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"How North Korea Would Start World War III " Topic

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Tango0108 Jul 2017 9:18 p.m. PST

"North Korea has achieved something remarkable: for an impoverished country with a GDP smaller than that of Rhode Island, it has built a nuclear and ballistic missile program. The result is a growing arsenal of nuclear weapons with an expanding level of reach. While North Korea's nukes are in all likelihood meant for regime security, in the event of war, Pyongyang would attempt to deliver devastating nuclear strikes against American, South Korean and Japanese forces throughout the region, sapping them of the willpower necessary to topple the regime of Kim Jong-un.

North Korea is both more and less dangerous than it looks. While the country maintains a 1,190,000-strong armed force, one of the largest in the world, much of its equipment is obsolete. It is likely no longer likely capable of successfully invading South Korea. At the same time, it is assessed as having between ten and twenty nuclear weapons, and has tested a variety of ballistic-missile platforms, including medium-range, intermediate-range, submarine-launched and, as of July 4, intercontinental ballistic missiles. While many of these programs have had mixed success, particularly the Musudan missile, North Korea is clearly learning and advancing its abilities both in nuclear-weapons design and missile-delivery systems.

North Korea's nuclear weapons are no longer useful in an offensive role, so the obvious next use is to preserve the regime of Kim Jong-un. Much like Saddam Hussein and Muammar el-Qaddafi, Kim Jong-un in part justifies his regime by his opposition to the United States. At the same time, however, he wants to avoid their fate. Nuclear weapons guarantee Kim security and freedom of action within his own country…."
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Jcfrog Supporting Member of TMP09 Jul 2017 6:20 a.m. PST

Not ww3. Neither China nor Russia etc. would support this little dunghole. They just want it to avoid making a mess. Nothing interesting there.

Personal logo Patrick R Supporting Member of TMP09 Jul 2017 8:42 a.m. PST

You have to understand that the North Koreans have thousands of guns permanently emplaced, zeroed in on Seoul and other targets in South Korea. These guns are fixed in position which has two advantages as it allows conscripts man the guns and devastate South Korea without much training, and it also prevents an ambitious general from pointing the guns towards Pyongyang.

As with many such systems the North Korean army comes in two flavours, a core of well-trained troops loyal to the regime and a massive conscript force to keep them busy and use as cannon fodder in times of war.

The basic North Korean plan is to bomb the crap out of the South and then send in wave after wave of second-tier troops, spearheaded by small units of elite troops who will secure bridges, key areas etc. The idea is to go "Busan or Bust", but in all likelihood the North Korean tanks will probably fall apart somewhere along the way and troops will be too busy looting. Once these troops stall, they will be caught in the open and will have no other choice than to dig and get slaughtered where they stand or run away and be slaughtered either by their own security forces or the enemy.

The classic response for the US would be to immediately send aircraft to bomb the crap out of the North Korean forces.

China will probably play the "It's an internal Korean affair" to both warn off the US from an intervention and also avoid committing themselves to a regime that might disintegrate at any moment. Most likely they will create a no fly zone above North Korea patrolled by Chinese aircraft to make sure the US doesn't bomb the regime into disintegration.

Should the North Koreans get more resistance than expected (for instance the South Koreans stop them cold) and the threat of a US intervention cannot be stopped, they are likely to threaten Japan not so much with nuclear, but with their considerable arsenal of chemical and biological weapons.

If that doesn't work they will try to attack as many targets as they can in Japan or even the US, using either submarines or civilian ships.

But if South Korea starts to push back with US aid while China avoids direct intervention other than some token support, they might even send a missile at Beijing for failing to properly support them.

Honestly I think the North Koreans will have at best one or two days at worst a few hours before a South Koreans get their act together. I expect them to make some headway, but as soon as the North Korean invasion inevitably stalls they will be devastated by air strikes and rapid counter-attacks causing large formations to break up and disintegrate. It might well be that a successful invasion is turned into a full defeat and rout in a matter of days and weeks.

Personal logo The Virtual Armchair General Sponsoring Member of TMP09 Jul 2017 11:02 a.m. PST

Patrick R!

All points well taken, and perhaps as likely an appreciation of the situation as any, but there's more to consider.

The suggestion that a defeated NorKo invasion would end with their forces "routing" back north is certainly possible, but would not solve the problems created. With no opportunity to follow up and, as in 1950, occupy the North and destroy Kim's regime--and him--we'd be right back where we were before, only in his impotent rage, Kim might decide to use his nukes to cover that retreat.

Such speculation is of limited value--not useless, but no guarantor that the ideal response will come out of it.

First, foremost, and always, the most important strategic factor in all circumstances, and the one thing most rarely acknowledged, is this: PERCEPTION always trumps reality. No amount of "fact" has ever prevented the most monumental and catastrophic blunders throughout history.

Only because so many possible readers of this thread are familiar with the history, rather than for any other reason, Hitler's strategic choices make the point. Not to attempt to exhaust the list of his failures, but he was convinced the Western Allies would not go to war over Poland. He was half-right to the extent they made no military effort to intervene on Poland's behalf, and the following "Sitzkreig" left him with the initiative, but the defeat of France, and allowing the BEF to escape, did not take Britain out of the war. He decided he could conquer Russia in one summer, then at the exact moment he was faced with failure before Moscow, he declared war on the US.

Every one of those decisions--and all those fatally wrong ones to come--were based on his PERCEPTION at each point. Of course he was easily convinced by his apparent successes up to each moment, but even what he thought were "successes" was entirely colored by his pathological need for war, destruction, and death.

Kim is no less influenced by what he WANTS to be true than Hitler, or indeed, any of us when we presume we're always right. And who in his government dares tell him even the smallest detail that goes against his perception? Compared to Kim's little world, Hitler's entourage was a democratic debating society. Oh, he might rave when presented with "alternate facts," but he didn't stand everyone who contradicted him to his face in front of a flakvierling, or feed them to Blondi.

Kim lives in an alternate reality of his own making, though well practiced through his Grandfather and Father's reigns, and in that world he is the infallible Dear Leader.

Acquiring nukes and their delivery systems clearly seems vital to him, but not all of his self-justifications for doing so are necessarily obvious.

Assuming he's even AWARE that his people have been on the edge of--when not well into--famine for at least a decade or more, he certainly doesn't give a tinker's damn about their welfare regarding the allocation of resources to get his nukes and rockets. It's more than merely plausible that he needs these on a very personal level, for his own ego, even his sexual identity.

Of course if it ended there, the situation would not be as grave as it is rapidly becoming, but he wants to use these signs of his personal power to gain "respect" in the world. Certainly, having deliverable nukes serves as a deterrent to the world--which for him is mostly the US--and if that was all he wants them for, just possibly the world could let him keep them.

But that's not what he tells us. He feels the need to threaten us, and not in terms of "You hit me, I hit you," but rather as his self-righteous mission to dethrone the giant. So often, do we not read this is all just bluster, and that he would never actually initiate a conflict using his nukes? Well, this may indeed be the case, but why the reluctance to believe a monster when he makes threats? "Mein Kampf" was all the warning the world needed, but it was dismissed as tommy-rot. The ravings of a world class hater, yes, but no less his blueprint for what he would do when he had the power.

Kim just might make Uncle Adi look healthy, so simply refusing to take him seriously could be the surest way to invite a new, greater nightmare.

Further, though the Iranians and NorKos have a symbiotic relationship in terms of their shared fixation of hatred, and have helped each other develop nukes and rockets, whenever Kim demonstrates his latest achievement, don't ignore the likelihood that he's ADVERTISING the technology he has for sale to any/all who have their own uses for WMD.

Is the only danger that Kim might actually strike us for reasons best known to himself, or that by providing his weapons for desperately needed money he arms others who might even be more willing to use them?

No amount of "reason" based on quantifiable realities (numbers of men, guns, planes, bombs, rockets, GDP's, etc) will change Kim's likely PERCEPTION that the West--especially the increasingly divided US--is morally weak and cannot stomach an actual war. Whether we really would just turn the other cheek if nuked (or an EMP attempted, etc), is a question I'm not at all sure has only one answer.

Finally (and no one's happier than I am to be reaching the end of this jeremiad), I've long thought of a nightmare scenario
that seems at least plausible. Consider: One fine morning, the NorKo's signal Washington that in 24 hours they are going to rain all the nukes they can on… Japan. Not having their own nukes (not yet, anyway), the Japanese could hardly respond in kind, even if they wanted to. Japan is, lest we forget, the only country to have been on the receiving end of a nuclear war, and they may have a special appreciation of that fact the rest of the world does not. Of course, Pyongyang will add, this unpleasantness would be avoided if all US forces in South Korea begin an immediate evacuation, and that Washington acquiesce to the "peaceful" reunification of the peninsula.

Would the Japanese really be willing to stand in the cross hairs on only 24 hours--or less--notice, relying completely on the US' ability to defend them from EVERY nuke thrown at them? Might they not demand Washington meet the demand? Would the US respond to the threat with an immediate pre-emptive nuclear strike on the NorKo's? Just throwing aircraft against targets in the north could not guarantee no nukes being launched at Tokyo, even if anything like sufficient assets were in theater at the time of the threat.

This scenario becomes all the thornier if the Chinese chime in and say any attack on the North is an attack on their vital interests, and it becomes almost a certain success for Kim if the Russians do the same. It would be a dream scenario for all those players if the US can be made to begin their withdrawal from all of Asia and the Western Pacific.

Would YOU, Dear Reader, gladly jump to the "red button" if this scenario actually broke one day when you have other plans?

Don't misunderstand--this nightmare scenario is NOT a prediction. Indeed, far worse that I could ever dream of in a drug induced state must be possible.

The question becomes this: Can we tolerate circumstances that would permit such hopeless choices being forced upon us? And who can GUARANTEE that Kim's perception of the strategic situation as it is today is the same as anyone else's? As the active player in all this, it is, in the end, only HIS "perception" that matters.


Tango0109 Jul 2017 11:09 a.m. PST

Good points both…


Personal logo piper909 Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member09 Jul 2017 1:45 p.m. PST

The whole NK equation is a tangle of complexity and uncertainty.

A few things might simplify it. The first is if you assume the NK leadership is NOT "insane" or suicidal, but basically, like most of us, preoccupied with personal survival within the arena they find themselves. Launching an unprovoked attack on SK (or the US, or Japan) I find much less likely than in 1950 (when they virtually rolled down the entire peninsula, which I doubt they could replicate today under any circumstances) and would likely be a suicidal course.

If we assume that NK, which has faced isolation and sanctions for years, simply craves survival of its current system, then it makes perfect sense for them to seek a nuclear deterrent. They are not fools and they have seen what happened to enemies of the US who did NOT have nukes. (A message Iran could also be weighing.)

The US has lived under the specter of Soviet/Russian and Chinese nukes for decades and not seen fit to launch a sneak attack on either, but has played the strategic patience game and waited for these potential opponents to evolve into less adversarial relationships. Might this be the sensible if unglamorous way to manage the Korean problem? Making NK feel less threatened, not more, could achieve results. The old approach isn't working.

Tempted as Washington may be to "pre-emptively attack" with "surgical strikes" and to "incapacitate leadership" my feeling is that this will result in an exchange of fire across the border that will be as bad as what we think we are avoiding -- and I can't help but also feel that too much of the US public is oblivious to the helplessness SK and Japan must feel at being the ones would would suffer the most.

The US has been rushing into wars headlong for a long time now, and seldom have they turned out the way the "experts" have predicted. I would wait a long time before I started another war of choice halfway across the globe.

Also worth reading for background, on The Nation: link

Personal logo Patrick R Supporting Member of TMP10 Jul 2017 3:39 a.m. PST

I think it would be unwise to assume the NK leadership is insane. But they can be fallible, short-sighted or overly set in their ways.

People make the mistake of approaching leadership from the political angle, establishing where on the spectrum you belong and evaluate you from that angle. It's far more helpful to examine it from the angle of power, who is in charge and who helps to keep you in power and most importantly who gets the money …

North Korea is strongly hierarchic, the advantage for those on top is that people need to jump many steps before they are in a position of any power, this is in contrast with say many African dictators who take control of the main money generating opportunities and dole them out to their main supporters. In such countries a desk and a single stamp is a major source of revenue because the amount of money you make is inverse to the time between the application and the moment you do stamp it. Want to expedite it ? It will cost you.

So money keeps the underlings in Africa happy, fear is what keeps them in check in North Korea. The political system allows you to carefully regulate how people fit in society. Fail at any level and you are punished or purged. So you cultivate a system where people automatically reinforce the system because of their desire to get an extra benefit.

This doesn't mean everyone believes in the system or actually believes that birds sing the national anthem on the national holiday. Although if you are particularly good at self-delusion or lack any form of analytical thinking you probably will believe it with all your heart. The real problem is that these people are a boon to the system, they are the believers (and those with serious Stockholm syndrome) who can be motivated to march to the drum, and the rest will follow out of fear and coercion.

It also explains why we didn't have to deprogram millions of people once a regime fell, simply because the majority follow the system but few internalize it. And despite many attempts we have yet to reach 1984 levels of mind control.

So when it comes to North Korea we realize that a core group of people have a mutual benefit in keeping the system going. The Kim family, those they trust to run things for them and a bunch of people who mooch off the system and would have nowhere else to go if it breaks down.

What does this mean for the Korean military system ? In a dictatorship the military serves three purposes, the main one is a system where key people who help keep the regime in power are rewarded (rank, privileges etc) They also help to keep the population in check and deal with the threat of foreign powers.

This may come as a shock but dictatorships rarely have good armies. What about the USSR and nazi Germany you ask ?

The nazis are the big exception, they inherited what was a democratic nation where the average citizen had a fair amount of personal freedom and opportunities, the state had an authoritarian slant and a strong militaristic tradition. The nazis simply used the democratic capital of the nation to generate and then throw money at the military class to unleash a series of wars.

The USSR was a nation fighting for its survival in WWII and did everything right do so. Let's remember that before the war the Red Army had been trounced in Poland and Finland and didn't perform very well after the war in places like Afghanistan.

Most dictatorships need to play a careful game between making sure their personal safety is guaranteed and making sure that the army does stay on their side. Often you get two tier forces, an army with a large number of conscripts with a bare minimum of training, equipment etc, but who get paid just enough to make it more interesting than staying at home all day. Alternatively like NK, you use violence and coercion to keep the conscripts in line) On the other side you units like Republican Guards, Gendarmerie Nationale, Garde Du President, Guardians of the Revolution, National Guard, Red Guards etc who are well-paid, loyal to the leadership and capable enough to keep both internal and external threats at bay.

This means that the average dictator often has piss-poor armies that look impressive on paper and rarely achieve anything. In the heyday of dictatorships having a big army wasn't an achievement, aligning yourself with one of the great powers meant that your equipment came almost for free, it was often second-rate, or surplus, but it gave the impression you had strength of numbers.

A prime example are the various Arab-Israeli wars. On paper the combined Arab nations had a bigger population, greater GDP and a massive military budget compared to Israel. On a level playing field the Israelis might get lucky once or twice, but sooner or later they would simply be overrun. But if you look closer, you find that the Israeli military budget doesn't cover a lot of money going to the soldiers themselves, whereas the Arab military budgets mean that doing a few parades each year and look impressive in uniform can net you several thousands of dollars, which is a huge incentive to join the army, support the regime and cultivate a thorough understanding that having to fight an enemy is actually very dangerous.

So the Arabs are in it for the money, the Israeli is in it for their personal survival, they don't get a massive bonus at the end of the war.

The most blatant example is the Yom Kippur war. While Syria sent wave after wave of conscripts to be slaughtered on the Golan heights, Egypt had carefully planned the con of the century. They were under the absolute certainty that they couldn't defeat the Israeli, unless it would be a long, protracted war where they would have to fight for every inch of ground, and have to deal with a massive cost in lives and money and an even unhappier population afterwards with nothing to show for than that they had "erased the nation of Israel from the map" Even if you figure in plunder, it's simply counter-productive at every level.

So the Egyptians decided that they could have their cake and eat it if they were smart about it. They would use their elite forces to break through the Bar-Lev line and then rush to set up their own defensive line while pretending they were attacking. The Israelis were still mobilizing en masse and their only resource was to send in the tanks as fast as possible to counter-attack the Egyptians moving into the Sinai, but without infantry support. Unfortunately the Egyptians had anticipated this and sent hundreds of AT teams with missiles to blast the attacking tanks to pieces because they lacked proper infantry support. The next counter-attack the Israelis had mobilized enough infantry to launch a proper attack and pushed the Egyptians back to their predefined defensive line which was convenient for both sides as it allowed the Egyptians to claim a victory and allowed the Israelis to switch some forces to drive the Syrians back to Damascus and soundly defeat them.

Two dictatorships went up against a democracy fighting for its life, one had a clever plan, the other went to war and was soundly beaten because its army does not have the drive or the means to fight effectively.

Translated at North Korea we know that they have a huge army, much of it is obsolete, they have a ridiculously poor logistics system, spares and supplies are low at best. If NK finds itself at war it must attack by the simple virtue that trying to hold the border would be suicidal, because any mistake could mean a catastrophic rout that would destroy the regime. Attacking is equally suicidal but it figures in the 38th parallel.

No matter what happens, China and Russia will draw the line at the 38th parallel and a return to the status quo (though the odds that China will force a regime change is more than likely)

But war is not the ultimate goal of North Korea, war would be the worst failure possible as the con is simply to use the threat of war to continue to racketeer money to keep going until somewhere down the line the system breaks down.

Now China would like nothing more than to see the system change, but they don't want to see millions of NK's flee into China in a period where leadership remains in limbo. So China is stuck as well because ironically the cost of a disintegrating North Korea is lower than keeping it around …

28mm Fanatik10 Jul 2017 7:21 a.m. PST

The globalist establishment and warmongering interventionists will find a way to make a case for war to further their goals and agendas, like they've always done.

And the lemming public will once again blindly put their trust in their leadership and support the troops in yet another ill-advised military adventure like they've always done.

The Military-Industrial-Congressional-Think Tank Complex has learned its Vietnam lessons well.

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