Sunday, August 13, 2017

North Korea Has Come to a Head

Note:  this article appeared in a slightly shorter form as a guest column on the opinion page of the Waco "Tribune-Herald",  Sunday 8-13-17.

Update 8-19-17:  I have appended some very specific recommendations for what to do about this problem at the end of this article.

The North Korea atomic weapons crisis has come to a head.  Understanding this situation is a whole lot easier than many think.  Like a boil,  it must be lanced.

They now have the 4 elements needed to present a credible nuclear missile threat to the US and many other nations.  Those are a big-enough rocket,  a nuclear warhead small enough to ride that rocket,  a guidance system to get it near its target,  and a heat shield for the warhead to survive reentry. 

The recent high-arcing rocket tests demonstrate they have made sufficient progress on all four fronts.  The trajectory shows the capability of hitting the US if aimed differently,  the intelligence communities agree they have a bomb small enough to ride that particular rocket,  and the fact that these test flights have not gone astray shows that the guidance works.  “Something” from these rockets have been tracked to impact from these tests,  which very strongly suggests that the heat shield works. 

Whether this ICBM is actually reliable is beside the point,  same as it was with ours and Russia’s in the late 1950’s.  If they launched several,  at least a few would get to the target.  Now that he has a credible weapon,  Kim Jong Un is ready to play the age-old blackmail game.  This is a pattern known across millennia of history,  but most folks would recognize the name Adolf Hitler. 

The game is played thusly:  the aggressive one makes a threat to do something “unspeakable” unless he gets what he wants.  He must be willing to risk getting slapped down for it,  but throughout history,  most of those who are willing to make the threat,  have been willing to take that risk. 

Between the World Wars,  that “unspeakable” threat was to wage war at all,  based on the horrifying experiences of World War 1.  Since World War 2,  the “unspeakable” threat has been to wage nuclear war.  Notice how lots of conventional wars have been waged since then?  Only the technology deemed “unspeakable” has changed.  The game remains the same. 

Kim Jong Un may seem crazy to us,  but he is crazy like a fox.  It is not yet clear what he wants,  but he has already made the threat to nuke Guam.  His risk bet is that we won’t actually go to war over an island far from our shores.  That is why he has not yet threatened the lower 48 states. 

But as this escalates,  Hawaii and Alaska are at risk,  because of US military assets in both places,  plus our allies in the region.  Eventually,  he would attack the lower 48 as a final act of desperation.  We’ve seen this pattern many times before.

And escalate it will!  Just like with Hitler and the Nazis in 1930’s Europe.  This scenario has played out countless times over history.  Kim Jong Un is following a long-established pattern like it was a cooking recipe.  This is perfectly predictable. 

Of course,  there is no excuse not to pursue a diplomatic solution.  Basic humanity on our part demands it.  But,  don’t hold your breath for it to work!  It didn’t work with Hitler,  or his predecessors. 

What worked was raw naked force.  The only question is how much you have to use,  and that increases as time goes by.  This is very much like a boil:  the longer you let it fester,  the more it hurts when you lance it,  and more damage there is to heal afterwards.

It is very important that we not strike the first blow,  and that would be true,  even without any pronouncements from the Chinese as to whether they get involved or stay neutral.  It is also important that we not resort to half measures,  such as only striking test sites. 

This is the main lesson of World War 2:  you go “whole hawg or none”.  If North Korea strikes Guam or anywhere else,  we take out Kim Jong Un and his entire government.  Regime change or nothing.  Period. 

It would be nice if we could kill Kim Jong Un and all his government functionaries by destroying them in their big government complex in Pyongyang,  without killing all the civilians in the surrounding city.  Then there’s no need to send one tank or one soldier across the border,  or to commit genocide by nuking the city.

The size of that complex demands that we use a deep-penetrating “bunker-buster” projectile fitted with a small nuclear warhead,  exploded deep underground,  and turning the complex into a contained rubble pile in a pit,  too radioactive to enter.   For the most part,  the city and the people survive,  only Kim Jong Un and his government die.

But I haven’t ever heard that we actually have such a weapon!  North Korea has been festering since 1953,  so it’s not like we haven’t foreseen this problem coming.  This lack for so long a time makes me think we have spent an awful lot of money on the wrong weapons,  not the ones we really needed.

Think about THAT the next time you go vote.  Which is now too late to do anything about any of this.  

Meanwhile,  sleep tight!

Update 8-19-17:  Appended Specific Recommendations:

Specific Recommendations Regarding North Korea                                          

First,  privately among ourselves,  we must agree upon three things: 

(1) We will put an end to the regime if they launch any sort of weapon at any US territory or ally,  anywhere in the world. 

(2) We will accomplish this from a distance:  no invasion,  no occupation. 

(3) We would like to do this with minimal loss of civilian life on all sides,  but accomplishing an end to that ugly regime is higher priority than saving those lives.

Second,  we tell North Korea publicly that “we will put a permanent end to their regime if they launch any weapon toward any US territory or ally,  anywhere in the world”.  This should be calm,  quiet,  succinct,  and very much to the point.  No questions,  no discussion.  No bluster.  Just that fact.

Third,  we tell China very privately that we will put an end to the North Korean regime because they did not control the rogue regime that they created.  We tell them we will not invade or occupy,  because that is not in our interests.  It was in their interests to control what they created,  but they did not do their job. 

Our action will inevitably leave a failed state on their doorstep,  something neither of us wanted.  But because of them not doing their job,  it is only fair that they clean up the failed state mess that we leave for them.  No questions,  no discussion.  Not negotiable.  Best for them and for us.

Fourth,  among ourselves,  and probably in a deeply-classified information scenario,  we must address exactly how we will utterly destroy that regime from a standoff distance,  both “right now”,  and within the next year or so.  There will be no invasion (not even temporarily),  no occupation.  It is best to do this without even sending manned aircraft. 

We do this with standoff weapons,  and preferably not ICBM’s,  which could be mistaken for an attack on China.  Tactical (not strategic) weapon trajectories are an imperative here.

The goal is to suddenly destroy the entire governmental complex in Pyongyang,  in a completely-surprise attack,  at a time we choose,  not just an immediate knee-jerk response.  The hope is to catch Kim Jong Un and his top staff there,  and kill them all in the sudden utter destruction of that complex.  If we miss him,  then we target other installations where he might be,  in a similar fashion.  We keep up the strikes until we get him,  no matter how long it takes.  Then we quit.

A tactical missile with a nuclear warhead can do that job right now,  but with enormous civilian casualties and the destruction of much of the city.  That outcome would resemble Hiroshima and Nagasaki,  so it is imperative that they strike first,  no if’s,  and’s,  or but’s about that.  Such a weapon could be launched from Japan,  South Korea,  or a ship (or submarine) at sea close by.

However,  some sort of tactical missile might possibly be fitted with a deep-penetrating “bunker-buster” nuclear warhead.  It would likely be a larger tactical missile due to the weight of the Earth penetrator and the necessary speed at impact. 

Such a strike would excavate out a cavity under the foundations of the government complex,  shatter that complex into rubble,  and contain that radioactive rubble by its collapse into the excavation pit.  There would be some surface fallout,  but not nearly as much as the usual “city-busting” scenario.  In this underground nuclear scenario,  most of Pyongyang and its civilian population would survive in good shape.  That is the preferred scenario. 

The questions we must ask ourselves in this private,  classified discussion are two-fold. 

(1) Do we possess such a weapon?  If yes,  we’re “good-to-go” immediately.

(2) If not,  how soon could we have one?  And then get on with it as a “crash program”.  Speed is crucial.

Finally,  I would add that this crisis has been long foreseen.  If we have no such suitable weapon to end it with minimal civilian casualties,  why is that?  How do we fix that management lack?

(end update 8-19-17)

Update 8-23-17:  the same nuclear bunker-buster I suggested for decapitating the North Korean regime,  would work against the underground hardened nuclear production facilities in Iran.  That need would arise if  they choose to violate the agreement and start building bombs (a real risk).  I repeat: do we have such a weapon?  If not,  why not?

Update 9-19-17:  After thinking about it for a while,  I believe the real reason Kim Jong Un wants nuclear weapons is to extort the reunification of Korea on his terms.  The threat of nuclear attack "wherever" is the threat by which to ward off the counter-invasion that topples his regime.  I still say we do this by standoff strike,  not invasion.  We leave the failed state on China's doorstep to clean up.  It's only fair,  they created this abortion.

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