A stalking horse is a person who tests mounts a challenge against a person on behalf of an anonymous third party.
The term stalking horse originally derived from the practice of hunting, particularly of wildfowl. Hunters noticed that many birds would flee immediately on the approach of humans, but would tolerate the close presence of animals such as horses and cattle.
Hunters would slowly approach their quarry by walking alongside their horses, keeping their upper bodies out of sight until the flock was within firing range. Animals trained for this purpose were called stalking horses.
Thanks to Wikipedia for the above definition.
But what if you’re not hunting waterfowl? What if you’re a nation trying to test the military capabilities of another nation?
Let’s say you’re oh, I don’t know — China — and you want to test US missile defense capabilities. You can’t just lob a missile in the general direction of the US without some severe consequences. It’s pretty simple. You find some pinhead willing to launch a missile in the general direction of the US for you. You funnel your nuclear and missile technology to him through third parties and let him do your dirty work. When he launches the missile you monitor the target’s response to determine their defensive procedures and capabilities.
Now, what do you do if you’re the intended target of this kind of attack? Sabotage is the preferred solution, but if you are lacking the necessary intelligence capabilities you’ve got two other choices.
You can send in a couple of missiles of your own to blow it up before its launched and destroy, or at least severely compromise, the stalking horse’s capability to launch future attacks. If you’re unwilling to take that step, you have to let the missile launch and shoot it down if it is going to hit you.
The problem with the second option is that you have to show at least some of your defensive capabilities to the true aggressor behind the stalking horse.
But how then do you both defend yourself from the missile attack and deny your opponent the knowledge they seek?
If you’re smart, you send in the B team.
You deliberately do not use all your defensive capabilities.
Chances are the missile is going to land in the water, hundreds of miles from any population. Even Kim Jong Il is not stupid enough to deliberately target Hawaii. Obama would have no choice but to respond to a missile attack on American soil with overwhelming force. To fail to do so would render him politically impotent both at home and abroad for the rest of his one term. Our enemies and fair weather friends would denounce us for “an inappropriate level of response” but nobody would do anything and many would privately congratulate us.
Let’s hope when North Korea does launch its missile on July 4th it puts on a great fireworks show by blowing up on the launch pad. If it does get airborne, let’s hope whoever’s in charge of defending us from it is smart enough not to show all our cards to the Chinese.