This month's arty exchanges on the Korean peninsula had me loading up the microwave with popcorn. Sure I've said before that this war will never happen but what do I know? Military history is steeped in examples of shit getting way out of hand for no good reason. I'm thinking Franz Ferdinand eating a bullet in Sarajevo and 37 million people dying because of it. War is never supposed to make sense. If it did, there would be no fighting in the first place.
So the North Koreans whipped out their dicks again. Instead of sinking a ship, this time they laid down some indirect on a South Korean island. Interestingly, 20 of those shells were duds and gave SK investigators a chance to examine them. Turns out they're a new type of shell (new for the North Koreans anyway), a thermobaric type warhead, you know, a fuel-air bomb, the type the US were going to use to blow Bin Laden out of his non existent mountain fortress. Turns out they're pretty good against concrete too and they also come in quite handy when you'd like to start a lot of fires and watch the world burn.
That got me thinking.
Where could North Korean ordinance like that really act as a clusterfuck multiplier?
Obviously, it's Seoul. Everyone with even a passing interest in war knows the North Koreans have thousands of artillery pieces pointed at Seoul, a mere 35 miles from the DMZ. So supposing this shit were to go live, how would it play out? For fun, lets suppose some doc tells Kim Jong he's got two months to live and he decides to take the world down with him just for lulz. How would he go about it?
First off, what's he got?
Interestingly, the North is only ranked 20th in world military strength, that's eight places behind the South. This is mainly due to the glut of Soviet era equipment in the North's arsenal all of it inherited from the 'glory days' of the Cold War. Shitty Warsaw Pact tanks (T-62s, T- 54s, would you believe they even have 200 T-34s, you know, those legendary beauties that routed the Wehrmacht at Kursk in '43). All of this equipment was proven obsolete when Saddam fielded it in Gulf War I when it made nice missile fodder for US Apaches and A10s. None of it is equipped with night vision or infra red, stabilization of the main gun for firing on the move and all of it wields old school steel armor that you could cut open these days with a shaped charge fart.
The North's air force is equally laughable, consisting of Vietnam era fighters like MIG-17s, 19s and 23s. All that would be like fielding a bunch of World War I Sopwith Camels versus a squadron of P-51 Mustangs. As a SK or US pilot, you wouldn't be able to pull the trigger fast enough while laughing manically in your cockpit and jizzing profusely into your G pants. The South Koreans and US Navy would have a wankfest engaging that force if the North Koreans ever attempted to fly it.
So the only thing Kim Jong and his Hennessy bottle have left to throw realistically at the South is their million man infantry (4 million in reserve) and their arty which they've got a decent amount of. Oh, and a possible nuke. Probably not because their recent attempts fizzled and got laughed off the Richter scale when detonated underground and measured by the Americans. Still, I have this fantasy that they've got a viable warhead they could air burst 10 miles up over Seoul which would act as an EMP device and knock out all the electronics in the capital. That's a lot of angry Starcraft players rioting on your streets.
So it all comes down to the arty.
The North launches everything they've got at Seoul and causes mega casualties. That's the threat, their ace in the hole. That is the reason why nobody in the South or the US wants this shit to go live. How many people will die in that initial barrage? That's the awful question that makes the South Koreans swallow a ship sinking and an artillery barrage on their own territory. A rich modern industrial nation can do without a war with a sick neighbor throwing a tantrum.
Despite the mega casualties, South Korea will win. The US and SK will lay waste the North in a month. And that's where China comes in. That's why they don't want this war to happen either. North Korea is their buffer zone against capitalism. LOL seriously! China still has this hard on for the memory of Chairman Mao and any reminder on their border of the fact that they are actually a 'police-state-centrally-controlled-capitalistic-mega zone' pisses them off majorly. It offends their ideological image of themselves as 'communists'. They're a lot like the US in that respect... where the reality of themselves today fails to live up to the dream of themselves written in their founding books long ago.
After the initial flurry of steel rain on Seoul, refugees heading South, fires burning, possibly street battles in Seoul between SK troops and the North's special forces who could possibly infiltrate the capital through tunnel networks that may or may not be viable. Still, without armor this force will mostly be a futile dick waving exercise so Kim Jong can feel good about being the mighty victor to his brainwashed zombie population in Pyongyang.
The US and South Koreans will probably begin a co ordinated air campaign next, targeting North Korean radar sites initially and also going after as much of that arty North of Seoul as they can. I can see that being a turkey shoot of epic proportions for the US and South Korean pilots. That along with counter battery fire from the South should quieten the North's artillery to a manageable level (mobile potshots from self propelled arty hiding under bridges and in tunnels excepted). Interestingly, this might be the time Kim decides to break out the chemical or biological weaponry and lay down a plague on Seoul. Holy shit things would get interesting then.
Next up for the South, Pyongyang. I can't see any scenario where regime change in the North doesn't become the primary objective. That'll involve a shock and awe bombing campaign going after Kim and his government administration. Pyongyang has a hornet's nest of AA but again a lot of that is going to be Soviet era shit. There'll be a lot of spray and pray and triple A rounds lighting up the sky like Baghdad in 1990.
The interesting part here is the land war. It's going to take time for the South to break through the DMZ. If the North have any brains they've probably got every square metre mined to fuck. Plus they'll have hundreds of hardened bunkers with AT weapons of all kinds. I wonder will we see another cool Inchon type amphibious landing like MacArthur pulled in 1950. Such a strategy skirting the DMZ would have its merits.
I'll have run out of popcorn by this stage.
When the North starts getting the shit kicked out of it it'll be interesting to see what China's next move will be. That's really where this thing has the chance to go global and shit starts getting real scary real fast. Obviously no one wants this and if the US/SK can kill Kim Jong fast and get some rational actor in there who agrees to a surrender in return for some Marshall type rebuilding plan, I can see things ending nicely for all parties.
Of course that's the optimistic scenario. And I'm never optimistic when it comes to war. Us bi pedal apes always manage to break out the crazy when the dogs of war are let loose so I can see all kinds of escalation events triggering. That's why I still say that this shit is never going to happen. It's just too risky for the US and China and the world...
So I say that popcorn is safe in my pantry.