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29 May 2009

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alnval

Col. Lang:

re "Doorman"

Or, perhaps Gen'l Casey is what G&S had in mind. The very model of a modern major general.

The more things change the more they stay the same. (I wish I could say that in French!)

Vile Whig

Not on the main topic, but what is with the way our top generals present themselves these days? Most of them, and Petreus is a prime example, seem to wear every single decoration they have ever received all the time. (When they are not in the field). They look like members of a junta or the cast of a movie set in a mythical principality. What happened to the Grant,Eisenhower, Marshall or hell, even MacArthur approach? Those generals all seemed pretty confident that everyone would figure out who they were and what they did without a lot of decoration.

Tom S

I am sure that the Navy and Air Force are drooling at the prospect of being turned loose on a conventional invasion of South Korea. Too bad about Seoul. However it's been rebuilt before.

par4

Hash marks on the sleeves denoting years of service is more impressive.We can fight more wars but we can hardly afford to.

Charles I

No, the DPRK is obviously completely off the rails. It is reported that they have thousand of artillery and mortar tubes trained on Seoul, well dug in. Likely deep enough to survive the initial "shifting of gears" long enough to level Seoul.

As long as they can sell enough arms to keep the the Juche koolaid on tap, its likely they could take their country straight to hell without much trouble. Certainly the last 8 years has seen a draw down of U.S. forces in Korea and the Pentagon's attention drawn largely elsewhere, particularly in a material sense.

If there will be a war, it will be a very disastrous one all around. Surely Russia, China and Japan have no taste for such a war and should be the parties most motivated and influential enough to deal with it.

I can't imagine China would take kindly to a nuclear strike on the DPRK, or a Korean ground war part II, which seem the only 2 possibilities so long as the West et al are in reactive mode.

Crazy buggers will do what they like, Mao told them whats a few million casualties the first go round.

Patrick Lang

ALNVAL

"Le plus ca change, le plus c'est le meme chose?" maybe?

par4

As I am sure you know "service stripes" or "hashmarks" appear only on enlisted uniforms.

pl

JohnH

Colonel, you miss the point: if the Pentagon is expected to fight two different kinds of war, it needs MONEY, lots of MONEY.

And don't try to argue that "War in its many forms has existed from time immemorial, often practised simultaneously in different conflicts or within the same conflict."

It only confuses our elected leaders.

Ronald

My recollection of the history is that the Korean war was started by Kim Il Sung with limited input (or enthusiasm) from Mao for the endeavor. Kim thought he could do it on his own, and China got involved only after we pushed so far north that the Chinese figured we might try to do what Chiang Kai Shek could not. Thus, the current lack of momma China or the USSR around probably does not protect us from those nuts in the DPRK.

If I am wrong on my Korean war history, I trust someone will let me know.

Neil Richardson

Colonel,

Well the Kims are "rational" if you broaden the definition (e.g., "bounded rationality"). What are Kim's basic assumptions/objectives upon which all his calculations are based? I'd guess them to be: 1) survival of his family, 2) the family control of the regime. Everything else falls below these two objectives. Over the years, every time there was a potential challenge to the Kims' rule, there were severe crackdowns and strategic shifts within the Communist bloc. Kim Il Sung was masterful in playing the Soviets and the Chinese against each other for years. According to Hwang Jang-yop, both Kims were traumatized by the fate of Ceausescu. The economic viability of North Korea (and I'd include survival of its people) falls far below these two goals and that is what makes his actions "rational."

And the ballistic missile research and nuclear armaments program are the only means to guarantee the survival of the regime against what Kim views as external threats (the US, the ROK). If Kim is even willing to cash them in, the price will be very very steep obviously and far above what the US and Japan would be willing to pay (For South Korea it might not as they fear the cost of reunification to be just below the resumption of the Korean War). Personally I just don't think Kim would ever give up nuclear weapons as I strongly suspect he believes it would allow him to lower the cost of conventional defense. The only comparative advantage (And surely even Kim knows that it's diminishing given the starvations over the last two decades. I recently had a chance to visit the JSA and I was stunned by how short the KPA personnel were. According to a Korean friend who'd served with the UNCSB, this has been the case for the last decade) is cheap labor and Kim Jong-Il certainly knows that you cannot maintain a million plus army with a diminishing population base.

Whether Kim's recently rumored stroke has had an effect in his decisionmaking, I guess no one could be sure. Still, I think we might be buying into the caricature of crazy Kims a little too readily IMHO. Kim Il Sung was pretty rational and cautious. If I had to pick a window of opportunity for North to invade it would have been 1967-1973. In fact I had expected the North to come down during Paul Bunyan, but they reacted very cautiously after we were on DEFCON 2. And they never budged during the Kwangju uprising when we expected them to at least mobilize - they weren't as forward deployed as they are today. So far nothing I've seen from Kim Jong Il indicates that he's that different from his father in terms of political objectives and means. People point to his peculiarities (e.g., his fascination with cinema but so was Stalin) as evidence of irrationality, but I just don't think it's that convincing. Both Kim Il Sung and Jong-Il took bold risks (e.g., raid on the Blue House for the father and the Rangoon attack/KAL bombing for the son) that seem irrational. However, I'd argue they were calculated attempts to decapitate the ROK leadership. To them this was a cheaper means to reunify the country because in their minds (and I'd stronlgy posit that they believe this crackpot Juche ideology to be relatively sound) once the head is cut off, the body dies.

curious

I am sure that the Navy and Air Force are drooling at the prospect of being turned loose on a conventional invasion of South Korea. Too bad about Seoul. However it's been rebuilt before.
Posted by: Tom S | 29 May 2009 at 12:15 PM


That would be the most expected and obvious move that everybody expect.


This is the Russian chess. Direct result of doing neocon lite/NATO gambit in eastern europe.

And I suspect, Hillary and the state department clowns right now think this is just little crazy north Korean throwing tantrum again. And they will move from one predictable blunder to another. until all of a sudden it's $200B war.

My guess:

1. The first North korean ship boarded will test the SPI. (I am guessing, UN will not approve this program. so Officially, this is piracy/declaration of war/breach of armistice.)

2. with that, we are officially have no armistice anymore. North Korea can and will board our ship.

3. as things escalate, we gonna find north korean equipments in the middle east being used against us.

4. SK president will lost next election and get kicked. (he is a Bushlite and everybody despise him down there. It is UTTERLY DUMB to make him sign that SPI. It accomplish nothing. clandestine operation is much more effective than this circus.)

...etc, etc . Anyway, every single guy who Bush kicks around now are helping NK overtly/covertly.

Underneath all that, we have Korean peninsula politics. Which clearly Hillary team has zero understanding. (The current SK president is a wingnut wacko that everybody hates. We should not do what the japanese wants, their view/animosity for korea is different. There is China and Russian interest in Asia too.)

Anyway, this is it folks, the big game. This is the russian big game.

Watch the oil price. My feeling, It will hoover around $80 soon, to add pressure to Obama to drop the NATO/neocon game altogether.

If I were Obama, I will review my diplomatic team. Because Hillary is not up to this game. (Do you know, she has the least experience and education among all secretary of states? No language, culture, residency experience, job, etc? She enters the spot, purely as politician.) She does not know how the piece moves together, she has no instinct. So this game is purely combo of Zbig + albright + neocon holdover.

Anyway, open your map and watch all the pieces moving together as if the world is conspiring against us. This is the chess game.

All those general and congress critter idiot should shut the hell up, and only adult diplomat talks. This is precision game.


Things can quickly turn from slightly unpleasant to deadly. (with nuke)

mike j

Of all the silly things in the press about the Norks, this silly thing made the most sense so far:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/merrill-markoe/i-know-what-to-do-about-k_b_208210.html

I think her diagnosis is spot on. Having to sit through his terrible operas would be punishing, but not as bad as a war.

Jose

Mieux vaut en paix un oeuf qu'en guerre un boeuf.

Old French saying, roughly translates into: Better eggs in peace, than Oxen (Beef) in war.

Most people think this is just a shake down for more eggs, but if we keep rewarding bad behavior we deserve this "childish tantrum" for Kobe Beef.

General Casey has so much "bling" and with all that gold, looks like a Rapper.

arbogast

It's not a comment, but one of the most arresting and moving books I've ever read was Breakout: The Chosin Reservoir Campaign, Korea 1950. I guess it contains pretty bad stuff directed at the regular Army and I'm not in a position to judge, but it is a classic tale of soldiers put into an impossible position by incompetent commanders far from the battle (MacArthur ignoring evidence that the Chinese were gathering in the hills in force) and making the best of it with pure heroism.

Oh, and I've read that if the North decides to attack the South, the first thing that will happen will be that Seoul will cease to exist. Not good.

Mark Logan

People like to rationalize
away unpleasant thoughts.
The current things I am reading from "experts" is that NK is so dependant on China for "stuff" that China would never permit it, it's all about succession..
Fairly good rationalizations. The military indulging in such is disconcerting, if indeed they are. I can imagine a directive to down play the
sabre rattling happening.
I do hope the general doesn't take it as a directive to not prepare
though.

I would have guessed that the prospect of being mistaken, at a glance, for Navy would have banished those cuffs.

It's not a logical world, is it?

srv

If bling wins wars, NK has got this one covered:

http://www.strangemilitary.com/images/content/110512.jpg

William R. Cumming

David Halberstram's last book (he died just before publication) "The Coldest Winter" has interesting take on Kim and Russian and Chinese interests. Russia was all for pushing envelope as long as they were not in any way made accountable. China weighed in only after Inchon Invasion indicated Kim has lost his gamble and might need major bailout. Long before McCarthur moved North China was carefully hedging its bets. Chinese and Koreans learned that airpower (land or naval based) meant that it was tough to find ways to fight in face of that fact. But they did quite well with movement at night etc. Now of course we know that N.Korea is totally tunnelled and can operate pretty completely against even round the clock air attack. So where does this leave US! The early tradition of this country was that the Secretary of States moved up to the Presidency. Happened often. If Biden leaves ticket Hillary would be obvious candidate for replacement. But this one will not be a US lead. Japan, S. Korea, and China all realize now what needs doing? Will they tell the US probably not. Probably will all be done below the level of press inquiry and US intel interest. They will all push regime change and de facto control over N.Korean diplomatic, military, and nuclear policy. This will be interesting because we are watching cultures that have easily a thousand years of history in this kind of intrigue. After all now all are totally dependent for demand driven economic interests by each other. This will be first test of who the property owners (condo owners) are in the Chinese Condominium that will dominate the rest of this century. Watching this nation-state lineup do the sorting out will be fascinating but not very dangerous for US if we keep our cool because we don't own any property in this Condo just want it to function. My recommendation is to let others lead the charge but who knows what the ego and hubris of the foreign policy establishment will want to prove to the world--hey that US is still in charge even when we are no longer thanks to Wall Street and the Pentagon.

Neil Richardson


"My recollection of the history is that the Korean war was started by Kim Il Sung with limited input (or enthusiasm) from Mao for the endeavor. Kim thought he could do it on his own, and China got involved only after we pushed so far north that the Chinese figured we might try to do what Chiang Kai Shek could not. Thus, the current lack of momma China or the USSR around probably does not protect us from those nuts in the DPRK.

If I am wrong on my Korean war history, I trust someone will let me know.

Posted by: Ronald | 29 May 2009 at 01:38 PM"


The Korean War historiography has been vibrant since the mid 1990s. In fact I'd recommend Chen Jian's remarkable _China's Road to the Korean War_ if you want to examine the decisionmaking process from the Chinese point of view. Bruce Cummings had ignited a big debate on the causes of the war. While some may argue with his views (and I disagree with him quite a bit), it's generally acknowledged that the periodization of the war did begin well before 1950. IMHO the best single synthesis is Allan Millett's, _The War for Korea, 1945-1950: A House Burning_ (It's the first of two volume work that is still in progress). Stalin did play a huge role as it's been demonstrated by Goncharov, Lewis and Xue, _Uncertain Partners: Stalin, Mao and the Korean War_. Kim Sung Ju was a Soviet proxy and he was determined to reunify the country by force. The Red Army provided the hardware and training but a significant part of the Korean People's Army had veterans of the Chinese civil war as well as the Red Army in WWII. (It also partly helps to explain why the so-called a third rate army like the KPA beat up the US Eighth Army for much of the pre-Inchon period as evidenced by Task Force Smith, the maulings along the Nakdong, etc etc)

Stalin was uncertain about the US response to a possible NK invasion, and hesitated to give the go-ahead until very late. Mao didn't want to support the invasion because he felt the country needed to recuperate and rebuild and as you point out plus he didn't want the US to intervene in the peninsula. However, as Goncharov et.al., point out, Stalin convinced Mao to support the DPRK's invasion materially. Incidentally one of the reasons why Gen. Willoughby had discounted early signs of China's intervention in the fall and early winter of 1950 was precisely because there were a lot of Koreans who had fought in the civil war (there still is a huge Korean ethnic presence in Manchuria). He and his staff dismissed the regular PLA units as Korean volunteers.

Now the conventional view of the causes of the Korean War is that North Korea invaded the South unprovoked. Well that's not entirely true. There were border incursions by the ROK Army all throughout 1949-1950 and Syngman Rhee had openly talked about reunifying the peninsula by force (and he was a real thorn on the side for Truman and Ike and in fact Churchill asked us if it were possible to assassinate him when Rhee tried to scuttle the armistice). That's one of the reasons why the US didn't equip the ROKA with any sort of anti-tank capabilities (Among other reasons were Korea is a terrible tank country). We were quite afraid Rhee would invade North. There is a huge gap that's only recently started to be filled (partly because there were younger Army officers who were trying to figure out how we had succeeded in training the ROKA as the challenges of training the Iraqi army became prominent). KMAG and in particular James Hausman played a significant role in the pacification of communist rebels in the period before 1950. A lot of the early top ROKA leadership were originally from the North (Chung Il Kwan, Paik Sun Yup, etc etc and obviously Rhee himself) and there were open talks of reunifying the country via military means even in 1948-49. The quelling of communist rebellions in the South during this period was brutal to say the least (In fact Park Chunghee was nearly executed as he was a communist rebel which is pretty ironic). A lot of these ROKA officers were part of the Gando Special Force which was part of the Kwantung Army. So one could certainly trace roots of the Korean War to a period well before 1950.

eakens

Casey's father fought in Korean War. Perhaps he's getting revenge like our friend Bush did in Iraq

Don Bacon

1. Casey says there is a difference in forms of war. “I have said publicly for some time that if we had to shift gears, it would probably take us about 90 days or so to shift our gears and to train the folks up that were preparing to go to Iraq and Afghanistan to go someplace else.

"The mechanical skills of artillery gunnery and tank gunnery come back very, very quickly. The harder part is the integration — that really brigade level and above of massing fires and effects in a very constricted period of time as opposed to what you do in a counterinsurgency over a much longer extended period of time."

2. The DOD is so sure that the DPRK won't resume the Korean War that it has (a) made Korea an accompanied tour and (b) initiated a 2,400-unit family housing project of high- and low-rise apartment buildings, to be funded and built by a private consortium at a cost of about $1.3 billion. Work is to start this fall. The first phase will produce a set of buildings with space for 1,400 families. A second phase will house 1,000 families, plus the construction of schools, recreation facilities etc at Camp Humphreys.


Neil Richardson

"Casey's father fought in Korean War. Perhaps he's getting revenge like our friend Bush did in Iraq

Posted by: eakens | 29 May 2009 at 05:51 PM"


Although General Casey's father died in the Vietnam War. I strongly doubt he is even remotely thinking about having another go at the PAVN/VPA.

Neil Richardson


"It's not a comment, but one of the most arresting and moving books I've ever read was Breakout: The Chosin Reservoir Campaign, Korea 1950. I guess it contains pretty bad stuff directed at the regular Army and I'm not in a position to judge, but it is a classic tale of soldiers put into an impossible position by incompetent commanders far from the battle (MacArthur ignoring evidence that the Chinese were gathering in the hills in force) and making the best of it with pure heroism.

Oh, and I've read that if the North decides to attack the South, the first thing that will happen will be that Seoul will cease to exist. Not good."


Well the classic work on the war is still T.E. Fehrenbach's _This Kind of War_. My father who had served with 7ID in 1950-51 and 2ID in 1953 believed it was the best military book he'd ever read. I'm not quite as enthusiastic but it's still a very influential book on the US Army professional reading list. Col. Fehrenbach noted that the training standards in the Eighth Army had been almost criminally inadequate. And Eliot A. Cohen and John Gooch devoted a chapter on the comparison between the Army units of the EUSA and the X Corps versus the Marine units namely the First Marine Division. As you well know Almond was a poor corps commander who thought the 1MARDIV was pushing too slow. Cohen and Gooch (in _Military Misfortunes_) make the point that the Army units unfortunately forgot the basic lessons of infantry tactics and became road-bound (draftees were green and untrained). In contrast the Marines (and they had a significantly higher percentage of combat veterans especially among senior NCOs as well as battalion COs) secured perimeters and overwatched hills every night. At the operational level, I'm not sure if I agree with Russ though. He's obviously coming in with a very biased point of view as it's a very Marine-centric assessment, but there was a sound reason for dividing X Corps from EUSA. Simply the Baekdudaegan made it nearly impossible to maintain lines of communication as the UN forces advanced toward the Yalu.

At the operational level, the Eighth Army did have some mediocre senior leadership. For some reason the Army didn't rotate our top generals until well after 1951. Ridgway saved the Army after the Big Bug-out by literally teaching them basic infantry skills overnight. And the performance improved dramatically when it seemed all was lost. Gen. James Van Fleet practically rebuilt the ROK Army which had been uneven in performance (The veterans had been killed or wounded and the force had been destroyed three times in the war). Even though this was a shooting war, it was seen as a side show that could hamper our ability to build up the defense in Western Europe. In fact then Colonel Creighton Abrams wasn't posted to Korea until 1953. The young 1LT George S. Patton had to beg for a transfer to Korea as the Army's focus was on Germany and the Red Army.

Neil Richardson

"1. Casey says there is a difference in forms of war. “I have said publicly for some time that if we had to shift gears, it would probably take us about 90 days or so to shift our gears and to train the folks up that were preparing to go to Iraq and Afghanistan to go someplace else.

"The mechanical skills of artillery gunnery and tank gunnery come back very, very quickly. The harder part is the integration — that really brigade level and above of massing fires and effects in a very constricted period of time as opposed to what you do in a counterinsurgency over a much longer extended period of time."


The USFK/CFC has been undergoing transformation as we speak. Now that we've asked the ROKA to take a more active lead, the question remains on what sort of performance we can expect out of them. Unfortunately due to diplomatic reasons we no longer can try them out in extensive FTX like Team Spirit. Ulchi Focus Lens/Foal Eagle serve some functions but these merely a glorified sand tables. Maybe the NTC can resurrect the old Krasnovian Shock Army.


"2. The DOD is so sure that the DPRK won't resume the Korean War that it has (a) made Korea an accompanied tour and (b) initiated a 2,400-unit family housing project of high- and low-rise apartment buildings, to be funded and built by a private consortium at a cost of about $1.3 billion. Work is to start this fall. The first phase will produce a set of buildings with space for 1,400 families. A second phase will house 1,000 families, plus the construction of schools, recreation facilities etc at Camp Humphreys."


This was planned for some time though. It's just about the only thing Rumsfeld did that was useful (I'm sure there might be other decisions but I can't seem to come up with one quickly). They've finally decided to move the Second Infantry Division below the Han River and I'd applauded the DOD for this long overdue decision. I have long resented the notion of tripwire of American blood and it's about time they allowed the 2ID a fighting chance. (If the massed artillery barrages under observation weren't enough, it was seen as very likely that the KPA would bypass them via underground tunnels) As for dependents, once they were moved below the Han River you could provide better force protection. Well I suppose that's as much as one can possibly do considering the KPA reportedly has about 90000 special forces personnel who are poised to attack installations all over the South.

stanleyhenning@mac.com

I think Neil Richardson's view of North Korean rationality is pretty good. I reported Korea related current intelligence for the Army in the Pentagon (1978-1981), when Pak Chunghui was assassinated and ROK forces focused away from the DMZ for a moment to shoot up student protesters in Kwangju. The view of some at the time of Kwangju was that the North might very well use the opportunity to attack south. While I didn't deny that possibility, I also felt the North was more concerned with their survival than chancing and attack. I felt their degree of rationality could be seen as based on their living in a Three Kingdoms time warp -- a different environment than we were used to. I also felt their intelligence, which likely included scattered infiltrators in the mountains and forests of the South (hiking in South Korean mountains, one could see signs posted on trees warning against forest fires and North Korean spies) gave them enough insight to realize that there was more to South Korea than Kwangju at the time. I do think their total disregard for their people (beyond those holding their regime together) is disgusting, but I fear that our insistence on "humanitarian" assistance only helps prop up the regime. We probably should generally ignore them, stop bargaining with them, seek to cut off all their questionable sources of income, and remain ready to act accordingly as necessary.

Fred

Money? What was Marshall's testimony to congress in '51 when faced with fighting in Korea vs. rebuilding Europe: "A cut of five percent in the European standard of living meant the difference between white bread and black on the table, while in similar American homes such a cut would mean forgoing a radio or television." What is the cost to the richest Americans of a five percent cut in their standard of living? One less yacht? While Speaker Pelosi is no Sam Rayburn she’s not Newt Gingrich either. Money, for a real national security need we'll have plenty.

As to Neil Richardson comments on the quality of the Eighth Army, they went from an army of Occupation to combat with little time for training. De-mobalization was national policy from late '45 up to the start of the Korean War; and yes, Europe and the threat of Soviet invasion of Western Europe was still the focus of defence policy. In the end, Communist China's trained cadrees were destroyed in the Korean War.

Soonmyung Hong

Neil Richardson,

Excellent. I'm fully agree with you.
NK action seems slightly different nowadays. Recent photos eloquently show that Kim Jung-il's condition is bad. It seems NK hurries succession. I think internal factor is increased its weight on their calculus.


curious,

1. Because of single-term system, President Lee can't challenge next election. But I think most prominent candidate for next election is Ms. (Geun-Hye) Park. She is a minority leader for President Lee's own party(GNP). In fact, they are acute rival, but they share pro-US mentality. In contrast, oppisition parties has lost its consistency. I can't figure out any prominent candidate now.

2. I talked with a few senior analyst in KIDA(a kind of US RAND corp equivalent), and they said SK will not board NK ship directly. For South Korea, PSI means the alignment with US-leading sanction, not spoiling position with nationalistic mentality. SK will not act alone. So effectiveness of PSI depends on US leadership.

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