« Ignorance is Strength by Publius Tacitus | Main | The Nerve Agent Attack that Did Not Occur by Ted Postol »

19 April 2017


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Chris Chuba

The pity of this is that in theory, this war is avoidable. All Kim wants is to survive, all we want is for him to give up his Nukes. He could be persuaded to give up Nukes if we made him feel secure enough by offering something tangible, like withdrawing from S. Korea. S. Korea should be able to defend themselves.

We had an agreement with him under Bill Clinton. It didn't fall apart until Axis of Evil Bush got tough with him and was on the path to invading Iraq. N. Korea kicked out inspectors at the start of 2003, restarted their heavy water reactors and tested their first Nuke late in 2006. According to Neocon theory, this is when N. Korea should have been quaking in their boots and seeking ways to accommodate us. Instead, it looks like Kim decided he better have Nukes so that he wouldn't be next.


Kim is a really bad guy but his only purpose is survival. If we try to take him out, there is no way that we can stop him from doing significant harm to S. Korea and we have a large number of troops there.


you say
1. North Korea invaded South Korea in 1950, not the other way 'round
I think the historical record is not as clear as you state.
Park and Kim were both intent on destroying each other's governments and uniting the entire peninsula. Russia was restraining Kim and USA was actually restraining Park. And Mao made it clear to Kim that China would not enter unless USA pushed north of 38th parallel.
Which gunfighter drew and fired first is really just a blame game, not really the historical lesson.
Congressman Howard Buffett (Warren's father) contented that the secret testimony before Congress of CIA director Admiral Hillenkoeter proved US responsibility for the war.
Buffett, Republican anti-interventionist from Nebraska, went to his grave demanding the declassification of that crucial testimony: alas, to no avail. And yet what we do know is this: the US government had ample warnings of the pending North Korean invasion, via intelligence reports sent to top cabinet officials well before the June 25 commencement of large-scale hostilities. Yet Washington took no action, either diplomatic or otherwise, to deter the North Koreans.
An excellent piece appeared on this topic recently which explained a lot of newish material from Stalin archives.


a little more:
As to who did in reality fire that shot, Bruce Cumings, head of the history department at the University of Chicago, gave us the definitive answer in his two-volume The Origins of the Korean War, and The Korean War: A History: the Korean war started during the American occupation of the South, and it was Rhee, with help from his American sponsors, who initiated a series of attacks that well preceded the North Korean offensive of 1950. From 1945-1948, American forces aided Rhee in a killing spree that claimed tens of thousands of victims: the counterinsurgency campaign took a high toll in Kwangju, and on the island of Cheju-do – where as many as 60,000 people were murdered by Rhee’s US-backed forces.

Rhee’s army and national police were drawn from the ranks of those who had collaborated with the Japanese occupation during World War II, and this was the biggest factor that made civil war inevitable. That the US backed these quislings guaranteed widespread support for the Communist forces led by Kim IL Sung, and provoked the rebellion in the South that was the prelude to open North-South hostilities. Rhee, for his part, was eager to draw in the United States, and the North Koreans, for their part, were just as eager to invoke the principle of "proletarian internationalism" to draw in the Chinese and the Russians.


Have to say, I am not a fan of North Korea (NK), even less so of their leaders, but history is far more complicated, than saying NK is guilty like hell because they attacked South Korea (SK) first, with all due respect. Actually, war planning started already in 1942, by the States, as we are told by historian Bruce Cumings (then Chairman of the Department of History at the University of Chicago), author of the book "The Korean War: A History". So it went down the path, it was meant to go and it did so, with two regimes on both sides, one could not tell, which was better or worse. Not to forget the more than painful bloody memory of the Japanese occupation 1910-45.

Anyone who is interested to get an closer picture of Korea at that post 1945 era (and before and after) I recommend to watch the following conversation between Bruce Cumings and the Dean of Massachusetts School of Law, Lawrence R. Velvel.

Part 1: > https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ba3dgDUtE9A
Part 2: > https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6KCBH2QVLok

It is important to remember the time 1994-2002, when Clinton (with the kind help of Carter) succeeded to freeze the plutonium production in NK. At the same time a deal was made with NK to buy all their medium- and long-range missiles in exchange for oil and food. Clinton also signed an agreement with Gen. Jo Myong-rok stating that henceforth, neither country would bear “hostile intent” toward the other.

The next Bush administration promptly ignored both agreements and set out to destroy the 1994 plutonium freeze, declaring NK part of the "Axis of evil" and in September 2002 announcing his “preemptive” doctrine directed at North Korea and Iraq, among others.

And so on and so on it goes for the worse.

I assume that there are also some hidden reasons for the US administration to act like they do, considering the upcoming elections in SK may 2017.

More details here:


From William Blum's "Killing Hope:"

“The two sides had been clashing across the Parallel for several years. What happened on that fateful day in June could thus be regarded as no more than the escalation of an ongoing civil war. The North Korean Government has claimed that in 1949 alone, the South Korean army or police perpetrated 2,617 armed incursions into the North to carry out murder, kidnapping, pillage and arson for the purpose of causing social disorder and unrest, as well as to increase the combat capabilities of the invaders. At times, stated the Pyongyang government, thousands of soldiers were involved in a single battle with many casualties resulting.2”

Excerpt From: Blum, William. “Killing Hope.” Common Courage Press.


The North Korean negotiating position - stop threatening us, stop war games on our border, finally end Korean War - does not seem unreasonable. The US position - do what we say, no negotiations - is unreasonable.


Dear Mr Lang,

on point 2 : as a layman observer I do remember the year 2007, when the hawks targeted Iran for the so called technology of "shaped IED", and when, suddenly a lot of top brass publicly said stop ! one intractable war is enough ! So we have, according to you, a month for the professional cool headed to prevail (Let us hope so)

on point 3 : Big question : are we two, or just one, bad decision away from THE real big mess ? Does the "agent orange" of WH needs an alibi (i.e. a naval incident/test like the Iranians where delighted to provide in these years), or will he be just trapped in his newly established "kinetic diplomacy" rules ?

Well, sadly, that's way too long time that we, occidentals, foolishly play with fire. Like Publius Tacitus reminds us, we have grown up with "never again" in mind, but we could soon find ourselves searching explanations for being unable to prevent the aftermath we already pressent and dread.


what is America going to do with a defeated north korean army containing 1 million plus indoctrinated young men? what is going to happen to the NK population if the harvest isn't brought in during august? war with NK has the capacity to make the holocaust and WW1 look like sideshows in terms of deaths in my opinion. President Trump should be thinking of the huge downside military victory may produce if humanitarian disaster follows.

....and that isn't even factoring in the damage to the south, nor the economic damage to the world economy.

FB Ali

Col Lang,

That may well be so. But, even if he thought so, it may not stop Kim from acting.

It's the old "deterrence conundrum" - if you realise it has failed, do you just be a good boy and take your medicine, or do you go down fighting?

In this case, he has South Korea and Japan in his sights besides the US and its fleets. I doubt if these two countries would be able to escape his counterattack.

Keith Harbaugh

On April 3. 2017 Pat Buchanan asked the question:
“Why Is Kim Jong Un Our Problem?”

Here is some of what Buchanan said on that subject (with my emphasis added):

[W]hy is North Korea building a rocket
that can cross the Pacific and strike Seattle or Los Angeles?

Is Kim Jong Un mad?

He is targeting us because we have 28,500 troops on his border.
If U.S. air, naval, missile and ground forces
were not in and around Korea, and
if we were not treaty-bound to fight alongside South Korea,
there would be no reason for Kim to build rockets
to threaten a distant superpower
that could reduce his hermit kingdom to ashes.

While immensely beneficial to Seoul,
is this U.S. guarantee to fight Korean War II,
64 years after the first wise?

Russia, China and Japan retain the freedom
to decide whether and how to react, should war break out.
Why do we not?

Would it not be better for us if we, too,
retained full freedom of action to decide how to respond,
should the North attack?


The United States is in rising danger of
being dragged into wars in half a dozen places,
because we have committed ourselves
to fight for scores of nations
with little or no link to vital U.S. interests.

My (Keith Harbaugh)'s response:
“AMEN!” to that last sentence.
In any case, I think Buchanan raises some very real questions
that seem to go unaddressed by the media/political “elite”.


Europe is a) not needed in Korea and b) not bankrupt.

But the greater fear for the US should be that Korea does a Pinoy.


Shit, we are about to stick our heads down a crapper of immense size. I started to write that the Chinese might draw an explicit red line around NK but then realized that Xi has just met with Trump, after which Trump starts acting all rambunctious.
Here is my WAG. China is prepared to let NK be attacked. A NK with atomic weapons and accurate delivery systems is a threat to the entirely-for-profit China. China will disable its hardware installed in NK medium and long-range missiles and ring-fence its border with NK.
We are, in effect, being invited to clear up the Chinese problems of NK (too dangerous) and SK & Japan (strong commercial competitors). We will be the ones triggering war, we will be the ones invading, and we will held responsible for the deaths of millions of Koreans. The cost of rebuilding Korea is beyond us both politically and economically so a long-term PR bonanza for China. You could argue that China would emerge the benefactor of the new unified Korea.
We lack the manpower and the will to occupy N/S Korea and attempt to build a new Korea. Shades of Iraq.
Taiwan will be absorbed w/o fuss.
Will a Korean war forge a new patriotic community of "us"? No, it will merely add to the contention.
China emerges far stronger while we are weakened.


FB Ali

I should make it clear that I am completely against a pre-emption against the PDRK unless they demonstrate an ability to put a missile on target near S. Korea, Japan or the US. If they do that we would not have much choice. We are obligated by treaty to defend those countries and the treaties have the force of US law. The carnage would be frightful. pl



I guess you are addressing the issue of civilian control of the military in the US. Once again, the US military do not dictate to the president/CinC. They advise. They do not control. A president may or may not take their advice. Sometimes they are listened to and sometimes they are not. "Sometimes you eat the bear, and sometimes he eats you." The alternative has seldom been employed in US history. In WW2 Marshall occasionally did not fully inform FDR but he knew that was a very dangerous and exceptional thing to do. Martin Dempsey did the same. Bless him. pl



I think you are giving the PDRK far more credit as innocents than they deserve. pl



I was ten years old in June, 1950 and have always thought the invasion was clearly one sided, especially since the PDRK sought to take all the Korean peninsula right down to Pusan where my father was besieged by them until Inchon. I have never been stationed in Korea, nor have I visited the place. I will take your collective word for the complexity of Korean history. As for planning to occupy Korea having started in 1942, why would it not have? This was sovereign Japanese territory. pl



I don't think the Chinese would give up North Korea unless they got something at least as valuable in return--specifically, a friendly (or at least a friendly neutral) government in Seoul. Given the way things seem, they might actually wind up getting one after May (all leading candidates are friendly with PRC--so, technically, was Park on personal basis vis-a-vis PRC leaders, but the Chinese clearly saw THAAD as a hostile action. Conspiracy stories abound that the Chinese engineered the "impeachment" against Park as a punishment, much the way they had Taiwan's Chen Shui-Bian, another of their "enemies," tossed in jail for semi-trumped up charges--"semi-trumped up" in the sense that allegations of corruption are probably true since both South Korean and Taiwanese politics are notoriously corrupt, but probably not something meriting impeachment and/or imprisonment.)

Pat Buchanan is right, though, (in reference to his op ed piece linked elsewhere in this thread.) Why is Kim Jong Un our enemy and why do we have to mess with those ungrateful foreigners in East Asia, the Japanese and South Koreans? I'd be happy to see us pull back and respond only if the threats directly affect us.


Rocket assist = Shell with an assist from a rocket (Duh)

The target (Seoul) has been the target for half a century so the assumption that North Korea has developed the weapons to take it out in the first hours of fighting is probably correct. Western/Warsaw countries did not develop in this direction because they did not need to but Imperial Germany could do it (Paris gun) so i have no doubt NK could do the same

iowa steve

Regardless of the genesis of the war, I took your point as North Korea was completely devastated by the war and thus is fully aware of the capability of the US military to do so.


When I was in Korea, 67-68, I was in a 105mm Howitzer unit of the 7th Infantry Division. 7th Arty was positioned as direct support for the 2nd ID an, hence, our compound was 2 clicks from the Imjin River south of Munsani in the 2nd's AO. While it as nothing like the actual Korean war that period was fairly intense. In January, 68 the NK's took the Pueblo and a few days later launched the Blue House raid, and attempt to kill Park Chung Hee and take his head back north. We were part of massive sweeps of the hills near the DMZ and 4 GI's were killed. The thing that we knew was that, if the balloon went up, we were cooked. The thing that I'll always remember is that the South Korean soldiers embedded in our unit (KATUSA's) were just as anxious to fight the NK's as vice-versa. I also know that the South Korean Army and Marines in Vietnam were ruthless in their treatment of the Vietnamese, Charlie or not. I'm certain that they are not nearly as eager to fight now but one wonders how long they want to live with this threat.


IMO, China would rather to ease up on her trade and her currency than loosing a stratgic threat NK has like a hanging sword over US and her pacific Allies. IMO, If it was not for this value NK has specially after the Tiananmen China would have not let N. Korea become a nuclear state next door to her. Ever since the history, China has been in command and control of north east Asia, IMO US, Russian or Japanese can't change that although they have tried and will try again.


Some of the commenters above are citing Bruce Cumings as an authority on the Korean conflict. It's worth pointing out that many of Professor Cumings' strongly anti-US conclusions have been called into question by numerous releases of declassified Soviet materials post 1991. See:



Iowa Steve et al

I wish that my friend, alternate father and mentor, Colonel (ret.) Dr. Robert Sawyer was still among us. he wrote the US Army's official history of KMAAG and was a great scholar and combat leader. He is mentioned in Blumenson's "Master of the Art of Command." pl



All the more reason why we ought to get out of these treaty obligations. There's nothing in it for us. Japan and South Korea have the financial and technological ability to defend themselves. It is time we let them and the Europeans take care of their strategic interests on their own. Likewise we should focus on our own defense and stop meddling in the internal affairs of sovereign nations. I recognize it won't happen in the Pax Americana imperium.


He doesn't care about Le Pen. Why should he? In any case even if Le Pen wins she will be largely toothless to get France out of the EU or Euro as that requires a constitutional amendment.

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo

February 2021

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
  1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
Blog powered by Typepad