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Crisis in Korea…

So when Hilary Clinton states that maintaining stability on the peninsula was “critical”, surely a solution seems to be staring everyone in the face.

  1. Keeping tens of thousand of US troops in South Korea is expensive for the hapless US taxpayer
  2. China would rather not have US forces stationed anywhere in Korea
  3. North Korea will soon be capable of actually delivering nuclear weapons
  4. North Korea has an antiquated military and a busted economy and therefore no ability to fight a long war
  5. North Korea is clearly lead by deranged madmen prone to attack South Korea (i.e. torpedo their ships) for no good reason
  6. South Korea has a formidable and modern military

So…

Bite the bullet, so to speak. Give South Korea a nudge and whatever backing it needs to blow the living shit out of the North and reunify the country. They have the wherewithal to do most of the heavy lifting themselves and the casus belli is a legal slam dunk.

Result? Short term death and misery, for sure… but long term geopolitical stability for the region because:

  1. The most repressive regime on the entire planet will be history
  2. No longer any justification for stationing significant US forces on China’s doorstep

The backroom deal is obvious: China throws North Korea to the wolves and US promises to get out of the post-unification Korean peninsula.

This has the making of a win-win-win-win for China, the hapless occupants of that open air prison called North Korea, nuclear threatened South Korea and the ever burdened US taxpayer. Extra added ‘win’ can also be added to the scenario if the leadership in Pyongyang end up on meat hooks (but eating a laser guided 500 kg bomb also works).

77 comments to Crisis in Korea…

  • Alsadius

    Seoul is within artillery range of the border, and North Korea has several thousand pieces pointed at the city. I don’t buy into the “We can level the city in an hour” mythos, but that is their objective, and they could probably manage a passable imitation of it even without nukes. Unless South Korea is willing to lose tens of thousands of their own citizens to the largest artillery bombardment this side of the Somme, your plan won’t work, much as I wish it were otherwise.

  • llamas

    . . .and then saddle SoKo with the burden of a nation almost frightening in its (relative) backwardness, beyond being merely underdeveloped to actually being systematically kept at a medieval level, populated by people who have been told for generations to fear and hate all outsiders, in which there is – effectively – nothing at all.

    Nice bucket of s**t to drop them into, there. It was bad enough when West Germany had to figure out a way to re-absorb the DDR, and that bill hasn’t been paid yet. Asking SoKo to absord NoKo and bring its people into even the early part of the C20 is a mammoth task which even the industrious and productive SoKos may find hard to perform.

    Nice concept there – the implementation needs a little work, though.

    later,

    llamas

  • Nice bucket of s**t to drop them into, there.

    Yeah, you are right, best not to cost them any money. Clearly it is far better to keep the North mollified and wait until they have deliverable nuclear weapons. What could possibly go wrong with that?

  • Daveon

    The trouble is the relative proximity of the major industrial operations to Seoul and the border.

    They might not be able to level Seoul in an hour, but the damage to Samsung and LG alone would have a dramatic impact globally, not just through problems with the supply of their product but the knock-on supply chain issues with stuff they supply from factories close enough to NK to get hit.

    So it isn’t just about the short term mega death and misery in the Korean peninsula, it’s about fragging the global electronics industry at a time when the knock on effects on the US, EU and Japan would be biblical.

    Kim Jung Il is insane, but I suspect he’s fully aware of that.

  • llamas

    Just sit and think for a minute about the challenges of having SK take control of and try to absorb a nation larger than itself (in area), having a population almost 50% as large as its own, which has been living at about 1/10 the standard of living of the South, and which shares virtually no common culture or heritage anymore. The people of NK have been trained for generations to repel the invaders that they are certain are on their way, or die trying. What do you suppose they will do?

    This is the exact calculus that Roosevelt/Truman had to weigh when deciding how the attack the Japanese mainland. They’d already had a taste of what it would mean on Okinawa. Is this what you would like to have happen on the Korean peninsula? With the Chinese looking on?

    The Chinese endgame is to occupy the whole Korean peninsula. Your suggested approach might well be the springboard that would eventually allow them to do just that – under the guise of restoring peace, naturally. It needs more thought than just a simple ‘well, roll up the Norks like an old rug and then it’ll all be sunshine and puppies.’

    llater,

    llamas

  • Laird

    Nice bucket of s**t to drop them into, there.

    Well, it’s not like they aren’t already in that bucket anyway. It’s going to happen sooner or later.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    The problem is that the tendency of ‘advanced’ governments worldwide is to keep doing what you’ve been doing, lest change be for the worse. It’s not that ‘worse’ bothers them, they just don’t want to get stuck with responsibility for it. So expect lots of hunkering down with the fingers crossed, and lots of bloviating.

    I don’t know what the best case is, but the worst case is a muted response to NK provocations that invites an NK attack on the South followed by a ‘proportionate’ military response that, after a drawn-out and destructive campaign, results in a new armistice that changes nothing. I have every faith that the World’s leaders will manage to achieve it.

  • Alice

    There has been some interesting speculation (and as far as I can tell, that is all it is) that this whole event has been a subtle Chinese ploy.

    The Chinese have been building super-quiet submarines. The Chinese are quite capable of acquiring North Korean torpedos on the black market. Goodness, South Korea and probably the US have done that already.

    So the Chinese park one of their super-quiet submarines off the coast of North Korea and wait for the South Koreans to sail by. The North Koreans have denied responsibility for the sinking — and for once they might be right — but who is going to pay any attention to what they say? The North Korean regime is probably now scared to death that this is the beginning of an internal coup. Or that this crisis was manufactured by evil America to end their noble socialist experiment.

    Why would the Chinese sink a South Korean ship in a way that points the finger of blame at North Korea? Perhaps the Chinese are planning some bigger adventure, and one of the big unknowns in their planning process is how Barrack Hussein Obama would respond to a provocation.

    From the Chinese point of view, one possible reaction might have been that Obama would show he truly is an Empty Suit. Which is what has in fact happened. China can continue planning its big adventure, with much less uncertainty about what the US response might be.

    Of course, another reaction might have been along the lines our host suggests. Or maybe the US might even have nuked North Korea itself. Seen through Chinese eyes, would that have been such a high price for China to pay for finding out if Obama had a backbone?

    If this speculation is correct, we should expect to see China’s big adventure in the not too distant future.

  • Vinegar Joe

    Whatever happens, the Democrats will somehow blame it all on Bush.

  • I have to say, the thought crossed my mind too. There’s no doubt at all that, in the case of Total War, the South would crush the North.

    I doubt the NK people will be difficult to rule. Yes, they’ve been taught that they must repel the invaders. Yet they’ve also been taught unswerving obedience to an omnipotent State. Decapitation of Pyongyang — whether with commandos or fission fire — would in the best case throw the populace into a state of shock and a smooth transition to a market economy, and in the worst case permit the replacement of the malevolent totalitarians in Pyongyang with some benevolent totalitarians from Seoul (of the Lee Kuan Yew mould).

    The existence of the fixed artillery within range of Seoul is a problem. NK may be batshit insane, but they (or at least the generals) are relentlessly rational. Artillery is NK’s “nuclear option;” their only bargaining chip, and they will not use it unless it is too late. SK might get away with a commando strike on the positions, although if there are indeed “thousands of guns” that could be a problem. Your thoughts?

  • feynman's adrenal gland

    while brinksmanship is a long time standard of the dprk ‘negotiation’ strategy, the slightly longer term objective is the destruction of the ‘differences’ (read:seoul;industrial production;etc) that seperate the north and south to allow for reunification under one flag.
    .
    if we see or hear of any sizable civilian movements away from the dmz/seoul areas then it is effectively on. this will signal the high probability of preemptive strikes to remove as much artillery as possible from direct bombardment of seoul and the attempted destruction of approx 30,000,000 sk people within range.
    .
    the suggestion that seoul would withstand a direct bombardment of artillery and rocket fire from the north is ludicrous at best. rates of fire, position, type and available rounds are reasonably well known. ask yourself if new york city could take up to 500,000 shells an hour being lobbed from jersey.

  • Regional

    U.S. Forces are stationed on the peninsular to stop South Korean Forces sweeping into the North. Integrating a former communist neighbour doesn’t work i.e. Germany

  • @Regional: I’m sorry, I’m not too familiar with German politics. Superficially, the integration of East Germany seems to have been a success, no?

  • Peter Melia

    First: The scenario described initially could be applied to Korea N/S of 50 years ago. Unfortunately right at the end the Chinese blinked and invaded NK with the results which we have at present. Why shouldn’t the Chinese blink again?
    Second: We have West Germany’s experience in absorbing East Germany, an absorption of a fully functioning industrial country, peacefully effected by mutual demand, yet still resulting in near financial disaster for the old West Germany. In the proposed scenario, the absorption would be of a derelict, destroyed, country. The financial problems alone would dwarf any previous.

  • You may want to check out my article on this subject on the Hudson Institute’s , Hudson New York web site.

    It may be that the Norks will not give the South the chance to do anything like what Perry proposes.

    There is also the question of just how reliable the North’s artillery ammunition stockpiles are.

    There are no neat easy answers to this one and frankly I don’t have much faith in any of the leaders involved.

  • …although if there are indeed “thousands of guns” that could be a problem. Your thoughts?

    Given that total air supremacy from D+0 is a given, that is nothing a few B-1/B-2/B-52′s cannot handle very expeditiously. North Korea’s *massed* artillery dies by the end of D+2 at the latest

  • Problem is that NK is China’s bitch. Like a mad pit bull which might slip off the leash at any time. The Chinese like it that way as they may find it useful in future. They could just cut off NK’s energy supplies but aren’t doing that. They’ll keep NK on the leash.

  • Eric

    North Korea will soon be capable of actually delivering nuclear weapons.

    They can already deliver nuclear weapons. An aircraft leaving North Korea is only a few minutes from Seoul. They could load up a cargo aircraft with one of their clunky nukes and be over Seoul before the defenders had time to react. A successful attack would have to be a surprise to prevent something like that from happening.

    In any event I think Mike Borgelt is correct. North Korea is a wholly-owned Chinese puppet, and China keeps the government of North Korea alive by providing oil. The Chinese don’t need to do anything but shut off the oil if they want the North Korean state to fall. They won’t do it because the situation serves their interests.

  • North Korea’s *massed* artillery dies by the end of D+2 at the latest

    Undoubtedly, but the question is how much damage they can do in that time. There is something like 25 million people within a couple of hours of the DMZ. As others have said, that includes much of South Korea’s industrial capability, a good deal of which is very important to the economy of the entire world. For some reason, a fair bit of this has be built very close indeed to the border. When I went on a tour of the DMZ, I recall a factory making LCD displays (belonging to LG) was one of the last things we passed before entering it. The North Koreans have probably a small number of crude nukes, and a few other tricks up their sleeve like dams that will flood large areas of the south if breached, and similar. I cannot imagine a scenario (unless the Chinese were to enter such a war in a huge way) in which the south and its allies would not have achieved total victory within a couple of days, but horrible damage could be done to the south in that couple of days.

  • BOGDAN OF EUNUCHALIA

    The conclusion: if you sit idly, do nothing and wait for the problem to solve itself, SYPH will ultimately develop into a full blown SYPHILIS…

    Hasn’t WW1, WW2 and other examples taught us anything?

    By the way, if SOKO’s and Taiwan’s want the Yank’s blood spilled for some good cause, they should spend more on their own defences. Thus it would assure the American taxpayers that their (the allies) approach to their security is sincere.

    And that applies to almost every (quasi) ally of the US, including my own Poland previously and now Australia.

  • “…the suggestion that seoul would withstand a direct bombardment of artillery and rocket fire from the north is ludicrous at best. rates of fire, position, type and available rounds are reasonably well known. ask yourself if new york city could take up to 500,000 shells an hour being lobbed from jersey.” – Umm, try this, admittedly somewhat dated but still (money quote): “”U.S. military estimates in 1994 were that those artillery pieces could bombard Seoul with 5,000 rounds in the first 24 hours of any attack”

    The talk about those thousands of artillery pieces ready to level Seoul… somehow reminds me of the talk from a few years back about Saddam’s battle-hardened divisions that would drown any invader in blood. Some ended up surrendering to UAV’s; most did not dare use their communications, which had been totally compromised, and painted them as targets the moment they used them. Survival instinct quickly trumped loyalty and fear of punishment for insubordination.

    Additional consideration: artillery munitions do have a shelf life, and they deteriorate when exposed to temperature swings. Unless they want to fire duds (while giving away their location – see below), in order to keep those artillery strongpoints operational, the NoKo military either must have built storage facilities that can insulate munitions from the local weather (doubtful), or resupply them the old-fashioned way – through military convoys. Those logistics operations must have been tracked for decades, so I expect the majority of artillery positions have been “tagged”, and can be deactivated within minutes, not days of initial hostilities. For those not “tagged” already, there is firefinder radar, which SoKO has deployed – so I would not bet on a long and productive life for those too.

    I’d be more concerned about Seoul getting hit with chemical or biological agents. The potential conventional artillery damage, in my humble opinion, is significantly exaggerated.

    Of course, as Perry aptly notes, what does maintaining the status quo give you?

  • Mimo

    Nice bucket of s**t to drop them into
    Well they keep asking for the US forces to leave.
    I have strongly advocated removing ALL our troops (including those in Normandy) and letting the world deal with its own problems.

    There are real world problems with this fantasy however.
    1) Those US troops nominally have jobs, if we move them back to the US they will soon become unemployed.
    2) In NK, as we were busy withdrawing our troops, I predict that NK would take that moment of chaos to attack and by attacking US forces draw the US into a conflict they wanted to get out of.
    3) The EU and parts of Asia are not ready/willing to handle real world problems as adult. Instead they act like petulant teenagers rebelling against their mean parent (the US), which is paying the bill for their security.
    Canada made the logical choice that the US would never let them get invaded so why waste their own money on a military? The EU has made a similar decision.

  • Roue le Jour

    It takes two to tango, Mimo. The US has never left anywhere voluntarily and I don’t think they’re going to start with South Korea. As far as I can see, Europe lost World War II and the US won, the winner gaining the right to occupy the loser. If the US wants to pull out of the UK, you’ll get no argument from me.

  • James Waterton

    I agree with Perry, it’s time we stopped pussy footing around with NK. If you won’t go to war with a nation that sinks one of your warships, you may as well lay down your arms, dismantle your border and invite them in to take over.

    Some thoughts:

    I suspect China keeps NK around because it’s a useful buffer zone between them and a strong US ally.

    I also suspect that NK is a long, long way off being able to produce a nuclear warhead of deliverable size, and – unlike a country like Iran – they don’t have the resources to develop their nuclear technology rapidly. Their first test was probably a failure (no chain reaction). The nuclear threat to the South seems distant. However, in the event of an invasion, they may detonate one of these weapons on their own soil in a kamikaze attack.

    As for artillery targeted on Seoul, I’ve always thought this was not quite the dagger to the throat of the South that it’s cracked up to be. At least some these positions would be known and could be taken out first with cruise missiles? Air superiority would be a doddle to establish, what with the flying museum that the North calls its airforce. Overall, I doubt the Northern forces are particularly formidable.

  • Britt

    The South Korean military is fundamentally a defensive force. It is organized very much like the West German Bundswehr was organized: to bleed the commie hordes, slow them down as much as possible, and wait for the Americans to arrive.

    The North Korean army is huge, and they have a whole lot of WMDs. Not cutting edge, but a nuke delivered from a Scud blows up just as good as one from the latest and most advanced ICBM.

    The South cannot invade the North, and the North can destroy the South, but not conquer it.

    China cannot have a modern first tier nation on their border, that is one of their major national goals. It’s why they backed North Vietnam and why they backed North Korea: a free country on their border leads to all kinds of intolerable things leaking over. The radio and TV transmitters a united and free Korea would set up across the line, the haven a free Korea would be to Chinese dissidents, etc. would not be allowed by the Chinese.

    I personally don’t know how much I buy the idea that the Norks are a monolithic entity. Brainwashing only goes so far when you’re cooking up grass clippings for food. We’ve seen too many supposed happy commie populations shove the commissars up against the nearest wall as soon as they got the chance, and I tend to believe that the Norks are no different from the East Germans or the Romanians when it comes to this. I do think the population would support a change. The problem is that the last act of the NK regime would be turning the keys on their missiles and artillery.

    I like to believe that a YAL-1 deployed to the area, along with a massive all out effort to kill the launch platforms before they fired, could limit the damage to acceptable levels, but I don’t know. Good thing we canceled all those wasteful missile defense programs in favor of important things like more bread and circuses.

  • Paul Marks

    The Republic of Korea is not quite a full Welfare State, but it is going that way. Things like employers having to provide health care (to government approved standards) and the government promising income to everyone as long as they are over a certain age (Bismark was the first politician to put this idea in place – his scheme was a fraud and so have been all the later government “old age pension” schemes), and so on.

    Germany has never fully recovered from taking on the burden of the East (whose “modern up-to-date industry” turned out to be a uneconomic nightmare) and most of the people in the East are still on Welfare (20 years after unification), although the burden of Eureopean wide (perhaps WORLD wide) financial taxes, bailouts and endless regulations may impose an ever greater burden on the Federal Republic of Germany than taking on the East did.

    Anyway the Republic of Korea (which already has a government deficit) would be undermined by taking on millions of people in the north (who would all be on welfare remember)

    “But Paul it would work if Germany and Korea repealed their welfare state programs” – yes indeed it would work, but they will not (PERIOD).

    The ideology that government is reponsible for the education, health and basic income of the general population (not a minority of the population – such as the military of Ancient Rome and the inhabitants of a few favored cites, but the MAJORITY of the population) is the base ideology of the modern world (taught in almost every school and university, supported by almost every media outlet, and embodied in United Nations and other treaties – as part of the world governance thing).

    It is an ideology that can not work (it will inevitablly lead nations to bankruptcy), but it is what Perry would call the “metacontext” within which all other things are discussed.

    Of course even if the Republic of Korea does not take on the burden of the north it will (eventually) go bankrupt as it is already on the Welfare State road – but taking on this burden will bring forward collapse.

    “Then bring it on Paul – let us have the collapse and have done with it”.

    That is the argument for many things (for example allowing an unlimited flow of “public services” seeking illegals into Arizona, although many of the illegals are not content with the indirect plunder of the “public services” they also plunder directly, like the Vandels of old, – and rape and kill also, although the media, and so on, screams abuse at anyone who complains about it) “if the collapse is inevitable let us bring it forward and have done with it”.

    However, this assumes that the international academic, media and political elite (supported by very many important businessmen and financial people – please remember) will react to bankuptcy by repleaing “public services” and allowing more freedom.

    I think it more likely that they will just press on to LESS freedom – to fanatical efforts to maintain (indeed expand) the “public services” at both a national and a WORLD level.

    Too grim?

    Have a look how they are responding to the fiancial crises.

    Short sellers provide information you do not wish to hear – ban short selling (kill the messanger, get rid the canary birds in the mind and pretend there is no gas problem).

    The vast web of regulations (many of them international regulations) lead to insane results – so INCREASE the regulations (ESPECIALLY the international ones).

    Banks (backed by government central banks – trying to prop up crazy policies such as the “affordable housing policy” in the United States) lend out vast sums of money financed by credit money expansion (not real savings).

    Then respond to the (inevitable) crises by demanding that banks lend out still MORE money – that they “get lending again” (to both big and small enterprises – making even small business owners WELFARE DEPENDENTS which was the open content of President Obama’s speech only yesterday).

    Sadly the Republic of Korea is not outside this ideology (no morden nation is) – it is less far on the road than Britain or the United States (both of which are near the dark end now), but it is on the same road.

    There are differences – for example I believe (very strongly believe) that Barack Obama and co actually WANT collapse because they believe they can build their new (totalitarian – North Korean style) society on the collapsed ruins of the old world (yes I believe they are evil). But, I also believe that government such as the Grand National Party in the Republic of Korea do NOT want collapse – they are “just” badly advised by academics and financial “experts”.

    However, remember just how radical that misinformation is – just how powerful (almost universal) the false doctrines (the ideology) is.

    For example, I recently read some comments of a “leading economist” (the author of the main textbook on international finance), he was asked about the credit bubble.

    “I do not think that term has any meaning – after all if people borrow money it must have come from somewhere. Are people saying that the population saved too much money?”

    It is hard to believe that such a reply is simple (honest) ignorance – that this man really did not know that a “credit bubble” is loans (a VAST level of borrowing) that are from credit money expansion NOT from real savings.

    And remember this creature is presented (as Alan Greenspan was, and is, presented) as a “free market” person – as well as an “expert” who business enterprises and governments should listen to.

    The above does not matter in relation to people like Barack Obama (they have evil intentions – so being misled is not the problem in their case), but it is tragic in relation to governments like that of the Republic of Korea (for, my libertarian brothers and sisters please note, governments do not all have the same intentions), that have good intentions – but are trapped by a radically false ideology.

  • Ben

    Does North Korea have nuclear weapons, or does it have 1000 tonnes of ANFO in a mineshaft?

  • Miv Tucker

    Even assuming that everything went to plan, with the result that the US did pull out of the Korean peninsular, how long would a newly-unified, but non-US-backed Korea be able to resist being Finlandized by China?

  • llamas

    Only to add – Bird Colonel wrote:

    ‘Given that total air supremacy from D+0 is a given, that is nothing a few B-1/B-2/B-52′s cannot handle very expeditiously. North Korea’s *massed* artillery dies by the end of D+2 at the latest’

    and we all remember how wonderfully well that approach worked with the North Vietnamese.

    When will the US learn that having air supremamcy is not the same thing as winning, and that wars will not & cannot be won from the air alone? 50 years and counting . . . .

    llater,

    llamas

  • joel

    Remind me again why the US fought the Korean War. And, yes, remind why we have troops there 50 years after the cessation of hostilities.
    We should just go home. Our day of global dominance is over. Why should a lot of our few remaining children die over the Koreans?

  • and we all remember how wonderfully well that approach worked with the North Vietnamese.

    When tasked to bomb engaged conventional military targets in Vietnam, tactical use of strategic air assets worked extremely well.

    The threat posited here was massed artillery with a known maximum effective range firing on fixed South Korean facilities, therefore finding the targets to bomb is a trivial issue.

    When will the US learn that having air supremamcy is not the same thing as winning, and that wars will not & cannot be won from the air alone? 50 years and counting . . . .

    In Korea obviously a major ground effort would be required to occupy North Korea.

    But to your broader point, explain the capitulation of Yugoslavia/Serbia in June 1999, their subsequent withdrawal from Kosovo and therefore the complete fulfilment of NATO war aims by the strategic application of air power.

    JNA tactical assets in a dispersed defensive posture within Kosovo were challenging targets. However in the event of invasion of Kosovo, the need for them to deploy tactically in the face of an attack by NATO ground assets would have greatly increased their vulnerability. However fixed Serbian civil, political and military infrastructure within Serbia proper were essentially defenceless. The result was unambiguous.

  • Rob

    “North Korea’s *massed* artillery dies by the end of D+2 at the latest
    >>Undoubtedly, but the question is how much damage they can do in that time. There is something like 25 million people within a couple of hours of the DMZ. As others have said, that includes much of South Korea’s industrial capability, a good deal of which is very important to the economy of the entire world.

    And the US is well aware of that. If any attack began that massed artillery would be the first thing hit & hit with an unbelievable level of firepower. The damage the North could inflict is a real risk but I don’t think fear of that should lead us to underestimate what the worlds pre-eminent superpower is capable of on the battlefield. And there’s another angle to this, which is the willingness of the North Koreans, plagued by food & equipment shortages, to actually stand & fight. The Dear Leader’s immediate cadre may well wish to die with him in his bunker. I’m not at all sure the rest of his army does.

  • AKM

    Just because no one else has mentioned it; as I understand it modern artillery survives by moving regularly, they call it shoot & scoot. Fire off a few rounds then move to a new location. The enemy will see the rounds in the air using artillery locating radar, work out automaticly where they were fired from and allocate that spot as a target for their own artillery within a couple of minutes. Even without air superiority, SoKo counter-battery fire should be able to eat into NoKo fixed arty positions quite rapidly if the NoKo arty is concentrating on trying to flatten civilian targets instead of staying alive.

    A quick google search found this: http://www.defensenews.com/story.php?i=4390455
    So the South Koreans do have some modern arty locating radars.

  • Eric

    and we all remember how wonderfully well that approach worked with the North Vietnamese.

    It’s not 1965 any more. Without China’s assistance he North Korean military would be obliterated by the US Air Force. Smart bombs really are game changers, and UAVs allow the kind of persistence you could only have dreamed of in decades past. The North Koreans would be left with what the Iraqis were left with – uncoordinated asymetrical warfare. Roadside bombs and booby traps. You can annoy the invaders that way, but you can’t win.

  • Eric

    The US has never left anywhere voluntarily and I don’t think they’re going to start with South Korea.

    Not true at all. We left the Philippines when they asked us to leave. We would certainly leave Korea if they asked us to leave.

  • llamas

    Bird Colonel wrote:

    “When tasked to bomb engaged conventional military targets in Vietnam, tactical use of strategic air assets worked extremely well.’

    - and still the NVA and the VietCong triumphed. Won the battle – lost the war. Of the two, it is the latter that counts.

    ” . . . explain the capitulation of Yugoslavia/Serbia in June 1999, their subsequent withdrawal from Kosovo and therefore the complete fulfilment of NATO war aims by the strategic application of air power.’

    Oh, I quite agree – the strategic application of air power certainly fulfilled NATO war aims in the former Yugoslavia. But, since those aims apparently didn’t include little things like ‘winning’ and ‘securing a lasting and stable peace in the region’, I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree about how effective strategic air power can be at those goals.

    More than a decade on, the region is still occupied by all sorts of NATO forces who maintain a fragile and jelly-like ‘peace’ – of a sort. And none of the fundamental issues that tear the region apart have been addressed in any meaningful way. But NATO has air superiority!

    Air superiority is a wonderful thing to have, and confers great strategic advantage But it does not map to winning a war, as many signal failures around the world (should) have taught us. Both the US and the former USSR laboured under the delusion that a sky filled with polished aluminum inevitably leads to victory. The peasant on the ground below shoulders his Lee-Enfield, or his Kalashnikov, spits on the ground, and moves out just the same.

    llater,

    llamas

  • pollo

    “never get involved in a land war in Asia”

  • PersonFromPorlock

    When tasked to bomb engaged conventional military targets in Vietnam, tactical use of strategic air assets worked extremely well.

    Posted by Bird Colonel at May 26, 2010 11:37 AM

    IIRC (and I was on a B-52 crew in SEA at the time) we were briefed that B-52 strikes had destroyed 800+ NVA tanks during their 1972 Spring offensive. Yes, we lost the war, but as a matter of fact “tactical use of strategic air assets” did indeed work “extremely well.”

  • Old Soldier

    llamas – Your perception of the Vietnam War is based on bad reporting and folklore. The VC certainly didn’t win the war – it didn’t exist after 1969 except as an NVA shell.

    Korea is not a jungle and this isn’t the 1960′s. A war in Korea would look like Desert Storm. South Korea wins easy – if the Chinese stay out this time. .

    That “if” is all that keeps the NK’s going.

  • llamas

    Old Soldier – I was just trying to be inclusive. Your correction as to the exact names of those in the order of battle on a specific date is, no doubt, flawlessly correct, but it doesn’t really change the fact that, no matter what they called themselves, the peasant forces of North Vietnam were apparently entirely unimpressed by all of those fancy B52s and the exact tonnage of bombs dropped on them, and prevailed anyway.

    Korea is nothing like Iraq. And China will not stay out this time – their endgame is to get it all.

    llater,

    llamas

  • jdm

    the peasant forces of North Vietnam were apparently entirely unimpressed by all of those fancy B52s and the exact tonnage of bombs dropped on them, and prevailed anyway.

    Oh, f’r’shrissakes… they were absolutely impressed. That’s why they went ahead and fought the war in a way they could win. Public perception.

    The war was fought on many fronts. At that time the most important one was American public opinion.

    General Vo Nguyen Giap

    This is not to say that I disagree with your comments about the difficulties of conquering and then incorporating North Korea. I just get tired of the oh-so easy hand-waving about our so-called defeat in Vietnam.

  • the peasant forces of North Vietnam were apparently entirely unimpressed by all of those fancy B52s and the exact tonnage of bombs dropped on them, and prevailed anyway.

    The NVA were conventional army, not “peasant forces”, and the NVA won because we were not allowed to attack them whenever and wherever they could be found, for both political reasons and some very dumb C3I practices that looked screwy even at the time. That’s a pretty uncontroversial military assessment.

    The KPA is also a conventional army, with less operational maneuverability that the JNA or Saddam’s Iraqi Army, and which operate in much less “air unfriendly” terrain than Vietnam. Also the realities of their task-deployment options makes them a great deal less able to hide than the JNA in Kosovo. To be effective they need to mass, and if they mass, they die.

  • Jamess

    Perry, I’d love to hear how you’d see unification happen and to avoid the troubles that were there in German reunification. If SK avoided giving more welfare to NK’s then they were already receiving, would time and trade be sufficient?

    What caused German reunification to be so troublesome?

    As for any war, it sounds simple, but history seems to indicate that wars are always more costly than they would appear on paper. Maybe this would be the exception.

  • Thomas

    What effect does all this have on the likelihood of Japan developing its own nuclear weapons? If the Japanese started doing that, would that alter China’s calculations about the Norks? Would it still be in China’s interest to prop up Pyongyang?

  • Laird

    “We left the Philippines when they asked us to leave.”

    Technically true, although it took us a long time (and much wailing and gnashing of teeth) before we did so. But the larger point remains: we don’t have a history of leaving anywhere of our own volition. Why did we have to wait for the Philippines to ask us to leave? Why did we not just say, “it makes no sense for us to waste all this money maintaining military installations here; let’s bring them home”? Why do we presently have 80,000 troops stationed in Europe (54,000 of them in Germany)? 33,000 in Japan? We currently have more troops stationed outside of the US than inside it (including its territories and protectorates), and that doesn’t even include Korea (for which the figures aren’t available).* This is just crazy. The US has to stop being the world’s policeman, if only because we can no longer afford it.

    *All these figures are from the US DoD, and are as of 6/30/09.

  • Perry, I’d love to hear how you’d see unification happen and to avoid the troubles that were there in German reunification. If SK avoided giving more welfare to NK’s then they were already receiving, would time and trade be sufficient?

    Avoid the troubles? Hell no, it will be a vast and enduring cascade of troubles.

    However I think that scenario is preferable to the nightmare that can happen once we get an effective nuclear armed Pyongyang… and regardless of the social and economic grief for South Korea, it is hard to not see the upside from everyone else’s point of view.

  • llamas

    jdm wrote:

    ‘I just get tired of the oh-so easy hand-waving about our so-called defeat in Vietnam.

    And I get tired of the oh-so-easy hand-waving that attempts to recast the actual (not so-called) defeat in Vietnam as anything other than it was – a defeat. And a dreadfully costly one at that.

    All this talk about how strategic bombing worked so well is so much hand-waving. Sure, it worked well in a McNamara-esque sense, if your definition of “working . . .well” is counting destroyed tanks. If your definition of victory is more in line with that of General Giap – maybe not so much.

    I’m tired of hearing how the US really won the war in Vietnam. There’s more to war than shiny aluminum and bigger guns – General Giap knew that, the US has still not learned this lesson. The former USSR did not learn it well, either.

    War is politics prosecuted by other means. America (and many other Western nations) has somehow decided that war consists only of performance at arms, and all we hear is about how well our men and our arms did in this-or-that engagement. This is why we keep hearing how we flattened those NVA tanks in the spring of ’72, or we kicked their asses at Ia Drang, or we smoked ‘em out at ToraBora, or whatever the latest successful feat of arms may happen to be. All true, and every honour to those that fought there – and yet, the wars always seem to be lost, even as the battles are won.

    Wars are fought and won by nations, not by armies. If social and political forces in the US caused the Vietnam war to be lost – you don’t get to put a star in the scorebook and say ‘well, we would have won if only X, Y and Z.’ The end result is, what it is. Your enemy outfought you on the battlefield of nations – the fact that you might have sometimes beaten him in combat doesn’t change that.

    The same will be true in any military conflict in Korea. If you concentrate on the relatively-trivial issues of how the combat might play out – always the US approach, lately – you are almost-certain to lose in the conflict of nations. There’s far more to this conflict than whether or not you can suppress artillery fire on day 1 or day 2.

    Outsource it to the Israelis.

    llater,

    llamas

  • Old Soldier

    Places we have left voluntarily:

    Philippines
    Nicaragua
    Dominican Republic
    Honduras
    Haiti
    Japan – we are in the process of leaving Okinawa
    France – twice
    Greece
    Mexico

  • Old Soldier

    llamas – read
    “A Better War: The Unexamined Victories and Final Tragedy of America’s Last Years in Vietnam”

    Excellent honest assessment of the successes and failures in Vietnam. Uses interviews and intelligence reports from both sides.

  • llamas

    Thank you for the recommendation, I will look for it.

    In return, should you not have already done so, may I recommend “The Pentagon and the Art of War” by Edward Luttwak – a little long in the tooth now, maybe, but still an excellent analysis of why America tends to fail at war nowadays.

    llater,

    llamas

  • I’m tired of hearing how the US really won the war in Vietnam. There’s more to war than shiny aluminum and bigger guns

    No kidding. We didn’t win, no doubt about it. But my job was and still is the blowing things up part and you’ll get no argument from me that this is only half the story.

    But that’s my half. So when you say tactical use of strategic air assets didn’t work in Vietnam, you’re just plain wrong. If the political effort couldn’t capitalize on that, it doesn’t change the fact that the military effort worked just fine in that respect. I could give you a long list of examples where air power failed miserably but that wasn’t one of them. And if you think air power can’t very rapidly take apart North Korea’s tactical and strategic ability to threaten the South, you’d be wrong again.

    I’m very much a Powell Doctrine guy so if there’s no political will to do what it takes, and the current White House doesn’t fill me with confidence, I got to say, that pushing the big red WAR button is a bad idea, but the thorny problems are not the military ones. That’s pretty straightforward.

    If you think North Korea would be a harder nut to crack than Iraq, even the declassified military reports don’t really back that up. My guess is they’ll be less likely to run than the Iraqis but that just means the KPA casualties will be eye watering, not that the outcome will be any different. They’re a 1960 military hooked into an economy that can’t even feed its people. And any insurgency post-war is a South Korean problem, not ours.

  • Laird

    Places we have left voluntarily:

    Philippines Not true; we were asked to leave.

    Nicaragua Fair enough; we did occupy Nicaragua from 1912 to 1933. We left during the Great Depression. Good reason!

    Dominican Republic Not much of an “occupation”, as the country was wracked by internal dissention and had no functioning government. But we were there for a few years and we did leave voluntarily, so I guess I’ll have to give you this one, too.

    Honduras Not an “occupation”, just a base from which we could support the Contras in Nicaragua. And anyway, we’re still there.

    Haiti Basically the same as the Dominican Republic (same island, after all).

    Japan – we are in the process of leaving Okinawa Not according to this.

    France – twice Not really fair; we never occupied France (it was, after all, our ally in both wars) or had a significant military presence there once hostilities ended.

    Greece When did we occupy Greece?

    Mexico You had to go all the way back to the Mexican War for this! That was pre-Civil War; this was a very different country then. I’m not giving you any credit for this one!

    I think you’ve made my point; your exceptions prove my rule by their insignificance. In fact, the only meaningful example of the US voluntarily ceding a significant military presence was one you missed: Panama. Of course, that was pursuant to a treaty obligation so it can be argued that it wasn’t truly “voluntary”, anyway. But outside of that, one has to go way back into history (to the Great Depression or earlier) to find an example of the US voluntarily leaving an occupied country. It hasn’t really happened since we became a significant world power. That needs to change.

  • Old Soldier

    I saw the new South Korean K2 Black Panther Tank. Those against NK T-54′s? Clubbing baby seals isn’t an adequate analogy for that mismatch.

  • llamas

    Bird Colonel wrote:

    ‘So when you say tactical use of strategic air assets didn’t work in Vietnam, you’re just plain wrong. If the political effort couldn’t capitalize on that, it doesn’t change the fact that the military effort worked just fine in that respect.’

    Maybe I was not clear. To be sure, the tactical use of strategic air assets ‘worked’, in the sense that the bombs that were aimed at tanks and guns and things very-often destroyed their targets.

    (A lot of them were not – aimed, that is – but that’s not the point here).

    I used the term ‘worked’ in the sense of led to victory, by destroying either the enemy’s will or his ability to continue fighting. To those goals, strategic bombing contributed virtually nothing.

    Let us take the example of the Spring ’72 offensive that PersonfromPorlock describes, where massive B52 attacks destroyed (a very large number) of NVA tanks and seriously impaired, if not ended, the entire offensive.

    Did General Giap care?

    He did not. This was the first serious use of massed armour by the NVA. I’m not quite sure why he decided to use this approach (his writings are not clear on the matter, or at least, not to me). It failed – it was one of the few, conventional, set-piece tactics that the US was equipped (physically and doctrinally) to respond to – and we did, succesfully.

    He never did it again. He lost (some very large number) of tanks. Who cares? He didn’t need them again. PRNV hadn’t paid a dime for them – they were a gift from their sponsors. He stepped back to the tried and true tactics that had successfully confounded the US and their RVN client for more than a decade. And 3 years later, he won a total and unconditional victory. For a man who had fought at DienBienPhu, those three years – pah! A bagatelle.

    The US approach ‘worked’, in US doctrinal terms. And yet the enemy won the war.

    llater,

    llamas

  • PersonFromPorlock

    I just get tired of the oh-so easy hand-waving about our so-called defeat in Vietnam.

    Posted by jdm at May 26, 2010 03:29 PM

    Nothing “so-called” about it, unless our goal in fighting the war was to see a unified Vietnam under a Communist government.

  • Tedd

    The whole subject of the U.S. “voluntarily” leaving somewhere is a red herring, and “voluntarily” is way too vague a measure. Did the U.S. “voluntarily” leave France when De Gaulle banned foreign nuclear weapons? Is it “voluntarily” leaving if the government of a place asks you to leave and you do, or is it “involuntary?” And would that depend on whether or not they wanted you there in the first place? What if you helped establish the government that wants you to stay or leave?

    Really, why would anyone care if it’s “voluntary,” other than to score points in some semantic debate? What matters is why the U.S. (or anybody) goes into a place in the first place, and why they leave. (And, since we plebeians can never know the answers to those question for certain, what each person chooses to believe probably says more about him or her than anything else.)

  • jdm

    Nothing “so-called” about it, unless our goal in fighting the war was to see a unified Vietnam under a Communist government.

    Yeah, you’re right. It was a poorly aimed and pointless cheap shot that I stupidly felt compelled to make in response to another. After 30 years on the ‘net, you’d think I’d learn.

  • The Sage of Seoul

    Iraq. That went well, didn’t it?

  • That NK artillery aimed at Seoul is in caves and tunnels IIRC. Your counter battery fire will impact at cave and tunnel mouths while the guns are well back behind blast barriers. Nasty, difficult problem to take them out as there are thousands of them.

    There’s no good solution to this.

  • mehere

    I am still not clear why, other than madness and a misplaced desire for glory, the Norks want South Korea under their control.

    If they can’t feed their own tribes, I would guess ending the South’s ability to provide for their own people looks like a future additional headache. And that is assuming the Norks can win a war: the South K’s might put up surprisingly fierce resistance if they think that there will soon be grass on the menu under a new regime.

    I would think there would too many people in a North-run unified Korea who might kick back, even after the fighting. And you can bet the US would filter in all sorts of practical support for the newly enslaved people of the South.

    In the final count, wiping out most of the South’s economic strengths (which I assume is a healthy place in the global electronic markets) by either bombardment or nukes leaves slim pickings for the Dear Leader’s lot.

    However, I do concede that sabre-rattling (or ship sinking) tends to make the Nork military, and hence their ruling mindset, feel so much more alive. Seems to me then it’s a question of just how much rattling can be done and how often.

  • AKM

    Fair enough, I was making a general point as I don’t know much about the North Korean military.

    After doing some googling, if these are correct:
    http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/dprk/m-1978-170.htm
    http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/dprk/m-1985-mrl.htm
    It suggests that they have to drive their arty out from the caves to a firing position to shoot and that the time to get back under cover is well in excess of a minute, especially if they want to fire off multiple rounds before scooting. Also that we appear to be talking about 500 170mm guns and 200 240mm rocket launchers, rather than many thousands of artillery pieces as most of the rest doesn’t have the range to reach Seoul. This doesn’t invalidate my point that the NoKo arty can’t just sit there bombing Seoul flat, but would have to spend most of their time under cover to avoid the counter-fire.

  • Peter Melia

    I ask myself, “Suppose it wasn’t N/S Korea? Suppose it was, by some circumstance something like N/S England?”
    And I try and imagine all of the last 50-years history of Korea transmuted into English terms.
    Of course, any rational person would ask, ‘Just a mo‘ what’s all of the “England” stuff? What about about “British”?
    OK. Suppose, for the sake of argument, some political system had become popular in Scotland and Wales, and perhaps Cornwall, and this system was so repugnant to the Southern part of the UK that a war-driven division had taken place, resulting in a division of say, the United Kingdom into roughly, England less Cornwall, against Cornwall, Wales and Scotland.
    Suppose, further, the English had strong support from the USA and the “Northern British” as (for the sake of this thought experiment) the Scots, Welsh and Cornish has named themselves, was strongly supported by the EU.
    Upon reflection, this division of our island nation once again reflected ancient historical events, wherein European nations had often plotted against England by supporting the so-called “Celtic Fringe”.
    Every single family in England, had relatives in either Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, and every single family in the Northern Alliance had relatives in England. In fact, everyone in the old UK had relatives in every other part of the old Kingdom.
    By historical accident, England was the most economically viable part of the equation, with enormous industrial and financial assets, which they had capitalised upon, with the result that the English economy had become like a roaring dynamo.
    In contrast, the political system now running the Northern Britain had failed entirely, and those inherently good people the Scots, Welsh, Cornish, through no fault of their own, as a result of political manipulation, had fallen on hard, very hard times, in fact, they were starving.
    Economic circumstances aside, both sides had an enormous military potential, and by virtue of the tiny size of the place, almost nowhere there was out of range of some weapon-or-other of the other. And that included nuclear.
    Now The Northern Alliance, nuclear armed, was accused of sinking an English ship, (which the English perversely persisted in calling a “Royal Navy” ship), without warning, by undersea means.
    Temperatures on both sides had risen to very high levels, and these levels where matched by the military preparedness levels.
    Also kept high were the military prepardness levels of the two sponsors, the USA and the UE. These two allies could comfortably, in their bunkers on Washington and Brussels, consider such abstracts as “kill-ratios”, “fall-out areas”, “collateral damage” and so on, and in the meantime their mainstream press outlets were daily pumping out hate messages to all of the various populations involved, wrapped up in concern for the poor innocent inhabitants of these poor old British Isles. The planners in Washington had perforce to consider long-range, aircraft-carrier, submarine, cruise-missile, stealth-bomber resources. The planners in Brussels could dust off the plans of William, Phillip, Napoleon and Hitler.
    But back on the old UK “ground zero”, all of British, whatever the division, wanted above all else, to be left alone. They didn’t want to be “liberated” by foreigners. They didn’t want blue-helmetted troops patrolling their decimated cities. Starving or not, “This-wing” or “That-wing”, they just wanted to be left alone, to get on with their history, as they had done for so many centuries before, and resolve their problems.
    What else is there to do?

  • Eric

    Iraq. That went well, didn’t it?

    Yes, actually, by any reasonable historical measure it did. Around four thousand casualties to conquer and pacify a country of twenty million people. How can that be described as not going well?

  • The Sage of Seoul

    @ Eric – pffffffffffffft. you’re deluded. ever tried to take a pair of nail clippers through customs recently?

  • But back on the old UK “ground zero”, all of British, whatever the division, wanted above all else, to be left alone.

    So your point is presumably that the North Korean population wants to be left alone living in the world’s largest open air prison?

  • @ Eric – pffffffffffffft. you’re deluded. ever tried to take a pair of nail clippers through customs recently?

    Yes, the well known global terrorist network of North Korean Communists will start bombing passenger aircraft and blowing themselves up on buses with Kimchi powered fuel/air explosives no doubt.

  • China cannot have a modern first tier nation on their border, that is one of their major national goals. It’s why they backed North Vietnam and why they backed North Korea: a free country on their border leads to all kinds of intolerable things leaking over. The radio and TV transmitters a united and free Korea would set up across the line, the haven a free Korea would be to Chinese dissidents, etc. would not be allowed by the Chinese.

    This is kind of ridiculous because they’ve had Hong Kong there for over 100 years, much of which is located on the chinese mainland.

  • “This is kind of ridiculous because they’ve had Hong Kong there for over 100 years, much of which is located on the chinese mainland.”

    As if they have ever been in a position to challenge British rule of Hong Kong… oh wait…

  • Eric

    @ Eric – pffffffffffffft. you’re deluded. ever tried to take a pair of nail clippers through customs recently?

    Ah yes, I remember the good old days of 2002 when you could bring whatever you wanted on a plane. Then we invaded Iraq in 2003 and I haven’t been able to cut my nails since.

  • Tedd

    @ Eric – pffffffffffffft. you’re deluded. ever tried to take a pair of nail clippers through customs recently?

    Wow. What a stunning example of goal-post moving.

  • Korea was a semi-satrapy of China for much of the 19th Century, before it was colonized by Japan. No doubt modern China would not mind have SK, the 13th biggest economy in the world, have its wealth flow into Beijing’s coffers. Google up the story of how they ripped off Korean automaker Ssangyong.

  • Peter Melia

    No Perry, that’s the absolute last thing anyone would wish on anyone else.
    We “20-centuriers” must know, above everyone else in history, how bad life can be in
    political prisons of whatever hue, where-ever place, whatever time.
    But think about all of those hell-holes of the 20th century, and there were a LOT, the deaths in 10’s of millions, and yet survivors! also in their millions. Neither I nor anyone else can speak for those dead millions, yet I feel sure that their common humanity would indicate that they will be profoundly happy today, that despite the deprivations of their compatriots, some survived, and today the world is full of such survivors, many of them highly placed, and the richer for it.
    Invasion, “Shock and Awe II”, blitzkrieg, whatever, will surely result in massive mortalities, what is the convenient euphemism? “Collateral damage”?
    I do know any NK’s so obviously cannot speak for them, but I would hazard a guess that I can speak for my fellow humans in possessing a desire to be left alone to live out my miserable little life as best I can, in the sure hope that my children, or grandchildren, will survive to make things better.
    The opening scenes of “Henry V” tend to be much neglected, as most people, rightly, want to get along to where the real action is, France, Harfleur, Agincourt. Yet the preliminary scenes are really, really interesting. It is when Henry is debating with his bishops about whether he has has good cause for waging a just war. He thinks about it long and hard and eventually, on the weight of the evidence provided by his good bishops, decides that he does, indeed, have a Good Cause. And perhaps he did, for he prevailed, after fashion, his miserable little army, diseased, diminished, starving, worn out, fighting uphill, prevailed against a vastly superior force of heavily armoured knights thundering downhill towards them. Shows you how useful fighting a just war can be.
    Do you have any knowledge of any of our leaders undergoing anything similar to Henry’s tormented debates as they consider NK? Did Bush and Blair about the other place? Did Congress and Parliament? If not, why not?
    I think the NK’s do not want to be be invaded to death so that good guys elsewhere in the world can have something to celebrate, their deaths.

  • ordadrvr

    Re: Peter Melia

    “I do know any NK’s so obviously cannot speak for them, but I would hazard a guess that I can speak for my fellow humans in possessing a desire to be left alone to live out my miserable little life as best I can, in the sure hope that my children, or grandchildren, will survive to make things better. ”

    There probably are people who would rather live out their lives under whatever squalid conditions are imposed upon them by the NK dictator than risk death.

    There are probably also a large number who, if given even the merest possibility of prevailing, would gladly risk all to assure themselves or their descendants a life of relative freedom.

    This country (USA) was created by the people in the latter category.

    Talk is cheap, but I would hope to be included in the latter category if it ever came to that.

  • I think the NK’s do not want to be be invaded to death so that good guys elsewhere in the world can have something to celebrate, their deaths.

    “Invaded to death” or starved and brutalised by the most evil regime on the planet.

    Well I can only go by what people who have lived under totalitarianism have told me. Some just wanted to be “left alone” to be repressed by the local government, for sure… and others have welcomed war as a way to overthrow the people who were everything for.

  • True, there are probably both kinds, and it’s not for us to do either one’s bidding by default. Our (and that would seem to include SK) only consideration should be our own life and safety. Meaning, is NK a real and serious threat to the life and safety of the rest of the world?

  • The main thing that’s holding everything up, I think, is simply that China doesn’t want Korea unified, certainly not under a free and democratic government, and most especially one with South Korea’s economic policies. They probably in fact are more than happy with the trade off of US troops at the North-South Korean border.

    And there is by no means assurance of any kind of victory without very massive casualties, especially since it is highly unlikely that China will ever “throw North Korea to the wolves”.

    One scenario that was bandied about a few years back, as a trial balloon, and actually a threat, was that the North Koreans could flood South Korea-or at least a large, significant portion of it-simply by blowing up their dams in the North. I don’t know if there is anything to that, but even if it was an empty threat, it does show the mindset of the North, that it was even brought up publicly.

    A war between the two would have devastating consequences that would take years, maybe decades, to overcome, at the very least.