AUSTIN -- -- Y'all, this isn't gonna work.

North Korea is threatening to launch a long-range missile against us, and we're threatening to reply with an anti-missile missile.

Sorry to remind you, but our "missile defense system" does not work. Good old Star Wars flopped again when tested in 2004 -- in fact, it failed to launch. Since then, several tests have been delayed or cancelled due to technical problems. Just because we spend $130 billion on a bad idea doesn't mean we can ever get it to work. The latest Bush budget has $10.7 billion for Star Wars, almost twice as much as Homeland Security is spending on customs and border patrol.

The good news is that the North Korean rocket doesn't work, either. The last time they fired a long-range missile, it went 1,300 kilometers (807 miles) and could not put a payload into orbit.

The Korean missile was supposedly tanked up and ready to go more than a week ago, but, oops, experts now say if that were true it would have been fired by now, since the fuel is highly unstable.

If you think the "military standoff" with North Korea sounds silly, wait'll you hear about the diplomatic maneuvering. As you may recall, the United States refused to have bilateral talks with North Korea on the grounds that A) Kim Jong-Il is a nutcase and B) we were already committed to multilateral talks, including South Korea and China.

This kerfuffle went on for quite some time, but so did the six-party talks. Last year, the North Koreans agreed to abandon their nuclear program in return for a security guarantee and economic aid -- but in the meantime, it has come to doubt U.S. sincerity on these pledges. Hard to see how that could happen with such delicate diplomatic players as Dick Cheney and John Bolton at work.

Whenever I need a good laugh, I just think of Bolton's current title: "Ambassador John Bolton" -- ha, ha, ha. Even better, "Ambassador to the United Nations." While there, he has been making Dale Carnegie proud ("How to Win Friends and Influence People"). Bolton's latest U.N. trick was to pitch a wall-eyed fit over some mild (and justified) criticism by a Brit. Good thing the Brits are our closest allies, at least for now.

I don't mind leaving our relations with the Brits to "Ambassador John Bolton," but do we think it's a good idea to have him in charge of our relations with the nutcase who has a missile with unstable fuel? Then again, we might as well leave it to Bolton, since William Perry, former secretary of defense, a Democrat, thinks we should pre-emptively strike their nuke while it's on the launch pad. Better than trying to hit it in midair, of course.

Republican Richard Lugar, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has called for direct talks with the North Koreans on the issue, which sounds a lot saner.

As the American Progress Action Fund points out, the real problem is that the Bush administration has no policy on North Korea. "For five years, the Bush administration has been paralyzed over North Korea. Hardliners such as Vice President Cheney, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and U.N. Ambassador Bolton have rejected serious engagement in favor of a confrontational approach that has backfired. Over time, North Korea has withdrawn from the Non-Proliferation Treaty, reprocessed fissionable material, increased its nuclear arsenal and is now on the verge of starting missile testing."

Boy, that policy worked out well.

To find out more about Molly Ivins and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at COPYRIGHT 2006 CREATORS SYNDICATE INC.