In the wake of North Korea’s ballistic missile tests, Japan has announced that they “want to work with the United States to build an interception mechanism as soon as possible.”

Before I left Wheaton, someone called into a radio show and said that we were being too aggressive and undiplomatic towards North Korea, and besides, the North Korean tests weren’t a big problem because if Kim Jong Il launched missiles, we could “just shoot them down.”

Well, it’s not quite that simple or easy, but the caller’s confidence in our ability to shoot missiles down–used to support his belief that we shouldn’t be so confrontational with Kim–lay in stark contrast to the idea’s reception twenty or twenty-five years ago. Back then, the Strategic Defense Initiative was too expensive, or couldn’t work, or would provoke the Soviets, or was a dangerous fantasy born of a particular actor’s performance in a cheesy old science fiction movie. Now? Now ballistic missile defense is a great idea, and now it can defend us from crazy tin-pot dictators with bombs. Let’s hope it can; the system keeps getting better and more reliable.

Maybe the missile defense system was and is too expensive, and maybe there are more efficient, more effective ways to defend ourselves from, if not prevent altogether, missile attacks. But with Japan calling up and asking to share our missile defense system, and Americans hoping that we can swat Kim’s missiles out of the sky, perhaps the actor deserves a little credit for foresight.