Why *should* we go to war with North Korea:
Earlier Forces have been exhausted:
We’ve given diplomacy a full course to play itself out. We’ve used economic sanctions. We’ve tried 30 years of containment. The next logical step is escalation. Unfortunately a range of tactical/measured military options are off the table because of the retaliatory capability of North Korea. You can’t lob a few missiles into Pyongyang to get the message across. It’s either, in my opinion, all or nothing.
North Korea is Desperate:
The country is on an annual verge of collapse politically, socially and even in terms of basic human survivability. Dictatorships under threat of internal decline or collapse threaten abroad to rally people into an external focus. (No…no secret entendre about US is implied there, honest). Most desperate dictators aren’t too great a threat except to their immediate neighbors. But in addition to retaliation against SK – North Korea has ballistic missiles capable of reaching many neighbors and potentially into US territory and they have nuclear weapons. That’s enough toys in the sandbox to make things ugly if they decide that because of internal pressures they need to ‘shake’ things up abroad, more so than they already have.
The Global Chess Board:
Imagine a giant six sided Chessboard. The seven “players” are: the US/Britain, China, Russia, India, the European Union, Iran, and ‘everyone else’. Not all players are equal in size or capability – but all have their alliances, client states and sphere of influence over a certain part of the globe. Within the next twenty years major war will break out between one or more of these players, given our position it will likely include us.
North Korea is a tactical problem that we can solve prior to this horizon to free up our resources for when those conflicts occur. If we don’t do it now – and we get pulled into a major war – we’re going to regret not resolving North Korea when we had the chance. It will be another front in a multi-front effort, and one capable of wreaking great harm. But I do believe that if done correctly we can be in and out of North Korea in 2-5 years, hopefully before we need to go against one of the other ‘big players’. North Korea is not a problem like Israeli v. Palestine or even Suuni v. Shia in Iraq or the Middle East or the war on drugs in South America – none of which may be solved in our lifetimes. North Korea is a problem because Kim is in control and they have lots of sharp pointy objects to throw at us. This is a problem that we CAN solve, that, once solved – has little chance of rearing up again.
North Korea’s actions are leading to a general arms race in Asia. Japan wants preemption, India continues to test its own missile, and China can’t help but take notice of India and Japan. All this is instigated at the whims of the most unstable player on the board: Mr. Kim. I believe that without North Korea pushing the momentum the arms race will, although not going away, at least lesson in speed and urgency.
As I said the night we went to war with Iraq – North Korea is far more a broker and distributor of weapons and WMD technology than Iraq ever was, just as Iran was far more of backer of terrorists than Saddam ever considered. North Korea’s only cash economy besides printing it revolves around the sales of ballistic and weapons technology. They are a potential source for nuclear weapons to rogue or hostile states to the US.
We wait at our peril
The final reason – this is truly a case of war being only averted to the benefit of the enemy. NK has very limited ICBM and nuclear capabilities right now – but they do have them. They will only get more over time. Our ability for a, pardon the expression, relatively clean operation goes down with time. We have battle tested troops – we have carrier groups available, we have an increasing stockpile of technical weapons after shooting most of them off in Iraq II. We are stretched then – but the kind of war I propose in NK is not the same as in Iraq – but that’s for the next post.
July 13 2006, 21:20:54 UTC
Wow, most of your points sound just like our logic for invading Iraq… except this time they’re true. 🙁
July 13 2006, 21:29:14 UTC
At least I’m consistent:
“Nuclear capability, delivery capability (beyond several hundred km), and terrorist connections all have proven to have vaporous (if at all) intelligence backing them. On the other hand Iran and North Korea have far more factually present WMD threats within those countries; Iran is a proven exporter of militant terrorism and North Korea a proven exporter of arms technology; neither has ever been proven of Iraq.” March, 2003
July 14 2006, 12:39:09 UTC
Indeed. If you drank, I’d buy you one. If we could see a year down the road, I’d buy us both a drink or ten.
July 13 2006, 21:45:29 UTC
Clarifications, not necessary negations:
Earlier forces: what were the goals of the earlier forces? Containment and Sanctions – to make the people of NK suffer?
Desperation: is this our job?
Chessboard: will another player engage if we do?
Do we have the budgetary, military and national willpower to do this?
July 13 2006, 22:38:12 UTC
>* Earlier forces: what were the goals of the earlier forces? Containment and >Sanctions – to make the people of NK suffer?
I think the earlier force projections were aimed at intimidating NK so as not to reinvade while using diplomacy, sanctions and containment in the hope that the dictators die off. Unfortunately there are few who seem to live as long as dictators we don’t like our their relatives-in-power.
>Desperation: is this our job?
If we didn’t have 30,000 US personel within range of where their desperation would be pointed, and/or significant strategic interests in a stable Korea, Japan, Tawain, India and China. In other words if NK weren’t where it was and was instead, say, bordering Somali – we wouldn’t be talking about it.
And most importantly, if they get desperate and start firing first, we lose all elements to be able to stop their artillery up front – and THAT, I believe, is where the most potential casualities of any part of this war would take place.
>Chessboard: will another player engage if we do?
Right now no. I believe Russia and China are trying to strategically entangle us and bleed us while they play catchup. We won’t get any UN support for this reason. But we can use that against them. They’re unwillingess to confront directly creates an opportunity, for now, to solve some of our protracted engagements once and for all. As time goes on and their capabiliites increase I’m not so sure that will be the case. American public opinion may go in the toilet, but that’s not a far drop right now. Also I don’t think you can find a country as widely disliked, or at least held at arms length, as NK. It’s not an Islamic state – so we’re not going down that road.
>Do we have the budgetary, military and national willpower to do this?
Budgetary’s easy. We just print more money!
Military yes I do. We already have a large military presence in soldiers, bases, stockpiles of weapons etc. in South Korea – enough (in theory) that combined with South Korea we would have an honest go at any shooting war. Iraq is now more of a ground war with tactical air support than the sustained heavy duty air campaign of Iraq I or II – that leaves us with the ability to wage the type of air campaign against North Korea for a few weeks prior to sending our troops in. Plus the South Koreans have an entire military that, unlike Iraq, is fairly competent and could play a significant role next to ours.
National will – this is tough to tell. I hear less resistance about North Korea than I did about Iraq pre-war, probably becuase of the missle firings and the specter of missiles landing here. I think it can be sold and, barring that, it doesn’t really need to be sold up front. Technically, in our systems, if this war were started after the November mid terms it’d be another year and a half until they could vote on Bush and the Congress – by then we’re either done or dammned in varying probabilities. My biggest concern is selling this in South Korea once the shooting starts – you may know about that than I do. There seems to be a generational split on opinion of the US troops – and I’m not sure if protesting riots would turn into outright rebellion – creating the difficulties of fighting the NK’s in front and rioters behind. My hope is that, at best, there would be volatile protests for the 2-3 weeks of hte air war – but once NK’s military is dismantled and it turns into a massive humanitarian operation that settles down as the Koreans realize they can begin to help their own again who have suffered so much for so long.
July 14 2006, 19:06:04 UTC
I actually see the “national will sale” being floated in the “leaks” section of the newspaper (i.e., the op-eds.) The fear of North Korea is already being stirred, and given that that seems to be the preferred goad to war these days, I’d have to say the idea’s at least been kicked around that we may attack North Korea before 2008, thus leaving a fait accompli for the next President to take care of the peacemaking on.
Possibly even a workable strategy, at that, given that the next administration will be mostly concerned (foreign policy-wise) with finishing up making some kind of lasting peace in the Middle East, and ensuring the future prosperity and unity of the Far East.
July 13 2006, 21:54:22 UTC
I’m not sure. When you combine the economic incentive granted by a unified Korean peninsula, I’m surprised we haven’t gone back there since the Korean war. But maybe that is just it, because a Korean war would be very likely to escalate to a big Chinese war, as happened in Korean War I, just as Iraq has somewhat escalated to an Iranian war fought through intermediaries.
July 13 2006, 22:53:33 UTC
Perhaps I’m remembering incorrectly, but isn’t North Korea a mutual defense ally with China?
July 13 2006, 23:03:45 UTC
Since 1961, but that’s pre-Nixon visit and nearly 50 years old. I’m not an expert on Korean-Sino relations but my guess is that China isn’t willing to go to war over North Korea – as long as *their* territory isn’t threatened. Folks like thegargoyle are probably better equipped to comment than me. Here’s this from CNN in 2003:
It is understood that Chinese officials have decided to adopt a strategy of calculated ambiguity about whether to come to North Korea’s defense.
“Beijing is very worried about, to use a Chinese saying, being dragged into the water by the Kim regime,” said a Western diplomat.
“Moreover, the Hu leadership does not want Kim’s irrational policies to jeopardize Beijing’s recently much-improved relations with the U.S,” the diplomat added.
July 13 2006, 23:43:09 UTC
your arguments are valid in of themselves, however we do need to face the fact that we may loose that fight. The strongest argument against going to war with north korea is exactly what that means. It means fighting roughly 4,000,000 men. The north korean regime has always been built on a “military first” standing. The active military may only be a little under a million but the general populous is required to learn how to perform in the military. It is called the Worker-Peasant Millitia
“as far as material… well this is from GlobalSecurity.org
As of 1996 the main equipment of the North Korean ground forces included over 3,800 tanks including 2,750 T-54/55/59s, 800 new model T-62 and light tanks, and about 250 outdated T-34s. It was also equipped with more than 2,800 armored vehicles consisting of BTR series and Type M1973. Its artillery forces possessed over 8,300 of the 76.2 mm, 100 mm, 122 mm, 130 mm, 152 mm, and 170 mm howitzers and guns, over 2,700 of the 107 mm, 122 mm, 132 mm, 240 mm multiple rocket launchers, and more than 12,500 anti-aircraft guns. ”
Not to mention the nearly a million land mines in the dmz or the 12 regiments of fighter craft that is not quite as good as ours but a damn site better thananything we have gone up against in a long time.
combined with our spread out forces across the planet and the lets not forget the very real threat of nuclear forces being deployed it is an expensive option. Amazingly expensive. Break the bank expensive.
The policy of containment is not as quick in effect we would like. yes he is a nut case. Yes your arguments are valid. but the option is simply the worst thing we could do. We simply have to accept we will be watching this place and containing its influence for a very long. We cant fix this problem with a military solution with out the cost being worse.
July 14 2006, 00:45:12 UTC
What that boils down to is that they have a lot of cheap Chinese copies of ex-Soviet junk. Absolutely none of that can survive on a modern battlefield for more than a few minutes.
They have a few halfway decent fighter planes…none of which they’ve ever used in combat. Given their fuel and cash shortages, I don’t imagine their pilot training is particularly up to spec, either.
No, I have to agree with Tim that the actual military aspect of the operation is the least of our problems.
July 14 2006, 01:14:06 UTC
On top of all that… I believe a propoganda campaign tied in with actual invasion/air strikes would negate the pheasant army. The general populance is well below poverty conditions. Kim’s spent alot of time and money telling his people that NK is actually a paradise compared to the outside world.
July 14 2006, 01:02:14 UTC
It’s not the policy of containment being quick or not, we’ve been doing it for 50 years, if rapidity was a concern we would have abandoned containment a long time ago. I’m more worried about its effectiveness at this point. Containment began before my dad entered highschool to keep the NK on their side of the DMZ. But that’s no longer their primary vector of influence. The six-party talks, the UN resolutions, Japan’s discussion of pre-emptive military attack have nothing to do with NK’s conventional arms capability – instead their ICBM’s have proven they can breach the containment we have created around them. I did favor a containment policy on Saddam becuase it was actually containing his influences successfully.
Just as I feel that NK’s army was prepared to fight the last war, and therefore is outgunned in a modern conflict, we cannot rely on the strategy formed 50 years ago if and or when the variables involved changed.
July 14 2006, 01:36:29 UTC
He fired a missle. big deal. he has strutted out a show like that every few years. containment has kept him from actually attacking anyone. he does not want to die anymore than anyone else he has to know eventually if we attack he will die. but his only way of getting concessions is to sabre rattle loud enough then back down when the right thing is offered. he has done it often. If we dont offer anything what do you think will happen. he will rattle his sabre some more but as long as we dont drop our guard he wont actually do anything.
Now if we show up with forces and make like we are going to attack nk just like we doid Iraq he will have every reason to belive we will and if he cant have it he will take the initiative and try and make it more expensive than we are used to. This probably wont work but it gets real ugly real quick.
All that for what? A decimated country where we will be obliged to build back up(more money we cant afford) and a military presence(again more money we are getting where exactly?).
July 14 2006, 01:10:48 UTC
As of 1996 the main equipment of the North Korean ground forces included over 3,800 tanks including 2,750 T-54/55/59s, 800 new model T-62 and light tanks, and about 250 outdated T-34s. It was also equipped with more than 2,800 armored vehicles consisting of BTR series and Type M1973. Its artillery forces possessed over 8,300 of the 76.2 mm, 100 mm, 122 mm, 130 mm, 152 mm, and 170 mm howitzers and guns, over 2,700 of the 107 mm, 122 mm, 132 mm, 240 mm multiple rocket launchers, and more than 12,500 anti-aircraft guns.
Of that entire list the artillery is the only real threat, becuase all they have to do is point and lob, and there’s so damn many of them. Hence the need to attack the conscious of the enemy soldiers in the first hours of war, especially along that border. None of NK’s soldiers on the front line have ever lived through the kind of barrage we can deliver in a concetrated area, few of their generals are probably still active (if even alive) from the last time they were in major combat. That’s why we have to create the perception in their minds that the world has come to an end – to paralyze them with natural fear ones first exposure to modern combat generates long enough to begin dismantling through more percision attacks the remainder of their forces.
I may grant you that we aren’t the best nation in the world at fighting insurgencies – but we are *absolutely* the best when it comes to killing tanks and military vehicles through airpower. The ratio of killed enemy units to our own killed – in an air only campaign, are ridiculous.
As well I doubt that after nearly twelve years of constant starvation, limited fuels, a cash strapped government that can’t afford spare parts or training for its own soldiers, let alone the peasant militia – that the NK armed forces is nearly as forceful a threat as the list of equipment makes it sound.
I stand by the list of threats in NK: artillery, nukes, China and finally – a distant fourth their military.
July 14 2006, 01:28:08 UTC
The advantage of a communist/marxist system is actualy you dont have to pay them to be trained. You just train them. as to not affording fuel or equipment I have not seen such reports. Kim Jong il would rather starve the populous than not equip his military. Your plan basically boils down to we think his men and equipment are not as good as reports might suggest.
July 14 2006, 00:36:28 UTC
I’m not convinced that war with North Korea is absolutely necessary, although neither would it particularly upset me. I think the rot in the North has reached the point that a tight blockade (including the land routes to China) could collapse the regime.
However, the major obstacle to a war with the North is the South. Given that it’s their capital that is under the North Korean guns, their soldiers who will bear the brunt of the fighting, and their economy that will have to absorb the cost of reconstructing the North, there’s no way we could launch a war without their full and informed consent. And they’re not about to give that.
July 14 2006, 01:11:48 UTC COLLAPSE
I admit I have no idea how this would play in the South Korean’s minds either in leadership, the older generation who remembers the Korean War, or the younger generation who does not. There are at least three vital stakeholder groups in the SK population – and I have to admit I do not know whether they would accept such an attack.