August 2, 2017

"We're not your enemy, we're not your threat but you're presenting an unacceptable threat to us and we have to respond."

"We do not seek a regime change, we do not seek the collapse of the regime, we do not seek an accelerated reunification of the peninsula, we do not seek an excuse to send our military north of the 38th parallel."

Said Rex Tillerson to North Koreans.

89 comments:

Sebastian said...

I can see why he'd want to use those weasel words. But regime change should be our goal.

Bay Area Guy said...

Well stated, and all true. I feel bad for the North Koreans living under this oppressive, murderous regime - the last bastion of true Communism.

But I don't think we should re-fight the Korean War.

Etienne said...

The solution is simple: The USA needs to offer a deal to China that they can't refuse.

That deal would be the USA removing all of its military assets from South Korea, in exchange for China reunifying the country.

China has no interest in hurting North Korea, because the USA would move its military forces to the Chinese border.

If we take that option off the table, the Chinese will jump on it. The Chinese would bolster the Korean economy as a major importer/exporter. They would get access to all the Korean businesses all over the world.

AllenS said...

Etienne said...
That deal would be the USA removing all of its military assets from South Korea, in exchange for China reunifying the country

One of the most idiotic comments I've seen in a while. The possibilities of that happening without an all out Korean war is zero. Do you really think that NK would say: "OK, then!"

brylun said...

There is no solution to this problem, unfortunately for all the innocent lives in South Korea. Our best bet is to set up an armed satellite defense so that we can shoot down any North Korean missiles long before they reach our country. We could also arm the Japanese with nuclear weapons, but I know my deceased father who fought on a submarine in the Pacific in WW2 would be rolling over in his grave at this suggestion.

Etienne said...

Do you really think that NK would say: "OK, then!"

They wouldn't have a vote. The Chicom's ran our ass out of there in a few weeks. You think the NK would be any tougher?

A million Chicom's coming over the hill, even if half of them are unarmed, is going to ruin your West Point student exercise maps.

JPS said...

Etienne,

I'd be more interested in China's temporarily annexing North Korea following some instability there. You know, the Kim regime falls, Chinese forces roll in, peaceably if possible, to provide for security and stability until the North can stand on its own feet somewhat. Of course they'd have to understand that any aggressive move against the RoK would be considered an act of war.

They'd be taking direct ownership of a lot of problems, of course. They'd need to be offered something very positive to sweeten the pot; plus maybe the prospect of Japan and the RoK becoming nuclear powers - sorry, China; we tried to stop them, but they're just too nervous about their neighbor whom you've been unable to control - as an alternative.

JPS said...

brylun,

"We could also arm the Japanese with nuclear weapons,"

I don't think we'd need to. I forget whose phrase I'm stealing (maybe someone here), but I have always assumed they are about four turns of a wrench away from a working nuclear weapon anytime they decide to go down that road. For them the barrier arises from diplomacy and internal anti-nuclear politics; not technical know-how and sure as heck not a dearth of fissile material.

Fernandinande said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Etienne said...

Here's my OPLAN:

6 weeks of aerial bombardment to destroy offensive capability, and command and control fascilities.

Then hand it off to the Chicom's and let them sweep up the mess.

Then give the South Koreans 3 years to reunify and the USA to get off the rock.

Roy Lofquist said...

This is the diplomatic equivalent of "don't make me call your father". Patience is wearing thin.

brylun said...

Etienne, how do you stop all the artillery aimed at Seoul and its 10 million people? There will be massive death, all blamed on the start of aerial bombardment by the US.

bagoh20 said...

The Kim regime will kill millions no matter what course is taken. This one is in God's hands. Lord, bring us a fortunately placed meteor.

David Baker said...

Well, tough talk didn't work. Now it's cop a plea. The little Fatty has intimidated everyone with a military so powerful he can destroy the West at his pleasure.

Please don't hurt us, Kim Jung-Fatso.

brylun said...

Complicating matters is a leftist opposition party leader elected by a landslide in South Korea who ran on the promise to negotiate with North Korea, and was elected because of the corruption of Grand National Party leader and President Park Geun-hye (who is currently on trial for corruption).

lgv said...

"The solution is simple: The USA needs to offer a deal to China that they can't refuse.

That deal would be the USA removing all of its military assets from South Korea, in exchange for China reunifying the country."

Sentence 1 - I agree
Sentence 2 - Not clear

The North doesn't want reunification, nor does China. If you imply that China will simply eliminate the Kim Un regime, then maybe. The only reunification that will take place that the NorKs will accept will be with them in charge.

I think Tillerson's statement was perfectly accurate. Unfortunately, the NorKs cant' see it that way. Ever.


steve uhr said...

"We're not your enemy" Speak for yourself. They say we are their enemy. I think we should take what they say (and do) at face value. The entire population is in slavery and regime change should be the ultimate goal. How can we call ourself exceptional if we are willing to play nice with the worst country in the world re human rights violations, by far.

Etienne said...

"...how do you stop all the artillery aimed at Seoul and its 10 million people?"

Artillery is the least of their problems. The NK will have nuclear and dirty bombs, and people are going to die. That's a given.

Millions died in WW2. You can't lose any sleep over it.

Bad Lieutenant said...

Etienne, to judge from past remarks, is not serious.

The only clean way out of the stalemate is decapitation of regime leadership and transition of power to some clique who will be more tractable. I hope this is being worked on. Maybe Dennis Rodman is ready with the sarin-tipped fingernails.

That, or devise a way to simultaneously service thousands of targets (I understand there are approximately 10,000 artillery tubes trained on Seoul) before the order to fire can be given, received, understood and carried out. How many bunkers can we hit an hour? What forces do we need to do that?

brylun said...

Etienne, California Senator Dianne Feinstein would strongly disagree with you, and I don't even think President Trump would order such an attack knowing it would result in tens of millions of deaths.

BDNYC said...

Well, that's somewhat worrying. Tillerson saying such reassuring things suggests our government is concerned about Kim's mental state. Apparently we think he can be provoked into doing something really horrible, as opposed to his father and grandfather who, although brutal at home, were mainly extortionists on the international stage.

brylun said...

Bad Lieutenant, it is clear we don't have the military assets to accomplish the elimination of the North Korean artillery.

brylun said...

Just wondering what Obama did in his 8 years to address this problem?

Colin Durham said...

Perhaps the US should publicly deploy nukes to Japan and SK..that might at least get China's attention.

brylun said...

South Korea with its new leader (see above) would reject such deployment. And any Japanese deployment would meet with great substantial opposition in Japan.

etbass said...

NK is not going to invade the United States and they are not going to launch a missile strike against the United States. They might be murderers; they might be tyrants. But they are not fools.

They have nuclear weapons to defend themselves against what happened to Khadaffi. Let's please leave them alone. It's like hitting a bees' nest. Leave it alone.

brylun said...

And my solution of armed satellites, although the most effective means to address the problem, is possibly violative of the Outer Space Treaty of 1967.

buwaya said...

China really doesnt want to be saddled with NK.
Its going to be a mess.

The new SK liberal government has, very quickly, changed its tune, and is now begging for the US antimissile systems and wants to buy its own ASAP.

Etienne said...

"it is clear we don't have the military assets to accomplish the elimination of the North Korean artillery."

I don't know how advanced these gadgets are now. When I was in, they were only designed for mortars.

They are called "Proximity Fuse Jammers". As the mortar comes in, the jammer fools the proximity fuze into detonation before it nears the target.

I would think it would work against large artillery, except of course its higher altitude.

brylun said...

Etbass, Let us hope you are right, but would you take the chance that a crazy madman's order to launch nukes at the US will not happen, without taking any steps to protect our citizens? Neville Chamberlain?

Khesanh 0802 said...

An interesting take on the Nork situation by Holman Jenkins in the WSJ. Link for those who can get around the paywall.

This is the essence of his thesis:

"This would seem a pretty good deterrent given the improbable scenario, as North Korea surely understands, of a U.S. and South Korean attack on the North. Then why nukes? Penetrating North Korean rationalizations is never a sure thing, but a likely answer is to be found in the recent joint Chinese-Russian proposal of a freeze in North Korea’s missile and bomb testing in exchange for an end to U.S.-South Korean annual military exercises.

When North Korea is already spending 22% of gross domestic product to maintain its military, the cost of mobilizing in response to near-constant U.S. and South Korean maneuvers is a killing burden. Washington’s and Seoul’s war games are their most effective sanction and always have been."

Similar strategy to Reagan's defense building race that broke the Russians - make the NORKs spend money and assets they don't really have. You should find a way to read the whole thing, Jenkins is very perceptive.

@Etienne Your strategic idea is ridiculous. Move to Seoul and then let us know what you think of the idea of being under artillery bombardment. There not enough planes in the entire world to be able to suppress the NORK's artillery. Put your body on the line and see what it feels like. Grow up!

brylun said...

Etienne, the problem is that Seoul is so close to the NK border.

Oso Negro said...

Blogger Etienne said...
"The Chicom's ran our ass out of there in a few weeks. You think the NK would be any tougher?

A million Chicom's coming over the hill, even if half of them are unarmed, is going to ruin your West Point student exercise maps."

They had the element of surprise then. Once they did not it was a different story. Read about the Battle of Outpost Harry. The Chinese came in human waves and we killed them with artillery, we killed them with quad .50s, we burned them to death with napalm and our infantry ran the back off the hill. My father had difficulty walking without stepping on bodies when he left his post one of the mornings of OP Harry.

Unknown said...

I don't know that I buy the idea that the ChiComs will swarm over the border again. For one, China's people probably aren't too keen on dying to protect Kim. Two, they are a lot more educated/valuable now. Previously, what was a peasant with a rifle worth? Hundreds more of them! Now, though? Not as likely.

Third, I don't think China has a million men to swarm over the border. Just like everyone else, they've gone more towards the smaller/more capable military end. The days of Hitler ordering 10 million Germans across the Soviet border are over. And Mao Zedong is not around to do it either.

Third: If China plunges into the war; you can be certain that a few US Subs will be turned loose on the South China sea and most of China's navy will disappear. This won't stay confined to Korea, in other words. China will be blockaded, and which of China's neighbors will be willing to resupply? Vietnam has a long memory... at least long enough to remember the late 1970s. Think Putin will interfere? He'd be on his knees thanking Trump every night for taking China down a few pegs. The various 'Stans from Soviet days? Nope.

If Korea blows up, I'm sure Kim will do something stupid like launch at Tokyo. That means he'll have Japan, South Korea, and the US at war with him. Think China wants to take on that set of advanced powers? I don't. Especially since Taiwan likely will be "unofficially" engaged as well.

--Vance

brylun said...

I'm of the opinion that NK will not accept any negotiated solution, so that rules out Holman Jenkins' scenario, although Reagan did use that same strategy to break the Soviet Union. Arguably, the Soviet Union situation was different, with large non-Russian constituencies, that were already a substantial burden on Moscow.

mockturtle said...

IMO, our military position on NK should be retaliatory, not preemptive. But we do need to lean more heavily on China--as we are doing now.

brylun said...

Having traveled to China recently, I have studied their recent history, and I am of the opinion that the last thing they want is to be dominated by other countries. Ninety percent of the Chinese people hate the Japanese for WW2 and pre-WW2 atrocities. Also the British and French destroyed the Summer Palace in Beijing during the Opium Wars. The Americans supported Chiang Kai-shek over Mao and there's no great love for us either. As a result, they are striving to be strong, independent and able to withstand attack from anyone. We are not going to get anywhere with China in our attempt to negotiate a North Korea solution.

Khesanh 0802 said...

@Etienne FYI. Proximity Fuse jammers -if there are such things - would only work on(surprise) proximity fuses which are essentially radio wave detonated. In my time they were called Variable Time (VT) fuses and were used primarily as anti -personnel fuses because they cause an air burst, scattering shrapnel over a much wider area than a ground burst. Most artillery missions utilize contact fuses (detonate on contact with an object). They have no radio to jam. I would guess that a fire mission into a city such as Seoul would utilize contact and delay fuses primarily. Very few, if any VT fuses would be used because their detonation would be caused by roof tops limiting the rounds' effectiveness.

brylun said...

Mockturtle, I agree with you, retaliatory, not preemptive. So I suggest armed satellites.

brylun said...

And since with satellites we would be mainly protecting California, the East Coast and Chicago, I would assess the cost of satellites accordingly on the blue states.

Khesanh 0802 said...

@brylun I wouldn't dare predict what the NORKS will do, neither does Jenkins. Most talk in the MSM is about us using nukes. I was interested in Jenkins' point that we have a way of reducing the effectiveness of the NORKS armed forces without firing a shot. Until I read that I had no idea we could impact the NORKS in that way. I have said repeatedly that the best strategy is to ring NORK with anti-missile missiles. South Korea decided to go ahead with installing them just a couple weeks after saying no way. I am sure the Japanese are well armed and by putting more of our naval assets in the area we get both the NORKS and the Chinese attention.

YoungHegelian said...

@brylun,

As a result, they are striving to be strong, independent and able to withstand attack from anyone.

Perhaps it would help China's efforts to be strong if they actually started to understand how many of their historical sufferings were mostly self-inflicted. Corrupt government, insular modes of thinking, & periodically starting up insurrections that end up killing millions of Chinese civilians come to mind.

Ya want an example? If the Chinese had actually let Western missionaries spread orthodox Christianity among the populace, do you think so many Chinese would have fallen for the absolutely bizarre Christian theology that spawned the Tai Ping rebellion?

Big Mike said...

The phrase "send our military north of the 38th parallel" was not directed to Kim; it was directed towards Beijing.

Balfegor said...

"We do not seek a regime change, we do not seek the collapse of the regime, we do not seek an accelerated reunification of the peninsula, we do not seek an excuse to send our military north of the 38th parallel."

That all might even be true, but why -- after what we did to Libya after they voluntarily and verifiably dismantled their nuclear weapons program -- would anyone ever believe it?

brylun said...

YoungHegelian, Although you may be right, it is much easier to focus hatred on outsiders. Interestingly, the greatest present growth of Christianity is occurring in China.

Feste said...
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Feste said...

Comment coached by Mattis. Best friends first. Worst enemies next. Uncertainty resolution mode, median and mean-while, in NoKo hands. Big Computer running.

Balfegor said...

Our apparent decision to telegraph that we had the Great Successor in our sights and conspicuously decided not to kill him helps send the message. But ultimately, I think the only way to send that message credibly is to choreograph a staged withdrawal from South Korea, phasing in a withdrawal with verifiable disarmament steps by the North. But even then, our conventional forces could strike easily from our bases in Japan, so I'm not sure even that would give them sufficient assurances. When it comes down to it, the North also needs assurance that the South is acting in good faith. And there is reason for them to be suspicious:

One diplomat familiar with the IAEA's work said that despite South Korea's official denials, uranium was secretly enriched in 2000 to nearly bomb-grade levels and the other experiment was optimized to produce bomb-grade plutonium. On Friday, South Korean officials again disputed that their experiments had reached anywhere near bomb-grade levels.

North Korea is totally untrustworthy with regards to nuclear weapons development. But it's not like South Korea has been a perfect model of compliance.

Balfegor said...

Re: AllenS:

One of the most idiotic comments I've seen in a while. The possibilities of that happening without an all out Korean war is zero. Do you really think that NK would say: "OK, then!"

The fact that the US maintains a huge military presence in South Korea, and that the President of the US exercises wartime command authority over the South Korean military is actually a big deal both for the North and China. Even if that threat were removed, North Korea has very little chance of defeating the South militarily (even with Moon Jae-in) -- the current regime in the South is a lot richer and more stable than the sad-sack kleptocracy run by Syngman Rhee, and all the men are required to do military service, and continue to report for training periodically even after their service is up.

I don't think unification would work -- not immediately, at least -- but US military withdrawal is one of the few carrots we can offer to secure a deal.

tcrosse said...

That all might even be true, but why -- after what we did to Libya after they voluntarily and verifiably dismantled their nuclear weapons program -- would anyone ever believe it?

Let's give credit where it's due for what "we" did to Libya.

mockturtle said...

That all might even be true, but why -- after what we did to Libya after they voluntarily and verifiably dismantled their nuclear weapons program -- would anyone ever believe it?

Good point, Balfegor. This is Tillerson's biggest challenge: Convince the world that we are no longer in the nation building [or rebuilding] business. That we are not about toppling foreign governments to replace them with US-approved puppets.

Swede said...

Well, can't wait to see how this turns out.

I hate Korean food.

Khesanh 0802 said...

@Balfegor I can't believe for a minute that the NORKS would not invade South Korea if we withdrew. They would be delighted to see us go. It's a hell of a lot easier to project military power if you have bases than if you have none. Are you really prepared to trust any agreement with the NORKS that we are not in a position to enforce?

This piece on north-koreas-military-capabilities might make you rethink your willingness to risk a war with NORK. Whether it is said by McArthur or Vizzini "Never get involved in a land war in Asia" is good advice!

mockturtle said...

Swede asserts: I hate Korean food.

My older daughter's ex was half Korean They had two refrigerators. One for Kimchi and one for everything else. And there is a very good reason for that.

eric said...

North Korea is a hell on Earth for millions of people. Worse than Venezuela.

We are a rich, powerful, nation.

It's our obligation to help the South Korean liberate the north and keep it out of Chinese hands. We should do so quickly and with overwhelming force.

Plus, you should never let your enemy grow strong enough that they can attack you.

That's just foolish.

Bad Lieutenant said...

When did we ever demonstrate that we had Kim Jong Un in our sights and refrained from killing him?

David said...

"Having traveled to China recently, I have studied their recent history, and I am of the opinion that the last thing they want is to be dominated by other countries."

Only at Althouse Blog do we get this kind of up to date counterintuitive insight. Why can't our diplomats and military figure this out?

exhelodrvr1 said...

"Even if that threat were removed, North Korea has very little chance of defeating the South militarily "

Disagree completely. The North wins if we are not involved. (This assumes that South Korea doesn't have their own nukes already.) They have a very capable, large military

cubanbob said...

The Southern part of China where roughly the same number of people live as there are in the US is the export engine of China. A war where China is involved against the US means instant stop to their exports. China's economy craters and the Chinese Communist Party loses its Mandate From Heaven shortly followed by lots of dead Communists. South Korea doesn't want to adsorb North Korea. China doesn't want millions of North Koreans flooding into China. I suspect Kim got a little too big for his britches and China doesn't quite know how to curb him without losing face.

SukieTawdry said...

@Etienne: The solution is simple: The USA needs to offer a deal to China that they can't refuse.

That deal would be the USA removing all of its military assets from South Korea, in exchange for China reunifying the country.


Do the South Koreans get a say in any of this?

Gahrie said...

Lord, bring us a fortunately placed meteor.

We don't need a meteor..we need KEWs (kinetic energy weapons..basically spears of metal)

The U.S. should already have a functioning space plane and KEW platforms in orbit. If we don't we should deploy them as soon as possible, in large part to prevent others from doing so.

He who controls the orbitals controls the planet.

JimB said...

Well...there should have been a "but" after all that mush. "But you may leave us no alternative."

D.E. Cloutier said...

Stay cool, Rex.

Everyone should remember two things:

1. Actions have consequences.

2. Erroneous assumptions lead to bad decisions.*

*Saddam Hussein and George W. Bush learned that the hard way.

Gahrie said...

The fact that the US maintains a huge military presence in South Korea, and that the President of the US exercises wartime command authority over the South Korean military is actually a big deal both for the North and China.

The North has been lashing out in violence against the U.S. and South Korea since the armistice was signed. While most in the West have forgotten, North Korea has never forgotten that the Korean War never ended. China clearly has designs on imposing their version of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, and our withdrawal from South Korean would be seen as weakness, and an opening for more Chinese imperialism.

Even if that threat were removed, North Korea has very little chance of defeating the South militarily

Yeah..that's what we thought in June 1950.

SukieTawdry said...

@Unknown: According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, China has 2,183,000 active military, 510,000 reserve military and 660,000 paramilitary.

The Chinese dislike their government which they regard as oppressive and distrust their police whom they regard as corrupt, but they revere their military. They undoubtedly would not choose to have them fight and die for North Korea, but if the military is dispatched to do just that, they will support the troops in those actions to the bitter end.

My advice several years ago on the DONKs was nuke 'em now and get it over with. I was being facetious, of course, but not entirely. We have very familiar patterns. We talk and talk, threaten and cajole, sanction and shun ever searching for peaceful solutions. Meanwhile, problems fester and compound and by the time we finally have no other choice but direct confrontation, the problem is exponentially greater than it would have been had we met it head on in the first place. I'm not suggesting we can do things differently. The simple fact of the matter is we can't. It's just that the process towards inevitable outcomes can be so frustrating.

Breezy said...

What a nightmare this is.

virgil xenophon said...

@mockturtle

"They had two refrigerators. One for Kimchi and one for everything else. And there is a very good reason for that."

Mockturtle speaks heap big medicine! :)

Hagar said...

If the critical components of these missiles were all made in China, then it is a Chinese missile testing program.

cubanbob said...

mockturtle said...
That all might even be true, but why -- after what we did to Libya after they voluntarily and verifiably dismantled their nuclear weapons program -- would anyone ever believe it?

Good point, Balfegor. This is Tillerson's biggest challenge: Convince the world that we are no longer in the nation building [or rebuilding] business. That we are not about toppling foreign governments to replace them with US-approved puppets."

This is the Russian's strong point. Once you tie yourselves with them, unless you act against them they are behind you unlike us that it depends on which party is in charge.

Luke Lea said...
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Luke Lea said...

It doesn't have to be a new Korean War of North v. South. The US should simply announce that henceforth it will take out one or two of Kim's nuclear and/or ballistic missile facilities each time he orders a new test. It will be tit-for-tat from now on -- an idea straight out of game theory and evolutionary psychology.

North Korean facilities I imagine are buried deep underground, at least the most important ones. So the first US strikes are likely to do little damage. Will NC rejoice in this and taunt the superpower? Maybe verbally. But will it do another test? After all, the next time might be different.

The US has a whole arsenal of small tactical nuclear weapons designed specifically for this kind of task. They would be directed not at population centers, but at hardened underground facilities, which makes all of the difference.

Wouldn't it be better, from a civilizational point of view, to use these specialized nuclear weapons than to allow a berserk Kim to develop nuclear weapons of truly mass destruction that would threaten population centers around the world?

My personal opinion is that the answer to this question is yes. And though there would no doubt be expressions of outrage initially were Trump to dare take such a step, once the dust had settled I bet there would be a sense of relief and of quiet satisfaction around the world. Would be curious to know what others think.

Unknown said...

I sure hope the Generals can bypass the incompetence in the White House.

Etienne said...

Do the South Koreans get a say in any of this?

South Korea, like West Germany, will cease to exist. In it's place will be a new country that must merge its cultures.

It is not correct that millions of North Koreans want to be capitalists. They would fare much better as socialists, and China would be the model for them.

Socialism for all, capitalism for the brave. A lot of capitalists in China commit suicide, so it's not a culture that is in great demand.

The South Koreans or Japanese are not the model for the reunification. China is the model.

SukieTawdry said...

I think, Luke Lea, there is great advantage to being the only nation that's ever used an atomic weapon. The general feeling is they did it once, they could do it again. Especially if they've got a nut in the White House like that cowboy who invaded Afghanistan and Iraq and the current crackpot. And as I said above, I'm a proponent of taking care of big problems before they become huge problems. I think, however, that the backlash of such a move would be the likes of something we've never seen before (even though, as you say, most people privately would feel satisfaction and relief). I'm not sure any American president would have the guts to do it, not even Trump.

Bad Lieutenant said...

Luke, this is followed by 10,000 artillery tubes turning Seoul into a sea of fire. The nukes are AT THIS TIME a sideshow.

Either take out the 10,000 tubes, or take out the man who would wield them.

How is nuking DPRK better than assassinating KJU?

Bad Lieutenant said...

I suspect Kim got a little too big for his britches and China doesn't quite know how to curb him without losing face.

Duh, KILL HIM!

Kevin said...

Luke, this is followed by 10,000 artillery tubes turning Seoul into a sea of fire.

This. There are wars and there are existential threats. You have to be clear which you and your enemy are fighting before you start.

Any move on NK will be seen as an existential threat to Kim. It doesn't matter whether it's from China, the US, or cyberspace. The only logical response by Kim will be to immediately start destroying Seoul.

It is his only move.

If the invaders back off, he can stop and claim victory. If they don't, he can launch whatever nukes he can because he's not long for this earth.

The only play here is to slowly undermine the regime such that it collapses without Kim's ability to blame it on a foreign attack. China can slowly squeeze them economically, or stop sending North Koreans who make it across the border back, but it will likely create a humanitarian crisis which China will have to solve.

China also does not want a free Korea on its border. And the US is not going to let China take over the country. So for their efforts to delicately not start a war and to clean up a humanitarian crisis, it gets a free Korea on its border.

The WSJ had a good article today about how Kim must match military exercise with military exercises of his own, and which he cannot afford. The US just has to make it clear these are only exercises, so as to not give him a pretext to see them as anything more.

This was what Tillerson was saying today. We're going to be holding lots of exercises. Don't take them as any sort of pretext to start shelling Seoul while you're spending your precious resources on jet fuel so your planes can fly around in circles near ours.

Feste said...
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mockturtle said...

Bad Lieutenant proposes: How is nuking DPRK better than assassinating KJU?

I seldom disagree with you, BL, but I can't think of even one instance where removing a head of state has resulted in victory. Rather, in the past couple of decades, it has resulted in confusion and political chaos. We like to jump to the conclusion that people living under a dictator want to be free of said dictatorship. This is not always the case. Some were delighted when Saddam Hussein was killed but they were mostly disgruntled Shiites and some jihadis that wanted a theocracy. And of course Iran was delighted.

mockturtle said...

To further extend my reasoning, do you believe that, had the US successfully killed Castro, most Cuban people would have cheered?

Michael K said...

I have always assumed they are about four turns of a wrench away from a working nuclear weapon anytime they decide to go down that road.

Tom Clancy wrote a very good novel on the basis of a Japan-vs US war. IT is much better than an attempt by George Friedman in "The Next 100 Years" to describe one.

I would simply shoot down the next couple of Nork missile tests. Good target practice.

Bad Lieutenant said...

Thanks mockturtle! Well, timing is everything. If they had gone full boat at the Bay of Pigs instead of hiding behind AB 2506, or backed Batista, they would have got the job done. In 1963? Meh. No context.

Assassination is not without its own risks. If you strike at a king you must kill him. But if the F-117 strike on Dora Farms in March 2003 that kicked off Operation Iraqi Freedom had got Saddam, I do think that things would have been quite different. It certainly would have been nice to knock off OBL at Tora Bora.

Assassination is effective against pure dictators, strongman regimes without a logical, institutional form of succession. There would be no point in knocking off Stalin or Mao, for instance*, because somebody would have replaced them, and somebody would have replaced the next guy.

But if you get Saddam, or Noriega, or Qadaffi, or Kim Jong Un, the game is over. Then you don't have to bomb anymore, you make a phone call to whoever in the leadership circle you have identified as most potentially tractable, and ask him Hey, would you like to run Iraq or would you like to be next? Killing Saddam was great to avoid a war; after we had already won, it was merely a chore. He might have been better kept alive and turned into our monkey and made to tell his people to stack arms.

If a B-2 strike from 30,000 feet, or Bob Lee Swagger from a mile or an IED from one meter, takes out KJU and maybe the dozen or so people around him he uses, they are headless. There is no Vice Maniac in DPRK. If KJU died in his sleep tonight, who would run North Korea tomorrow? Apparently the next logical choice for successor, his half-brother Kim Jong Nam, got a faceful of VX earlier this year. I believe he had an uncle shredded with anti-aircraft cannon or fed to dogs or something equally Blofeldian. So orderly regime succession is not the big priority over there.

So you have a pack of generals and ministers in a room, maybe his wife or son of any, scratching their asses wondering what to do next. They don't make the ideology, they just follow orders. The more mindlessly the better for a dictator. They know the correlation of forces and how they will be made mincemeat of. A few of them are fanatics but they will typically be overruled. So when they're having their what do we do conference, again, incoming call for Field Marshal Kimchi. Carrots and sticks:

Okay, Kimmy, we have no intention of ever setting foot in your shitpot country, but we do need you to dial it down to 10. So we're going to send over a couple guys to watch you fill all those caves (where the artillery lives) with concrete, we'll send the concrete because we know you don't have any, and then we'll figure out what comes next, but you can continue to run your prison camps or not run prison camps, starve your people or feed them, do what you want, but don't pose an existential threat to South Korea and the Pacific region. Okay or should we kill you now? If you're smart, and behave, maybe we can talk about reuniting, but first y'all should put down the Juche pipe and eat a sandwich or two. Oh and no nukes.

I expect they would sigh with relief.

The only downside is, his security is probably too good. So it would be tough. And if you miss...10,000 tubes. Unless incredibly the threat wakes him up, but that's not the way to bet.


*Killing Hitler is an interesting proposition. Again, timing. Also, if you believed that Putin was kinda alone in wanting to do Georgia or Ukraine, and the oligarchs around him would like a way out, it might theoretically make sense to dust him. You couldn't invade or conquer Russia or Germany that way, but you could maybe get them to stop what they were doing.

Assassination is the legacy of single combat. In theory, chieftains facing off in a one on one duel should be able to settle a dispute without total war and the deaths of thousands. But it's not like Hussein and GWB lived under the code duello. This is where we are.

Bad Lieutenant said...

I would simply shoot down the next couple of Nork missile tests. Good target practice.

Doc, I haven't been informed that we can, reliably, kill a missile traveling at ICBM velocities. The tests have been soft, iterative. Our best work IRL has been the USS Lake Erie blowing away a deorbiting satellite with an SM-3. I'm not sure the difficulty is equal, though the satellite was traveling at 17,000 mph, a relevant velocity. So, how does it look if we miss?

mockturtle said...

Thank you for your explanations, BL. You make a nice argument--at least for timing. I still don't agree that assassination is the best way to destroy a dictatorship. But killing OBL, who was not a head of state, was essential and should have [and could have] been done much sooner.

mockturtle said...

I will concede that Kim is a vain coward and might yield to personal threats but I suspect there is a strong network of wannabees waiting in line.

Alex said...

So Tillerson doesn't give a hoot that the United States west coast is now in range of Nork nuclear missiles? Isn't his job to defend the United States against all threats?

Bad Lieutenant said...

Mock, absolutely there are dozens of Norks who might think they have the chops. But remember the shampoo ad. Lather, rinse, repeat. The next guy who wants to run North Korea, poor fool, will be our... What shall I say? Partner for peace? Our SOB? Or he will also die.

IF he wants to exist as a friendly dictator like a Pinochet, Salazar, Noriega, Somoza, what have you and just run his country into the ground or thinks he can do better, that's fine. But he can't pose an existential threat to the region and to us.

I will admit this might totally destabilize North Korea, which could pose problems for its immediate neighbors and maybe beyond. Fair enough. I'd be willing to see the case that the blowback outweighs the burning of Seoul, but someone would have to make the case. (Certainly that it would outweigh it to us. China wouldn't give a damn if Los Angeles got nuked or ten million ROKs got shelled into bulgogi. China deserves a destabilized DPRK on its border AFAIAC. Eat that! Russia, what have you done for us lately?)

Now, would China lose their shit over this? You betcha! Which is why they will knock off KJU for us.

Bad Lieutenant said...

Now that's a strong statement but you'll admit (from my point of view) it makes a lot of sense. China definitely has KJU infiltrated up the wazoo.

Balfegor said...

re: Khesanh 0802:

They would be delighted to see us go. It's a hell of a lot easier to project military power if you have bases than if you have none. Are you really prepared to trust any agreement with the NORKS that we are not in a position to enforce?

Well, now you get to the real question: who is the "we" for me? I have a lot of relatives living in Seoul. My uncles all went through military training. My cousin twice removed was the Chairman of Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff and later Minister of Defense.

I feel pretty comfortable that yes, South Korea can enforce an agreement, although Seoul will remain just as vulnerable to North Korean bombardment after American forces withdraw as it is today. And that the US's capabilities based in Japan also provide adequate US backing for South Korea's own military capabilities.

Furthermore, although I think there is some doubt whether the US would actually support South Korea if there were no forward-positioned US troops to die gallantly in the first hours of a North Korean attack, I do also think that the government of Japan would likely intervene forcefully on behalf of South Korea, even if the Americans do not. Their decision-tree might take longer to go through than it would in the US (depending on who is in power), but this is precisely the scenario that Abe and the extreme Right here in Tokyo are concerned about -- this is the whole point of re-interpreting the Constitution to allow for collective self defense.