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Putting down the tarbaby

After nearly sixty years it looks like the US is finally slipping free of Korea.

The U.S. military will stay on, perhaps in reduced numbers, and play a supporting role, officials say. South Korea wants to take back the authority for wartime combat by 2012. The Pentagon says South Korea can have the authority back by 2009.

Roh said Wednesday that anytime in between those dates would be fine; indeed, he said, Seoul could take it back “even now.”

I have long felt the South Koreans quite capable of defending themselves so long as the US keeps them under its nuclear umbrella.

24 comments to Putting down the tarbaby

  • Mustafa Shag

    Oh no Dale, you can’t say that!!! Seriously though, if you’re a close purveyor of U.S. politics I imagine that was intentional, if not, check this out:

    Massachusetts governor apologizes for calling Big Dig ‘tar baby’(Link)

  • Dale Amon

    Always remember: our spies are everywhere. We know all and see all. ;-)

  • lucklucky

    I agree. ROK army is much superior to North.

  • RAB

    Watch out for the transition point.
    That’s when North Korea might try something really dumb…

  • Joshua

    I agree. ROK army is much superior to North.

    Are you serious?

  • Are you serious?

    It is hard to see how it could be otherwise. The ROK military has a formidable reputation and it quite well equipped with modern weapons. Moreover it would have air superiority by the end of Day One in all likelyhood.

  • Dale Amon

    Not to mention they are fighting for their homes; they are not malnourished and of stunted physical and mental capacity due to being semistarved in childhood; they have not spent their lives being brutalized and will fight without the fear of the commisar shooting them in the back if they do not advance.

    Even in 1950, it was the Chinese Army and the Russian pilots who were the biggest problem. And the Russian pilots had an inferior fighter.

    This is not to say the DPRK could not do a hellish amount of damage. If a war broke out, Seoul is toast.

  • Eric

    The NoKos wouldn’t last a week against the ROK in a conventional war. They don’t have modern equipment, they don’t have supplies, and they don’t have ammunition or fuel for training. Sure, they could kill lots of people, since Seole is in artillery range of NoKo guns, but they’d have no chance of prevailing in a military conflict.

    This article pretty much sums it up. Kim and his generals are counting on WMD-based extortion to stay in power.

    I don’t think US troops are there to contain North Korea. They’re there because it’s a good staging point for potential conflicts in the Far East. They’d be handy in case China attacked Taiwan, for instance.

  • R C Dean

    If a war broke out, Seoul is toast.

    I’m not so sure the vaunted NORK artillery batteries targeting Seoul (a) exist and (b) would survive all that long, based as they are in caves.

    The opening of a cave or other underground installation is by definition immobile and thus an ideal target for a pre-laid fire plan, which you know the ROKs have. Seal the cave mouths and the NORK artillery is done. My prediction is that there wouldn’t be a functioning underground installation within range of Seoul by the end of the first day.

    Modern doctrine for artillery to survive counterbattery fire is “shoot and scoot”. The underground NORK artillery parks can’t, and won’t survive.

  • But would Seoul be radioactive toast?

  • Joshua

    Even in 1950, it was the Chinese Army and the Russian pilots who were the biggest problem. And the Russian pilots had an inferior fighter.

    How is this relevant? The South Korean army was also more or less useless in that war. Things have changed a lot since 1950.

    Moreover it would have air superiority by the end of Day One in all likelyhood.

    This is certainly true. The North Korean air force is laughably inadequate compared to the South’s

    I’m not so sure the vaunted NORK artillery batteries targeting Seoul (a) exist and (b) would survive all that long, based as they are in caves.

    Well, they can hardly be based in caves if they don’t exist. The number that was quoted at us was 10,000 casualties per hour in Seoul on the first day of the war – but I’m not sure how sound the basis for that conclusion is.

    Seal the cave mouths and the NORK artillery is done.

    Except, of course, for all the troops coming in on boats, of which the North has plenty.

    Not to mention they are fighting for their homes; they are not malnourished and of stunted physical and mental capacity due to being semistarved in childhood;

    Aside from the residents of Pyongyang, the army is about the only section of society that is reasonably well-fed. Though North Korea has never been well-fed, most of the truly severe famines you read about took place in the 1990s and don’t really affect the current army (though effects may start showing up soon).

    Meanwhile the North has many, many more and better-motivated troops than the South (there is little else to do in North Korea but be in the army -> the South Koreans have the option of drinking themselves silly, dating, and eating lots of great food and generally resenting the time they have to put into the army), a larger spread of better-trained and more ruthless special forces, and many more tanks. It would be foolish to argue that the DPRK army is atb superior, but I think the ROK army is being overestimated here. Any slugfest between the two Koreas at this point would be a massive disaster. South Korea still has a long way to go before it has absolute superiority. No doubt they will achieve it and soon, but if a war broke out now it would be more serious than I think a lot of you realize.

  • luisalegria

    Mr. Amon,

    As they say, the moral is to the material as ten is to one.

    The last two generations of South Koreans seem to be antiwestern, leftist, entirely unmilitary and unpatriotic, at least with respect to the North Koreans. I think there is a serious question as to whether they will fight, no matter how well armed.

  • R C Dean

    Except, of course, for all the troops coming in on boats, of which the North has plenty.

    Amphibious assaults are extremely difficult even for the best equipped, trained, and motivated troops. I imagine the slaughter at sea would be staggering, given South Korean air superiority.

    The number that was quoted at us was 10,000 casualties per hour in Seoul on the first day of the war – but I’m not sure how sound the basis for that conclusion is.

    I don’t think the NORKs can win the war in just a day, and I see no reason to believe their artillery targeting Seoul would last any longer than that.

    They would cause hellacious damage while they lasted, sure, but that would probably solve whatever motivational problems the ROK soldiers have.

    Absent use of nuclear weapons, which would draw a nuclear response from the US that would terminate the NORK regime, I don’t see any way a second Korean war ends without a truly biblical slaughter of NORK troops.

  • Uain

    I dunno,
    If the spoiled, adolescent SoKos thought their sex, booze, rock n’ roll, music videos an slothish lives of ease were threatened by the NoKos, I expect the SoKos would fight like tigers.

  • veryretired

    The ones on the hotseat in this area of confrontation are the Chinese, not the US, or even the SK.

    China finds itself tied to a lunatic regime which is both provocative and bankrupt, militarily adventurous while being technically backward, and, most significantly, which has nothing to offer the other influential members of the international community in order to gain their favor or compliance.

    The most NK can do is threaten and bluster, and with each notch on the tension ratchet, bring itself, and its patron, closer to a confrontation neither actually wants, and which would certainly result in disaster militarily and extreme embarrassment internationally.

    Military conflict has moved lightyears away from the semi-WW2 style of the 1940ish Korean war. US airpower, precision weapons, experience, and powerful local allies would eviscerate any attack by the NK regime just as it did to the supposedly formidable Soviet-derived military of Iraq.

    China, also technically backward, and in the midst of an enormous top to bottom revamping of its military, would be faced with two very unappetizing options—either stand aside and let NK fall, or invene and watch its decades-obsolete military get chopped to pieces by a 21st century force which has just had two very good practice sessions over the last 20 years.

    This is why China is reluctantly cooperating with the US and UN to put some limits on NK’s adventures—it has no other palatable choice.

    My scenario: the dear lunatic gets a “cold” and is in the hospital, or morgue; a committee of his senior people, long on the Chinese payroll, takes over day to day operations; a six power conference sets up a UN supervised referendum to approve re-unification; and Korea is gradually reintegrated with certain guarantees of amnesty for NK officials who might wish to emigrate.

    We get out of a long, expensive, and certainly unappreciated military committment, the Chinese get a neutral neighbor with high tech resources, capital, and worldwide economic access, and the Japanese get a respite from a nearby lunatic who threatens them with repeated weapons tests over their islands.

    How much money and economic assistance that might inspire Japan to provide to their developing Chinese neighbors would be one of the quietly negotiated sub- sections of the agreement.

    It’s not often everybody can come out ahead in a political deal, but this is one very possible case.

    All that’s needed is to subtract one malignant dwarf from the equation. An elegant solution.

  • The South Koreans are laid back on one hand and aggressive, ruthless bastards on the other. An American mate if mine served with ROK troops in Vietnam, and told me tales of how they used to come out of the jungle with Viet Cong heads.

    When I was in Seoul last year, most of the locals I spoke to genuinely believed that Korea will be united within 10 years, and they thought they were all one people. But I have no doubt were the North to attack the South, the aggressive side would come out in full force.

  • I find it oddly hilarious that this quote sums up that of my own two parents:

    “The relationship between South Korea and the United States under the Roh and Bush administrations is like that of a married couple who have no love at all, but still live in the same house.”

  • Corsair

    And the Russian pilots had an inferior fighter.

    This isn’t true. The MiG-15 was superior to the early F-86 Sabres. Only with the introduction of the F-86F was the balance tipped to the USAF. The US pilots had far better training, though.

  • Dale Amon

    I have heard all the armchair theorizing about the two aircraft, but the numbers are spectacularly one sided for the Sabre’s despite the ability of the Migs to hide on the other side of the Yalu.

    I simply do not buy the claims of what a good plain the 15 was. It barely held its own even in the hands of experience WWII russian aces.

  • Joshua

    All that’s needed is to subtract one malignant dwarf from the equation. An elegant solution.

    It’s not at all clear that he’s the real problem. It’s obviously very difficult to know what goes on inside NK at any level. Plenty of experts suspect that Kim is one of the level heads in that regime.

    An American mate if mine served with ROK troops in Vietnam, and told me tales of how they used to come out of the jungle with Viet Cong heads….But I have no doubt were the North to attack the South, the aggressive side would come out in full force.

    South Korea in the 60s and 70s was a very different place, to say the least. It isn’t for nothing that Kim Jong Il considers Park Chung Hee a political role model.

  • One wonders when the US will slip loose of Germany, Italy, and Britain…

    While the ROK academia is notoriously leftist, Korean industry is aggressively capitalistic, though with little regard for intellectual property of foreigners.

    I too expect reunification soon after the US leaves (assuming Kim doesn’t go off his meds), though on what terms remains to be seen. Kim will have little support for his regime and its anti-US propaganda when it is seen that we care so little about conquering the North that we’re leaving the peninsula. Even the northerners will start demanding results.

    I suspect they are headed to the same dismal sort of reunification Germany has suffered under. At some point even China will help end the northern regime when the cross-border wetbacking gets too extreme.

  • Eric

    I’m not sure where people are getting this “soft” South Koreans idea. South Korean soldiers are renowned for their toughness among US military stationed there.

    An army friend of mine returned from Seoul a few years back and told me he didn’t know if he would survive South Korean boot camp. Maybe they spend lots of time drinking and carousing after they get out, but soldiers in the South Korean army are no softer than their counterparts in the north.

  • Mike Lorrey…yeah, when antiwar lefties go on about getting the troops out of Iraq, I think waitaminute, how about getting the troops out of Kosovo, Korea, Germany, England?

    The Kosovo one really gets ‘em because they’re Clinton lovers and they don’t have a problem with that particular illegal war.

  • guy herbert

    As they say, the moral is to the material as ten is to one.

    I’d have expected the ratio to have changed since Napoleon, but not in that direction and not that much.