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08 August 2017


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I have a strong suspicion that the war scare is not "real" in the sense that NK really has nuclear weapons capabilities of the sort they are given credit for in some of the more pessimistic/alarming assessments, at least not just yet.

At the same time, though, I suspect this is a lot more than just an information operation. If it is an information operation, NK is at least "complicit" in it, for their own reasons. Escalating the danger that things might get out of control gives the North Koreans a significant leverage, against all their neighbors who would rather see things stay quiet--China, SK, Japan. NK wants them to pay whatever it demands, or they will unleash American bombs on the stability of the region, so to speak.

If the NK did not have even an inkling of ICBM capability, we could call their bluff easily, by pulling out of the region rather than play their crazy threat to suicide bomb act. They could try to blackmail their neighbors if they like, but we won't be their tool, so to speak. The ICBM act, however, is making that more difficult, though. In an ideal universe, we should deal with them as Russia did with Georgia--beat the crap out of them, take away their toys, and not go back, leaving the locals to pick up the pieces and do as they will...but that's far more easily said than done. Alternatively, we should just quit the region, and let the locals deal with it, but run the risk that the NK's might actually do something crazy to draw us in. I think the latter is still a viable option, if increasingly risky.


d. Putin steps in, calms DJT down, sorts it all out in everybody's best interests and Trump starts tweeting about how important good relations with Russia are and the neo-cons and neo-libs look like the morons/useless idiots they are. I'm sure I've seen this plot on WWE sometime.

Sam Peralta


I know that much has been written about the costs of a pre-emptive strike by the US on NorKo.

Since there are many correspondents with actual military experience at SST, as opposed to keyboard jockeys masquerading as military strategists on the internet and in many of the think-tanks as well as the MSM, I would love to read your opinions on the impact to China, Russia and S.Korea who have borders with NK. In particular, would tactical nukes be used since radiation would likely float across the borders into China & SK? What could NK accomplish with respect to retaliation assuming thousands of airstrikes around the clock as well as a ground offensive across the DMZ?

Finally, why do you think China & Russia voted for the sanctions which I assume would primarily impact trade between China & NK?


For a start, it is relevant to consider the North Korean point of view. There is no peace treaty, only armistice. Their economy is under pressure from the stress of sanctions, feeding its population from poor arable land, running a huge defence program and trying to maintain political control of a one party state (a workers paradise of course) by continuing its wartime narrative from 1953, which is increasingly difficult thanks to modern communications. Kim Jong Un and his leading cadre know they will not die peacefully in bed if they lose control.

We add to their troubles as "b" has pointed out, by staging highly realistic war games with South Korea twice a year at the most inconvenient times for the North Koreans.

Add to this our support for 'regime change", our history in the Middle East and our inability to abide by agreements (summed up by the Russian Government as our inability to negotiate in good faith) and the failure of previous Clinton era? peace settlements.

So exactly how do the North Koreans see their way out of this?

I am told by the media that Secretary Tillerson says the door is still open for talks. However it is hard to see how Kim Jong Un could build a rationale for himself to accept such an offer given what has happened before. For him, the possession of a demonstrable nuclear ICBM deterrent is his best hope.

In my opinion, both the Trump Administration and the North Korean Government are now at the point where they are risking their credibility if they back down and President Trump has just doubled down today.

What is needed is a third party 'circuit breaker" who can create a plausible reason for both sides to de escalate. However I think the emergence of one is unlikely. China and Russia are both aware they are going to have a humanitarian disaster on their doorsteps.

My guess therefore is that the North Koreans will continue their nuclear ICBM development. President Trump will have already made the decision on a decision date for a strike on North Korea, probably on or after 1 September. The most likely option is a "decapitation strike" which as Col. Lang observes is easier said than done.

War at harvest time on the Korean Peninsula. Dark days indeed.


Preventive, not pre-emptive. It might seem pedantic to insist, but the difference is significant both legally and (more debatably) morally.


Option b does it for me, although that doesn't mean there is no truth in the allegations about NK behaviour, nor that the US regime will necessarily go through with it.

Option a is inherently impossible, since nothing the NKs have done or might do, short of an actual military attack on the US or an ally, can "force" the US to attack it. Threats can be lived with, obviously (as the history of the Cold War proves).


It appears we have a fairly accurate understanding of NK's nuclear aggressive capabilities.

What are their defense capabilities? What are their vulnerabilities? I'd like more

I'm also unclear on if they have any agreement(s) to act in concert with any nation state &/or rogue groups to simultaneously attack the U.S. I don't have a complete enough picture to form an opinion. Have a gut feeling the next few months will be tense especially if these stories just quickly fade from the media. No sound, no fury may signal horrible things to come.


Reuters is saying that NK is now threatening to pre-emptively attack Guam. I think that's a huge mistake and game-changer on their part. Long ago I spent 3 years of my life practicing for this possibility out of the Philippines, there was never any talk of the aftermath, I suppose because, for us, there wasn't going to be one.

Mark Logan


The article says both the DNI and the head of the DIA refused to comment. If this "summary assessment" is indeed the offical assessment of the intel community and that community is releasing it to the WaPo, why would they not confirm it?


Not meaning to belabor the obvious, but I remember a "Inteligence Estimate" that sent folks into Iraq.

That too was based on fear of a "rogue state" coming up with WMD's.

I trust NK not at all, but I think that some time and thought should be laid down before we go about our "surgical strike" and "shock and awe" this time.

We might want to do it, but I think that we need to be shown a lot more that what we have seen so far.

Fool me once, shame on you



Great Summary. I am not sure of the purpose of the President’s “Fire and Fury” threat except to out “Mad Man” each other diplomatically. This seems similar to the Cuban Missile Crisis without war veterans at the helm. There is no way for foreigners to decapitate their leadership without losing Seoul. If a nuclear weapon takes out even one city, the war will escalate by mistake or on purpose. It’s tragic that the old 1960’s movies like “Fail-Safe” and “Dr. Strangelove” are so ancient and in black and white. It isn’t like we haven’t gone through this before and we were lucky that Miami wasn’t vaporized.


The Chinese and Russians would not have voted thusly if they had not been shown some US intelligence containing evidence that North Korea is a menace to peace in the Far East.

My take on their voting in favor of sanctions is that they are terrified that the madman in the Whitehouse might do something really stupid. They are treading carefully to not provoke him.


Colonel, I can not believe or accept that US has a better quality "operational" intelligence on DPRK than China does, unless Chinese are sharing these intellectce with US, which in that case one would wonder what their motif is for sharing that, and if thier UNSC vote was to make this motif sink in, by sharing/ forwarding this information to US. IMO NK is China' buffer zone they will not let it go unless US leaves the pinensula and Sea of Japan, Russia, IMO is in support of this geopolitical standing.

Ishmael Zechariah

Colonel, SST;

I have been reading about this issue and cannot find any real data.
1-Is there any consensus on the reality of North Korea's miniature devices?
2-If so, what would be the effective delivery range for these?
3-If the USA were to attack North Korea, would they attack w/ conventional or nuclear weapons?
Perhaps a war game might be useful to clarify our thinking.
Ishmael Zechariah

P.s: Daesh is trying to retake Sukhna but is not faring too well.

Bill Herschel

Does anyone reading this blog think that sanctions are going to stop North Korea from continuing development of delivery systems capable of striking the U.S. with nuclear weapons? I don't.


"China and Russia are both aware they are going to have a humanitarian disaster on their doorsteps."

And with that prospect DPRK's nuke and missile programs stop being a bargaining chip and start being something they have urgency in curtailing. There's not much of a bargaining chip if things spin out of control to the point that they damage China's interests, as they would in the event of a military confrontation between the US and the DPRK. There would not only be the burden of dealing with a humanitarian disaster, but an economic disaster because of business interests between China and ROK. China's support of sanctions has real teeth since most of DPRK's trade is with them. I'm guessing that China is looking for an outcome where they have more direct control over the DPRK, probably with some face-saving measures for the Kimites in the form of some statement "respecting the DPRK's sovereignty and independence" while making them a de facto Chinese protectorate.



we are not talking HUMINT in this case. We are talking about IMINT, SIGINT and MASINT as the basis for analysis. pl



We are talking about the net product of agencies' analysis to which we have no access. We are also talking about the will of the decision makers. As usual in intelligence analysis the data is no complete. pl


Mark Logan

It is standard policy to never confirm or deny leaked classified information. pl



As usual laymen expect perfect knowledge from the intelligence people and that is never available or releasable. pl


If a conflict does break out, how does India and China's current land spat in which China has seemingly given India a 2-week ultimatum play into this.

dilbert dogbert

NK is a family run business same as Saudi Arabia. I expect they have been close observers of "regime change" that the US has practiced over the decades. Nukes are insurance that the US will not practice "regime change" on them. I am not sure the insurance is worth the price, esp, if the policy needs to come into force.
Does anyone know if the nuke program is mostly for domestic consumption or what?


Given the moans and wailings of the Pentagon on Capitol Hill re: readiness and equipment shortages, and given the US military's aerial commitments in the ME, is there a feel among contributors to this blog about the capability of the United Sates to even launch a successful "preventative war" or how long might that take to build up.

A decapitation strike... doesn't sound realistic to me.

Bill H

Isn't that the scenario that played out in Syria with Obama's "red line" threat? Well, minus the part about the president stressing the importance of good relations with Russia, that is.

Sam Peralta

Preventive or pre-emptive is in the eye of the beholder. I suppose "preventive" is the PC nomenclature for "pre-emptive"

In this interview of Donald Trump on Meet the Press from 1999, Tim Russert called it "pre-emptive".


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