Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Circumlocutions - Why It Has To Be A Missile

Scholar Earl Kinmonth, who has very little tolerance for ungrounded concepts, has a post up on the SSJ Forum on the proliferation of phrases describing the North Korean launch vehicle as being "really a missile" -- with the emphasis on the adverb -- a subject I touched upon in my bantamweight post of Saturday.

Last night, NHK tried out a brand new phrase describing the DPRK launch vehicle:

"The what-is-in-reality-a-missile, acting out the part of an artificial satellite..."
On Saturday, I half out of facetiousness, half out of actual confusion, asked the reader to chose a potential force mandating these verbal tangles.

Yesterday, I played around with the idea that refusing to call the DPRK launch vehicle a "rocket" was a way of expressing contempt for the DPRK's history of sophistry and duplicity. However, that theory had a weakness in that it is hard to get everyone to share a feeling, even in a mass-market society with a strong conformist streak.

This morning I think I have it...and it is one these, "Duh, MTC, what else could it have been?" answers that leaves one thankful there is coffee for solace's sake:

Japanese media outlets do not call the North Korean rocket a rocket because if it were a rocket, then the Self Defense Forces could not shoot it down.

The Japanese government is a stickler about terminology most of the time. On defense and security issues, however, it is outright fanatical. Fall into any kind of linguistic fuzziness on security and one runs the risk of slamming right into the wall of Article 9 of the Constitution.

Ballistic missile defense (BMD) has been judged permissible under Article 9. The term is translated directly; in Japanese it is "dando misairu boei" (弾道ミサイル防衛). If one is to use BMD to bring down anything, that thing had better be a missile. Shooting at anything else would be unconstitutional.

So, as is so often the case with these tortured circumlocutions, the reasoning is transparently practical. Call it a missile and you can shoot at it. Call it anything else and you are left with nothing but watching and praying.


Anonymous said...

There was a moment of unintended comedy in the NHK nightly (which I see here in Oz with a next day time delay) wherein the viewer was reminded that 地球は丸い, so the inability to see over the horizon caused JSDF radars to miss the event entirely. Maybe I'm easily amused but a timely reminder that the earth is not flat.

Just as well to have the missile not reach altitude as the opportunities to fail in intercepting a tumbling stage of a misdirected projectile/s would be possibly more alarmingly embarrassing.

Why the government didn't prepare for the very easily predicted possible failure of the launch is bit of a worry.


MTC said...

YY -

Please see my next post. I wrote it before seeing your comment. In it I give my theory why the radar shadow was poor.

I saw the same NHK report you did. Having been present at Lance Gatling's FCCJ presentation on the Taepodong 2 a few years back, I had figured that the earth's curvature was the main culprit in the government's incapacity to come out with a statement.