North Korea re­quires re­solve and cau­tion

Cherokee County Herald - - VIEWPOINTS -

In the cold re­al­ity of in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions, the bold­ness ex­hib­ited by Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump in his first 100 days is far prefer­able to the timid­ity of the past eight years of the for­mer ad­min­is­tra­tion. Nev­er­the­less, the “art of the deal” prob­a­bly is the best and least dan­ger­ous op­tion for deal­ing with North Korea. De­spite Kim Jong-Un’s out­ra­geous rhetoric, bizarre be­hav­ior, and bru­tal elim­i­na­tion of po­ten­tial threats to his rule, he seems more so­cio­pathic than in­sane. Ul­ti­mately, Kim lives like a de­bauched, an­cient, Asian despot, and a good bet would be that he prob­a­bly wants to con­tinue liv­ing to de­bauch to his self’s con­tent. His be­hav­ior is more akin to that of a rat­tlesnake rather than an ob­sessed tyrant like Adolf Hitler who, be­ing in­sane, pre­ferred Got­ter­dammerung to loss of power.

Ad­di­tion­ally, Kim and North Korea’s mil­i­tary lead­er­ship are far dif­fer­ent from the Is­lamist ji­hadists in Raqqa and, for that mat­ter, the mul­lahs in Tehran with their Ar­maged­don mind­sets bent on a nu­clear war to ad­vance their end-times sce­nar­ios cul­mi­nat­ing in var­i­ous it­er­a­tions of global, Is­lamic caliphates. Though he seems reck­less, Kim Jong-Un does not want World War III. Nei­ther do the lead­ers in Bei­jing. The in­stinct to sur­vive to keep on be­hav­ing badly is what makes so­cio-paths so dan­ger­ously cun­ning.

While ten­sions be­tween Wash­ing­ton and Py­ongyang rise, it’s time to for the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion to take a breath and eval­u­ate op­tions. Although the North Korean regime can­not sur­vive a war with the United States, the costs could be as­tro­nom­i­cal for South Korea, the United States, and China. Here’s why: The ground forces in North Korea’s Peo­ple’s Army num­ber over one mil­lion, with up to seven times that num­ber in re­serve. More than 3,500 to 4,000 tanks and an es­ti­mated 2,000 ar­mored fight­ing ve­hi­cles support North Korean in­fantry. Es­ti­mates in­di­cate there are over 8,000 ar­tillery pieces and 5,000 mo­bile rocket launch­ers, many of them ze­roed in on Seoul, 30 miles south of the Demil­i­ta­rized Zone.

Be­cause the North Korean Air Force is an­ti­quated, much of Py­ongyang’s mil­i­tary would be dev­as­tated in the first few days of fight­ing. The ap­prox­i­mately 1,200 com­bat air­craft in the NKAF are Soviet-era legacy sys­tems, the lat­est ac­quired dur­ing the 1980s. In ad­di­tion to be­ing ob­so­lete, most NKAF planes are flown by in­ex­pe­ri­enced and poorly trained pi­lots. Amer­i­can fighter pi­lots re­ceive more train­ing in a month than North Korean fly­ers ob­tain in a year. Fear of po­ten­tial de­fec­tions to the South keep NKAF pi­lots un­der rigid con­trol. Lack of ex­pen­sive jet fuel also in­hibits train­ing.

The fangs are in North Korea’s in­te­grated air-de­fense sys­tem’s sur­face-toair mis­sile and anti-air­craft ar­tillery. Much of this sys­tem pro­tects ar­tillery de­ployed along the fron­tier. Ad­di­tion­ally, self-pro­pelled SAMs can ad­vance with the in­fantry. Nu­clear and mis­sile sites rely on SAMs and AAA for pro­tec­tion. It is likely enough North Korean Peo­ple’s Army ar­tillery will sur­vive long enough to dev­as­tate Seoul, in­jure and kill thou­sands, pos­si­bly scores of thou­sands of civil­ians, while deal­ing a crip­pling blow to the Asian econ­omy, to in­clude China’s and, by ex­ten­sion, those of the United States and Ja­pan.

Un­less Kim Jong- Un is in­sane — which he prob­a­bly is not — start­ing a war with the United States would be sui­ci­dal. Pro­vok­ing him with even a lim­ited mil­i­tary strike, how­ever, would be like step­ping on a rat­tlesnake. The re­sponse will be swift and dev­as­tat­ing. Kim will con­tinue his weapons-de­vel­op­ment pro­grams, even if Pres­i­dent Trump or­ders those mis­siles shot out of the air or oth­er­wise dis­abled—which could pro­voke Kim into a mil­i­tary re­sponse. While many of their mis­sile launch sites are above ground and there­fore vul­ner­a­ble to U.S. airstrikes, some are con­cealed. Most of their nu­clear fa­cil­i­ties are deep un­der­ground and rel­a­tively in­vul­ner­a­ble to any­thing other than nu­clear strikes.

Fi­nally, U.S. mil­i­tary forces have not re­cov­ered from rav­ages of 16 years of de­ploy­ments to Afghanistan and Iraq, se­quester-driven bud­get cuts that dev­as­tated main­te­nance and train­ing, and per­son­nel poli­cies fo­cused on pro­pound­ing a so­cio-po­lit­i­cal agenda that drove many warfight­ers to res­ig­na­tion or early re­tire­ment. Amer­i­can armed forces need re­build­ing and rearm­ing as well as a re­formed fo­cus to­ward warfight­ing with de­stroy­ing the en­emy as the ul­ti­mate goal.

North Korea is ruled by a so­cio­pathic per­son­al­ity in­ured to bru­tal­ity ex­ceed­ing any­thing by Uganda’s Idi Amin and Haiti’s Fran­cois “Papa Doc” Du­va­lier. What’s needed is regime change. The use of Amer­i­can mil­i­tary force could prove dev­as­tat­ingly ex­pen­sive in blood. The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s best al­ter­na­tive is to ratchet up pres­sure on China to af­fect regime change in Py­ongyang. Ad­di­tion­ally, it should re­quest full fund­ing for the Boe­ing Mid­course Ground Based De­fense Sys­tem de­signed to shoot down in­com­ing mis­siles.

Earl Til­ford, Ph. D., is a mil­i­tary his­to­rian and fel­low for the Mid­dle East & ter­ror­ism with The Cen­ter for Vi­sion & Val­ues at Grove City Col­lege.

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