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09 August 2017

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b

I do not see the purpose for such a war on either side.

The DPRK is quite happy with the status quo and has no reason to change it. It can sit back, wait a few years and the sanctions will melt away. Why would/should Kim Yong Un attack? All the party programs are directed to build economic advantages by decreasing the reliance on conventional weapons and troops. I do not see any ambition to reunite Korea by force.

The U.S. attacking the DPRK carries a lot of uncertainties and risks. Using nukes is currently a global tabu. Breaking that carries penalties which will have effects for decades. The non-proliferation treaty would blow apart. China would certainly intervene should its defensive barrier, aka North Korea, get smashed. That decided the issue the last time the U.S. tried. I also do not think that Trump is crazy. He is a bit of a loudmouth but he seems to known what he wants. War with North Korea is not on that list.

AEL

Don't forget, if America or South Korea "goes first", China is obligated by treaty to come to North Korea's defense. That, in itself, should be a solid deterrent to preemptive action. I am sure that China is thrilled to bits about having signed that treaty right now.

Not In Istanbul

The difference is, none of those countries were on the doorstep of a militarily (regionally speaking) strong/confident Russia and China. The last thing American hegemony should do is scare Russia and China into working even more closely together. A monopoly on silicon was what allowed the US and its allies to extend the technological lead sufficiently to dominate as much as they had. That monopoly is gone, along with a vigorous, broad, and self reliant American industrial base.

Jack

Sir

Is it possible for a decapitation strike where the retaliation by DPRK will be limited? Or is the probability high that any strike no matter how extensive will cause a retaliation of significant magnitude?

Since China has a 1,000 mile border they probably have a huge interest in what happens. How do you believe they will react if there is an attack?

Finally, in your opinion would it be politically feasible to use tactical nukes in our current climate of world opinion?

Allen Thomson


As a point of detail, we're probably talking about air-delivered B61-3 and B61-4 bombs with selectable yields in the 0.3 to 60-ish kiloton range, the -3 having an additional 170 kt option. Most US warplanes - F-16, F-15, F-22, F/A-18, B-2, B-52 - are capable of delivering these. In addition there are B61-11 earth penetrators that would be used against deeply buried targets (and produce as much fallout as surface bursts of equivalent yield).

FWIW, an instructive nuclear effects mapping tool is at https://nuclearsecrecy.com/nukemap/

JohnsonR

Being rational does not mean being infallible, nor does it mean that one must always back down to an overwhelmingly powerful enemy. Nothing the NKs have done so far gives any indication of being irrational. In the context of their formative experience with the US, and the US's recent actions around the world, a point blank refusal to appease and a determination to obtain an effective nuclear deterrent are absolutely rational policies. They might lead to disaster, but so, imo and seemingly in theirs as well, would trying to appease the US (as Gaddafi found out).

The possibility that the US might use nukes is certainly plausible, and the thinking will presumably be as you set it out - that if the job has to be done that's the most effective way of getting it done with the least overall destruction. The problem for the US is that it's highly unlikely much of the rest of the world will see it that way. So few will agree that the job really has to be done, and the nuclear taboo is so strong anyway, that there will be a general outrage that will make the US's reputational damage after Iraq look like a minor embarrassment. The only alternative would be if the world can be convinced that it was a response to an imminent Pearl Harbor or 9/11 type attack by NK. How easy will it be to convince the world of that after Iraq? Unless there's an actual NK attack on that kind of scale, of course, but is that a realistic scenario, real or faked?

I think the scenario you paint could be the final nail in the coffin for the US's waning "soft power" (see the recent Pew survey confirming that more people think the US is a threat than think either China or Russia is, and note that the question was not asked in China, North Korea, Syria, Iraq or Iran, for starters), and it will not do as much as the US regime probably thinks towards intimidating people with hard power instead.

Norbert M Salamon

Colonel:
I do not believe that there will be an NK\USA war in the near future. If there is one it is most likely will lead to end of mankind due to other powers taking exception to that war of choice.

It is true that the US could destroy North Korea with one or more atomic bombs.
It is certain that there will be no UN mandate for such attack NK.
It is most likely that two major WMD powers would look at such effort on their border with great displeasure, most likely force them to attack, in their judgement, an insane nation.


with due respect your list of US war achievement is somewhat questionable, for Germany was destroyed by the USSR, in Vietnam you lost, in North Korea you had to contend with a poorly equipped Chinese army, and came to draw [armistice, not an end of war] and non of the other minor powers had atomic bombs, and long range missiles hidden in mountain caves.

FB Ali

Nuclear weapons have not been used since 1946. Partly because of a taboo against being the first to open this Pandora's Box. Because no one was quite sure what the effects, both short-term and long-term, would be.

In my view, it would be a great mistake for the US to initiate the use of nuclear weapons in the Korean peninsula. Because, firstly, there is no guarantee that such use could be confined to only tactical weapons with limited effects.

Secondly, and more importantly, once the taboo against the use of nuclear weapons was broken, we would be living in a different world altogether. Every country that could, would try to develop such weapons. Those that had them would find it much easier to use them. How long humanity could survive under such conditions would be an open question.

Overall, the USA would come out a big loser. Would some short-term gain in Korea be worth all this?

turcopolier

Norbert K Solomon

"It is true that the US could destroy North Korea with one or more atomic bombs" You really don't understand any of this, do you? pl

zk

I can almost imagine the euphoria that would ensue inside the US if the use of tactical nukes proved successful.
It would open a Pandora's box the likes of which this world has never seen (to paraphrase DJT).

FB Ali

I fully agree with your comment.

Fellow Traveler

NK has, rationally IMO, learned from those other examples. But they probably didn't factor in an irrational actor on the other side.

The problem here is that Trump doesn't drink. Kissinger and Haig managed to derail a couple of SIOP binder excursions by a drunken Nixon by shuffling him of to bed to sober up. One of those was after NK shot down an EC-121.

Poor Al never got any respect.

Dr. George W. Oprisko

Generals and Admirals are always fighting the last war............

The DPRK has repeatedly demonstrated that in their view the enemy is the USA - CONUS.

All actions of the DPRK show their intent to have the ability to wreak havoc within CONUS.

The crap negating this via claims their targeting is shit, don't wash..... because....... the pundits miss the obvious targets.......

The Nuclear waste dumps within CONUS!!!

Hanford......... Muscle Shoals......... Spent nuclear fuel pools at Nuc Plants..........

What need the DPRK do to fatally cripple the warfighting ability of the US??

1. Detonate a 10Kton ground burst at Hanford, WA....... it's a big place....
full of Plutonium, Cesium, and other long lived radio-nuclides, mostly stored in Nitric Acid solution in above ground tanks. Objective....... put that stuff into the atmosphere, and let the winds contaminate 1/3 of the US sufficiently to make it uninhabitable
2. Detonate a 5 Ktn ground/air burst at any of Rancho Seco, Diablo Canyon or San Onofre...... to make S Cal uninhabitable.........
3. Detonate a 5Ktn ground/air burst at Watts Ferry to make the US US uninhabitable
4. Detonate a 5 ktn ground/air burst at Point Beach, or Braidwood to make the corn belt uninhabitable
5. Detonate a 5ktn ground / air burst at Susquehana, Three Mile Island or indian point to make new england uninhabitable.

Why?? Wny not!!

INDY

BillWade

If we use tactical nukes we will be successful and would also be keeping the casualties down as low as possible. To say that we would be euphoric here is truly an insult, we would be grieving terribly for our losses of our frontline personnel.

JohnsonR

A lot of people, myself included, have raised the global taboo against any use of nuclear weapons whatsoever. It's worth bearing in mind that there are people around who would actually see breaking that taboo, and thereby enabling the general use of mostly small nuclear weapons as a viable tool of policy for the US (and perhaps other countries with the capability to do so, such as Israel), as in itself a desirable goal.

If that seems absurdly short-sighted and/or brutal, consider the fact that it might be the only remaining realistic way to comprehensively defeat Iran. Short-sighted and brutal is a good description of many of the people pushing for an attack on Iran.

Greco

We should stress the two most important considerations, as obvious as they may be. One, as bad as the war option may be now, the cost of a possible war at a later time will be even worse if North Korea reaches its goal of a nuclear deterrent. Two, a failure to act effectively will signal other countries that it is possible to harbor nuclear ambitions and achieve success (as may now or soon be true of the North Koreans).

As far as the heightened rhetoric goes, there's another way of looking at it. It's as much a warning to China as it is to North Korea. And given the current escalation between China and India over their recent border dispute, I think there's a very big, coordinated move being made here. Like walrus had posted in the earlier thread, this is happening now as North Korea approaches harvesting season. This is timely and very likely planned out.

It's clear Trump has felt that China was sandbagging their efforts to get the North Koreans to play along. Could the heightened rhetoric finally force China to snap into action? Could this explain why the situation is being made to appear more dire than it really is?

Greco

Well put.

J

Where did the 'silent coup inside the Pentagon' come from?? Blink, blink?

Norbert M Salamon

With great respect, Colonel, I fully understand your point, for you are a US patriot with deep knowledge of military affairs.

Perhaps you did not consider Russia's possible reaction, for she is surrounded by US troops - Nato is not anything but US vassal,[US's latest move is in Georgia, with US Seals building some naval control centre in Ukraine]. Perhaps you did not consider that China is a co-signer of the Korean Armistice, so technically there is still a war in Korean Peninsula, USA vs. China/NK.

Clueless Joe

Never consider as a paper tiger a nuclear power, specially one with as many nukes as the US - or Russia for that matter, but the Borg isn't as cautious as you are, Colonel.

That said, I hope some people in the administration, Tillerson, Mattis, McMaster to begin with, understand that if the US hits first and then has to rely on first use of nukes, even tactical nukes, before N. Korea uses any of its own nuclear warheads, then the world status of the US changes at once, and no vaguely independant country will support it anymore - not just with Korea, but globally.
Such a scenario should be a no-go not only because it opens Pandora's box and you can expect China and Russia to use nukes as well - not necessarily during that N. Korean war -, but also because the US would lose any influence left when it comes to soft power. It would look close to the Evil Galactic Empire from Star Wars, that has to rely on fear of US nukes to keep all the other countries in line.
It might not look this way to some people in DC, or in the Trump administration (probably Trump included), but to the rest of the world, this would be like casting down the mantle of Defender of the free world to become a tyrant and a mad dog.
I don't rule out that Trump and some his crew really are ready to attack or even nuke North Korea, but like B. I prefer to put greater odds on Trump being bombastic so as to put pressure on Kim - probably a vain attempt, and what Trump will do when he'll understand his threats aren't effective is a worrying prospect.

Hood Canal Gardner

Pat, push the Paper Tiger Little/Man effects just a bit further:

If I read the "immediate" sense of your posit, the nuclear fallout will be pretty much limited to NK, ie US international relations: trade, US economy, EU, NATO alliances, Chinese and Russian fallout/s. That is, The World will settle back after a bit..remain pretty much as is undisturbed.

Just perhaps the "other" immediate Little Man fallouts dwarfs by a couple of magnitudes a NK toasting. We'll have to wait for a poet's epilog

PirateLaddie

Subject: Shall we play a game?

What with President the Donald threatening to totally destroy North Korea, and the NoKos probably not able to deliver a significant number of ballistic missiles against CONUS as a counter measure, it seems logical to me that their best hope is to have a number of "the best they can do" nukes, probably containerized, "dirtied up" and stacked at various entry points to CONUS. Recent reports of "miniaturized" nukes -- maybe even the much ballyhooed "backpack nuke" that you hear about from infantry guys, should be keeping some folks from a good night's sleep

Given the flood of containers that arrive at U.S. ports daily, either from China and South Korea (and lets not forget, say, Japan & other countries with skin in the game), how does the following sound as the parameters of the game:

What might induce the NoKos to preemptively trigger at least two of their devices "in place"? (This following the same logic we used when we nuked the Japs in '45.) What do you believe would be the richest targets for these demonstrations? What might be the best targets if the NoKos hope to avoid a "sudden death" retaliation?

Presume they've got half of dozen (more or less) already in their designated kill zones. Where would you put them? Would their strategy be one of post-detonation deterrence or an attempt to do mortal damage to the US, keeping in mind that a mortally wounded US could still do a lot of damage, even to countries not in the game.

How might they try to game us in a way to discourage a scorched earth policy for North Korea? (Would it be possible to turn off or divert the US war machine after the NoKo demonstrations?)

Are we living in a world where the inmates are indeed in charge of the asylum?

PirateLaddie

Subject: Shall we play a game?

What with President the Donald threatening to totally destroy North Korea, and the NoKos probably not able to deliver a significant number of ballistic missiles against CONUS as a counter measure, it seems logical to me that their best hope is to have a number of "the best they can do" nukes, probably containerized, "dirtied up" and stacked at various entry points to CONUS. Recent reports of "miniaturized" nukes -- maybe even the much ballyhooed "backpack nuke" that you hear about from infantry guys, should be keeping some folks from a good night's sleep

Given the flood of containers that arrive at U.S. ports daily, either from China and South Korea (and lets not forget, say, Japan & other countries with skin in the game), how does the following sound as the parameters of the game:

What might induce the NoKos to preemptively trigger at least two of their devices "in place"? (This following the same logic we used when we nuked the Japs in '45.) What do you believe would be the richest targets for these demonstrations? What might be the best targets if the NoKos hope to avoid a "sudden death" retaliation?

Presume they've got half of dozen (more or less) already in their designated kill zones. Where would you put them? Would their strategy be one of post-detonation deterrence or an attempt to do mortal damage to the US, keeping in mind that a mortally wounded US could still do a lot of damage, even to countries not in the game.

How might they try to game us in a way to discourage a scorched earth policy for North Korea? (Would it be possible to turn off or divert the US war machine after the NoKo demonstrations?)

Are we living in a world where the inmates are indeed in charge of the asylum?

Publius Tacitus

Bill, No offense, but your assertion that we would "keep casualties down" with the use of tactical nukes is batshit crazy territory. How can you assert such a thing? Did you even take time to read Pat's analysis above? Use of tactical nukes opens a Pandora's box of terror and death.

Bill Herschel

1) Every syllable of the post is correct.

2) The context of the post, developed by the Chinese and Russians themselves, is the intelligence they used to make their votes for sanctions in the Security Council.

3) It is a trap for the U.S. First of all, if neither China nor Russia come to NK's defense in such a war and given that they have voted in favor of sanctioning NK, where is the justification for what the crazies in the U.S. really want: war against either Russia or China. What does that leave us with?

A war featuring the surprise first use of nuclear weapons by the U.S. that at best destroys a sovereign state, killing many thousands if not millions of people and leaving in its wake a humanitarian catastrophe. Does the U.S. possess the resources to rebuild NK? To give the kind of mass medical care and food aid needed to get NK through its next winter? Does South Korea? And what will the U.S.' reputation and place in the world be after this mass murder? Will anyone say that we should have negotiated instead?

But that is at best. At worst, a war in which thousands of American soldiers die, Seoul is nearly destroyed and there is no clear victor.

This is a trap, and Mr. Fire and Fury is just the man to step into it.

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