Thursday, April 11

North Korea v The World





   The real question Western war planners have been asking since the Korean Armistice in 1953 and especially in the years since the demise of the Cold War and rise of China has been:

   How much incoming artillery can Seoul take?

   Because that's the cost of any war on the Korean Peninsula today.

   For all of the North's bluster the real calculation comes down to a very simple equation. At what point in the cost benefit analysis does the price of appeasement (food, fuel, tech and free HBO for Kim Jong Un) become more expensive than patching up Seoul after a NK artillery and rocket bombardment? To use a crude metaphor, war on the Korean peninsula is a lot like you stepping in dog shit on your way to a party. You've got two choices, wipe it off in public or let everyone deal with the smell. The question here, and bear with me here for a sec, is, who wins this clash of opposing realities; the dog shit or your shoe?

   In many ways, the answer is no one.

   For war planners right now, North Korea is the dog shit. It's just far easier and cheaper to avoid war on the Korean peninsula than win. At least, that's the conventional paradigm that held true during Kim Jong Il's 17 year reign. Western media portrayed Kim Jong Il as a crazy, lonely leader with a penchant for Hennessey, Bogart movies and nukes but omitted the fact that being crazy was the only card he had to play; dealt to him in a pretty shitty poker hand after the Cold War ended and NK lost the Soviet Union as a benefactor. Bluffing his way through the game on two pair got him oil and grain and street cred and there was always the chance he'd go full retard anyway and do something really crazy and launch something significant. Sure, that'd mean his regime's instant demise but the idea behind cultivated crazy is that you just might do it... because you're crazy.

   Crazy buys you leeway and means you don't have to operate under normal "rules".

   His son is trying to play the same hand but doesn't seem to understand that the house rules have changed. For one thing, China is sick of North Korea's shit. They just want to keep exporting Wal Mart inventory and soaking up bank and any war on the Korean peninsula will dent cash flow. Also, it'll mean an influx of destabilizing starving NK peasants flooding across the Yalu river into Dan dong which will be very bad for business.

   China no longer knows how to deal with this war.

   So, like everything war wise at the moment, it's left up to the Americans to figure it out.

  Meanwhile, the South Koreans have done their own cost benefit analysis and are approaching a tipping point. The tipping point where putting up with North Korea's bullshit might not be worth it anymore. With a functional nuke in the mix, it's only a matter of time before real and permanent damage could be done to Seoul and the South Koreans are beginning to total up the possible losses today versus say, three years from now, and suddenly they're realizing that it might be cheaper to take the horrible tasting medicine today and let the air strikes begin. The alternative is North Korean nuke hegemony not only in the Pacific Theatre but 40 miles north of their fabulous and gleaming gangnam capital. That's so destabilizing it makes international capitalism shit a gold brick. Of course, the theory that South Korea can retalitate to provocation only works if the Chinese and US are onboard and we're probably not at that point. Yet. But one thing is for sure and that's that the South will not sit idly by if the DPRK bombards an island or torpedoes a corvette like the shit they pulled on the Cheonan in 2010.


The North Korean's Pentium II based missile tech. Google blocks them from downloading more RAM.


   The US, for their part, would like this to go away. One thing you've got to say for the Obama administration is that they play a smart game when it comes to conflict. Unlike Bush. They are a bunch of smart nerds who play a mean game of Civ II and they'd like a pragmatic result which would be cheap, non messy and non confrontational. This, ideally, would take the form of North Korea collapsing all by itself (something which can happen but will take time) and is itself a risky gambit because it seems all of this North Korean belligerence is driven by internal pressure among the country's elites sensing the end of the gravy train. The problem with further appeasement and stand off soft pressure is that it is likely to lead to a shooting war anyway.

   This war is starting to enter the realm of possibility and it may be time to grab the popcorn folks.

   Just don't microwave it yet. I'm still not feeling this war. The North Koreans do self preservation pretty well and if the shooting starts it will only be because of a fundamental misunderstanding of the situation on their part. The failure of their society and the internal pressure release valving among their elites is pushing Kim Jong Un, the young neophyte, into crazy territory and that's the kind of mistake failed states make. The bubble you're in distorts the image of the outside reality to the point where pulling a trigger becomes a viable release. If they fire a missile at the wrong place it'll be up there with Gallipoli or, more pertinently, Mac Arthur's failure to properly assess the DPRK's intentions when they invaded the South in 1950 and the Chinese human wave follow up across the Yalu River that hammered the US 8th Army that November.

   Of course, if the trigger gets pulled, this war will be over very quickly. Nothing I've said before about this war changes. The DPRK, despite the media reports on active troop numbers will crumble faster than Saddam's forces in Gulf War I. All that crappy Warsaw Pact era equipment will evaporate to precision weaponry in days and counter battery fire from the South will pin point and neutralize NK artillery north of Seoul pretty damn fast. The only costly part would be having to occupy and take Pyongyang because who wants it?

   Again, it's all a matter of just how much damage Seoul is willing to take in the initial bombardment.

   The real question I heard somebody raise a while back is the moral issue that North Korea presents.

  Remember that argument, often made, that if the Allies really knew (which they did) about the Nazi concentration camps, why didn't they try to do something about it? There are plenty of examples of prison break missions in WWII, like say Operation Jericho, and the question often gets asked as to why the Allies didn't try something similar when it came to the death camps. Sure, there are truckloads of reasons why that wouldn't have been a sound military operation but military history is a fickle beast prone to hindsight.

   And yet in North Korea right now you have all the conditions present for pre emptive war that were not present when the US air dropped a few trillion into Iraq. If Western democracy and specifically the US and UK want to hold true to the 21st century  "bring democracy to the oppressed peoples" narrative they themselves established, then the fair question is, "where will you find a better candidate?" Of course, being realistic, that just means that TV talk and total media saturation is just high penetration bullshit. We already know why not. Still, if the world had principles (if it ever had), 'pre emptive war' would make sense outside of Middle East deserts.

   1) Remove an aggressive, unstable, proven nuclear armed state from a strategic region.

    North Korea sure checks the box on this. Right now, Iran is being sanctioned to hell by everybody and they don't even have a capable warhead. Meanwhile in North Korea everyone is handling those assholes with kid gloves. Sure, China needs to give the go ahead but they weren't too excited about Iraq either. The reason this is not happening is because they've got nothing anybody wants and the cold hard facts of conflict are that nobody goes to war for free; they go to war for resources.

   2) Get rid of an evil regime and bring "democracy" to the oppressed people. (The moral imperative).

    North Korea has death camps. North Korea has slave labor. North Korea is like Saddam Hussein's Iraq on bath salts. And yet nobody gives a shit all of a sudden. Why? Probably it's down to strategic resources, China's proximity and Pacific Theater strategic concerns but let's face, when you cut through the bullshit of war and war's alarms, intervention on the Korean peninsula still fails the cost benefit analysis.

  3) The aftermath of North Korea's 'liberation' would not be pretty. Especially if delivered via foreign weaponry. That's 25 million people switching hard and fast to the 21st century. It'd be on par with teleporting a bunch of  Mayflower Pilgrims to Times Square in 2013. It's going to look like hell multiplied by Jesus divided by where the fuck am I?

   It's not gangnam style.

   It's chaos.

   And nobody wants to pay that price.

   Yet.

    


39 comments:

  1. Finally! I was wondering when you'd comment on this. Love your analysis and your analogies as usual.

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  2. Great article Wartard. But I'm still confused. Is this war going to happen or not?

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    1. Unlikely, no one wants to deal with the shitstorm that would ensue. As WT said, the only way this happens is A) if US/China/SK get all pre-emptive because they want to cut NK off before they get nukes beyond the things dropped in WW2 (We're not sure that they could put one in Seoul right now, but they'll be able to in a few years if tehy can't already) or B) If NK has a death wish/is crazy enough/loses control of it's military/tries to pull off a show of force (misjudging what SK might actually do in response).

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    2. WarTards blog is very entertaining and very informative.

      Still you ask "is this war going to happen or not?" Cut the man a break and accept that nobody can predict the future. Especially when it comes to war.

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  3. "It's going to look like hell multiplied by Jesus divided by where the fuck am I?"

    Great to have you back wartard.

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  4. "North Korea is like Saddam Hussein's Iraq on bath salts". Heh.

    Awesome read as always Wartard, good to see you're still alive!

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  5. I was waiting to here your take on all of this, and I wasn't disappointed. Great read as all ways. Let's hope this just stays at NK acting like a belligerent drunk waving their dick around. And not a drunken bar room brawl this has the potential to be.

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  6. I've been glued to North Korean war reports and hoping against hope that WarTard would explain the situation to me.

    Now I understand.

    The human race is screwed. It's just a timeframe issue. Fuck!

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  7. Just in time for tomorrow's Tikkunista. So well played.

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  8. Serious subject, so guess I shouldn't laugh, but N Koreans as Mayflower Pilgrims teleported to Times Square...

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  9. Yay! I have been coming back to your blog the past few days hoping for a post on the North Korea situation. Welcome back!

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  10. Rahwa Tesfai GhermaiApril 12, 2013 at 12:34 AM

    That's some great and insightful writing you've got going on there but my view is that the West is NOT handling NK with kid gloves, I think that the West treats NK like an uncool kid who says the wrong things, wears the wrong clothes and DEFINITELY has the wrong hairstyle...A little empathy, acceptance and warmth goes a long way. Western media lies, bullying and exaggerations are part and parcel of the NK problem.

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    1. Rahwa Tesfai GhermaiApril 19, 2013 at 7:44 AM

      Just one more thing...
      I am having a really hard time commiserating myself to the obviously sane and anti-war blogger's epithet of "because war retards humans" and the go-ahead-and-bomb-'em spirit of this article...
      War really DOES retard people, nations such as my own have been seriously retarded by war and continue to be retarded by it even today. If we have reached the point where the size of my weapons poses a threat so great that it could mean the end of us all, perhaps it is time to put away our weapons and stop warring altogether?

      PS Jesus was a black man and a pacifist he multiplied fish and loaves not nukes or nuking.

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  11. PC XT with DDoS payloads... gold, 10/10

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  12. Top article mate. I love this blog.

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  13. "War and war's alarms"

    I spotted the Yeat's "Politics" reference:)

    Great read. Thanks.

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  14. Great article as always!

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  15. Genious... Man you should be hired by the History Channel or the BBC! Anyway, Kerry just finished his meeting with chinese... do you think he made some pact to strike NK together in the following days?
    Greetings from Leipzig, this year marking the 200th anniversary of the Battle of the Nations

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  16. The flaw in this story: North Korea has trillions of dollars of mineral resources. This is confirmed by foreign investment companies. Why would nobody want that land??

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    1. Care to provide a source on that?

      If North Korea have all these trillions why are they starving instead of exporting these mineral resources for Yuan? Why? Because they don't exist. China craves minerals, if North Korea had them, they'd be the perfect export market.

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    2. North Korea lacks the infrastucture (and in some cases specialist equipment) to make mining and exporting the minerals viable. It can't receive suitable foreign investment due to all the trade restrictions etc.
      Also are you sure that China craves these? I think they actually export a lot of their own minerals already.

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  17. I too been waiting your view -Thanks

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  18. Did John Kerry and the Chinese make a deal this weekend?

    Something along the lines of "OK if the N Koreans don't knock off this bullshit in 6 months, you can invade USA so long as you cover the place in Walmarts we Chinese supply".

    Great piece WT.

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  19. The last few articles have been pretty poor. Wartard is now more entertainment than actual credible analysis of the situations.

    " The DPRK, despite the media reports on active troop numbers will crumble faster than Saddam's forces in Gulf War I"

    NK's military is in an endgame, they'll fight to the death and they have been brainwashed(taking the western line) for generations, they will not be disjointed as Saddam's forces did.

    Don't ever underestimate the human will to fight under collectivative motivation and in synchronization. A cornered and wounded animal fights with much ferocity.

    NK might eventually lose the hypothetical War but the amount of damage they'll do would be unprecedented since the WW2.

    So no it most likely won't crumble faster than Gulf War I

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    1. There will to fight will not matter at all when they're being hit with cruise missiles and air strikes. The N. Koreans would fight exactly the kind of conventional war that America is supreme at. It would be fast and ugly.

      There's a quote from WWI that went something like: "All the courage in the world cannot stand against gunfire." We can rewrite it: "All the gunfire in the world cannot stand against high altitude bombing and missiles."

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  20. The overriding consideration in the north korean response, or lack thereof, is simply the lack of resources in best korea. America is active in south america, africa, the middle east and the pacific, everywhere there are resources to be had, war and/or political destabilisation follow, presaged by americas hidden hand.

    america has nothing to gain from a north korean intervention, and south korea and japan have nothing left to entice america into an intervention. north korea remaining north korea is much more valuable to america than a reunified korea, which would be difficult to avoid during any war of "liberation".

    I think wartard is ultimately right, best korea is safe until they force america's hand. if anything, it will be china that will pull up on best koreas reigns.

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  21. ps. welcome back wartard, we missed you.

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  22. The big question is what will China do? Will they sit back and let North Korea implode? The disruptive effect of starving North Koreans crossing the Yalu River might be the least-worst response.

    China might send "volunteers" to assist the North Koreans but is more likely to sneak a few trains of supplies across the border when the satellites aren't looking.

    China values internal peace and prosperity over anything else. If word got out of ANY Chinese involvement in a Korean conflict, their exports will face a massive backlash from western consumers to embargoes or punitive tariffs from western governments. With Chinese goods sitting idle on the docks and orders cancelled or not renewed, the factories will start laying off workers to cut costs, and millions (or tens of millions) of hungry workers are a domestic issue the PRC does not want to deal with.

    If anything, China would consider a unified Korea under Seoul leadership a preferable option if they are non-aggressive to China and China may assist with their own end-game decapitation strike on Pyongyang. The social and economic unification of the Koreas may take a few generations at least to overcome the propaganda and infrastructure issues. It took nearly 20 years for East and West Germany to be unified (effectively a generation) and East Germany was the powerhouse economy of the Eastern Block/Warsaw Pact nations.

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  23. Another excellent post. I've been waiting for ages.

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  24. A Kim family monument was defaced recently in NK.

    http://nation.time.com/2013/04/19/kim-family-mural-blown-down-in-north-korea/

    Just goes to show, there is dissent there. This country is not as rigidly controlled as advertised. (The US ideal scenario is NK collapses all by itself.

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  25. I didn't read ore than the first few co ents because it is obvious that there is so ething going on other than 'North Korea is the next big evil'. Who trusts the US Government or military at this stage? No one does. My ' ' key is broken to signify the 'launch all nukes' keyword, you dumbwits... The only retarded thing about our Western Society is that kids can read all this bull and grow up believing that the West is righteous and that peoples cultures that do not economically aid our own are bad and are probably run by terrorists. That idea is the real retardation, and it is ours. Think for yourselves people. North Korea is clearly dangerous, but the US has weapons than can kill us all, and control us all, if we allow it. If we allow this type of propoganda madness to become reality our kids kids standard of life will be but a shadow of our own.

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    1. There have been empires for thousands of years and in the future they're only going to get bigger. Deal with it. People have a lot less free will than you give them credit for, and nobody gets to choose what society they're born into.

      And all those weapons you're so angry about have led to the most peaceful period ever. As in since we evolved as a species ever. When you can somehow explain this fact away I'll be a lot more inclined to agree with you.

      Besides, this isn't propaganda. Go watch "Seal Team Six" to find out what real propaganda is like.

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  26. Possible new Column?

    Do you get any sense on the use of nukes in Syria as mentioned by J1m St0ne? When I review the footage, I am inclined towards the use of one 'burrowing' nuke...

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  27. This post is almost completely worthless.

    Here's what will really happen if NK does something stupid enough to provoke serious military response from SK or the USA. There are two possibilities:

    1. Air/missile strikes on NK. A lot of NKs will be killed, the US recession will get worse and that's about it.

    2. The US decides to invade NK. The chinese will not let this happen. If the US is stupid enough to press the issue there will be a real shooting war in asia. The chinese may launch their own "police action" in NK just to keep other forces out.

    Wartard talks about chinese exports to walmart, etc. China owns $1.2 trillion (about 8 percent) of publicly held U.S. debt. The US cannot afford to piss off china. Anyone who says the US should default on it's debt to china is a moron. China has already stated they would consider that an act of war. China would have no hesitation to "encourage" the US to completely withdraw from asia with a few tactical nukes. This means no US bases in SK, japan, or the philippines.

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  28. Coming up to 2 months since the last post, so I thought I should say hi :)

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  29. Hey wartard, can we get an analysis of the ongoing Console War?

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  30. China would never accept a Unified Korea that is a U.S. ally. They don't want U.S. troops, planes, etc. on the other side of the Yalu River.

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    1. You are damn right! If the U.S. Gov does not understand this, hello WWIII!

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