Thursday, April 4, 2013

North Korea - War?

The sound of sabers rattling is rapidly becoming deafening.

Bibi sees the invisible

North Korea [NK] has been threatening the US and South Korea now for about 40 years, and on occasion, has actually attacked US soldiers and South Korean villagers and fishermen.  Listening to Supreme [and beloved] Leader Kim Jong-un rant, stamp his feet, and threaten the end of the world reminds us of Bibi Netanyahu's claims that Iran has nukes -- thus his demand that the US declare war on Iran. 

[Goodness! Did Kim Jong-un take obnoxious lessons from Bibi?]

The world, which is nearly unanimous in sanctioning NK, pretty much recognizes that it is a rogue state with no reason to exist other than to serve as a buffer between China and potential invaders allied with the US.  It's not much of a buffer, but there are about 25 million North Koreans, with 9.5 million in uniform, whom China regards as ultimately dispensable from a ground action perspective.  And, China and the Soviets provided North Korea sufficient armament to make it dangerous enough to be noticed and a distractor to the US.

What's at stake here.
Is there actually a threat?

Here's the North Korean Military:

1) Lots of artillery, much of it dating back 70 years.  Their most sophisticated 170mm Field Gun has a range of only 32 miles, a bit short of Seoul.

2) Most of their MBTs [Main Battle Tanks] are 50+ years old.  The newer ones are retrofitted 30 year old tanks.

3) Their Air Force has some modern fighters and bombers, but none compare to US technology.

4) Their surface Navy is dilapidated and essentially a coastal defense force

5) They have a large submarine force - but most are second-hand rehabs.  Their miniature subs are effective, and the GRU reported that one of them was responsible for blowing up the Deepwater Horizon in the Caribbean.

6)  Their Strategic Rocket Forces include missiles dating back 25 - 50 years and are Soviet and PRC hand-me-downs,

7)  Nuclear arsenal?  Well, sort of; ancient warheads retrofitted to fit the smaller NK missile bodies capable of carrying them; all three of them.

So, what's the big deal over this Mouse That Roared?

Why didn't we simply obliterate this paper tiger 15 years ago after the first threatening gesture?

Our Media, fueled by the thrill and excitement of sending our troops back into war, is anxious to sell advertising on its new web sites and during commercial breaks for its talking heads and other mindless comic venues.

Our Military-Industrial Complex [MIC] wants to keep its weapons systems contracts alive and immune from Sequester cuts.

DOD needs to justify its civilian employee population of 718,000 and its budget of $500 Billion

Room for 1 more general?
The Pentagon needs to have a visible threat to justify 500 generals and 162 admirals -- including 30 at the 4-Star rank.

[Figures are vague, but it is estimated that we now have roughly five times as many flag rank [generals and admirals] today as we had in World War II.]

Our Navy now has nearly more admirals than it has ships.

For the most part, our military leadership is not so much interested in neutralizing the NK Military Threat as it is in testing our new weapons and intelligence technology in battle-field conditions.

The Air Force is keen on engaging enemy fighters, while our Rocket Forces are interested in testing out their bunker busters [the one they launched into the Pentagon was pretty effective, but that was 12 years ago]; and they'd like to test the new SAMs, and Patriot missile upgrades.  Our Net-Centric crowd is anxious to see how vulnerable our systems are to NK hacking and electronic attack. and above all, our Drone Contingent is anxious to test the Predator and all the new miniature drone clones.

But, you say, we already know the NK military is using weaponry and equipment that is, for the most part, nearly 70 years old.  What's the challenge there?

Well, after WWII, our military was not allowed to start or fight any global wars, so, we and the Soviets and the Chinese engaged in Proxy Wars [e.g., Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan] so that we could see and test out military equipment. 
[Our infamous hostage rescue attempt under Jimmy Carter demonstrated the US Military was woefully unskilled and ill-equipped].

What's our capability?
Not as good as Google Earth, but, actually, we can do a lot better
1)  We monitor every communication and military movement down to the oil change on Kim's limousine.  Although there is considerable artillery in position, and Kim has been moving more of it to key positions, we know precisely where each tube is, and the air pressure in each tire of the vehicle towing it.  We can even check the temperature in Kim's bathroom [urp!].

If Kim Jong-un were to launch an artillery and rocket bombardment on South Korea tomorrow at 9:00 am, North Korea could lie in smoldering ruins by 9:05 am, having been bombarded with US state-of-the-art artillery and missile fire, Stealth bombing runs, Drone attacks, and lots of shouting and carrying on by South Korean [ROK] troops -- who would then rush across the border to seize NK positions, and to capture tens of thousands of North Korean troops -- who are anxious to relocate to South Korea by any means.

2)  But, that won't happen...

Kim who?

     a.  Officially, there will be hand-wringing in Washington over whether the US can legally engage since the attack will be against South Korea. The lawyers will sort it out in a matter of weeks.  And, the situation will escalate day-by-traumatic day.  The talking heads will babble, John Kerry will look forlorn as he begs Kim to act rationally, and Mr Obama will be able to act Presidential this time [as opposed to his failed Benghazi spontaneous riot scheme.

     b.  Just how much damage can we inflict without looking like we're mean old bullies to be condemned by our Socialist UN friends?  [Why can't you just get along!]

Best that we do so only a little at a time; it can be a conflict of attrition, and we'll sacrifice a few hundred US and ROK troops, and there will be harumphing and haranging on Capitol Hill -- but no action, since most will have received substantial campaign donations from Defense Contractors.

M-1989 [Koksan] 170mm Gun [range: 32 miles]
c.  But, the real reason? 
Both Russia and China will be feeding Kim weapons and technology that they want to test against US capabilities.  And, knowing that, we will stretch out the conflict to see how effective our new technology is.  Will our stealth aircraft evade their radar advances?  Will they be able to jam our GPS systems?  Will they infiltrate our tactical headquarters in ROK uniforms and kill our intelligence people?

[Rick Francona photographed this NK weapon during the first Gulf War (1991)]

Will there actually be a military conflict?

Sort of. 
We have to have SOMETHING to satisfy the Media.
We have to have SOMETHING to allow Mr Obama to act Presidential.
We have to have SOMETHING to offset the Sequester cuts.

So, we'll have a flurry of activity, maybe have a few bombs go off, and then we'll have endless replays and Monday morning quarter-backing by the Talking Heads. 

We'll also need to tread cautiously since we don't want to annoy our Chinese debt lords as we did when MacArthur drew them into the Korean War by announcing he was about to invade them [he was safe and sound in Japan at the time].

In the meantime, China and Russia will be gearing up for a power play.

[But, that's a whole nother blog post!]