Rockets play leading role on world stage

Wednesday, July 5, 2006

While most of us spent the majority of the day celebrating Independence Day, the news channels drew more than their usual holiday viewership thanks to world events Tuesday.

The refrain to "The Star-Spangled Banner" -- "and the rocket's red glare" carried unusual weight the next time we heard it.

For one, NASA returned to space for only the second time since the 2003 Columbia disaster, with the apparent successful launch of Discovery.

With typical American daring, the shuttle was launched on a national holiday, heedless of the potential risk to precious traditions.

Then, later word of North Korean missile launches should have given us pause -- one of them reportedly had the potential range to reach our West Coast.

At least one of the others was a short-range Scud -- remember those from the first Iraq war -- that can trace its ancestry back to Hitler's V-2 terror weapons.

It's obvious that North Korea's actions were mainly publicity stunts to get the attention of prosperous countries such as the United States, China and Japan, at which it succeeded.

And it's probably no coincidence that the launchings started at about the same time as the Discovery liftoff, and in plenty of time for the evening news wrapup for Americans tuning in after a day of barbecues and watermelon.

It was a reminder that we still live in a dangerous world, and many sacrifices have to be made to preserve the independence we were celebrating.

But rather than responding in fear and overreaction, we should use Tuesday's events to reinforce our resolve to provide leadership worthy of our position as the top world superpower.

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