There are two useful articles in the National Post:
- First, Matthew Fisher, who has thought and written a lot about war and military matters ~ and a lot of he’s written makes sense ~ explains how we might go about “Imagining the unthinkable — what would happen if the U.S. attacked North Korea;” but
- Second, Andrew Coyne explains that, for now, anyway, “The Korean Missile Crisis of 2017 ended the only way it could have: with the capitulation of the United States.”
Mr Fisher’s review of the conventional (non-nuclear) “tool kit” available to the US military is very informative. Even ICBMs can be fitted, fairly quickly I hope, with very large conventional warheads. I don’t know the size but I have read reports that say that the US has 4,000 KG (nearly 9,000 pounds) warhead ~ that’s about the payload of one World War II Lancaster bomber. A modern, USAF B2 bomber can carry 40,000 pounds of conventional bombs, a F-35 can carry 4,000 pounds of conventional bombs in addition to missiles, etc.
The problems with a massive conventional attack are:
- It might be mistaken for a nuclear attack with horrendous consequences; and
- If it is not perfectly timed and executed it might leave the DPRK with the capacity to inflict terrible damage on South Korea.
It is for those reasons that Andrew Coyne suggests that a military option is, indeed, unthinkable and that President Trump’s bluster is a signal of his manifest unsuitability for the high office he holds.
The Cold War has turned into a “bluster war,” says Elliot Hannon in Slate, and Mr Coyne is right: North Korea is winning it because President Trump does not, in my opinion, have any clear strategic aim beyond bluster while the North Koreans do ~ their, the DPRK’s, aim is to secure their status as a sovereign state: to make it impossible ( too costly) for anyone to “take them down” and make them a mere province or a few prefects of a reunified Korea.
There is no good reason for military action against North Korea unless it is clear that they are preparing a strike ~ any sort of strike ~ against someone else. Then the response really, really ought to be from China.
I agree with former US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton that China is “the only answer” to solving the North Korean dilemma. My belief ~ I have no insider knowledge ~ is that China’s price for a peaceful solution is that America must withdraw from Korea. My guess is that China wants a reunified Korea, with South Korea in the socio-economic-political driver’s seat, because South Korea is much, much more important to China than is North Korea, but China does not need a reunified Korea at any price. If China cannot be persuaded ~ by an American promise to leave the Asian mainland ~ to reunify Korea then there is, I suspect, no peaceful solution.
The key, it seems to me, is for South Korea and the USA (and any others who can) to share the best intelligence they have with the Chinese. My guess is that when you look at a picture of all those DPRK generals you really should see something like this:
I suspect that most of the most senior North Koreans know that their only future lies in a reunified Korea and that the major obstacle to peace is Kim Jong-un … but he is, to be charitable, a fruitcake. (But then I also suspect that many, many American generals think the same about Donald Trump.)
War is not inevitable, it may not even be very likely, but it has spooked at lot of people, all over the world. America has, likely, once again, lost this undiplomatic exchange. The twenty year old game of lies and sanctions and threats and more lies has not worked. It is time for a new strategy … one that puts China in the leading role.