I’m trying to make sense of the news coming from North Korea these past few days.  It’s all very confusing to me.

Among the things I wonder is why Kim Jong Un wants nuclear-armed ICBM’s in the first place.  The United States isn’t likely to attack North Korea with even a limited strike now for the same reason it never has before.  We don’t want to see a million-plus dead South Koreans and tens of thousands of US troops from conventional artillery and other arms launched from the north.

Maybe Kim thinks that the US will be unwilling to get involved if he decides to invade South Korea if we’re concerned about a nuclear attack.  Even then, it doesn’t make sense.  North Korea’s very possession of ICBM-capable nukes makes a first strike by the US fair game.  Even if he does manage to nuke, say, Los Angeles, it would be the end of North Korea as dozens of nuclear warheads would rain down all over his head.  He would lose everything.  What’s the point of nuclear war?

You might say, “Well, he’s just crazy.  Crazy people do crazy things.”  Is it really that simple?  I’m not so sure.

Meanwhile, Trump has sent a carrier strike force into the region to do I-don’t-know-what.  People might be inclined to think that it’s not a bluff after the Shayrat airbase and MOAB bombings.  They think that Trump really is ready to carry out at least a limited attack against Kim.  It has definitely worked on me, but I can’t speak for Kim, the Chinese, or the Russians.

I don’t understand what the point of moving these forces in and ramping up tensions is.  Let’s say Kim’s missile launch had not been a failure (whether US cyber forces caused it to fail is a whole other set of questions).  Was the plan to launch an airstrike against the launch facility or something else?

Again: If we do this, there will be a lot of dead South Koreans followed by a bloody and unpopular war that may end with significant loss of American life.  It’s hard for me to see what anybody gets from this.  Nobody would benefit from a war on the Korean Peninsula, the Koreans least of all.

It’s that Trump is clearly willing to use devastating military force, even when it doesn’t appear to be related to our vital strategic interests, that has me on edge.  I expect the North Koreans to do bizarre stunts.  They’ve been at it for seventy years.

Seeing this sort of the bluster from the White House, though, is a new experience for me and I don’t like being unable to even guess what’s next.

8 comments

  1. Given that it was only one carried group., I wasn’t to worried. North Korea despite its backwardness has a massive arsenal desgined for defence. We would need a lot more in terms of carried air power and. Air force bombers to make a penetration raid on high value targets.

  2. It’s certainly not as simple as “crazy people do crazy things”, but there’s some truth to that idea. North Korea is a paranoid, isolated dictatorship saturated in an pseudo-religious ideology in which the U.S. is the great satan. You know how paranoid, egotistical individuals think the world revolves around themselves? North Korea is the nation-state equivalent that views global events in a very self-centered way. Sorry Kim, not everything the U.S. does has to do with you.

    That said, arming itself with a credible nuclear deterrent is most definitely in its self-interest. U.S. military actions over the past couple decades have validated this desire. From the Nork perspective, a nuclear weapons capability is key to preventing U.S. attack, and serves as a huge part of national pride to boot. Despite its abject poverty as a nation, North Korea will be able to count itself among the small club of global powers who possess such weapons.

    The recent U.S. show of strength reflects a change in approach. Obama was very hands-off, and preferred working through the UNSC to try and pressure the Norks to stop their nuclear program. This effort has clearly failed, as the program continued unabated. I prefer direct U.S. engagement, but that will not stop the program either because its continuation is clearly in North Korea’s self interest.

    I think it’s unfair, and frankly ignorant to view our deployment of forces as “bluster”. I think our interest in a show of force is more for the ROK and Japan, to shore up the Obama administration’s weakening of U.S. alliances. Pence did a pretty good job IMO of communicating an unwavering commitment to these alliances. U.S. policy has always involved a full commitment to the defense of ROK and Japan, even under Obama, so I’m not sure where you were going with the “if we do this” language. I do not foresee the U.S. initiating military action, even under a more willing-to-use-force administration, unless there is a clear and imminent threat. Even so, we would still probably only act were the Norks to strike first, just to be crystal clear to the world that we are not the aggressor.

  3. So the only true silver lining about going to school that had a 70 percent South Korean student population during the bush years was a vicarious crash course on north korea’s ambitions. Many of the guys I attended school with were vets by conscription and very open about then Kim Jong il.

    In a nutshell, the perspective I was given on this is North Korea wants something and we’ve never really said no to them for their outbursts. Anytime the dictator needs food or money or whatever he tests missiles or raises the tension level with the south. We can’t really tell South Korea to go it alone because we have intervened in their affairs with the war, drawn the dmz and extended our military to protect Japan since ww2.

    I think Jong un knows that any attack would mean the annhilation of his nest egg, so if you really think about it we all know the threats are empty. China probably doesn’t really care either way except that a collapsed North Korea will be a humanitarian crisis on both their border and south korea’s border, making a stable North Korea China’s national security interest and economic interest.

    Trump has his dick hard lately dropping ordinance on enemies but I’m going to bet beyond cyber attacks and sanctioning someone smarter than him is going to tell him to fap this one out in the shower because it’s a strategic stalemate.

    The thing I think we should all consider conspicuous is that this episode has become an “opportunity” for china to get out of the dog house with us on trade and currency manipulation while simultaneously providing trump the ability to back out of yet another campaign promise with the threat of war. We now have an “ally” he is defending on twitter because china is “helping” us with a regime that achieved nothing more than bluster in twenty years.

  4. Seriously, no one should be surprised by this. I mentioned early and often that my reasoning for not voting for trump is I didn’t believe he’d have the ability to place the interest of the American public above his own personal interests. And he can’t.

    His biggest motivator to date for any of his actions has either been his family or to affect how he is viewed in the press. It’s truly amateur hour.

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