Since joining RightPundits, I’ve been reluctant to write about military matters, focusing more on political and economic issues. But one of the most important news stories of this week is the undeniable confirmation that a South Korean warship was indeed attacked by a torpedo launched from a North Korean submarine. Naturally, the North Koreans deny it and threaten “all out war” should they be subject to any new sanctions due to this event. So this begs at least two vital questions, “Why did North Korea do this?” and “How should we respond?”.
One of my all-time favorite books is the classic “How To Make War” by James F. Dunnigan. I actually met Mr. Dunnigan at the 1977 ORIGINS national war-game convention where I attended a seminar he gave shortly after writing this book. The guy knows what he’s talking about. To answer the first question, “Why did North Korea do this?”, Dunnigan provides the reason.
Totalitarian States are built on the skulls of crisis. Due to the inevitable internal crisis inherent in any Socialist/Totalitarian nation, they must deflect their population’s attention and ire to an external crisis. North Korea is the perfect example of this. They were a failed nation-state from very early on. After MacArthur’s brilliant landing at Inchon, North Korea lost the war they started. American and U.N. forces rolled them and annihilated them. Only the direct intervention of Communist China saved North Korea.
We must keep in mind that technically, as state of war still exists there. Only a piece of paper and the will of American and South Korean taxpayers has kept the peace these past five-plus decades. The border between North and South is still heavily militarized and quite deadly. A hair-trigger is all the separates war from peace.
The internal situation in North Korea was been steadily declining the past two decades. Famine, oppression and stark brutality are common, daily events. The regime is held together by fear and violence. Their economy is corrupt and the primary sources of ‘hard currency’ is from weapon sales and the product of slave labor. Not a pretty at all.
Given the advances in communication technology, more and more North Koreans are accessing news and information from beyond the state-controlled sources. Just as we saw in Eastern Europe, the people of the old Soviet Bloc nations saw Western television, particularly commercial advertising, and wanted blue jeans, BMWs and Coca-Cola! They saw the abundance of the West and compared that to the empty shelves of their local state-controlled stores. Westerns stood in line to see movies and buy new gadgets, Easterners stood in line to buy milk and bread.
South Korea is as Western as a nation can be. Even parts of China now resemble downtown Seoul or Tokyo. The North Korean people know they are in a jail and want out. Earlier this year, the government began talking peace again as a new round of multi-lateral talks were discussed to the North’s nuclear weapons program. Kim Jong Il was even speaking publicly about an actual peace treaty bring the 51 year-old war to a final conclusion. On opening the borders and developing trade and other exchanges with South Korea and the West.
Now this torpedo incident. Something is going on inside North Korea. Another wave of mass famine? A total collapse of what little economy they have? Or the beginnings of a military coup? Take your pick. The March naval attack is a signal that that the situation inside North Korea is about to change dramatically. How do we react to this? With calm, firm resolution. As we have seen in every Arab-Israeli war, Iraq and Afghanistan, we can easily defeat the best military hardware that the old Soviet Bloc had to offer. Even in Vietnam, in a convention fight, our side dominated.
Should the North Korea launch a full-scale attack against South Korea, they may inflict a great deal of death and destruction for a few days at best. But within 72 hours or less, the momentum will shift and the North would be slaughtered wholesale. It would make the “Highway of Death” between Kuwait City and Basra from ‘Gulf War I’ look like a Sunday picnic. The weapon systems we have now are a whole lot deadly, smarter, and more accurate. Of course, the wild card today, as in 1950, would be China. Especially nowadays with a growing anti-West movement, particularly in the Chinese military.
Personally, I don’t think China would be foolish enough to try and take us on militarily now. In ten years, once they build and develop their own blue-water fleet and stealthy air force, maybe. I suspect that if North Korea follows through after the torpedo incident and invades South Korea, China will sit it out this time. They may even be happy with North Korea committing national suicide and see it as an opportunity to secure direct control as a peace-maker. Of course, if China intervenes, this could wind up being a great opportunity for us to blast China back to the Stone Age. Either way, Obama could reap a windfall politically with playing strongman. Victory and Jobs would come in handy for the elections.