Friday, October 30, 2015

North Korean House of Cards: Leadership Dynamics Under Kim Jong-un

The complete book can be downloaded here:

North Korean House of Cards: Leadership Dynamics Under Kim Jong-un

Ken E. Gause
Oct 30, 2015
Read Summary Download PDF
Merriam-Webster defines a “house of cards” as “a structure, situation, or institution that is insubstantial, shaky, or in constant danger of collapse.” As with many things in North Korea, its own house of cards is slightly unique, slightly less precariously balanced, but still in danger of collapse. North Korea’s house of cards consists of the uppermost echelons of the country’s leaders, with the “Supreme Leader,” Kim Jong-un, situated at the top. This book, North Korean House of Cards: Leadership Dynamics Under Kim Jong-un, is centered on the regime and the leadership dynamics within it, and develops a model to make sense of a totalitarian system built on over sixty years of the Kim family dictatorship.



Can North Korea's Kim family leader-based system survive another five years?

WASHINGTON, October 30, 2015—North Korea’s hardline regime may not be on the brink of collapse, but its fate will remain uncertain, with the possibility of collapse ever present, according to a 350-page report released today by the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK), a nonprofit organization.

Stephan Haggard, Krause Distinguished Professor at the Graduate School of Global Policy and Strategy, University of California San Diego, said: "Ken Gause looks more closely at the North Korean leadership than anyone. North Korean House of Cards is far and away the most comprehensive analysis of the North Korean succession that we have to date."

Andrew Natsios, HRNK Co-Chair Emeritus, former USAID Administrator and Director of the Scowcroft Institute of International Affairs at the The Bush School of Government & Public Service, Texas A&M, noted: "North Korean House of Cards is the most comprehensive and definitive analysis of the intrigue and instability inside the North Korean regime. Gause has done a great service to human rights advocates, policy makers and North Korea watchers in amassing enough evidence to draw a picture of Kim Jong Un's uncertain hold on political power, which could lead to dangerous consequences if the regime begins to unravel."

“If you want to know who is who in the mafia-like crime family cult known as the Kim Family Regime, read North Korean House of Cards,” said Professor David Maxwell, Associate Director of the Center for Security Studies and the Security Studies Program at Georgetown University, and a member of the Board of Directors at HRNK.

Patrick M. Cronin, Senior Advisor and Senior Director, Asia-Pacific Program at the Center for a New American Security, underlined that “Ken Gause's surgical dissection of North Korean elites and decision-making is a triumph of painstaking research and keen analytical judgment. Kim Jong-un has consolidated power to preserve a totalitarian system of governance. After detailing Kim's systematic dismantling of a regent system designed to smoothen his transition, including the purge of uncle Jang Song-taek, Gause ends with a profound question: can the Kim family leader-based system survive another five years?”

According to author Ken Gause, “While Kim Jong-un, as the Suryong or the Supreme Leader, is no doubt the ultimate authority in the regime, in order to understand his worldview, one really needs to understand that there are people around him who may provide advice and have some influence on him. Unless you grasp the dynamics between those individuals and the relationships they have with the Supreme Leader, you cannot really understand the Supreme Leader, his worldview, or how decision-making is done inside North Korea.”

North Korean House of Cards: Leadership Dynamics under Kim Jong-un shows that “crimes against humanity and other egregious human rights violations do not happen in a vacuum in North Korea,” said HRNK Executive Director Greg Scarlatoiu. “They span almost seven decades and are an intrinsic part of the Kim regime’s modus operandi.

North Korean House of Cards significantly contributes to the understanding of the mechanisms, lines of responsibility, and individuals liable for the crimes committed in North Korea. HRNK Co-Chair Emeritus Roberta Cohen pointed out that “understanding the dynamics of a regime that makes crimes against humanity state policy is essential to the international prosecution of the Kim family and those who carry out its orders. Those in the security sector, the prison sector, and other departments directly perpetrating human rights abuses will surely be put on notice by this study.”

In 2014, a United Nations Commission of Inquiry concluded that grave, systematic, and widespread human rights abuses amounting to “crimes against humanity have been committed” in North Korea, “pursuant to policies established at the highest level of the state.” The tightly closed, nuclear-armed communist regime rejects such accusations, which it regards as part of a U.S.-led effort to overthrow it.

The report launch will be held from 9:30 to 11:00 am on Friday, October 30, at the National Press Club, Holeman Lounge, 13th Floor Main Level, 529 14th St. NW, Washington, DC 20045. Complimentary copies of the book will be provided to all participants. If you plan on attending, send your RSVP to Rosa Park, HRNK Director of Programs: The publication is also available on HRNK’s website: HRNK.ORG.

HRNK was founded in 2001 as nonprofit research organization dedicated to documenting human rights conditions in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), as North Korea is formally known. An estimated 400,000 people are believed to have died in the country’s system of political prison camps, while another 120,000 are imprisoned there now. Visit to find more about HRNK and download “North Korean House of Cards” along with previous publications.


Contact: Greg Scarlatoiu, executive.director@hrnk.org202-499-7973

Board of Directors

Katrina Lantos Swett (Co-Chair)
President and CEO,
Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice

Gordon Flake (Co-Chair)
Chief Executive Officer, Perth USAsia Centre,
The University of Western Australia
Co-author, Paved with Good Intentions:
The NGO Experience in North Korea

John Despres (Co-Vice-Chair)
Consultant on International Financial & Strategic Affairs

Suzanne Scholte (Co-Vice-Chair)
Defense Forum Foundation
Seoul Peace Prize Laureate

Helen-Louise Hunter (Secretary)
Author, Kim Il-Song’s North Korea

Kevin C. McCann (Treasurer)
General Counsel, StrataScale, Inc.
Counsel, SHI International Corp.

Roberta Cohen (Co-Chair Emeritus)
Non-Resident Senior Fellow,
Brookings Institution
Specializing in Humanitarian and Human Rights Issues

Andrew Natsios (Co-Chair Emeritus)
Former Administrator,
U.S. Agency for International Development
Scowcroft Institute of International Affairs
Executive Professor, The Bush School of Government & Public Service,
Texas A&M University
Author of The Great North Korean Famine

Morton Abramowitz
Senior Fellow,
The Century Foundation

Jerome Cohen
Co-Director, US-Asia Law Institute,
NYU Law School
Adjunct Senior Fellow,
Council on Foreign Relations

Lisa Colacurcio
Advisor, Impact Investments

Rabbi Abraham Cooper
Associate Dean,
Simon Wiesenthal Center, Los Angeles

Jack David
Senior Fellow,
Hudson Institute
Paula Dobriansky
Chair, World Affairs Council of America
Adjunct Senior Fellow, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs,
Kennedy School of Government,
Harvard University
Distinguished National Security Chair,
U.S. Naval Academy

Nicholas Eberstadt
Henry Wendt Chair in Political Economy,
American Enterprise Institute
Author of books on North Korea, including North Korea in Transition: Politics, Economy, and Society

Carl Gershman
National Endowment for Democracy

Stephen Kahng
Kahng Foundation

David Kim
The Asia Foundation

Debra Liang-Fenton
U.S. Institute of Peace
Former Executive Director, HRNK

Winston Lord
Former Assistant Secretary for East Asia,
Department of State
Former Ambassador to China
Director of Policy Planning Staff,
Department of State
Former President,
Council on Foreign Relations
Former Chairman,
National Endowment for Democracy

David Maxwell
Associate Director,
Center for Security Studies and the Security Studies Program, Georgetown University
Colonel, U.S. Army (Ret.)

Marcus Noland
Executive Vice President and Director of Studies,
Peterson Institute for International Economics
Author of books on North Korea including Avoiding the Apocalypse: the Future of the Two Koreas

Jacqueline Pak
George Washington University

Executive Director

Greg Scarlatoiu

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Contemporary Spectrum of Conflict Protracted, Gray Zone, Ambiguous, and Hybrid Modes of War

Below is Frank Hoffman's very important essay and it can be downloaded in PDF at this link:

I cannot emphasize this excerpt enough:

They have refreshed George Kennan’s arguments from the 1950s for the institutionalization of U.S. capacity for political warfare, which Kennan defined as:
the employment of all the means at a nation’s command, short of war, to achieve its national objectives. Such operations are both overt and covert. They range from such overt actions as political alliances, economic measures, and “white” propaganda to such covert operations as clandestine support of “friendly” foreign elements, “black” psychological warfare and even encouragement of underground resistance in hostile states.44
Kennan’s definition of political warfare is misleading. His concept has little to do with warfare per se; it is largely about non-military efforts associated with subversion or counter-subversion. While these can have a political element to them, in terms of aiding political groups and factions, the range of efforts involved goes beyond the diplomatic and political sphere.
But there is little doubt that unconventional warfare and the types of techniques included in Kennan’s definition of political warfare are relevant to the 21st century.45 Unlike other forms of warfare in the proposed spectrum of conflict, unconventional warfare does not fit easily within a spectrum in terms of the scale of violence. Moreover, unconventional warfare can occur concurrently with other methods in both peace and war. Thus, it is depicted in Figure 1 as ranging across the entire spectrum, not just by the intensity of violence.
This concept would seem to have great merit as a response to both Russian and Chinese actions in gray zone conflicts, since neither state embraces the idea that war and peace are binary conditions. Both of them, as well as other strategic cultures, envision a more complex continuum of cooperation, competition, collaboration, and conflict. Moreover, many other nations do not organize their government institutions with the same black-and-white military and non-military distinctions as the U.S. maintains. There is evidence that some components of the U.S. military are devoting intellectual capital to this issue,46 and Congress has shown interest in assessing U.S. capabilities in this domain. By its nature, a U.S. capacity for unconventional warfare would involve the ability to develop and execute a strategy that tightly integrated measures needed to counter the subversion, propaganda, and political actions of gray area conflict short of actual warfare.

The Contemporary Spectrum of Conflict

Protracted, Gray Zone, Ambiguous, and Hybrid Modes of War
Dr. Frank Hoffman
Hew Strachan, the preeminent military historian at Oxford, stated in a lecture delivered in 2006 that one of our most serious problems today is that we do not know what war is. He put his finger on a critical shortfall in Western thinking about security:
If we are to identify whether war is changing, and—if it is—how those changes affect international relations, we need to know first what war is. One of the central challenges confronting international relations today is that we do not really know what is a war and what is not. The consequences of our confusion would seem absurd, were they not so profoundly dangerous.1
The larger problem is that the U.S. has a strategic culture that does not appreciate history or strategy, nor does it devote sufficient attention to the breadth of adversaries facing it and the many different forms that human conflict can take. Many current critics of U.S. policy or strategy in the Middle East or Asia bemoan the aimless state of strategy and policy. While there are deficiencies in U.S. planning and strategy processes, the larger intellectual challenge is a blinkered conception of conflict that frequently quotes the great Prussian soldier Clausewitz without realizing the true essence of his theory and how it applies to the ever evolving, interactive phenomenon we call “war.” Moreover, the U.S. national security establishment too often fails to understand opponents, their strategic cultures, and their own unique conceptions of victory and war.
Current perceptions about the risks of major war, our presumed preponderance of military power, a flawed understanding of irregular war, and our ingrained reliance on technological panaceas like precision-guided munitions (PGMs) and drone warfare make serious defense planning ever harder. This misunderstanding afflicts the military as much as it does political elites and the general public. At least three consequences can be expected from a flawed grasp of contemporary conflict:
·         Unreasonable political and public expectations for quick wins at low cost,
·         An overly simplistic grasp of the application of blunt military power and what it will supposedly achieve, and
·         Naïve views of both adversaries and the context for conflict.
As our own recent history shows, however, the reality is much more complex. War is seldom so clear-cut, and “victory” is far more elusive in reality. The vast majority of conflicts are seldom as precise or as free of casualties or political frustrations as we tend to remember. We prefer Operation Desert Storm (1991) as a simple and satisfying war. It pitted good against evil, and its conclusion was decisive, albeit not as decisive as World War II. But most conflicts are messy, relatively ill-defined in scope and by objective, with an array of actors, and unsatisfying in outcome.
The conflict spectrum includes a range of activities to which students and practitioners of war refer when attempting to characterize a given conflict by participants, methods, level of effort, types of forces, levels of organization or sophistication, etc. As should be expected in any attempt to define aspects of something as complex as war, there is ample debate over characterizations and definitions, whether one form of war is more or less complex than any other, or whether war can be so neatly categorized as to subdivide it along a spectrum in the first place. Debates over supposedly “new” and generational wars are common today in academic circles, and the prevalence of irregular wars is increasingly recognized.2
(Continued at the link below)

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

U.S. weighs special forces in Syria, helicopters in Iraq

Dear Administration officials,

If there is an indigenous solution or if indigenous capabilities contribute to a solution then a proper part of the strategy is unconventional warfare based on our special warfare capabilities (though that ship probably sailed some years ago due to administration risk averseness and ignorance).   But I hope your new "3 R's" "strategy" based on counter-terrorism capabilities as applied to a civil war works out for us - at least it will look like we are doing something.  And at least we will be able to pound a lot of nails with our hammer.  We cannot apply our capabilities as either/or. It has to be both/and.  We need our surgical strike capabilities along with special warfare and they will be better employed if they rest on the long term actions of special warfare.  There is a yin yang relationship but our default to one over the other is not the way for SOF to support national strategy and campaign plans.

Very respectfully,

A concerned citizen


Two U.S. officials, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity to discuss ongoing deliberations, said any deployments would be narrowly tailored, seeking to advance specific, limited military objectives in both Iraq and Syria.
That option includes temporarily deploying some U.S. special operations forces inside of Syria to advise moderate Syrian opposition fighters for the first time and, potentially, to help call in U.S. air strikes, one official said.

U.S. weighs special forces in Syria, helicopters in Iraq

WASHINGTON The United States is considering sending a small number of special operations forces to Syria and attack helicopters to Iraq as it weighs options to build momentum in the battle against Islamic State, U.S. officials said on Tuesday.

  • by Phil Stewart And Jeff Mason 
  •  Oct. 28, 2015 
  •  2 min read 
  •  original
WASHINGTON The United States is considering sending a small number of special operations forces to Syria and attack helicopters to Iraq as it weighs options to build momentum in the battle against Islamic State, U.S. officials said on Tuesday.
President Barack Obama, deeply averse to over-committing American troops to unpopular wars in the Middle East, could view some of the options as more viable than others as he approaches the final stretch of his presidency.
Still, Obama's administration is under pressure to ramp up America's effort, particularly after the fall of the Iraqi city of Ramadi to Islamic State in May and the failure of a U.S. military program to train and arm thousands of Syrian rebels.
Two U.S. officials, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity to discuss ongoing deliberations, said any deployments would be narrowly tailored, seeking to advance specific, limited military objectives in both Iraq and Syria.
That option includes temporarily deploying some U.S. special operations forces inside of Syria to advise moderate Syrian opposition fighters for the first time and, potentially, to help call in U.S. air strikes, one official said.
Other possibilities including sending a small number of Apache attack helicopters, and U.S. forces to operate them, to Iraq, as well as taking steps to bolster other Iraqi capabilities needed to claw back territory from Islamic State.
The deliberations come as the United States looks to Syrian opposition fighters it supports to put pressure on Raqqa, the Islamic State's stronghold, and for Iraqi forces to retake Ramadi after the city fell to the militants earlier this year.
The options appeared to stop short of deploying American troops in any direct ground combat roles, something Obama has so far ruled out.
One of the officials, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said the proposals were still in a conceptual stage - meaning that even if any were approved in the coming days, a U.S. military deployment could still be weeks or months away.
The Pentagon and White House declined comment on the options, which were also reported by the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal.
Earlier on Tuesday, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter signaled his intent to step up the U.S. military's activity in Iraq and Syria, just days after U.S. forces participated in a raid to rescue Islamic State hostages in Iraq.
One U.S. soldier was killed in that mission.
"We won't hold back from supporting capable partners in opportunistic attacks against ISIL or conducting such missions directly, whether by strikes from the air or direct action on the ground," Carter told a Senate hearing, using an acronym for the militant group.
Marine Corp General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate hearing he would consider recommending putting more U.S. forces with Iraqi troops to support the Islamic State fight if it improved chances of defeating the militants.
"If it had operational or strategic impact and we could reinforce success, that would be the basic framework within which I'd make a recommendation for additional forces to be co-located with Iraqi units," Dunford said, without elaborating.
(Reporting by Phil Stewart; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

Senator: U.S. North Korea policy of 'strategic patience' a 'failure'

About 18 months ago I wrote that strategic patience equals strategic paralysis in the article here.  My  detailed journal length essay is here:

Senator: U.S. North Korea policy of 'strategic patience' a 'failure'

  • Oct. 27, 2015 
  •  1 min read 
  •  original
WASHINGTON, Oct. 27 (UPI) -- U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner said the Obama Administration's policy of "strategic patience" toward North Korea was a "strategic failure," and Pyongyang's threat has "grown exponentially" while Washington's focus has been turned on the Middle East.
Sen. Gardner, R-Colo., made the remarks during a panel on North Korea organized by Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies, Yonhap reported. Gardner's observations about Washington's focus away from North Korea due to the ongoing violence in Syria and Iraq was echoed by Michael Kirby, the former head of the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on North Korea human rights.
"The terrible events that have been unfolding in the Middle East and in the Arab lands are naturally the focus of international news media...But the result of that is that North Korea has definitely gone off the main attention," Kirby said.
Last December, the United Nations General Assembly had requested the U.N. Security Council refer North Korea human rights abuses to the International Criminal Court, after Kirby and a panel issued a report that stated North Korea's leadership is responsible for the "widespread, systematic and gross" violations of rights in the country.
Those abuses, however, have been ignored, according to Kirby. He said Pyongyang's rights violations, and nuclear and missile programs must be dealt with before North Korea becomes a "real trouble and harassment" to the United States.
Sen. Gardner said North Korea is a "grave threat." Citing previous estimates, the senator said Pyongyang is believed to have as many as 20 nuclear warheads, a growing problem that has been neglected.
"While our nation's attention is rightfully focused on the Middle East, the North Korean threat has grown exponentially and the United States is seemingly falling asleep at the switch to this grave threat. It is clear that our policy of strategic patience has been a strategic failure," Gardner said.
The United States and the other four members of the six-party talks on North Korea denuclearization has urged Pyongyang to take the appropriate steps, but even the patience of traditional allies like Russia is wearing thin.
Alexander Timonin, the Russian ambassador to South Korea, told a forum of regional leaders in Seoul that Moscow does not tolerate a nuclear North Korea, South Korean outlet No Cut News reported.
In order to solve the nuclear crisis on the Korean peninsula, the security environment must be radically transformed, Timonin said on Tuesday.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Troubled train-and-equip U.S. strategy sparks questions

This is going to get ugly before it gets better and unfortunately I am afraid there are those who will throw out the baby (UW, FID, political warfare, and counter-unconventional warfare) with the bathwater (a train and equip program that was doomed to failure from the start).  Of course there is a lot of mixing of apples and oranges.

But Congressman Cooper should also recognize and admit that our security assistance programs also stimulate US business as well (and for very legitimate and important reasons such as keeping assembly lines open should we need to again mobilize US industry to support a major war.)

Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., noted that in some respects, "security cooperation is almost a host-country stimulus program."

Troubled train-and-equip U.S. strategy sparks questions

  • by 9:02 A.M. Edt October 25, 2015 
  •  Oct. 25, 2015 
  •  6 min read 
  •  original
    • By Andrew Tilghman, Staff writer9:02 a.m. EDT October 25, 2015
It's been a humbling few weeks for the Pentagon's central strategy of training and equipping foreign forces to fight on the ground so U.S. troops don't have to.
In Syria, a yearlong effort to train and equip a moderate rebel force was abandoned as a failure.
In Iraq, the local army's campaign against the Islamic State remains stalled outside Ramadi despite support from daily U.S. airstrikes and thousands of boots-on-the-ground advisers.
In Afghanistan, the Taliban in September overran and seized a major city for the first time since 2001. A few weeks later, President Obama scrapped his timeline for ending the U.S. military mission there by the end of next year and said the Afghan army will need support from American troops into 2017.
The series of setbacks in short succession is prompting Washington to take an increasingly skeptical look at the train-and-equip model on which the U.S. military is hinging its strategy.
Congress is holding hearings about "security cooperation" policies. The Defense Department's inspector general is ratcheting up its scrutiny of the train-and-equip efforts. And military officials are facing new and pointed questions about when such missions no longer are worth the effort and should be deemed hopeless.
"I'm looking for some certain rules of the road, kind of like we have on the military intervention side with the Powell doctrine, you know, 'These eight preconditions must exist before you commit U.S. forces,' " Rep. Beto O'Rourke, D-Texas, said in an Oct. 21 House Armed Services Committee hearing on security cooperation issues.
Experts say clear-cut rules are hard to define for security cooperation missions. Obviously, U.S. train-and-equip efforts are more effective when the countries involved are not embroiled in a war, when they have stable central governments, strong economies, functioning ministries of defense and can physically secure their own borders.
Unfortunately, those conditions are rare in many of the places where U.S. military personnel are currently embroiled.
"The hard question is, OK, if you don't have all those things, do you engage anyway?" asked Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.
"What if you're in a messy place without a strong political infrastructure to work with — do we not engage? ... Do we engage with much lower expectations of what can result?" I don't know the answers," Thornberry said.
Stonewalling in Iraq
The DoD inspector general recently shed new light on the details of U.S. train-and-equip efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The IG, an independent watchdog, has launched a series of reports spotlighting the effectiveness of security cooperation efforts, and on Oct. 22 announced a new investigation into the Pentagon's effort to train, advise and equip Kurdish security forces.
(Continued at the link below)

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