the NK coast? Starve them out. With China as a border nation, this won’t work either, if the Chinese come to their support. I would bet on that.

    When I suggested a blockade, I wasn’t suggesting starving them out. The Gargoyle is already doing that without our help. Matter of fact, I’d suggest allowing food shipments in, once identified as such. Such a blocade would, though, as I suggest, deal with the fear of that rocketing technology ending up in the hands of the iranians, or the Syrians.

    Hm?