Sunday, September 12, 2004


North Korea Nuclear Test: How It Can Get Worse.

What options do we have?

The stark truth is that we don't have many good ones. We tried bribery; that failed. We've tried multilateral negotiations; those have now failed.

I can tell you something everybody already knows very well: that it is well within North Korea's capacity to blackmail South Korea, Japan, and by extension, the United States. And we simply would have few options open to us short of a massive nuclear strike all across North Korea.

The conventional options are limited given the short timelines involved in a nuclear exchange scenario. Special forces options look good in Tom Clancy novels, but in reality, are quite difficult to execute, especially as North Korean is populated by paranoid Koreans, and Americans look like, well, Americans.

Besides, we have no conventional forces to speak of, or at least none that are freely available given the situation in Iraq. I expect Senator Kerry to harp on this issue strongly starting tomorrow, and he'll have a point (although technically a dull one, as the whole reasoning behind Secretary Rumsfeld's plans to scale back our presence in Iraq was to free up troops for just such an eventuality).

Anyways, whatever options we do execute can't be unilateral except in the most drastic of situations. We'll need South Korea and Japan to agree with whatever we do, at the very least for logistics purposes.

But again, let me reiterate: there are no good conventional options. We cannot magically find the North Korean nuclear and missile forces with precision guided munitions. We can destroy what we find, yes, but we can't find them all-- and the moment we execute a counterforce option is the moment Kim may decide to use them or lose them.

There *is* a viable target, and that is Kim himself. But finding him is difficult. However, the leardership of North Korea is not monolithic; there may be political "differences of opinion" at the highest levels that we can exploit. Kim may be willing to take his nation down into the nuclear sinkhole, but his top Generals may think twice under the knowledge that we are willing to turn their country into a sea of glass.

Are we willing to do such a thing, however? Are we willing to contemplate a first strike?

More soon.

Good post.

CNN reports that the explosion was not nuclear.
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