Issues, News and Views
WHY WAR WITH NORTH KOREA IS INEVITABLE, AND IMMINENT
2017/05/08 - We are constantly told by the “experts”, who seem to always get it wrong, that we can continually renegotiate some kind of tolerable rolling ongoing détente with North Korea. We are told that its 33-year-old President Kim Jong-un is a rambunctious hedonistic youth who can be distracted with hoops, chicks, and wine & cheese. That he is an exuberant immature young man with a bit of a temper problem. That we can guaranty international peace simply by keeping him occupied with a steady stream of pleasures flowing in his direction.
But what if that meme is wrong? What if that scenario is nothing but naïve wishful thinking reinforced by a cocktail party echo chamber of smug liberal diplomats, academics and journalists, disconnected from reality or any real insights into what Kim and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, aka “the North”) truly seek to achieve?
Bear in mind that no Westerner has had more quality time with Kim than… Dennis Rodman. (Yes, that Dennis Rodman.) The experts have no idea of what Kim is about, other than what they’ve learned from Dennis Rodman, which is probably wrong. The thesis proffered by the experts is mostly speculation and conjecture from a liberal Western perspective; so we offer a counter-thesis of Kim and the DPRK, also based mostly on speculation and conjecture, just like the experts, but we will try to get inside Kim’s head.
To understand the possibility that war with North Korea is both inevitable and imminent, it is necessary to try to think like their leader Kim Jong-un and the Kim regime, to take the time and focus to put yourself into their position, rather than judge them by our own circumstances.
Think about it: we have everything to gain from maintaining the status quo; they have nothing to lose from upsetting the status quo. Their math works out far differently from ours. From our perspective they may seem crazy, but considered from their perspective, they most assuredly are not. Wrong, yes; evil, yes; crazy, no.
INSIDE A KIM’S HEAD
American Presidents obsess about their legacy from the moment they take office. As do most world leaders. Probably most Fortune-500 CEO’s as well. So why shouldn’t Korean Presidents? Suppose you are the President of North Korea, wouldn’t you ponder the implications of being President, the “what” and the “why”, of who and where you are?
You are 33 years old. Your grandfather was your country’s equivalent of George Washington, a hero, a god. At least officially. Your father ruled the country after your grandfather died, maybe he’s… Thomas Jefferson? And then there is you, Andrew Jackson perhaps? How will you be remembered? What do you do to prove yourself? Are you in this position by accident, or is it supposed to mean something? What great accomplishment earns legitimacy for your rule? Are you a worthy heir of your hero-god grandfather? You probably ask these questions.
What do you think Kim Jong-un thinks about? Rest assured, it is nothing like what you or I think about. Like picking up milk at 7-11. Or whether to buy a convertible with summer just around the corner? Do I go to my son’s baseball game, or my daughter’s soccer game? Or mow the lawn? Or hey, what about some me-time and shooting a round of golf?
What if Kim thinks about securing a place in history, about crystalizing a glorious legacy? What if he has no interest in burning through fifty years as a caretaker President, a janitor with fancy titles? What if he wants to be a difference-maker, not a caretaker?
Most western observers reflexively, unthinkingly, seem to believe that the Kims are obsessed with survival or safety. That after 70 years in power they are still stuck on level 1 or 2 of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. But what if that’s just totally not true? What if Kim is obsessed with, so to speak, self-actualization? What if Kim views himself as a god-like copy of his grandfather, ordained to fulfill a destiny, to unite the Korean peninsula under a single government, headed by none other than his own great self?
Perhaps he sees himself, Kim Jong-un, as the great Kim Il-sung’s even greater grandson, as Charlemagne was the even greater grandson of the great Charles Martel. Or perhaps he sees himself as the second coming of Abraham Lincoln, reuniting his people, leading the victorious North over the rebel South. That he the Korean must not fail where the Vietnamese Ho Chi Minh succeeded.
So you are Kim Jong-un. Are you going to twiddle your thumbs for fifty years and then die, or are you going to achieve greatness? The smart money is that Kim didn’t fight (and kill) his way to the top of the food chain to sit on the sofa and watch basketball with Dennis Rodman. As Obama said, “We are the ones we have been waiting for.” That’s how Presidents think, that’s why they are presidents.
THE KIM NARRATIVE
The Korean peninsula and the Korean people have been dominated by foreign powers for centuries. In the late nineteenth century Japanese adventurism in the form of economic, political and military maneuvering allowed them to gain the upper hand over the Chinese. Emboldened by their stunning naval victory over the Russians in 1905, the Japanese tightened their grip on the Korean people, culminating in the Forced Occupation that began in 1910.
In 1945 the Imperial Japanese Occupation ended with the successful deployment of nuclear weapons by the Americans, who promptly took over from the Japanese with their own Capitalist American Occupation, an oppression that continues to this day.
Many Koreans slave laborers were injured or killed working at the Mitsubishi plants in Nagasaki Japan that were destroyed by the American atomic bomb “Fat Man”. Koreans are nuclear victims, and Japan and American are jointly and severally responsible for their horrible deaths and injuries, a culpability neither villain has been willing to broach. The Japanese got far less than they deserve, and Korea still owes payback both to Japan and the US. The wounds are not healed, the scores are not settled.
After the Americans took over the Japanese occupation, we (the Kims) looked to our Communist brethren Stalin and Mao to assist us in freeing ourselves from the yoke of bondage of foreign Imperialists and Capitalists; but the Russians and Chinese turned out to be traitors who abandoned us in our time of need and left us to struggle against America on our own.
So which is worse, to be enslaved by enemies like the Japanese and Americans, or to be betrayed by false friends like the Russians and Chinese? All foreign powers are selfish and exploit, impoverish, torture and murder the Korean people. All foreigners must be forced out, their presence terminated and influence negated, so that the Korean people, finally freed from centuries of foreign servitude, can be reunited into a single great prosperous nation, and manifest their destiny.
And that in short is the story the Kim’s tell themselves: It’s their country, and they want us out. The basic Kim narrative is not at all crazy – it’s normal, rational and reasonable.
THE KIM STRATEGY
The DPRK realizes that it cannot defeat a superpower like the US through conventional engagements of standing armies, but the US proved in World War 2 that nuclear weapons can make such an engagement unnecessary.
Indeed, as dreadful as nuclear weapons are, the toll in Hiroshima and Nagasaki pale in comparison to what a conventional invasion would have inflicted: possibly millions of Allied casualties and fatalities, and probably tens of millions on the Japanese side; versus far less than a million casualties and fatalities as a result of the combined nuclear attacks. Thus nuclear weapons are not at all immoral, they are in fact humane; the means by which war is made as quick and painless as possible.
But nothing scares people more than a nuclear attack. It is the ultimate extortion weapon. Whoever has a nuclear weapon can bend people to their will. The ability to hit a foreign country with a nuclear weapon provides extreme leverage, such as acquiescing to a North Korean demand for all foreigners, including and especially military forces, to leave Korea and stay out of Korea. Forever. Get lost.
To this point the West has shown no resolve, even against the most daring provocations, to stand up to the North. In 2010 the DPRK torpedoed the ROK naval vessel Cheonan, sinking it with 46 killed. Our response? Nothing. The Kim’s can hardly be faulted for believing that their adversaries simply have no will to fight, we have taught them that we do not have the will to fight. Ask yourself, ask your self – do you want to go to war?
The Kim strategy then is to build up a ballistic/nuclear capability, then threaten foreign powers with an attack. The foreigners will in fact leave, both because the foreigners have no will to fight, and because the foreigners believe the Kim’s are crazy and will force their people to fight. Then the ROK – it, too, abandoned by its foreign allies – will be defeated by the DPRK with its with superior conventional forces. Finally, a united Korea freed from foreign domination. Owned, operated and tormented by the Kim Kleptocracy.
THE KIM TIMELINE
There are a number of factors at work impacting the timeline. Foremost is that the North’s nuclear threat does not yet appear to be fully wrought. How soon will they have it? Years, or just months?
Understand that the Kim’s do not want a negotiated, diplomatic solution. At least not on any terms that we would consider acceptable. To them, the diplomatic process is an end in itself. Diplomacy is a stalling tactic, to keep us at bay while they develop their nuclear weapons and delivery systems. And then the war starts. There is no diplomatic end game.
On the other hand, US military readiness probably already troughed at the end of the Obama Administration, and under Trump we would expect preparedness to improve. The US has deep penetration strike capability in the form of B2 Spirit bombers, F22 Raptor fighters, and F/A35 Lightning attack aircraft, and E/A18 Growler electronics warfare aircraft. However, a surprisingly large number of the total aircraft are not in service do to parts, maintenance and budgetary issues.
The Kims are weighing their readiness vs US readiness. They have surely noted that Trump campaigned on rebuilding the military, and have observed the Republican-controlled Congress increase funding for the military in the recent spending package. As a result they can expect US first-strike preparedness to improve markedly in the coming months and years, especially as the US continues to take deliveries and bring on line more F35 aircraft.
As US preparedness turns the corner, the North must ask whether they already have sufficient extortive threat to pursue their objective. They have conventionally armed ballistic missiles that can easily hit civilian targets in Japan and Korea, as well as US military targets throughout Southeast Asia. Okinawa, less than 1,000 miles from Pyongyang, would be an especially mouth-watering target that would simultaneously strike Japanese soil and an American military base that threatens the Kim’s - the DPRK could kill two birds with one stone.
Further forcing the American hand, however, is the emergence of North Korean weapons in Iran. Iranian submarines and missiles appear to be identical to North Korea’s. Obama’s wretched, treasonous deal with the Iranians is filling their coffers with money, both directly and through oil sales. That money is then being sent on to North Korea in exchange for weapons systems. As the North Koreans arm the Iranians, is there any chance that Israel and Saudi Arabia are telling the US to put North Korea out of business immediately, before they send nuclear technologies to Iran?
North Korea is in the process of blowing up both the Mideast and Northeast Asia.
And then there are cyclical factors. Experience has shown that winter warfare is a nightmare. For the DPRK, resupplying their ground forces in a blizzard after we’ve bombed their roads and railways would be a logistical nightmare; and for us, it would be a humanitarian nightmare if civilians froze to death by the thousands after we destroyed their power grid. If there is war, it will be a summer war.
The American political cycle cannot be ignored. It is unlikely that a Commander-in-Chief would want to start a war in an election year, especially if Republicans have ideas of big Senate gains in 2018. And we have to expect that the North Koreans will be ready to act pre-emptively before the summer of 2019. So 2017 seems deterministic. It has to be this year, and it has to be summer.
Keep in mind that nothing is more important than the first strike, the element of surprise. In warfare, you sucker punch the enemy, it’s what you do. Like the Nazi’s sucker punched the Poles in 1939. Like Washington sucker punched the Hessians at Trenton in 1776. Sucker punching the enemy is what you do. The Golden Rule of warfare is “Do unto others before they do unto you”.
Thus it is mission-critical for the Kim’s to act before the US does. And for the US, to act before the North does. If the US shows some resolve and sucker punches North Korea - destroying or even damaging the North Korean nuclear/missile threat, and gaining air superiority - the Kim plan is pretty well over, and the Kim regime pretty well done.
Weighing against US action is the likelihood that the DPRK will launch an artillery barrage on Seoul that can be expected to inflict massive civilian casualties. So in a very real sense, the South is already being held for ransom. But that barrage is probably inevitable under any scenario – whether the North strikes first, or they respond to our first-strike - so why wait for the Kim’s to strike first?
Something has to give soon; soon, someone will have no choice but to strike first. There is no diplomatic end game.
THE KIM END GAME
Nothing Kim Jong-un has shown indicates that he plans to drift through his lifetime as a caretaker. Rather he seems ambitious, intending to be a difference-maker. A transformational President, as one world leader recently put it.
So for the South there are only really three choices: War with the North, on their terms, in their timeframe; War with the North, on our terms, pre-emptively; or surrender.
Surrender or some other negotiated reunification compromise does not seem possible, or even acceptable, to any of the parties. Look at Hitler, look at Assad – the Kim regime will not go down without war. They will rule or they will die, but they will not compromise. And the South, the US and Japan will never accept a united Korea led by the Kim’s. Thus there is no ground for a compromise.
For decades the so-called experts within the West’s diplomatic echo chamber have insisted that time was on our side, that sooner or later the North would collapse. In hindsight that seems to have been a dreadful miscalculation. Instead the North is getting stronger, not weaker. It is developing weapons and delivery systems that make the North capable of coercion, extortion and infliction of massive casualties. Time was never on our side, and now time is nearly up.
It is doubtful that the American window to commence military action against North Korea extends beyond the summer of 2017, a calculation not lost on the North Koreans.
We are probably weeks away from a North Korean nuclear test. The US might act militarily to prevent it, in which case the war begins, on our terms, our best chance for a favorable outcome with fewer civilian casualties.
If we do not stop the test and the test is successful, the Kim’s will announce that they are ready to conduct nuclear war, and order America to leave the peninsula and Okinawa, and order the South to surrender. The North will demand inspection and flyover rights, and threaten conventional missile attacks within days if the withdrawal does not begin immediately, accelerate rapidly, and conclude expeditiously.
And then the ball is in our court: leave, or fight. And of course we will fight. And the war begins, on their terms.
They are not us, so to understand them, don’t think like us, think like them. They have no qualms about using weapons, including nuclear weapons, against civilian or military targets. Kim Jong-un is no better or worse than Bashar al-Assad, and he will learn from Assad - you fight to the finish using every means necessary. You win at all costs.
They hate the Chinese and Russians for their betrayals; they hate the south for being prostitutes and lackeys for the West; and they hate the Japanese and Americans most of all for a century and a half of occupation.
The missiles will land on Seoul, on Tokyo, on Okinawa… soon.
That’s the grim scenario. But just because it is not rose-colored, does that make it less likely, or less accurate?
The best case scenario is that if we act pre-emptively now, the DPRK will not be able to execute a nuclear attack, that a full-scale conventional war will ensue, and that for the first week the North will be able to inflict substantial damage both on the South and in Japan through artillery and conventionally armed missiles. After perhaps a week the international threat will be mostly suppressed, and within a month the North will collapse, sooner if we are able to decapitate the Kim regime. Then begins the work of rebuilding a free prosperous reunited Republic of Korea. Before autumn.
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