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So what should we do about North Korea?

By “we” I mean the American government of course.

Let’s try some Q and A:

Does North Korea currently possess the means to destroy cities in South Korea, Japan and even the United States?
I’m guessing that’s a “no”. My understanding is that building a missile is one thing, building an atomic bomb another thing and combining the two really difficult.

If not, are they likely to acquire those means any time soon?
Well, they seem to have spent a hell of a long time just getting to this stage. So, it could be a while yet.

Were they to acquire them how likely would they be to use them?
I suppose the question here is whether or not the threat of instant nuclear annihilation would deter them. The point is that the Norks are atheists. They do not have a heaven to go to. They want to receive their rewards in this world. There is no upside to being nuked. So, they can be deterred.

Of course, I say they are atheists but their system of government is clearly a hereditary monarchy. Monarchies tend to have gods attached. But as yet (to the best of my knowledge) the Norks haven’t come up with a heaven. But when they do… watch out.

So, the best approach is probably to do nothing and let deterrence do its thing?
Probably. Of course, it doesn’t have to be the US doing the deterring. Japan and South Korea could do much the same, after they had developed nuclear weapons of course.

Getting back to this god stuff, the Iranians aren’t atheists are they?
No they’re not. And they believe in heaven. And they believe they would go to heaven if they nuked Israel. And rumour has it that the Norks are helping them with the tech. But my guess is that the Israelis have the means to deal with this threat before it becomes serious.

So, what you’re saying is that the US’s best approach is to do nothing?
Yes, I guess I am.

I would just add that it is remarkable how difficult smaller tyrannies find it to replicate 60-year old technology.

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79 comments to So what should we do about North Korea?

  • Ken Mitchell

    But just to be on the safe side, since both North Korea and Iran hate our guts and have (or in Iran’s case, soon will have) nuclear weapons, AND the most likely delivery system for these nukes would be via ship or having them smuggled in to the US, we ought to unilaterally and publicly declare “We’re not sure when or where the next nuclear explosion will occur in the world. But we can guarantee that the 2nd and 3rd bombs will be about 30 minutes later, in Pyongyang and Tehran.”

  • Ken Mitchell

    “But my guess is that the Israelis have the means to deal with this threat before it becomes serious.”

    IN Syria’s case, Israel has already done it – twice. But North Korea is out of range of the Israeli Air Force, so they won’t be able to do much about it.

  • Mr Ed

    ’m guessing that’s a “no”.

    There’s always an ‘if‘. Like Galtieri ought to have asked himself between whiskies “What if I go to war against a country whose Armed Forces are headed by men who are: A veteran of Normandy, a veteran of the Battle of the North Cape, A pilot who went 10 times over Berlin in a Lancaster, all reporting to a veteran of the Arctic and Malta convoys?‘.

    the Norks are atheists. They do not have a heaven to go to.

    Yes they do, they are in it. The late Kim Il Sung is the Eternal President of the country, so there must be some life after death, although socialism is really death before death.

    So with the Norks, cut off food aid and they will all starve, eventually, unless they bring forward Bonfire Night to a time of their choosing.

    With Iran:

    the Iranians aren’t atheists are they?
    No they’re not. And they believe in heaven. And they believe they would go to heaven if they nuked Israel.

    I understand that there is a ‘hastener’ faction in Iran who believe that the occulted or hidden One will reappear in Mecca but they need to cover the world with fire first, but not all of them take it quite so seriously. So some might be a little bit wary of ‘testing the manual’ as it were (in both senses).

    If I thought the Norks were serious, I guess I would suggest that a least bad scenario would be a massive tactical strike, with a focus on their nuke infrastructure and artillery etc. and let them pick over their own ruins.

    And the benefits of taking out the Norks is that it would encourager les autres to consider how badly they want to go down the same road, and that includes Sir Michael Fallon threatening Boeing.

  • lucklucky

    “Does North Korea currently possess the means to destroy cities in South Korea…
    I’m guessing that’s a “no”.”

    False. Of course they can do that to Seoul have with conventional weapons and chemical weapons.

  • Does North Korea currently possess the means to destroy cities in South Korea, Japan and even the United States?

    South Korea, yes. No nukes needed, they have plenty of artillery to do it.

  • Laird

    The last two commenters beat me to it. Of course NK has the ability to destroy Seoul; they have a massive conventional military and Seoul is only 50 miles from the DMV. And people tend to forget just how large Seoul is: it has 30 million people. That’s more than 3 times the size of New York. Even using conventional weapons the carnage would be unimaginable. They could also do significant damage to Japan, although nowhere near as much.

    And you’re being incredibly naive. They already have atomic bombs and apparently have just exploded a hydrogen bomb. That’s an order of magnitude more difficult than a “simple” uranium bomb. And obviously they have missiles capable of reaching far beyond Japan (although probably not to the US mainland. Yet.). But if they have the capability of building a hydrogen bomb I would not be so dismissive of their ability to mount an atomic bomb on a missile.

    Moreover, they don’t need to use a missile to do an incredible amount of harm to the US: just detonate a couple of atomic bombs at altitude over the US and our entire electric grid is down, possibly for years. All electronics fried. No communications. No functioning automobiles (they’re all computers on wheels now). Hundreds of millions would starve to death or die in the inevitable riots. To my mind, this is the most significant risk posed by the Norks. (Iran and islamic terrorists, too.) Would NK use its weapons thus? Hell, yes. We might not even be able to prove that they were responsible with sufficient certitude to justify a nuclear response (assuming that we even retained the capability, which we probably would).

    I am not as sanguine as you about the virtue of patience. I can make a strong argument for a preemptive nuclear strike.

  • bobby b

    “By “we” I mean the American government of course.”

    That’s the biggest problem in my mind. When anyone from any other country speaks about options concerning NK, they always seem to be giving the USA advice, and never saying “here’s what WE should do.”

    Do they have a god? Doesn’t matter. The people of NK hardly figure into this equation, except to the extent that they don’t revolt and change government, and my impression is that this is tough to do on 1800 calories per day. In Kim Jong-Un’s mind, he’s already a god. Heaven is wherever he is.

    I think the best predictor of what NK is going to do involves whether or not Kim Jong-Un feels that he is losing or gaining face. Nothing else seems to matter to him – face controls his thinking. (Since his face – his fearsomeness – is part of what keeps his population subservient, there may be some validity to this outlook.)

    And, NK can certainly, today, wreak havoc across all of SK, across much of Japan and some of China, and on a good day he could (without any real precision) likely kill millions in the USA. Our west coast is fairly densely populated. (Insert “dense Californians” joke here.) He only has to hit somewhere inside a 500-mile circle, or he can simply ship something over in a container and take out a port city.

    We need to sell Japan a nuclear program, prod Australia into taking a larger role in containing NK, convince the SKoreans that they need to figure out what they want, and make it clear that we will sit back and watch unless something wicked this way comes, in which case we’ll turn NK into a glazed doughnut.

  • Stevo

    Interesting thread. My two-bob’s worth is that unless there is an existential threat to the US or any of its allies, a preemptive nuclear strike is immoral and will taint the US for centuries. Basically, the US’s hard won reputation will be lost in microseconds. Even Russia avows that it will only use nukes in the event of an existential threat. During WW2, Hitler declined to use organophosphate nerve gases (invented by his chemists of course) even in extremity – and nukes will kill orders of magnitude more than nerve gas. Trump knows that he will be tarred as one of earth’s most evil men forever if he preemptively strikes with nukes. It won’t happen.

    So, what to do? Well, it wouldn’t hurt to attempt to make an ally of DPRK analogous to the way that the US made allies of Germany and Japan after WW2. Germany caused the deaths of possibly 60 million in heinous ways and Japan perpetrated its own evil in China (25 million dead before and during WW2) and through its occupied territories, yet they’re both staunch allies now. Why not DPRK? Then, do business with them. Do a deal, Trump…

    Trump unfortunately strikes me as a moron. But he will still have his handlers and they always pull the right strings from what I know of history. Nixon could have brought the walls down by hitting Vietnam with nukes but his handlers talked him out of it. The US knows that DPRK is no Iraq or Libya to be invaded and defeated with impunity. It will fight back. Diplomacy is the way out and probably the only way out.

  • mickc

    Yes, of course the best approach to North Korea is to leave it alone. The same applies to Iran.

  • Tarrou

    Every single bit of your logic circuit is faulty.

    The conclusion isn’t insane, but how you got there certainly was.

    Bottom line, China is the key to North Korea. The Norks wouldn’t last six months without China propping them up. But China won’t stand for a reunited Korea on its border, much less a US allied one. So the Norks will continue. And yes, they can pretty well wipe out fifty million south Koreans without even resorting to nukes. So there’s that.

    Iran is a delicate nut. They’ve pretty much centered their culture around hating the US and Israel. That won’t go away, and the Israelis are nowhere near being able to handle that problem. Iran only needs three basic nukes to eradicate all of Israel. Israel can’t possibly do similar damage to a country the size of Iran. Iran is using their ten-year pause on the nuclear program to perfect their missile program, which means the shit hits the fan in about 2030.

  • Rich Rostrom

    True, North Korea can be deterred. Or bought off, more accurately. But remember what Kipling said about Dane-Geld. If North Korea can extract tribute by implied threat because it has nuclear weapons, other gangster regimes will follow suit. (North Korea is already dealing with Iran to enable that gang to get nukes.)

    That means multiple gangster regimes with continued horrors as permanent features of the world scene. And it seems probable that one of these gangs will sell nukes to non-state actors, including terrorists. (Maybe not the boss gangsters, but some greedy underlings in the crew.) Or give them nukes, out of shared hatred of the terrorists’ target.

    Then the TSWRHTF.

  • bobby b

    “Iran is a delicate nut. They’ve pretty much centered their culture around hating the US and Israel.”

    I wonder how widespread this view is throughout their society. You’re correct in that their ruling clique is built up around this, but some speak of a maximum 30% buy-in of this attitude amongst the people.

    If this is so, then they have a better chance of a societal change driven from within than do the poor North Koreans, who stand little to no chance of affecting the plans of their Supreme Leader.

    The Iranians I know enjoyed the heck out of their period of Westernization, and claim that their countrymen, if asked, would choose lopsidedly to go back to 1978.

  • Nicholas (Unlicenced Joker) Gray

    But doing nothing was Obama’s policy! Obama was a Democrat, and therefore we have to do something!

  • George Atkisson

    The problem from my POV is that the consequences of our (US) policy are not balanced. If North Korea is rational, the status quo prevails. If irrational, my country dies, at least in its current form. We HAVE to ensure that the latter possibility does not exist. The debate then becomes not how to influence North Korea’s actions, but how best to ensure that it cannot act. I frankly am at a loss, because I can’t see an answer that doesn’t result in several million dead. I would rather that they not be American, but the guilt in so choosing will be immense and lasting.

  • William O. B'Livion

    Does North Korea currently possess the means to destroy cities in South Korea, Japan and even the United States?

    Yes. ICBMS are not the only way to move a nuclear device from point A to point B.

  • Tomsmith

    Wrong conclusions above.

    The only rational course of action is a targeted nuke strike on NK as soon as possible, and get rid of that regime. Then do the same with Iran. And Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan. There is no merit in gambling that they are not insane.

  • Clovis Sangrail

    @Mr Ed “and that includes Sir Michael Fallon threatening Boeing”

    So you want to oppose the threat of trade sanctions with the threat of nuclear obliteration of a close ally.
    That seems balanced.
    You might want to include Canada in that threat too, because after all, they have the larger stake in Bombardier.

  • jamesg

    If NK is rational and will continue to be forever then a nuclear deterrent will contain them.

    If they are crazy then you have to take out their capability sooner rather than later, or more riskily degrade them economically and then take it out. That won’t happen because no one will be thanked for killing only 100,000 people instead of a counter factual million.

    If they are rational now, but this might change, then what you need is a mad man in the Whitehouse bent on nuking NK pre-emptively. If NK believe this is going to happen then they must surely capitulate.

    The problem with the last scenario is that Trump is not mad and despite the tough talk everyone knows he won’t strike first. What I think Trump is doing is creating a small window of doubt just in case Kim Jung Un can’t stomach any risk of being killed at all.

    Probably the best tactic then under the rational-now-but-maybe-not-forever scenario is to reward the regime for disarming. Trump may be doing this as well in a combined strategy. Which would be typical of his win many ways approach. Threaten him, degrade his capability, but then grant him some begrudging but genuine respect if the threat doesn’t work. This is a ‘pacing and leading’ approach. Trump is probably the only person in the world who could pull this off, probably with the help of Dennis Rodman and involving bizarre demonstrations of respect that no one else would even consider.

    My hypothesis that Trump is a political genius will be well tested by the NK problem. So far I’ve seen no evidence that the hypothesis is wrong.

  • Cal Ford

    Patrick, your attitude reminds me of the attitude a lot of the intelligenstia had about the UK’s home-grown Islamic terrorists a few years ago. They’re a bunch of silly clowns, not worth taking seriously. Jon Ronson wrote a book about them, with this attitude. Chris Morris made a sitcom. Misguided numpties, that’s all they are

    But things weren’t so funny when some of their plots started to work, and a lot of people got blown to bits.

    So I’m less convinced by the attitude that they’re just clowns and fools who aren’t even capable of operating a grenade, so let’s not do anything hasty.

  • bobby b

    Mr Ed
    September 28, 2017 at 9:58 pm

    ” . . . and that includes Sir Michael Fallon threatening Boeing.”

    Damn. Missed this entirely. And it’s a pet peeve of mine.

    It’s a two-prong issue, and the trade press is covering one prong. Nothing on the other, unfortunately.

    1. Bombardier and Canada combined their money in a way that resulted in a large government subsidy covering a sale of equipment into the US. With this subsidy in hand, Bombardier underbid their American competition for the sale. This is an unfair trade practice; this is dumping.

    2. Boeing is the American manufacturer which brought the dumping complaint to the US Commerce Department. The Department took over the case and arrived at a determination that dumping did occur. But Boeing had no skin in the game – it lost no sales, and in fact makes no specific airplane that competes in the pertinent category. In civil law terms, had it tried to bring a lawsuit, it would have been dismissed for lack of standing.

    As called for by statute, the Department issued a finding that Canada’s money subsidy to Bombardier had resulted in a 220% advantage on their price and ordered that Bombardier must pay that 220% back as a tariff on the sale. It’s basically a disgorgement of profits.”

    All we read now is that Canada and GB are furious at Boeing, and are demanding that it withdraw its complaint or they’ll start futzing with Boeing’s sales to Canada and GB. They’re screaming about how Boeing is acting improperly and unfairly. They’re loudly furious that Ireland will lose jobs.

    What they’re NOT speaking about is that Bombardier did commit a rather egregious violation of internationally-accepted trade law, and unfairly took business away from US firms that had bid on the sale. (Not Boeing, but others.)

    They also skip the fact that the complaint, once accepted at the USCD, is no longer Boeing’s to withdraw.

    This is all really just pressure and noise to get the USCD to change its mind on the penalties. They may well work something out. But the violation was so blatant that I can’t quite see how they all figured to get away with it. They’re either feigning surprise, or they’re really bad at the international trade process.

  • Cal Ford

    As several commentators here have said (and as usual Laird puts things best), NK can easily cause devastation in SK and the USA. And Kim is crazy and desperate enough to do it. As is Iran. This is another one of those issues weak and soft Western governments have been kicking down the road like a can for years. Eventually Kim or Iran is going to do something very nasty. (Don’t assume a Israel has Iran covered.)

    In my book if someone threatens you with war and nuclear strikes you take it very seriously, and if you can knock the shit out of them, you do. Sometimes, as with the USSR, you have reasons to think that they’re bluffing to some extent, and/or that a war with them will be too damaging. There’s less reason to think that Kim and the Iranians are bluffing, and less to fear from a war with them (at this stage — but the longer things go on, the more time they get to develop weapons, and the more we have to fear).

    So I think The US should just take out Kim. I don’t mean with a nuclear strike. They just need a quick conventional set of strikes selected areas of Pyongyang, with troops going in at other targeted areas. Kill Kim, or force him into hiding, take over the key areas, and the whole rotten edifice thing will crumble. China might not like it, but what are they going to do?

  • Mr Ed

    Clovis S

    @Mr Ed “and that includes Sir Michael Fallon threatening Boeing”

    So you want to oppose the threat of trade sanctions with the threat of nuclear obliteration of a close ally.

    Where did I say I would threaten nuclear obliteration?

    Reading into posts words that aren’t there and then questioning what you have imagined is no basis for a proper discourse.

  • Clovis Sangrail

    @bobby b

    Thank you for the commentary.
    My comment was not supporting Fallon, the UK or Bombardier but merely trying to point out the unnecessary bellicosity of Mr Ed’s remark.
    Having said that, my impression is that every defence/defense manufacturer everywhere (and many aerospace companies) is actually receiving enormous governmental support (whether or not a particular contract is defence related). Boeing, IMHO, is hardly lily white in this regard.

    “They’re either feigning surprise, or they’re really bad at the international trade process.”
    I fear that it’s the latter.

  • A bit late to the party, but – you fell at the first hurdle. NK has conventional weapons pointed at Seoul – over 30,000 of then iirc – and this is the problem. It might be possible to strategically take out their nuclear facilities in one go, but you couldn’t stop them letting off that lot of fireworks over Seoul. Yaron Brook had a very good analysis on his podcast recently – he was in military intelligence, and it shows.

    The only way to deal with NK is to make a threat, and mean it. And who do we think has the moral authority to do that?

    No, me neither.

  • Kill Kim, or force him into hiding, take over the key areas, and the whole rotten edifice thing will crumble. China might not like it, but what are they going to do?

    One *big* plus in Korea is that nobody has to go in and nation-build. Just extend S Korea. Even China aren’t likely to do much – the Koreans are more interested in making money than imperialism.

    Good thing too.

  • Clovis Sangrail

    @Mr Ed
    Sorry if I misunderstood, but your sentence did start “And the benefits of taking out the Norks is that it would encourager les autres …”
    I think it not unreasonable, even if incorrect, to read the sentence as making threats of nuclear activity against les autres.

  • Jim

    Easy – carpet bomb North Korea with chocolate, coca-cola, levis jeans, some sort of simple communication device that we can beam information in to, etc etc, until North Korean people have a fairly good idea that the outside world isn’t a militarised hellhole where everyone eats grass. They’ll do the rest.

  • Mr Ed

    Clovis,

    I was suggesting that a robust response would pay benefits down the line. I do not know enough about military matters to know if the only realistic option is nuclear, but at least a vigorous response would at least show that the West (I mistyped that as ‘Wets’) cannot be pushed around.

    As for Fallon, I believe that his posturing could be part of a Remoaner plan to pick a trade war with the US, with the EU appearing all nice and friendly, to justify an illusory independence for the UK from the EU, and an excuse to stall on a process that appears to be about to take longer than Pearl Harbor to the ceremony on the Missouri, or even Mussolini’s invasion of France to his upending at a garage.

  • bobby b

    Clovis Sangrail
    September 29, 2017 at 9:19 am

    “My comment was not supporting Fallon, the UK or Bombardier but merely trying to point out the unnecessary bellicosity of Mr Ed’s remark.”

    Understood. I was mostly just venting about a frustrating (to me) situation.

    None of them, as you say, are lily-white. Sometimes, though, they jump straight to black and then sort of dare everyone else to say something. Boeing doesn’t want Bombardier to become another Airbus story – Airbus who grew to what they are today through practices just like Bombardier’s – and so they brought up (properly) a clear violation of international law. At least people ought to have the decency to violate laws subtly, and then not champion pure ad hominem attacks as defenses.

    [/rant]

  • bobby b

    Mr Ed
    September 29, 2017 at 9:44 am

    “As for Fallon, I believe that his posturing could be part of a Remoaner plan to pick a trade war with the US, with the EU appearing all nice and friendly, to justify an illusory independence for the UK from the EU . . .”

    Or maybe a chance for a party, in power but not well-loved, to appear to be bravely and aggressively fighting for its constituents.

    (It does involve around 5000 Irish jobs making Bombardier’s planes. I wouldn’t put it past May and Trump to have already discussed this and come to a joint agreement that May can make a big stink and Trump will let it roll off his back, to help her out at home.)

  • Clovis Sangrail

    @Mr Ed
    @bobby b
    Thank you both for illuminating responses.

    I occasionally fail to be cynical enough about politics, but Mr Ed’s suggestion is, sadly, quite credible, as is bobby b’s.
    It’s the constant failure of politicians to have any principles that gets me down…that and my smug, self-righteous colleagues at my university.

  • The last toryboy

    North Korea does have the means to destroy Seoul. There’s enough North Korean conventional artillery in range of Seoul that this is definitely a thing, even without considering nuclear weapons.

  • All we read now is that Canada and GB are furious at Boeing, and are demanding that it withdraw its complaint or they’ll start futzing with Boeing’s sales to Canada and GB. They’re screaming about how Boeing is acting improperly and unfairly. They’re loudly furious that Ireland will lose jobs.

    What they’re NOT speaking about is that Bombardier did commit a rather egregious violation of internationally-accepted trade law, and unfairly took business away from US firms that had bid on the sale. (Not Boeing, but others.)

    That’s what the Ex-Im Bank is for, isn’t it?

  • Watchman

    Hey, it’s time for my normal proviso about military ability. North Korea has a small and not particularly modern military (yes they spend a lot of their GDP on it – but a lot of North Korea’s GDP is almost a scale of magnitude smaller than the small bit of their own GDP South Korea sepend on their military). I am not sure about North Korean morale, but the country is too small to be immune to propoganda from outside (since radio works over a large range) and clearly people know a better life exists elsewhere, so it is questionable whether they are fanatics in the main – certainly I would not expect the North Koreans now to present anything comparable to their capabilities in the 1950s relative to the South Koreans and Americans (indeed, in many ways their military might be directly comparable to the 1950s…). I would doubt that the North Korean artilary would be able to seriously damage Seoul for example – it would probably be oblitared very soon after opening fire (artilary being notoriously difficult to hide when it is in action – especially when it has to be within range of Seoul, so therefore nicely concentrated in a small area), just after the 1970s Soviet (and Iranian upgrades) air defences.

    And why do people somehow assume Iran is more inherently likely to do something stupid than North Korea. Iran is not a dictatorship (its rulers have to get elected, albeit from a closed field, and deal with clerics who do not strike me as keen to get oblitared – the Shia religious hierarchy is conservative, not fanatical, and Iran is easier to understand if we remember we are dealing with an arch-conservative regime trying to keep the lid on a very young and surprisingly well-informed population), and the cult of dying for the country that sustained them in the Iran-Iraq war seems to be pretty well gone. North Korea is pretty well dependent on the whims of a young and not particularly stable character, whilst Iran is like most countries difficult to do something sensible in, never mind lethally destructive, since even the actual islamicists in government are still in government and therefore proverbially inefficient.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    On topic at one remove:

    How about a UN resolution to the effect that any country may do to another country what the second country is accusing them of doing?

    If the accusation is true, nothing is changed; but if it’s false, the possibility of its becoming true may keep it from being made in the first place.

    And while cooling the rhetoric is a worthy objective, watching the UN delegations duck and weave to protect their countries’ ability to take cheap shots would have its own sour pleasures.

  • staghounds

    Can’t we send Kim a message?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v1Bf3Dzm-xk

    Or just kill him, but not a city full of his slaves. His successor might not want to die.

  • “The only thing necessary for the victory of bad men is that good men do nothing.” (Edmund Burke)

    The OP is filled with wishful thinking, some of it so extreme as to be known to be inaccurate in objective fact (as some above have explained). That which is not so knowable is still very indulgent. Take, for example,

    the Norks are atheists. They do not have a heaven to go to. They want to receive their rewards in this world. There is no upside to being nuked. So, they can be deterred.

    It would be equally (at least) easy to claim that those who believe this world’s deeds are judged in the next are thereby more restrained – and it would be wiser to recognise that “he’s an atheist, so won’t do anything too crazy” and “he’s religious, so won’t do anything too wrong” are both indulgent arguments to which counterexamples can be found. Despite his ‘eternal presidency’, the current leader of North Korea will one day die – and on the prior day may well know he has not long to make a mark in this world, and believe he has nothing to lose.

    Those who do not learn from the past are condemned to repeat it. There was a time when North Korea had neither nukes nor ICBMs. Our policy was to do nothing. Now, North Korea has nukes and ICBMs, and the OP tells us that putting these together will prove hard, so we should continue our policy of doing nothing. By precedent, how should we expect that to end?

  • Mr Ed

    We should remind ourselves of the capabilities of the North Korean air force as well, here is a short propaganda video from the time of Kim Jong Il.

  • Stephen W. Houghton

    Watchman in what world is having the fourth largest number of active military personnel and the second largest number of reserve military personnel having a small army. I agree its equipment is substandard, but it doesn’t lack for size.

  • Alisa

    What jamesg said (especially the Dennis Rodman part).

  • charlie

    Sell South Korea and Japan nuclear weapons. Missiles, warheads, the lot, all under their own authority.

  • jamesg, September 29, 2017 at 7:25 am: ” … reward the regime for disarming …”

    Am I misremembering that the carrot tactic has been tried?

    (To be fair, IIUC, jamesg is recommending that Trump combine it with an “I’m even crazier and more unstable than you, Kim, and might press the button anytime” strategy, and that is new. Trump could undoubtedly get a lot of unwitting help from the MSM in that. But the best way to look like you are ready to do something is to be ready to do it – and do it on a deadline – knowing that Kim Wrong-Un is unlikely to cave for less, and might not cave for that.)

    Alisa, thanks for the link. 🙂 When the PC avant-garde are not openly flattering the mullahs, the norks and whoever else hates the west, they often seem to be engaged in providing ammunition for propaganda against the decadent, immoral, effete (and, above all, ridiculous) west.

  • Mr Ed

    Meanwhile in the UK, could one imagine the Chief of the Defence Staff discussing a tense situation with our PM.

    Chief: “Prime Minister, the Korea situation. Sitrep is: Our Type 45 Destroyer on station in the South China Sea has been sunk by a submarine, understood to be North Korean, as it was so noisy, but the Type 45 suffered an electrical failure in the comparatively warm waters, and was monitoring it, but didn’t expect to be attacked. They are so used to surrendering to Iranians and handing over their iPods, that we issued them with fake iPods, and hoped the North Koreans wouldn’t notice. Reports from Canberra indicate that the North Korean EMP over Ayers Rock has knocked out most of Australia’s electrical systems, and we are concerned that Diego Garcia may be next. The Americans are too busy discussing the former Secretary of State’s exposé of a vast Russian conspiracy in her sequel to care for the moment.

    PM: “Air Chief Marshal, there is no question of us launching a counter-attack on the North Koreans, my Equalities Minister will address COBRA.“.

    Equalities Minister: “Prime Minister, my officials have done an Equality Impact Assessment as part of our Public Sector Equality Duty, A Minister of the Crown, must, when making decisions of a strategic nature about how to exercise functions, have due regard to the desirability of exercising them in a way that is designed to reduce the inequalities of outcome which result from socio-economic disadvantage.

    Therefore, we must not attack or respond at all. An attack would have a significant disparate impact on people of Korean ethnicity and in particular, North Korean National Origin. Furthermore, an attack could lead to xenophobic attacks on members of both Korean communities in London and we expect a significant backlash as it is from the attack on Australia. We would have to get the Home Office to take police away from their desks monitoring Facebook and actually look for people doing things. So far, resources are already stretched, we have arrested only 50 Korean War veterans who might have put on their medals in public, and got them remanded in custody for conspiracy to commit hate crimes. The Home Office is increasing the bodyguards on the Duke of Edinburgh to ensure that there are no disorders. We are recommending that Ministers eat some dog meat to show our support for the Korean community and to break down stereotypes about them including out-dated notions about diet.

  • Epic, Ed, just… epic 😆 😆 😆

  • Snorri Godhi

    What “we” i.e. the US government should do, seems rather obvious: tell the Chinese government (privately of course) that “we” would not mind if there were a radical change of North Korean leadership; and that, if that does not happen pretty quickly, then “we” shall make sure that it happens.

    The only trouble is, “we” cannot bluff: we have to have a plan B in case that the Chinese gov. fails to act.

    Something similar might possibly work by replacing in the above:
    China –> Russia;
    North Korea –> Iran.
    At the very least, “we” might make it clear to Russia that we are going to make sure that Iran does not become a threat, and if the Russians want to work with us on that, fine; otherwise we’ll do it anyway.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Mr Ed — What Perry said! 😆

  • Laird

    @ jamesg, September 29, 2017 at 7:25 am: “reward the regime for disarming….”

    We’ve been trying the carrot approach to NK since the Clinton administration. It’s pretty clear that it doesn’t work. It also seems clear that Trump has run out of carrots. So what now?

    Snorri, maybe. It is of course a given that China is an important player in all this, and I would be very surprised if we aren’t already having just those back-channel discussions you suggest. The problem is that the Chinese have their own agenda, are very smart, and are playing a very deep game, one which we probably don’t understand at all. (Is it racist to say “inscrutable”? 😆 ) Obviously keeping the region (and the US) in turmoil is to their advantage, but just how far they want things to go is unclear. It is entirely possible that they view the resumption of armed conflict between the US and NK as being to their advantage from a geopolitical perspective. This could be especially true if we were to employ nuclear weapons, as the global blowback against the US would be considerable and likely would bolster China’s dominion over the far east, and maybe even elsewhere.

    War in NK could also result in significant political turmoil here in the US, which also plays into China’s hands. We have been at war almost without cease since 1953. In fact, when you consider that WW1 never really ended (merely an armistice), and that WW2 was succeeded immediately by a Cold War with the Soviet Union and, after only the briefest of pauses, hot wars in Korea (which also never really ended), Vietnam and a host of other hot spots around the globe, future historians might just refer to this as our own Hundred Years War. The people are sick of war, and conflict in NK might just push us over the edge politically. No one can predict the ramifications of that. None of this can have escaped the notice of the Chinese. So, when you drill deeply enough into it, does China really have any incentive to rein in NK? Might they not be merely stringing us along and pretending to help while waiting for us to make the inevitable catastrophic error?

    I don’t have a good answer to Patrick’s question in the OP; no one does. But I am reasonably certain that continuing the Clinton/Bush/Obama of essentially doing nothing is the one wrong answer.

  • Clovis Sangrail

    @Mr Ed
    I fear you may have slightly underestimated the modern British ability to roll over under any threat but you are, I think, close to 🙂 the money.

  • bobby b

    Laird
    September 29, 2017 at 9:10 pm

    “But I am reasonably certain that continuing the Clinton/Bush/Obama of essentially doing nothing is the one wrong answer.”

    The one thing that we haven’t tried is doing so much of nothing that Kim Jong-Un simply has no reason to pay attention to us anymore.

    We need to arm Japan and SK to the extent that they desire, let China know that NK is their problem, and walk away.

    Kim can continue blustering about our evilness, but if we continue to do nothing about him, then others will have to do something about him. Let his pique at us wither from our unconcern. Let the EU take up the mantle if they wish. There are a lot of people out there who ought to be worried about NK whose main reaction these days is “the USA isn’t handling this correctly.” Let them do it. It’s time for us to pull in our pickets.

    If SK then knuckles under and joins in with NK (which is undoubtedly China’s long game), what have we lost? (And by “we”, I mean the USA.) Of course, we do need to maintain the message that any overt action toward us will be met with reaction.

    (Much of my desire to pull out stems from South Korea’s recent attitudes towards the protection that we supply to them. When they say publicly that we’re doing it wrong, that we’re too hard-line or we’re too soft, then I say they’ve outgrown the need for us.)

  • Ferox

    Snorri has it exactly right. We should let the Chinese know that any punches Korea throws at us will be coming back at them. That we will hold them directly responsible for Korea’s behavior. And we should absolutely mean every word of it.

    The Norks are a Chinese puppet meant to contain a capitalist South Korea on their flank. We should give them strong incentive to rein in their mad dog.

  • Laird

    bobby b, that sounds good, but what precisely do you mean by “do nothing”? Do you mean put an end to the international sanctions and boycotts (or at least suspend our participation in them)? Permit some form of bilateral trade (if not actually normalize relations)? Allow NK’s central bank (I assume that it has one) to participate in the global money transfer system? Or simply get Trump to stop tweeting rude things about Kim Jong-Un? (Good luck with that!) I’d like to see a little more specificity to your plan, please.

    In any event, I would be happy with your suggestion. Really. Ecstatic, even. But please, let’s not stop there. I’d love to “pull in our pickets”, not just in South Korea but everywhere else in the world, too. Out of South Korea; out of the Pacific generally; out of Germany (really? We’re still there after 70 years?!); out of the Mideast; out of NATO; out of the UN. (Out of the Olympics, too, while we’re at it. Don’t stop me; I’m on a roll here.) I’m tired of being constantly at war; tired of serving as the “world’s policeman” (or, more often than not, the world’s bully); tired of propping up every two-bit dictator because he’s marginally better than the one next door (or simply because he’s our two-bit dictator instead of Moscow’s); tired of serving as the world’s sugar daddy and bearing most of the cost of every allegedly humanitarian international project cooked up by a corrupt UN; tired of playing host to the world’s most vile regimes and providing a forum in which they can lecture us on our failings. We’ve carried you all for 70 years; I’m more than ready to pull a national John Galt and go on strike. We don’t even need a Gulch; we have two very nice oceans to provide buffers.

    I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more. Who’s with me?

  • Alisa

    Who’s with me?

    As a citizen of both the US and of another country that receives “aid” (don’t even start me on the particulars) from the US, I’m with you all the way: it would be great for both our countries. I do believe that Trump is strongly inclined in that direction (he said it more than once long before he even considered running for the office), but will he be able to pull it off?

  • Sell South Korea and Japan nuclear weapons. Missiles, warheads, the lot, all under their own authority.

    That would be my approach, and let China know that Taiwan may well be next if they don’t bring NK into line.

  • Kim can continue blustering about our evilness, but if we continue to do nothing about him, then others will have to do something about him. Let his pique at us wither from our unconcern. Let the EU take up the mantle if they wish. There are a lot of people out there who ought to be worried about NK whose main reaction these days is “the USA isn’t handling this correctly.” Let them do it. It’s time for us to pull in our pickets.

    Yes.

  • bobby b

    Laird
    September 30, 2017 at 4:13 am

    ” . . . but what precisely do you mean by “do nothing”?”

    I mean that we as a country have nothing more to do with North Korea.

    We don’t threaten them, we don’t provide troops against their borders, we don’t try to influence the international community to boycott them, (but we don’t trade with them at all ourselves), we don’t make money transfers with them but we don’t try to pressure the rest of the world to follow suit . . .

    I’d say that we should stop mentioning them in tweets, but I think I’d be asking the impossible.

    It’s really the Amish shunning. We simply live our lives as if they’re no longer there, but we don’t insist that the world follows suit. We’re not looking to change their behavior – we simply have nothing more to do with them.

    Unless they directly threaten us. Then we slip a $billion each to a couple of his generals to kill Kim. Cheap closure.

  • “You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you.” Some commenters immediately above seem to be rivalling the OP in wishful thinking: “Let’s do nothing”. Good luck with that. As the Federalists said, “A nation contemptible for its weakness forfeits even the privilege of being neutral.” Weakness need not be an actual absence of military or economic capacity; Obaman-style weakness of attitude will suffice. The last decade is an object lesson in how the world evolves when the US looks weak.

    If Trump wants to able to do little internationally, then he must look dangerous to mess with. Kim, wittingly or unwittingly, is testing that very forcefully. “Anything for a quiet life” is not the way to get one.

  • bobby b

    “The last decade is an object lesson in how the world evolves when the US looks weak.”

    No, the last decade is an object lesson in how the world evolves when the US looks stupid.

    Obama didn’t do “nothing.” He did many things, usually with little insight into their consequences.

    If we looked weak, it was a weakness of resolve – and it was due to Obama making huge errors: errors of side-choosing, errors of tactics, errors of trying to cozy up to the wrong people badly, and errors of bluster.

    Had he truly done nothing, we would be in much better shape. The problem is, those things he did, he did badly.

    If we do decide to do things, then no matter what we do, 75% of the world will condemn us for it. Then, we’ll give away lots of money trying to expiate our guilt. That’s how to look weaker and weaker – by constantly apologizing to the world for having done (usually) the right thing and paying the loudest complainers reparations for having made the world better for them.

    If we simply shun NK and deprive Kim of his personal Great Satan, we weaken him. All of his power comes from the threats and bluster that he throws our way. Without us, he’ll find new demons.

    He’s a dangerous, mentally ill whacko, and the countries within his sphere of influence probably ought to get together and fix him. We might even help if asked, but there’s no reason for us to make it our show anymore. We will defend ourselves from him, and I’m confident we can do that competently, but aside from that, we should remove ourselves from the situation.

  • bob sykes

    First, any attack on North Korea means war with China and probably with Russia. They both fought in the Korean and Vietnamese wars, and they would do so again. Moreover, a war on the peninsula is a war we would lose. The North Korean/Chinese/Russian combine has absolute conventional and nuclear superiority in that theater. It may be doubted whether Japan would participate, and it is possible that both Japan and South Korea would intervene militarily to prevent an American attack on the North. Certainly they would if they had their wits about them.

    What Kim wants most is security for his regime, and considering what the US and NATO did to Gaddafi after he submitted, a nuclear deterrent makes a lot of sense. Kim is not insane, that is the knee jerk slur applied to all our enemies, most of whom are saner and smarter than the Deep State/neocons who rule America. He will use his deterrent to ward off American aggression, and that is what is intolerable, that the US cannot threaten someone with impunity.

    If the North’s nuclear deterrent is unacceptable, then buy it and take it home. Offer the North a Marshall Plan for its development, and offer them a peace treaty that legitimizes Kim’s regime and guarantees its survival. That would be a lot cheaper than a ground war the US would lose, the devastation of the South and Japan, and millions of dead, including tens of thousands or possibly hundreds of thousands of Americans.

  • Tarrou

    @bobby b

    Re: the buy-in of the Iranian public to US and jew-hatred. The US specifically is probably around 80%, western civilization as a whole is 100%. Jew hatred is 200%. Every single Iranian hates the jews twice as much as you think is humanly possible.

    I’ve lived in the middle east for years. Everyone there hates us all, Americans specifically, and Jews hyper-specifically. Yes, even the moderates. Yes, even the secular ones. Yes, ALL OF THEM. There’s a few educated, English speaking types who are willing to lie to western-conducted surveys, but they would slit a baby in half and smear the blood on their faces in a heartbeat if you told them it was American and no one would find out.

    Get this through your head. You know how we don’t really understand the race-hatred of the past? I’m telling you, it’s alive and well, and is the central organizing principle of muslim life, everywhere. Yes, all muslims. Every single last one.

  • Laird

    @ bobby b at September 30, 2017 at 11:01 am:

    Absolutely right. The US isn’t “weak”, at least militarily; we’re by far the strongest country in the world. Obama was weak; he was a credulous fool, with an inflated (and unwarranted) sense of his own cleverness and intelligence, who was played with ease by Putin and every politically-skilled foreign ruler (which means all of them). Which doesn’t mean that Niall is incorrect; the image projected to the rest of the world by Obama was one of impotence, irresolution and inconstancy. It will take us a long time to recover from that era (just as in some ways we are still recovering form the Carter years).

  • Laird

    I also agree with bobby b’s earlier post at 5:46 AM.

  • Fraser Orr

    I think there are several approaches to this situation. And we should probably take them all.

    1. We need to build a much more robust ABM system. This should be our military priority, in fact, it should have been our military priority for the past fifty years. If we had spent as much on ABM as we did on the ridiculous F35 we would be untouchable by ballistic missiles.

    A good outcome would be for the US to shoot down a Nork missile that was test fired and violated another country’s airspace. Ideally, we do that with every missile they fire. (How do we guarantee success? We fire a LOT of ABMs at every missile launch.)

    2. We begin public negotiations to provide Japan and South Korea with their own nuclear missile system, but go very slowly. This would scare the living shit out of the Chinese and would put a lot of pressure on them to choke the Norks.

    3. Continue with the sanctions that the US is currently applying to “those that do business with Norks”. At some point our Navy might even start inspecting cargo ships in and out (though that would be a massive escalation.) A softer version of this would be to ban all cargo ships from US ports that had docked in DPRK in the last five years, or even more extreme ban all ships from shipping lines that had had any of their ships dock in NK in the past five years. Ideally, we could encourage our allies to do likewise.

    4. The true key is to get as much intelligence about the country as possible. It is hard to act blind.

    5. One thing we should do with the intelligence is see how well we could do starting a revolution inside the country. This is far from easy, but would be a great solution — the people demanding freedom.

    6. Find a way for the little fat guy to have a negotiated peace where he gives up his nukes and all the workings thereof, but somehow still manages to save face in the public image in his country.

    7. One final one, for the religious among you: pray for arteriosclerosis for the wee fat man.

    The US is certainly justified in acting in this way. The Norks have a very credible claim to be able to drop nuclear weapons on US cities, and there is no doubt that they would if they could and were subject to an existential crisis. Moreover they have threatened to do so, over and over and over. We are, effectively, at war with them. Cold war for sure, but still war.

  • 2. We begin public negotiations to provide Japan and South Korea with their own nuclear missile system, but go very slowly. This would scare the living shit out of the Chinese and would put a lot of pressure on them to choke the Norks.

    Face it, both South Korea and Japan (particularly the latter) could have home-made world-class theatre nuclear weapons that are accurate and actually work within five years if they really wanted them. These are wealthy top class highly technical first world nations. Indeed the world would probably be a much safer place if both of those nations had a ‘useful’ number of accurate theatre nukes of 300kt each (say, two for each of the ten largest Chinese cities plus Pyongyang).

  • Fraser Orr

    > South Korea and Japan could have home-made world-class theatre nuclear weapons … within five years

    I don’t doubt it, though five years is ambitious for a full end to end, accurate and reliable system. But it isn’t the means by which they obtain them, it is the normalization diplomatically of them seeking them. It is essentially saying “China help us fix this problem or we will fix it in a way that you do not like at all.”

  • It is essentially saying “China help us fix this problem or we will fix it in a way that you do not like at all.”

    Quite so. But quite a few other long-term strategic issues immediately look very different with a nuclear South Korea, Japan and (drum roll) Taiwan. It would greatly reduce the prospect of Chinese military adventurism when the next strategic distraction happens somewhere, and it would make US involvement in the region vastly less important. After all, are US interest regional stability or Empire? One would hope the former 😉

  • Mr Ed

    both South Korea and Japan (particularly the latter) could have home-made world-class theatre nuclear weapons that are accurate and actually work within five years if they really wanted them

    Indeed, but a slight pang of anguish as I recall the Samsung self-igniting smartphones. 🙂

    However, the South Korean elite have been begging Trump to avoid war, at all costs, which is either a very strange ‘good cop, bad cop’ routine or a sign that they have lost the will to resist and are ripe for picking.

  • Fraser Orr

    @Mr Ed
    > South Korean elite have been begging Trump to avoid war, at all costs, which is either a very strange ‘good cop, bad cop’ routine or a sign that they have lost the will to resist and are ripe for picking.

    I’m not sure that is entirely fair. “At all costs” is of course an unbounded statement, but that “at all costs” must be offset against the very real cost of a war there. And a war between the North and the South would have costs not far short of the costs of some major wars. One can easily imagine ten million dead on the south, and more on the north, imagine a nuclear weapon landing on Los Angeles, and another on Tokyo. A war that could possibly have the same casualty level as the whole second world war compressed into a few weeks. Plus the possibility of sparking a large conflict, plus an inevitable deep crash in the world economy. It is of course possible that such a war would be less brutal, but the best case scenario is utterly appalling. If you chose that over a alternative that had better be one hell of a bad alternative.

  • Laird

    All of Fraser’s points are good. I would add “8. Harden the US’s electric grid and make other serious preparations for an EMP pulse.” That would take the teeth out of what I consider to be the most serious risk posed by NK at the present time.

  • Julie near Chicago

    ABSOLUTELY harden the electrical grid, etc., just as Laird says. (And we individuals ought to get ourselves off-grid as much as we can.)

    Norks or no Norks. Non-Nork nations’ attitudes are not necessarily uniformly pacific; and Mother Nature her own self is given to occasional flights of callous whimsy.

  • bobby b, September 30, 2017 at 11:01 am: If we do decide to do things, then no matter what we do, 75% of the world will condemn us for it.

    True. And if you do nothing, the same proportion will condemn you for doing nothing.

    Then, we’ll give away lots of money trying to expiate our guilt.

    Trump will do this? Or are you merely expecting that sooner or later an Obama clone will be elected and do this?

    If a powerful country wants to be able to do nothing, it needs other countries to feel wary of it. Obama blew that (as I think we both agree). If Trump fails to get it back, do not expect the US to be able to do nothing. Kim is in effect asking – and not just for himself – whether Trump is as weak as Obama, just with different rhetoric, or is really different.

    The best strategy for the US being able to do a lot of nothing in general is for it not to fail this test.

  • Fraser Orr

    I am moderately skeptical about this whole EMP thing. I could be completely wrong, and would appreciate you educating me, but by my math a 1 megaton weapon produces about 4e15 Joules of energy. The Nork hydrogen bomb was about 10% of that yield, giving 4e14 Joules. From what I can see maybe 15% of that goes into electromagnetic radiation, for easy math lets say 1e14 Joules. Plus the energy is radiated spherically, so best case half of that goes down, plus a lot of it will get absorbed into the atmosphere (which I will ignore here). Distributed over the 3 million square miles of the United States is is about 0.5 millijoules per square centimeter. That is barely enough energy to light an LED never mind blow a circuit, it is a small fraction of the energy in a spark you get from walking on a carpet, and it occurs for a fraction of a second.

    Perhaps if the bomb were much bigger, but I don’t see how the Norks can wipe out the USA with such a device, maybe a city or so. Where am I going wrong?

  • Paul Marks

    “Do nothing” is exactly the policy that has been followed in relation to North Korea and Iran – do nothing APART FROM giving them lots of money (Iran) and food aid (North Korea) in return for false (lying) promises.

    If “do nothing” is really the advice of the international establishment – they are not giving good advice.

    Destroying the enemy will be a lot harder now than it would have been years or decades ago – when the enemy should have been destroyed. But destroyed the enemy must be. And the enemy is the REGIMES – not the population.

    People who suggest “talks” with the regimes can not be unaware of the yeas (indeed decades) of lies from these regimes. So people who seriously suggest talks are themselves part of the problem.

  • morsjon

    Tunnel underneath the DMZ (or wherever the NK artillery is) from the South. Pretend it’s work on a new Seoul tube line. Detonate nuclear bombs underground to cause an earthquake and take out the Nork artillery. Proceed with a conventional invasion from there on.

  • EdMJ

    @Laird re: EMPs, you might enjoy this novel imagining what life in the US might be like after the grid is taken out by an EMP: http://www.onesecondafter.com/ Good read, although very sobering!

  • Laird

    Thanks, EdMJ; I have read it. (There are apparently two sequels, too, neither of which I’ve read.) Incidentally, I know personally two of the technical advisors to the author, and his story is set not far from where I live.

  • Mr Ed

    A piece from Breitbart by Lt.-Col. Zumwalt USMC (retd.) on the current South Korean administration’s lurch towards appeasement of the North.

    Unfortunately, ten years of Seoul’s Sunshine Policy brought nothing but storm clouds to the Korean peninsula. Despite this dark history, President Moon naively seeks to jump-start the policy again.

    The new president made known prior to his meeting with President Donald Trump in July, through a spokesman, that he felt love, not war, was the way to resolve issues with the North.

  • bobby b

    Mr Ed
    October 5, 2017 at 5:40 am

    “The new president made known prior to his meeting with President Donald Trump in July, through a spokesman, that he felt love, not war, was the way to resolve issues with the North.”

    He gets that way every time he stays up too late drinking heavily and listening to his old John Lennon records. He invariably ends the night drunk-dialing Kim Jong-un and inviting him over for “pizza and hugs”, which infuriates Kim so much that he usually ends up shooting off a missile the next day while screaming “men don’t hug!”

  • 🙂 🙂 🙂
    🙂 🙂
    🙂

    Of course, these days I can never feel quite sure that bobby b (October 5, 2017 at 7:39 am) is not merely reporting the facts.