Thursday, January 31, 2013

Obama administration learns that ‘leading from behind’ is the right place for the U.S.

I wish whomever coined the term of "leading from behind" had not done so.    It does much damage to the concept of helping friends, partners, and allies to conduct their fight against lawlessness, subversion, insurgency, and terrorism.  Why are there those that want to automatically default to the US having to take the lead?  But "leading from behind" may go down in history as one of the more damage foreign policy phrases.  I know some smart guy in the administration thought it up and it sounded good for a minute and even may have looked good on a power point chart but it has damaged the ability to be flexible in foreign policy and security strategy because of partisan attacks on the use of the phrase.  Does anyone argue that sometimes it is not better to help friends, partners and allies in their fights or do we think we must always be in the lead and (try to) solve every problem in the world with US military power?

Obama administration learns that ‘leading from behind’ is the right place for the U.S.
By Walter Pincus, Published: January 30
If Mali is any example, “leading from behind” is the right policy choice for the United States to follow in most of today’s international confrontations with what is now termed “terrorism.”

The Obama administration’s actions in the past months reflect it has learned some hard lessons from the United States’ 11 years fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq. The wars have cost the nation 6,300 U.S. lives, 50,300 casualties among American service personnel and about $1.3 trillion.
What’s one lesson?

“The best-intentioned foreign intervention is bound to bog its armies down in endless wars fighting invisible enemies to help ungrateful locals,” as the Economist magazine frankly wrote in its Jan. 26 issue.

Sound familiar?

How about what then-Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told West Point cadets almost two years ago: “Any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should ‘have his head examined,’ as General [Douglas] MacArthur so delicately put it.”

On Tuesday night, former secretary of state George P. Shultz, in an appearance before the Council on Foreign Relations here in Washington, put it this way: “Iraq and Afghanistan cannot be the template for how we go about” dealing with threats of terrorism.

The Obama refinement to such intervention may be to provide intelligence and logistic support to those deserving such help and capable of receiving it. But the lead for using combat troops, “boots on the ground,” should be taken by those whose vital interests are directly involved — starting with the host government. Next should be neighboring countries. In the best of circumstances, they would be banded together in regional organizations, and, if possible, with authorization from the United Nations.

If the situation requires U.S. diplomacy to facilitate such collaboration and authority, fine. That is where the world’s greatest power should take the lead. If more hawkish Americans want to call this “leading from behind,” then that’s all right, too. Finally, when outside ground forces from a major power are required, it should come from a nation with historic roots in the host country.

France is a good example. It stepped up and took the lead by going into Mali, a former colony, in response to the Bamako government’s call for help. Another example is the international cooperation on the oceans off Somalia that has successfully been dealing with the piracy problem.
(Continued at the lin below)

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Nuclear Test Could Open Window on North Korea

While perhaps some analysts might quietly hope this happens so they can gain intelligence, I think the bigger issue is what does the US and international community do if it does.  So what if we gain more insight into their program?  We are likely to have more problems with the north when a lack of response from the US and international community further emboldens them.  It will be an internal propaganda boom for the regime – they test in the face of sanctions and nothing but verbal condemnation occurs.  Ironically, we may have created the right conditions for a test.  There is the perception that we have "maxed out" international sanctions and that nothing more can happen to the regime.  But even more importantly the regime perceives that in time (perhaps this summer, next fall there will be pressure to re-engage diplomatically – Madam Park will want to give her trust politick a chance so conducting a nuclear test so close to the missile launch has created a kind of inoculation for the north – eventually the ROK and US will come back to the table and the north will manipulate the situation for a time to gain political and economic concessions.  So while the analysts may hope to gain a window into the program – the bigger "so what" is  - so what will we do about it?

January 30, 2013

Nuclear Test Could Open Window on North Korea

WASHINGTON — The world is warning North Korea against going ahead with its third nuclear test, but inside the American intelligence community, some officials are quietly hoping it happens. A test could give them their first real view in years into whether the North has made significant progress toward a weapon that could threaten the United States or its allies.

Since the North’s last test, in 2009, during President Obama’s first months in office, the United States has lost much of its visibility into what a former senior intelligence official says is on the cusp of becoming a “runaway program.”

Inspectors have been ejected from the country, and new facilities to make nuclear fuel have appeared. And after the North warned last week that it would now conduct a “higher level” test “targeted” at the United States, Kurt M. Campbell, the assistant secretary of state for East Asia, conceded that “we don’t know the kind of test that is anticipated.”

Now the hope is that an underground blast will answer several mysteries. Can the North Koreans produce a bomb out of uranium — a program they invited a visiting American nuclear scientist to glimpse two years ago — as well as the plutonium bombs that they exploded in 2006 and 2009? Can they make a warhead small enough to fit atop one of the long-range missiles they successfully tested last month?

In short, is it possible that the country that gained a reputation as the Keystone Kops of nuclear nations, setting off nuclear explosions that sputtered and missiles that crashed into the sea, has actually gotten its act together to the point that it now may pose a significant threat?

“It’s clear that there is now an expectation that this test could cross a threshold and yield data we haven’t had,” said Michael Green, a senior director for Asian affairs in the National Security Council under President George W. Bush. “We know a lot about their programs, but not the most important part: how far along are they? And we won’t know that until they test.”

The test could show, he said, “whether they can build a bomb that can approach Hiroshima or Nagasaki levels, and that would tell us a lot about how far they have proceeded on weaponization.”
(Continued at the link below)

Update - Special Operators Depend on Good Partners, Commander Says

Here is an update from an email exchange I had regarding ADM McRaven's comments from my original post at this link:

In response to ADM McRaven's article and my comments below I had this exchange with a friend and colleague that allowed me to provide further thoughts on this.

Good morning.

Great comment but I suspect that what the Admiral said and what he meant didn’t shake hands here.  When he says “in and out…quickly” I think he means “in quickly” to take advantage of fleeting SFA/FID opportunities and “out quickly” to take care of preservation of the force issues.  He gets the persistent presence thing real well.

In general, however, he’s right.  Our strat lift for SOF (or for anyone for that matter) in PACOM is broken.  My teams became adept at moving themselves and their gear to some very remote places by plane, DHL, ferry, and dug-out canoes….okay, I made the last one up.  But it still stands that PACOM is difficult to traverse, infil, and exfil.

My Response:


Thank you for your comments.  I certainly understand well about moving in PACOM.  It has never been good for SF.  I spent 20 years watching teams move around PACOM by commair and non-military, non-standard air.  Except for JCS exercise funded airlift using STRATAIR it is for the most part cost prohibitive.  SF and SOF (less national mission forces with dedicated air)  in general will never be able to make use of STRATAIR because we are too small and it is not efficient for the Air Force to move us (unless we pay the SAAM costs  -  and JA/AAT air is not always good because we cannot always line up our training and of course it can easily be diverted to higher priorities leaving our guys out on a limb - or on the proverbial deserted island).  Intra-theater air is useful and of course SOF air in theater is very responsive.  The Asia focused SOF (primarily 1st SFG) know how to get around in PACOM and up to 9–11 we had SFODAs doing it routinely (and in large measure they have continued to do so despite being somewhat distracted with OIF/OEF deployments.) But let me push back on your comments a little more.  

First is FID is by nature and definition long duration and we should never be thinking in terms of "fleeting" FID opportunities (and I will not use SFA because that has been a waste of a lot of  trees developing that concept when FID is sufficient and useful).  FID is not simply conducting a training event with the host nation military.  It has to be part of a broad and comprehensive strategy to support achieving national security objectives.  

Second, the preservation of the force argument is also an important discussion.  But we cannot think about the Asia-Pacific region in terms of the Afghan/Iraq paradigm and the way we employed SOF there.  To be effective we need long duration SOF presence and I remain pretty confident that the Special Forces Soldiers are very happy to sign up for long deployments in Asia (as long as they know they are supporting an effective and comprehensive strategy). That is one of the traits that Special Forces selects for. And of course this is also why I advocate the stationing of more SOF in theater.     We have to be very careful about the one size fits all cookie cutter solution for SOF – e.g., while we want to capture and exploit lessons learned from Afghanistan and Iraq, we have to ensure we use the right lessons for the right situations.  The preservation of the force issue we will have for our Asia apportioned forces will not stem from employing SOF in theater for long duration but rather from not employing them long enough to make a difference.  I think the idea of getting in and out quickly for FID is a misunderstanding of the nature of Special Warfare and its subordinate elements of FID and UW.  I am afraid that SOCOM wants to think in terms of Afghanistan and Iraq and apply those ideas to Asia and I think that is a mistake.   Frankly, SOCOM is going to need some people with SOF Special Warfare experience in Asia to prevent it from employing SOF from an Afghan/Iraq paradigm.  As I heard Ola Mize (retired SF Colonel and MOH recipient) once tell a group of new SF Soldiers there are only two places for an SF Soldier to be – either deployed for long periods of time with indigenous forces or back at SWCS at the schoolhouse training future SF Soldiers.

01/29/2013 03:33 PM CST

Special Operators Depend on Good Partners, Commander Says
By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 29, 2013 - Close partnership with U.S. geographic combatant commanders will be crucial to keeping the nation's special operations forces effective as budgets and formations dwindle, U.S. Special Operations Command's leader said here today.
Navy Adm. William H. McRaven talked about special operations support to national strategy during a speech at the National Defense Industrial Association's 24th Annual Special Operations and Low-intensity Conflict Symposium.

Socom troops around the world, McRaven said, are "doing exceedingly well, operating as an integral part of the geographic combatant commanders' strategy."
(Continued at the link below)

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Kim Jong-il’s final orders: Build more weapons

This is very interesting and really sheds more light on the regime in regards to its nuclear program, USFK, propaganda, China,military first, unification and more.  Must have been some good work by ROK intelligence to get this document (and I assume it has been thoroughly analyzed and found to be credible).  It does reinforce what must of us know about the regime.  Could it be disinformation?  Sure but again, it really does track with what we have known for a long time.

Here are a few comments from an exchange I had with some Korea Hands on this article:
Three of these orders are especially interesting for me:

o   No country wants a strong unified Korea; make sure USFK withdraws and major countries are neutral
o   Kim Sol-song (Kim Jong-il’s oldest daughter) is to be Kim Jong-un’s assistant; she will put money in overseas bank accounts for Kim Jong-un.
o   Keep the State Security Department and the Military Security Command apart; military-first ideology to the end
And another:

We have gotten some info that Kim Sol-song, wearing the KPA uniform of a major, worked in the OGD.  Now we know that she works the family money.  I agree that it is interesting to keep the two security agencies apart, but he always seemed to prefer competition, and not giving too much power to one man.  

A response:

The interesting thing is that he is making a major point of keeping two security agencies apart.
Also, the fact that his daughter will be hugely powerful - but behind the scenes - is quite interesting to me.
Kim Jong-il’s final orders: Build more weapons
北김정일 유훈 첫 확인, "南, 군사적으로 제압한 후…"

Jan 30,2013

Former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il ordered his youngest son to continue to develop not only his nuclear arsenal, but also long-range missiles and even biochemical weapons, in his last instructions before he died. 

“Recently, the government obtained the entire contents of the final instructions of Kim Jong-il, which he left two months before he died,” a South Korean government official told the JoongAng Ilbo yesterday.

“We found some comments were consistent with current affairs in North Korea, such as the nuclear weapons program, missile launches and its demand to remove U.S. troops from the South.” 

Pyongyang reportedly considers the instructions from the two former leaders, Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong-il, as the final word in their policy-making, overruling even the Constitution. 

Last April, the Korea JoongAng Daily reported on the partial contents of a note that was allegedly sent from Kim Jong-il to his sister on Oct. 17, 2011 and obtained by a North Korean defector in the South.

“Although some North Korean defectors and civic activists revealed instructions that were smuggled in from China, we need a verification process to confirm its authenticity,” a source familiar with foreign and national security affairs said. 

“We shared the information with officials in other ministries and confirm the recent affairs in North Korea are consistent with the instructions.” 

The final instructions, reportedly delivered on Oct. 8, 2011, include 44 specific orders. When it comes to the regime’s defiant nuclear test and missile capabilities, Kim said, “Keep in mind that the way to maintain peace on the Korean Peninsula is to endlessly develop nuclear, long-range missiles and biochemical weapons and possess a sufficient number of them. Don’t ever be caught off guard.” 
(Continued at the link below)

Special Operators Depend on Good Partners, Commander Says

A pretty detailed overview from ADM McRaven.  I am going to start counting how many times people now invoke the Philippines as an example.  But it is good to hear broader discussion about Special Operations in Asia.  However,  I have to take some exception to this statement from ADM McRaven and offer a counterpoint.

Socom also has to consider, he said, how to move Special Forces "A" teams, Marine special operations teams, Navy SEAL platoons and the platforms that support them in and out of theater quickly. That requires working closely with each of the services, he noted.

I would submit that we should not be figuring out how to move Special Forces Operational Detachments Alpha (SFODAs) "in and out of theater quickly."  What we need to be doing is figuring out how to have them remain in theater for long duration.  While we definitely want to be abel to get Surgical Strike forces in and out of theater quickly, we need those forces conducting Special Warfare to remain in theater.  We really should be exploring the potential for stationing Special Forces in theater (more than just 1-10 SFG in Germany and 1-1 SFG in Okinawa).  We have some good historical examples as models that have worked (and continue to work as in the case of Special Forces Detachment Korea (Det 39) - which as an aside is the longest continuously serving US Special Forces organization in Asia). Potential examples include the 46th SF Company in Thailand, DET-A in Berlin, and DET-T in Taiwan, all with different force structure and missions based on the regional conditions and strategy.  Although it is counterintuitive to most, effective Special Warfare is characterized by more deliberate planning for the long term while Surgical Strike requires the rapid deployment capability.  Sure CONUS based Special Forces will still have to deploy and redeploy but if there are forward stationed forces in key areas in theater SF can provide a range of options to the Theater Commander as well as assist in providing situational understanding.  

01/29/2013 03:33 PM CST

Special Operators Depend on Good Partners, Commander Says
By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 29, 2013 - Close partnership with U.S. geographic combatant commanders will be crucial to keeping the nation's special operations forces effective as budgets and formations dwindle, U.S. Special Operations Command's leader said here today.
Navy Adm. William H. McRaven talked about special operations support to national strategy during a speech at the National Defense Industrial Association's 24th Annual Special Operations and Low-intensity Conflict Symposium.

Socom troops around the world, McRaven said, are "doing exceedingly well, operating as an integral part of the geographic combatant commanders' strategy."

The admiral said while his forces operate in more than 70 countries around the world, Afghanistan remains a key focus. U.S. Central Command is the geographic combatant command responsible for Afghanistan, with NATO's International Security Assistance Force in charge of operations there.

McRaven noted all coalition special operations forces in Afghanistan now are united under one special operations joint task force, commanded by Army Maj. Gen. Tony Thomas.
"His headquarters, which reached its full operational capability on 1 January, has done a phenomenal job," the admiral said. "During my most recent visit there, I was impressed to see [the headquarters] integrating, coordinating and fully synchronizing all [special operations activities] -- not only with each other, but with ISAF."

Village stability operations and support to Afghan local police –- both programs aimed at growing security and extending governance in rural areas -- are among the "most compelling success stories" special operations forces are logging in Afghanistan, McRaven said.
"These programs have been game-changers to our efforts," he noted.

McRaven said he recently visited some of the places where Afghan local police groups have established outposts. "I was amazed at the relationships forged with our Afghan counterparts," he told the symposium audience. "These relationships, built on trust, have clearly paved the way for greater security in the remote areas of the country. They have also helped bridge the gap between the local, district and provincial governments."
The thinning of U.S. conventional forces in Afghanistan this year and in 2014, McRaven said, will give special operations troops "more opportunity to do more in places that we have neglected."

While he doesn't yet know the number of special operations forces that will be needed in Afghanistan beyond 2014, he said, one approach now under way to bridge the anticipated gap is a "surge" in Afghan local police.

The local police program across Afghanistan now numbers close to 19,000 "guardians," he said, which Afghan leaders want to build to 45,000. Around 60 Special Forces or SEAL units, working with Afghan counterparts, support the program as trainers, he added.

McRaven said Thomas has a plan to sustain the program, with coalition special operations forces shifting to a "train the trainer focus," helping the Afghan uniformed police and Afghan special operations forces to take over training local forces.

"I think [the program is] on a good glide path right now," he said. The post-2014 special operations contribution in Afghanistan isn't yet known, he added, but officials are making plans to enable helping the Afghans continue to build the local police program even if special operations forces draw down to a small number.

Special operators also are achieving "similar positive results" around the world, their commander said. He noted that in the Philippines, "our Green Berets and [Navy] SEALs are doing a terrific job with our Filipino partners."

McRaven said on a recent visit to the Philippines, he stopped in two places that "10 years ago ... were safe havens for Abu Sayyaf and other extremist organizations." A decade ago, security for the people in such places depended on "how well they knew the enemy," McRaven said.
"Beheadings, bombings, and families fleeing their homes were a constant part of life," he said. "Today, largely through the magnificent efforts of our [special operations forces] advisory teams and their Filipino counterparts, the threat is contained. Security has greatly improved."
McRaven said improvement in the Philippines, where economic progress and stable local government have followed security gains, rivals similar success in Colombia, where U.S. special operators have worked for decades. Such special efforts are also taking place now in Africa, he added, where U.S. special operations troops are "working with our African counterparts to end the [Lord's Resistance Army] tyranny in Central Africa."
(Continued at the link below)

Seoul develops index gauging N. Korea's stability

Interesting initiative and I am gratified to see the ROKG looking seriously at north Korean instability and potential for regime collapse.  There is still not better framework for indications and warnings that Bob Collins' Seven Phases of north Korea Collapse or Patterns of Collapse.  Whether those currently in the ROK-US Combined Forces Command know this or not, much of the indications and warnings in effect today are based on Bob's work.  He was truly cutting edge when he wrote his thesis while attending Korean graduate school.   This seminal work provides a way to frame the problem and ask the right questions to determine what is happening and what might happen in the north.  I would be leery of indices and mathematical analysis (they could be useful but I would not depend on them for forecasting and decision-making).  Lastly the idea that this will be outsourced to a private firm in order to have impartiality seems to me an abdication of government responsibility.  Professional analysts should be able to provide objective and impartial views.  But if it must be outsourced, I would recommend the ROKG hire Bob Collins to advise them.

2013/01/29 16:56 KST

Seoul develops index gauging N. Korea's stability
SEOUL, Jan. 29 (Yonhap) -- South Korea has developed an index gauging the level of stability in North Korea but it has yet to decide whether to release the index's figures to the public, a government official said Tuesday.

   The Ministry of Unification, which deals with inter-Korean relations, has recently completed the development of the so-called North Korea condition index, an official said. The project to develop the index began in 2010.

   The 100 point-scale index, designed to measure the overall stability of the country, assesses three key conditions -- risk of instability, regime change and crisis -- of the largely unpredictable and reclusive country. The index assess stability and recent transformations as well as the likelihood of a crisis developing in the fields of politics, economy, social affairs and the North military.

   The closer the number is to 100, the higher the risk of instability in the North.
(Continued at the link below)

Insurgency and Counterinsurgency: A Contest for Political Legitimacy

This helps explain why many successful revolutionaries make execrable founders and statesmen. After promising the world to win the sympathies of the people, the victor must deliver. Few do. George Washingtons — soldier-statesmen whose gifts span wartime and peacetime pursuits — are rare in history. Few would portray insurgent chieftains like Ho Chi Minh (and his successors) or Mao Zedong as praiseworthy state-builders. Lomperis and Wylie open a window into conflicts that rage where politics intersects with warfare, linear with nonlinear endeavors. Check 'em out.

It always seems easier to tear something down than to build it.

By James R. Holmes

January 28, 2013

Vietnam is important enough to U.S. diplomatic and military history to warrant a second post. Boiled down to its essence, insurgency and counterinsurgency is a contest for political legitimacy — a bareknuckles struggle for the acquiescence, the affections, and ultimately the allegiance of the populace. Popular approval cements the winner's rule.

Scholar Timothy Lomperis posits a three-layered model of legitimacy. A regime earns "interest"-level legitimacy by hoisting an umbrella under which people can fulfill their everyday needs. This is a transaction. The government supplies the basics — security, infrastructure, what have you — and the people assent to its rule. If the government stops holding up its end of the bargain, the people may stop holding up theirs. They may withdraw their support. And if the insurgent offers a better alternative, many will take the deal. Interest-based legitimacy is necessary but far from sufficient to perpetuate a regime for the long run.

The next level up is "opportunity." The regime that commands opportunity-based legitimacy makes stakeholders out of passive supporters. It makes land available to a broad swathe of the populace, opens civil-service jobs to all qualified comers, you name it. The regime entrenches itself through giving a critical mass of the people a stake in its success. If it falls, the fortunes of the people collapse with it.
Atop Lomperis's hierarchy perches "belief"-level legitimacy. The people affirm that such a regime rules by right, not just by delivering the goods. Belief-level legitimacy manifests itself in tokens such as the divine right of kings, the Mandate of Heaven, or the American Declaration of Independence. 

Convictions reinforce interest and opportunity, helping sustain the regime for the long haul. But legitimacy takes upkeep. The danger for rulers who enjoy belief-level legitimacy is apathy toward workaday functions — hey, if you rule by divine sanction, why bother with the peasants? — combined with some event that shatters the belief. Such a regime can lose its popular standing almost instantly.
(Continued at the link below)

Invisible Armies: An Epic History of Guerrilla Warfare from Ancient Times to the Present (Book review from Gian Gentile)

Gian is not happy with Max's book but does like some parts, e.g.:

At times Mr. Boot brings out some worthwhile observations and criticisms. For example at the end of the book there is a section titled “Implications: Twelve Articles, or the Lessons of Five Thousand Years” in which Mr. Boot offers his suggestions for timeless lessons on guerrilla warfare drawn from history. 
One of his observations is that Petraeus’ Surge in Iraq in 2007 did not “bring about a lasting political settlement.” Or in other words, the Surge ultimately failed because it did not accomplish political objectives 
In this sense Mr. Boot is spot on. Yet after making this crucially important observation he spends much time making the argument that Petraeus is one of the greatest generals in the history of guerrilla warfare. 
If the military means applied by Petraeus during the Surge failed to achieve political ends, how can he be considered a great general?

Invisible Armies: An Epic History of Guerrilla Warfare from Ancient Times to the Present

by Max Boot
Reviewed by Gian P. Gentile | Released: January 15, 2013
Publisher: Liveright (784 pages)

“Historical accuracy and truth, . . . take a second place in Invisible Armies to the book’s highly politicized point of view . . .”

In an interview shortly after the publication of his book Invisible Armies: An Epic History of Guerrilla Warfare from Ancient Times to the Present, Max Boot claimed that he did not make a “particular point” in the book, but aimed “simply to tell a story that has never been well told before.”
After reading Invisible Armies, however, it is hard to take Mr. Boot’s remarks in this interview seriously.

The story of guerrilla warfare actually has been told quite “well” before. Historian Robert Asprey’s still useful and relevant multivolume work War in the Shadows tells the story well and effectively with a level of embedded primary, archival research that Mr. Boot’s new book does not come close to.

But the more fantastic remark by Mr. Boot, that his book does not make a “particular point” is pure moonshine. In fact the book does just that: It makes one big whopping point for current American politics and more importantly foreign policy: that guerrilla warfare has been around for thousands of years, as his tome quite aptly chronicles, and since it has been around for thousands of years—here comes the political point he is making—the United States should accept the fact that it must commit itself to fighting numerous guerrilla wars in the future.

Never mind whether or not American strategy and security interests in the world demand fighting such wars. Instead for Mr. Boot simply because they have been fought in the past, America should keep fighting them in the future. For those American experts and policy wonks like Anne-Marie Slaughter who have been stridently advocating for American military intervention in places like Syria with a “responsibility to protect” local populations, Mr. Boot’s book will read like a policy prescription gussied up with the dash of history.

A nakedly didactic tutorial by the many Counterinsurgency (Coin) experts who have popped up over the years since David Petraeus supposedly made Coin work during the Surge in Iraq, is that the United States “may not want Counterinsurgency, but Counterinsurgency wants it.” Or in other words the United States has no strategic choice at all in these matters except to face the facts, accept the wisdom of the experts and plan on fighting Coin wars well into the future.

Mr. Boot’s Invisible Armies fully supports this tutorial by offering up a history of guerrilla warfare from the ancient Romans and Greeks up to the present American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. There is in the book an impressive sweep of history.

And it is definitely a ripping read to be sure. Mr. Boot if nothing else is an exceptionally strong writer with a gift for engaging storytelling. And in this respectInvisible Armies does not disappoint.
(Continued at the link below)

N. Korean leader stresses importance of low-ranking party leaders

Is Kim Jong-un reading our discussions?  Is he conducting a counter-propaganda effort against a key target audience that we should be trying to influence?  Is he conducting counter-revolutionary organization as a preventative measure against what we should be doing  (as the late Jack McCuen teaches us organization and counter-organization is key in revolutionary warfare)?  These lower tier leaders will be important in the post-regime north Korea (and we have to be careful not to "de-Bathify" as we did in Iraq – these lower level party leaders will be critical in support of the 2d trier leaders that we need to coerce and co-opt.)  But Kim Jong-un's recognition of the importance of these leaders should be an indicator that should support our decision to execute PSYOP/MISO targeting them.

This also appears to be business as usual in a way.  When faced with hardship and difficulty the north Korean action is to focus on ideological training which hopefully will motivate them to "powerfully mobilize all service personnel and people to build a thriving country."

N. Korean leader stresses importance of low-ranking party leaders
2013-01-29 11:40
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   North Korean leader Kim Jong-un stressed the increased role of "the grass-roots organizations" of the country's all-powerful ruling party in a meeting of the lowest-ranking secretaries held a day earlier, a state-run news outlet said Tuesday.

   In his opening address given at the 4th Meeting of Secretaries of Cells of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK), Kim said the gathering "is a significant meeting which was convened at the behest of (late) leader Kim Jong-il," the North's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said in an English-language dispatch.

   The late leader, who died in December 2011, wanted the party cell secretaries to have a bigger role and contribute more to the party, according to the report.

   Calling the party cells, the WPK's smallest organizations composed of 5-30 party members, "grass-roots organizations," the KCNA's report quoted Kim Jong-un as saying that "the current meeting will be an epochal turning point in increasing the party's capability in every way as required by the new era of the Juche revolution by decisively enhancing the function and role of the party cells."

   The WPK is "determined to make this meeting a decisive occasion of bringing about a great turn in the overall party work by ... radically improving and strengthening the work of the party cells," the KCNA dispatch also said.

   The latest meeting was the country's first convening of the party cell leaders in more than five years since the previous one held in October 2007 under the leadership of the late leader. The country first held the party cell meeting in 1994. It is also the first time that the communist country's top leader attended the gathering.

   In a separate dispatch, the KCNA said the meeting was held to discuss ways to increase the role of party cells and to "powerfully mobilize all service personnel and people to build a thriving country."
(Continued at the link below)

Monday, January 28, 2013

South Korea’s Unsustainable Military Build-Up

These three factors are important:
Despite ROK’s latest military build-up, defense analysts still express concerns about ROK’s ability to defend itself after the wartime OPCON transfer in 2015. Their concerns are threefold: the budgetary and institutional handicaps inherent within South Korea’s strategic framework and the domestic zeitgeist that is opposed to further militarization of the ROK. One must also consider South Korea’s territorial dispute involving Dokdo/Takeshima which has strained the ROK-Japan alliance, and South Korea’s growing concerns about handling China’s ascendancy.
Mr. Lee does not draw the conclusion that he should:  The Allliance should reconsider the dissolution of the ROK/US Combined Forces Command in 2015 and instead keep the Alliance together and strong until the threat from the north is eliminated.  We should also keep in mind the 2009 Joint Vision Statement that will hopefully be renewed when Madam Park visits the US in May:  the end state is (peaceful) unification of the Korean Peninsula – while we would hope for a peaceful unification we have to recognize that whether it is peaceful or not will be driven by the actions of the Kim Family Regime.

South Korea’s Unsustainable Military Build-Up

ROKS Dokdo underway in the Sea of Japan during joint operation Invincible Spirit. Image: US Navy

South Korea takes immense pride in its powerful military. According to, South Korea (or the ROK) ranked 8th overall in military strength. Indeed, Scott Snyder’s recent CSIS report argues that one noteworthy trend of late “is South Korea’s emergence as a producer rather than a consumer of international security goods despite an ongoing threat from North Korea (or DPRK).” However, there are several factors at play that do not bode well for the ROK’s recent military build-up. They show that absent America’s long-term presence in the Far East, the ROK will have difficulty meeting its security needs.

The Operational Control transfer scheduled for 2015 and the perceived threat from North Korea are key to understanding ROK’s capital-intensive militarization. ROK Navy Rear Admiral (Lower Half) Kim Duk-ki wrotethat North Korea’s “asymmetric assets [in the form of special operations forces, cyber threats, and nuclear weapons] … will pose a serious threat to the ROK military.”

To offset its strategic vulnerabilities, the ROK implemented a vigorous procurement and acquisition of state-of-the-art weaponry and indigenous research and development programs for its local defense industries. To update its aging combat aircraft, the ROK Air Force plans to purchase sixty stealth fighters through its KFX-III (Korean Fighter eXperimental-III) Program.  The ROK military, however, shelved plans to purchase  the RQ-4 Block 30 Global Hawks, given what they believed were prohibitive costs. Another outcome of South Korea’s militarization is the expansion of the ROK Navy. ROKN’s active anti-piracy campaigns in the Gulf of Aden, and its blue-water navy warships capable of “operat[ing] anywhere in the world,” may suggest that the ROK has become a great regional naval power and beyond.

Despite ROK’s latest military build-up, defense analysts still express concerns about ROK’s ability to defend itself after the wartime OPCON transfer in 2015. Their concerns are threefold: the budgetary and institutional handicaps inherent within South Korea’s strategic framework and the domestic zeitgeist that is opposed to further militarization of the ROK. One must also consider South Korea’s territorial dispute involving Dokdo/Takeshima which has strained the ROK-Japan alliance, and South Korea’s growing concerns about handling China’s ascendancy.
(Continued at the link below)

Navy's No. 2 Civilian Chronicles Missteps in Littoral Combat Ship

It is rare to hear a senior official admit mistakes.

By Sandra I. Erwin

Few Navy ships have been as doggedly assailed by naysayers as the Littoral Combat Ship, laments Navy Undersecretary Robert O. Work. 

It’s been called the wrong ship at the wrong time. Critics compare LCS to a guided missile frigate and find it wanting. Other contend that there are better, longer-legged ships for global maritime operations. Another camp has argued that the Navy would be better served by fast-attack craft or small corvettes armed with anti-ship missiles.

Work, who has for years been one of the Navy’s most ardent defenders of LCS, contends in a new white paper that although critics are entitled to their opinions, they continue to miss the point about LCS. 

The ship will never satisfy anyone who still dreams of the 600-ship Cold War Navy and views LCS as a retreat, Work suggests. These critics should stop living in denial about the Navy’s future and see LCS as the beginning of a new era that conforms to fiscal and political realities.

Work’s 64-page paper, “The Littoral Combat Ship: How We Got Here, and Why,” was recently published by the U.S. Naval War College, in Newport, R.I. 

The school’s dean of the center for naval warfare studies, Robert C. “Barney” Rubel, says Work’s paper is not a “sales brochure” or an apologia for the LCS but rather an objective account of the decisions — both good and bad — that propelled the ship from concept to production over the past 12 years.

“The Littoral Combat Ship has been a controversial program from its inception,” Rubel writes in the paper’s foreword. “To date, Navy attempts to defend the program have not succeeded in quieting the criticism, and the various technical and operational difficulties experienced by the first two vessels [LCS 1 and LCS 2] have not helped matters,” Rubel adds. “Perhaps the most serious objection is that the Navy charged into series production without having a clear idea of how the ship would be used.”

Work is known to be a meticulous researcher who has a comprehensive grasp of Navy force structure and fleet issues, Rubel says. And is aware that LCS does not fit easily into the existing Navy mindset and is being judged by traditional criteria. 
(Continued at the link below)

Along Korea's DMZ, Lone Forward-Deployed US Division Stays Prepared

Again, Mr Herman misses the significance of 2015.  It is not the transfer of wartime OPCON (we know that the Military Committee exercises operational control of the ROK/US Combined Forces Command so both Korea and the US have joint operational control over the combined force so the OPCON transfer is really a red herring), it is the dissolution of the ROK/US Combined Forces Command that is going to occur in 2015.

But as an aside, although the article notes that 2ID has been patrolling close to the DMZ since 1965, it would be really good if it were to return to patrolling the actual DMZ.

Along Korea's DMZ, Lone Forward-Deployed US Division Stays Prepared

M1-A2SEP Abrams tanks participating in a platoon qualifying exercise near the DMZ. (Photo: VOA / Steve Herman)

January 28, 2013
POCHEON, SOUTH KOREA — At a time of rising tensions on the Korean peninsula, a quartet of U.S. Army “Abrams” M1-A2SEP tanks rolls onto the frozen ground of the Rodriguez Live Fire Range near the DMZ during one of the coldest days of the winter.

The tanks and their crews, from Dragon Company of the 1st Battalion’s 72nd Armor Regiment (1-72 AR), are a small but lethal component of the U.S. Army's 2nd Infantry Division stationed close to the tense border separating North and South Korea.

The division has the unenviable task of holding off - until reinforcements arrive - a much larger enemy force, should there be an invasion similar to the one that began the Korean War in 1950.

The tankers' advanced qualification exercise (known as a gunnery table XII) not only involves the crews inside the 70-ton 1,500-horsepower vehicles, but 400 other support personnel scattered across the range, including those in an observation tower and a large heated tent that serves as the battalion tactical operations center.  
(Continued at the link below)

China Wouldn't Mind a Unified Korea—Just Not Yet

This conclusion has it about right.

China's historical ties to North Korea still have some meaning, but it would be a mistake to assume that these ties are what drives Beijing's approach to its neighbor. The Chinese government does not love the Kim family and will not shed a tear once it goes. But the timing has to be right. Ultimately, like the last remaining friend of unpopular bullies worldwide, Beijing knows that it'll have to pick up the pieces if anything goes wrong.

MATT SCHIAVENZA - Matt Schiavenza is an associate editor at The Atlantic.

China Wouldn't Mind a Unified Korea—Just Not Yet

JAN 25 2013, 8:53 AM ET 57

How far will China to go to protect an increasingly belligerent North Korea?

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un delivers a New Years address in Pyongyang (KCNA KCNA/Reuters)

In considering the security situation in Northeast Asia, it's sometimes useful to imagine the region's players as schoolboys playing in a courtyard. North Korea, bellicose and unpredictable, misbehaves and threatens the others. An outraged Japan, South Korea, and the United States then turn to China and say, "Well? He'syour friend!"

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, China has had the dubious distinction of being North Korea's only ally and friend on the world stage, a relationship that has occasionally caused a great deal of discomfort. In essence, Beijing's support consists of both economic assistance -- in the form of both direct aid and trade -- and diplomatic protection. To continue our schoolyard analogy, China not only shields its ally from the others -- it also pays for North Korea's lunch.

To the United States and its allies in the region, this arrangement is less than satisfactory. It's no secret that Washington would like to see the eventual reunification of Korea under a pro-Western government in Seoul, and views Beijing as the primary obstacle to realizing this goal. A recent report by U.S. Senate Republican staff members -- mentioned in an article by The Guardian on Tuesday -- went so far as to say that China may block the reunification of North and South Korea should it appear to be imminent.

The rationale for this position is simple and purely strategic: China does not wish to have a unified, dynamic Korea with tens of thousands of American troops sitting right on its northeastern border. For all of its hassles, North Korea is a valuable buffer, one that Beijing would be loath to see fall apart. Americans might think of China's support for a divided Korea as anachronistic, immoral, and wrong. But in the great game of Northeast Asia power politics, this position makes perfect sense. 
(Continued at the link below)

Image First Politics in north Korea

Commentary on the photo below is from one of our foremost Korea Hands.  Although there is speculation on Jang Song-taek's absence, I think the members that were present is significant and I think the fact that this meeting is made public is important as noted in the comments below.

Clockwise from Supreme Commander Kim Jong-un is Kim Kye-kwan, First Vice-Foreign Minister; Kim Yong-il, Director of the Party’s International Department; Kim Won-hong, Director of the State Security Department; Choe Yong-hae, Director of the General Political Bureau (political officers within the KPA); Hyon Yong-chol, Chief of the KPA General Staff (NK version of the US JCS Chairman); Hong Sung-mu, a Party vice-director (which the ROK Govt assesses to be Vice-Director of the Munitions Industry Department which controls nuke and missile programs); and Pak To-chun, Party Secretary for Military Munitions (the man who got much of the credit for the recent missile launch).

Although KIS did some of this (not in a timely fashion), I do not recall Kim Jong-il ever staging this type of "national security" meeting and reporting it through KCNA so the whole world could see.  KJI's ego would not have permitted this to be public.  He always showed his national security concerns through "management by walking around" at base or exercise visits.  This is an apparent message to back up its recent threats to the US and the ROK...and to make KJU look tough.  The Bolshoi Ballet could not have choreographed this better.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Absence of N.K. leader's uncle sparks speculation over internal power game

Yes, this could be signifcant.  Or it could be deliberate to stir up speculation among Korea watchers.  Or he could be ill with the flu and just could not make this meeting.  This certainly bears watching but we should not jump to conclusions.

2013/01/28 08:23 KST

Absence of N.K. leader's uncle sparks speculation over internal power game
By Lee Chi-dong
WASHINGTON, Jan. 27 (Yonhap) -- The absence of Jang Song-thaek, uncle of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, at a key national security meeting may be a sign of a renewed power game inside the reclusive communist nation's leadership, a U.S. expert said Sunday.

   Jang, vice chairman of the National Defense Commission, did not attend the meeting of top North Korean officials handling security and foreign affairs, in which Kim ordered "substantial and high-profile important state measures," according to Pyongyang's official media.

   Kim recently convened the meeting, viewed as North Korea's equivalent of the U.S. National Security Council, to discuss the impact of new U.N. sanctions imposed on his regime for the Dec. 12 rocket launch and Pyongyang's response. The North's media stopped short of specifying the date and venue for the meeting.

   "In my judgment, Jang's glaring absence was significant, signaling the emergence of a possible crack in the senior leadership, especially in the relationship between Kim Jong-un and his all-powerful uncle," Alexandre Mansourov, a specialist on North Korea told Yonhap News Agency. He has monitored North Korea issues for decades.

   He raised the possibility of divergent approaches between Kim and Jang to the North's international strategy, especially in regard to the issue of a nuclear test and ways to cope with international sanctions.

   "As the perceived 'China man in Pyongyang,' Jang may be deliberately staying out of Kim Jong-un's decisions on such a controversial issue as nuclear testing, which is objected by China, in order to preserve 'clean hands' and his good standing in Beijing," he added.
(Continued at the link below)

Kim Jong-un Mutters Dark Threats

I think he is doing a little more than muttering.  I think the regime propaganda machine is in full swing.  This except though should help us realize that the regime will not give up its nuclear program as it does truly believe it is key to regime survival.
Kim also echoed more irate statements last week from various arms of the regime, saying the North "must defend its sovereignty by itself" while there "can be no denuclearization of the Korean peninsula before the world has been denuclearized," KCNA reported.

But perhaps instead of the 6 party talks maybe the north would be amendable to working on Global Zero.

Kim Jong-un Mutters Dark Threats
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in a meeting with a new panel of top security officials and diplomats pledged "substantial and high-profile state measures," apparently in response to fresh UN sanctions.

The official KCNA news agency on Sunday quoted Kim as uttering the obscure threat "in view of the prevailing situation," which is being read as a reference to the latest UN Security Resolution condemning the North's rocket launch and intensifying sanctions.

Kim also echoed more irate statements last week from various arms of the regime, saying the North "must defend its sovereignty by itself" while there "can be no denuclearization of the Korean peninsula before the world has been denuclearized," KCNA reported.

Immediately after the UN resolution, the North's Foreign Ministry vowed to boost its arsenal, while the National Defense Commission threatened a "high-level" nuclear test.

The committee of security officials and diplomats seems to be a new setup and has sparked some speculation among pundits here. KCNA only said the meeting took place "recently."

"It looks like North Korea formed a taskforce of sorts copying the U.S.' National Security Council," said a Unification Ministry official here. "Perhaps the plan is to demonstrate how serious the situation has become due to the UN Security Council sanctions." North Korea watchers also note that the KCNA report came out at the unusual time of 2 a.m., which is noon in the U.S.

The committee is a mixed bag, including top military brass like new army chief Hyon Yong-chol and the army's top ideologue Choe Ryong-hae, Minister for State Security Kim Won-hong, Pak To-chun, the man overseeing nuclear arms development, party bigwigs Kim Yong-il and Hong Sung-mu who deal with foreign policy, and Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan, a comparative moderate and long the point man in negotiations with the U.S.

The hardline officials in charge of propaganda and surveillance against the South were absent, suggesting to some pundits that the regime is not yet willing to burn its bridges with South Korea's incoming Park Geun-hye administration.

Meanwhile, a Chinese North Korea expert reflected Beijing's growing impatience with North Korea's grandstanding and predicted that Beijing could use its growing diplomatic clout to "widen its strategic sphere" and meet that challenge. Ding Gang, writing in the English-language Global Times, warned that anyone who tries to put China in a tight spot will live to regret it.

Ding said a nuclear arsenal would not only fail to bring security to North Korea but go directly against China's national interests. He added North Korea faces no threat from outside its borders and the best way to ensuring its security is economic development.
(Continued at the link below)

North Korean Leader Vows ‘High-Profile’ Retaliation

Continued evidence that Kim Jong-un is following the Kim Family Regime playbook that has been in effect for 6 decades.
Mr. Kim threw his weight behind his government’s escalating standoff with Washington when he called a meeting of top security and foreign affairs officials and gave an instruction in his name. He inherited the posts of supreme party and military leaders from his father, Kim Jong-il, who died in December 2011.
Actually he has assumed new posts with new names because Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il retain their posts even in mortal death. That is why we can say that north Korea is not only ruled by a mafia-like crime family and cult but also by a "necrotocracy" – the only country rulled by dead people.

January 27, 2013

North Korean Leader Vows ‘High-Profile’ Retaliation

SEOUL, South Korea — Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, has ordered his top military and party officials to take “substantial and high-profile important state measures” to retaliate against American-led United Nations sanctions on the country, the North’s official media reported Sunday.

North Korea did not clarify what those measures might be, but it referred to a series of earlier statements in which Mr. Kim’s government has threatened to launch more long-range rockets and conduct a third nuclear test to build an ability to “target” the United States.

Mr. Kim threw his weight behind his government’s escalating standoff with Washington when he called a meeting of top security and foreign affairs officials and gave an instruction in his name. He inherited the posts of supreme party and military leaders from his father, Kim Jong-il, who died in December 2011.

By calling such a meeting and having it reported in state news media, Mr. Kim appeared to be asserting his leadership in what his country called an “all-out action” against the United States, unlike his father, who tended to remain reclusive during similar confrontations.

“At the consultative meeting, Kim Jong-un expressed the firm resolution to take substantial and high-profile important state measures in view of the prevailing situation,” said the North’s Korean Central News Agency, or K.C.N.A. “He advanced specific tasks to the officials concerned.”

The K.C.N.A. dispatch, which was distributed on Sunday, was dated Saturday, indicating that the meeting in Pyongyang, the capital, took place then. That was the same day on which the North’s main party newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, said that the United Nations Security Council’s resolution last Tuesday calling for tightening sanctions against the North left it with “no other option” but a nuclear test.

“A nuclear test is what the people demand,” it said in a commentary.

The resolution was adopted unanimously — with the support of the North’s traditional protector, China — as punishment for its Dec. 12 rocket launching. The Security Council determined that the launching was a cover for testing intercontinental ballistic missile technology and a violation of its earlier resolutions banning North Korea from conducting such tests.
(Continued at the link below)

The secret lives of North Korea

This is why an active and aggressive influence campaign must be conducted in north Korea by the ROK/US Alliance.  The people that Mr. Everard is talking to might be considered those who are potential 2d tier leaders and often members of what the regime considers the "wavering classes" i.e., those in the middle of  Songbun social system of 51 classes.  Increasing information to these people will help better prepare a key element of the population for a post-Kim Family Regime Korea as they are potential leaders and technocrats who could make a difference.  We need to conduct aggressive psychological operations (or MISO) and a comprehensive influence campaign – standard – e.g., Radio Free Asia and "non-standard" – infiltrating more DVDs or penetrating the closed cell phone and computer infrastructure of the regime as just a couple of examples. 
The secret lives of North Korea

What is life like for the non-elite in this closed land? Do citizens really believe that mountains dance when a leader is born? Britain's former ambassador describes the people he knew there

John Everard
Sunday, 27 January 2013

I had the rare privilege of serving as the UK's ambassador to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (usually referred to simply as North Korea) from February 2006 to July 2008, a tumultuous period that included missile launches and the country's first nuclear test.

In between wrestling with these issues, and despite the efforts of the North Korean regime to block contacts between its citizens and foreigners, I managed to get to know some North Koreans reasonably well – at least to the extent that they were prepared to discuss with me their lives and how they saw the world. In particular, I realised that while many, even some experts, viewed North Koreans as identical automatons who obeyed unquestioningly every order of their leaders, this was simply wrong.
North Korea is not like that at all. It is a real country with real people, whose everyday concerns are often not so very different from our own: their friends, how their children are doing at school, their jobs, and making enough money to get by. Above all, North Koreans are sharply differentiated human beings, with a good sense of humour and are often fun to be with.

The North Koreans whom I got to know were from the outer elite of Pyongyang. These were not the inner elite of the regime, who live in some luxury and rarely if ever interact with foreigners. But neither were they from the impoverished countryside. None of my social contacts was a key decision maker, but many were involved in implementing decisions by the senior leadership. They were executives rather than leaders.

By and large, these people did not eat well, but at least they ate regularly. Their clothing was not smart, but adequate (although all of them had one special outfit for obligatory appearances at parades and other official events). And they lived not in the villas of the elite nor the hovels of the poor, but in cramped flats in respectable, if unprestigious, parts of Pyongyang. Above all, they talked among themselves – North Koreans always seem to have time to chatter, and to share the fragments of information they can gather about their country and the outside world.

Their lives would seem very dull to most Westerners. They revolved around daily rituals of carefully phased breakfasts in overcrowded flats, tedious journeys to work (often prolonged because Pyongyang's rickety public transport so often broke down), and generally tedious work days. I had the impression that they worked at a relaxed pace. They all seemed to have a great deal of time to sit around talking with their colleagues – it was important to them to keep good relations with their workmates, both to create a pleasant working environment but also to make sure they had as many friends as possible if they got into trouble.

After work, they might have to attend a political meeting. When I asked my contacts what these meetings were about they told me that they did not remember. At first, I thought they were politely saying that they were not going to tell me, but I once came across an open-air political meeting at which the audience all appeared to have glazed eyes, despite the best efforts of the speaker. Perhaps my contacts were telling the truth – that they effectively entered a kind of catatonic state in these meetings, simply switching off, and genuinely could not remember what they were about.

Then they would face the commute home. Some told me that whenever possible they would walk – a longer journey but much less frustrating. Some of my contacts refused to use the Pyongyang metro because of the risk of a power cut while they were in a tunnel.
(Continued at the link below)

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Why sticks don't work with North Korea (TWO)

In response to Mr. Armstrong's article and my comments below I received this message reminding us of some important north Korean history with some very good recommendations which many of us have supported over the years to include the emphasis on combined Psychological Operations (now MISO), ending the "transformation" and move of US forces to Camp Humphreys (in reality the dissolution of the ROK/US Combined Forces Command) and reinstitution of Team Spirit.  But he makes the important analysis that we have very, very rarely responded to the north with any "sticks."  (and even then in 1976 and Operational Paul Bunyan following the axe murders and 2010 following Cheonan and Y-P Do our responses were merely shows of force).  So this is a good counter to Mr. Armstrong because while the UN has implemented sanctions we have not used any significant sticks over the the past 6 decades and in fact from the north Korean/Kim Family Regime perspective the list below indicates a pattern of success or at least that the north can get away with murder.

The problem is the world has never tried the stick with north Korea since 27 July 1953.  We have only tried diplomacy under all its names - working groups, exchanges, talks, inspections, sanctions, UN recognition, and the list goes on.  What the world has never done to north Korea is punch the bully back in nose when he punches, terrorizes, or threatens to punch the other kids on the block.  north Korea has done so many things over the years that would have gotten any other nation on the planet the opportunity to feel the full might of the United States military might.  And I am not referring to the skirmishes over the years along the DMZ.  Perhaps Mr. Armstrong needs a little perspective on the real history of nK? 
Who else in the world has taken a US naval vessel in international water and turned it into a museum?  Military Response - None. 
Who else has held the crew of a US naval vessel for a year?   nK!  Military Response - None. 
Who else has shot down a US recon plane in international airspace?   nK!  Military Response - None. 
Who else has sent a military hit squad to kill the President of our treaty ally?   nK!  Military Response - None. 
Who shot down a US military helicopter?   nK!  Military Response - None. 
Who chased US recon planes in international airspace?   nK!  Military Response - None. 
Who was repeatedly found to be training terrorist such as the PLO in the 1970's?  nK.  Military Response - None. 
Who murdered two American officers in the JSA?   nK!  Military Response - Operation Paul Bunyan - tree cam down, north Korea fails to live up to their threats to prevent tree coming down.  (lesson here?) 
Who orders civilian aircraft to be bombed?  nK!  Military Response - None. 
Who ordered a terrorist bombing in Burma trying to kill President of Korea and his cabinet?   nK.  Military Response - None.  
Who starved two million members of his people while spending his money on booze and weapons program?   nK!  Military Response - None.  No Aide like Bosnia, Somalia, Lybia, or Syria. 
Who launched an ICBM over a Japan another treaty ally?   nK!  Military Response - None.  Unless you count ceasing PSYOP in 2000 and removal of US BCT in 2003. 
Who held a ICBM and Ballistic Missile 4 July Party?   nK!  Military Response - None.   Unless you count the removal of numerous US units from peninsula and the announced reductions in ROK military size. 
Who tested Nuclear Weapons?  Military Response - None.  Sanctions not even to level of India and Pakistan's from their nuclear tests and we carried on with the 6PT. nK!  Military Response - None.  Unless you count more US units leaving. 
Who makes fake US currency and weakens the dollar world wide and disrupts currency exchange throughout asia?  nK.  Military Response - None. 
Who sank a allied military vessel of a MDT partner?   nK!  Military Response - None! 
Who shelled an island killing military and civilians?  nK!  Military Response - None 
It seems in reviewing history, one should reach the conclusion is that diplomacy has been the problem because the north believes that the military option doesn't exist for the United States or our allies because we are too scared of the risks of war.  We are too scared that nK can shell Seoul and kill millions in a few hours.  Thus they believe all we can do is negotiate and talk to them.  We have nothing backing up our diplomacy. 
In their eyes, we have no stick at all.  And that is the problem.  You can negotiate when you have no leverage.  A nation and regime that has already demonstrated they will starve millions of their own people to maintain power will not be scared by a few more sanctions.  When your economy is as dismal as their there is no real effect.  They can smuggle what they need to remain in control and keep the loyal class fat, dumb, and happy 
Maybe the time has come to dicard the failed diplomacy path and stand up to the north.
Here are a few easy things we can due to show we are prepared to conduct military operations if needed: 
1) In response to their inference to the renouncing the 1992 accord, announce that the U.S. is returning nuclear weapons to Korea and will assist Japan and the ROK in developing their own nuclear weapons programs.  Furthermore, announce that the US nuclear policy is being revised and we will return to our pre-1992 positions that we reserve the right to conduct a pre-emptive nuclear strike on nations that threaten the U.S., especially those that are self-proclaimed nuclear and chemical capable states. 
2) Announces the need for the Alliance to completely re-look its stance and military posture including opening all previous agreements up to revision to include - OPCON transfer, Yongsan Relocation, the Land Partnership Plan, the move to Humphreys, and treaties on weapons limitations such as missile range 
3) Demonstrate that the US is fully committed to the Alliance recommending the US return its force structure to 1992 levels to include the reintroduction of US brigades that left the peninsula since 1990 and that the Alliance will resume the conduct of the TEAM SPIRIT exercise suspended since the 1994 nuclear agreement 
4) Resume full scale combined PSYOP, an act not taken since prior to 1972.
Then, watch nK's reaction and only then, consider asking nK and the PRC if they would like to resume diplomatic discussions on denuclearizing the peninsula.

Original Comments:

For diplomacy to work, the north has to participate.  Mr. Armstrong's  conclusion is completely logical from the point of view of the ROK, China, Japan, Russia and the US.  Unfortunately the Kim Family Regime does not have a similar view and since it has never conducted diplomacy in accordance with any acceptable international standard for the last 60 years I am not optimistic it will at any time in the future.  Certainly the actions of Kim Jong-un and the regime over the past year have reinforced that.  Actions speak louder than words (although north Korean propaganda is pretty loud too). But it is better to jaw jaw than war war.
So, where do we go from here?  The United States and the United Nations have little choice but to impose sanctions in response to North Korea’s actions, which clearly violate earlier sanction conditions. But it is hard to see how such sanctions can deter a determined and defiant North Korea, especially if the sanctions are not rigorously enforced. The best we can hope for is that the latest confrontation will finally bring all sides together – including both Koreas, the United States, China, Russia, and Japan – to solve this issue. 
Diplomacy, not threats or sanctions – and certainly not military action – is the only viable path to resolution.

January 25th, 2013
11:59 AM ET

By Charles Armstrong, Special to CNN

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