Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Preparing for the Next Korean War

I received these comments from a long time Korea hand that I think are very much worth sharing.  I think the last question is very much worth considering for all those pondering a limited war in Korea.

Agree 100% with everything you said.  When the NK artillery attack starts on Seoul, it will include 1/3 chemical rounds which will increase the civilian casualty ratio three-fold.  ROK-US Alliance response, beyond what you describe, must include C2 facilities in Pyongyang and once Pyongyang is hit seriously the proverbial gloves within the Kim Regime come off.  Standard practice in war preparation will include the party's order, not the military's order, to mobilize the entire population for war through the party's provincial and county military committees to support the military as the military requires.  Based on NK's well-documented (their documents) plan to guarantee survival of the military industrial facilities dispersed countrywide, the logistical arm will give false confidence to the leadership in terms of survivability.  As air defenses crumble, regime vulnerability will spread and panic will begin to set in at the top.  Stopping the artillery attacks with chemicals on Seoul will not likely be seen as an option.  The momentum of war will eliminate any concept of limited war.  If the ROK suffers 200-300,000 civilian casualties in the first 48 hours, why would the ROK leadership tolerate a limited ending and why would they not press for the complete  end of the Kim Regime?  What would we do if New York suffered 200,000 casualties?


---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: David Maxwell <>
Date: Tue, Aug 25, 2015 at 9:26 PM
Subject: Preparing for the Next Korean War

I have a very hard time envisioning  "a limited war."  Any attack scenario that includes any massing of artillery fires or crossing of the DMZ with any forces of sufficient size to conduct a "limited war" will require an execution of the defense plan.  Once the defense plan is initiated the end result will be the end of the Kim Family Regime with the ultimate end state of Korean unification.  There is no "limited war" scenario that will result in a cessation of hostilities with either the north gaining territory in the ROK or even the reestablishment of a new DMZ either South or north of the current DMZ.

While Dr. Jackson can accuse me of cognitive dissonance when I say that survival of the Kim Family Regime is the vital north Korean national interest and yet can make argument that Kim Jong-un might make a very rational decision from the north Korean perspective that an initiation of the campaign plan in order to unify the peninsula under the north's control.  To think that regime survival will prevent Kim Jong-un from attacking is a misunderstanding of the nature of the Kim Family Regime and how it perceives not only its interests but also its military power (and things are likely worse now because there are probably no generals remaining who will provide Kim Jong-un with the real facts on the correlation of forces and balance of power which is more likely to lead to a miscalculation).

I would also say that once any kind of attack occurs we are going to be hard pressed to assess that it is only a limited attack.  And to ever assume that an attack is limited will end up causing the expenditure of great amounts of blood and treasure and put the ROK at even greater risk.  When the north uses military force the ROK/US Alliance must seize the initiative and finish the fight.  But a limited war is one that is likely to be protracted which again will result in great expenditure of blood and treasure.  But it is the height of military irresponsibly to assume a limited war and not respond decisively with the full execution of the defense plan.  Just think about this.  Once the north begins firing artillery preparation (which likely will consist of thousands of rounds of artillery) the Combined ROK and US Air Forces are going to begin destroying all of the north's air defense systems and missile and rocket launch capabilities because not doing so would make the ROK extremely vulnerable and again to not do so would be militarily irresponsible.

Furthermore, to think that approaching an attack from a limited war perspective would be prevent the use of nuclear weapons again is a bad assumption.  The only way to prevent the use of nuclear weapons after the north initiates its campaign and attack is for the ROK/US alliance to execute the defense plan as rapidly and decisively as possible.  The longer we allow Kim Jong-un to maintain control of his nuclear weapons during war time (limited or otherwise) leaves the ROK vulnerable and the chance of use increases over time.  The north's nuclear weapons and delivery systems have to be immediately targeted and destroyed as soon as hostilities are initiated by the north.

Limited war scenarios are fantasies and should not be entertained because to do so increases the death and destruction in the ROK and increases the likelihood that the north will be able to use nuclear weapons against the South or even UN/US bases in Japan.  This is a nice scenario to play out in simulations, war games, and think tanks but it is not a military or political reality.  But again, once the north attacks on any significant scale must result in execution of the defense plan and it must be executed to its logical conclusion, the end of the Kim Family Regime and the path to unification.

Preparing for the Next Korean War

Preparing for the Next Korean War
Image Credit: U.S. Navy Photo
Why the U.S.-ROK alliance should plan for a limited war on the Korean Peninsula.
How do you fight and win with one hand tied behind your back?  U.S. and South Korean officials would do well to figure out, quickly.  A dark cloud descended over the Korean Peninsula last week as a series of North Korean actions along the DMZ escalated tensions to the highest level since 2010.  Despite ongoing talks between the two sides, tensions remain high.  The prospect of limited war on the Korean Peninsula is all too real, and the alliance must reorient its preparations accordingly.
I’ve spent most of my tenure since leaving government warning about limited war in Korea—a conflict in which both sides avoid nuclear exchanges, no invasion of Pyongyang occurs, and both sides limit their objectives and the means of attaining them to eschew conquest.  In limited war, a return to the status quo may count as a victory.  If that sounds perverse, it’s because we’ve become accustomed to an image of war as an all-or-nothing affair; no goal short of total enemy surrender will do.  Not so in a world of limited wars.
I raised this issue in congressional testimony earlier this year.   I noted it in subsequent op-eds, and in a Center for a New American Security report for Secretary of Defense Ash Carter.  I’ve discussed it before the media, and at conferences.  And in a forthcoming report for the U.S.-Korea Institute, I attempt to sketch how the alliance might adjust to a future of limited wars.  The most recent mini-crisis brings the point home in disturbingly clear fashion: the risk of limited war on the Korean Peninsula is increasing with time.
I’ve identified a number of mutually reinforcing reasons why this is so, and why the reality of limited war actually gets more likely with time.
Nobody Wants Nuclear War—Not Even Kim Jong Eun
Every Korea expert I’ve ever met believes North Korea’s primary goal is regime survival.  Yet most of these same experts believe that Kim Jong Eun is capable of anything and there’s no telling what he might do.  To put it politely, that’s cognitive dissonance.  If we know North Korea seeks regime survival, then we know something about what it’s keen to avoid.  Even Kim Jong Eun must know there are certain actions that would end him and his regime—nuclear attacks, the destruction of Seoul, or a mass invasion of South Korea.  Kim Jong Eun isn’t a Millenarian or a Jihadi; his goal isn’t suicide.  So unless we want to shrug our shoulders and say “anything could happen,” we should have some modest confidence that Kim won’t pursue the extreme actions that North Korean media routinely threaten.
(Continued at the link below)

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