September 4th, 2017

The North Korean conundrum

[NOTE: I’ve already had a busy day, having come home last night on the redeye from the West Coast. Since I didn’t sleep on the plane, I tried to stay up this afternoon in order to reset my bioclock. No dice. Instead, I was overcome with exhaustion, staggered to my bed, and fell asleep for four hours. I just woke up. Therefore this will be less comprehensive than I’d like. I probably will write more on the subject of North Korea tomorrow.]

With North Korea, all solutions are bad ones. The real question is which one is the least bad?

And there’s almost no reason to trust the experts on what to do. Experts on all sides have been wrestling with this problem for decades and not had any success. They haven’t even managed to stall North Korea for a significant amount of time, and certainly have had no success in deflecting the country from its bellicose and increasingly-powerful nuclear path.

I don’t envy President Trump. As Ambassador Nikki Haley said yesterday:

And here’s some news from South Korea:

Here in Seoul, the defense ministry warned that Pyongyang might be preparing to launch another missile into the Pacific Ocean, perhaps an intercontinental ballistic missile theoretically capable of reaching the mainland United States.

President Trump and his South Korean counterpart, Moon Jae-in, spoke on the phone for 40 minutes Monday night, Korean time — some 34 hours after the nuclear test and more than 24 hours after Trump took to Twitter to criticize Moon’s “talk of appeasement.”

The two agreed to remove the limit on allowed payloads for South Korean missiles — something Seoul had been pushing for — as a way to increase deterrence against North Korea, according to a read-out of the phone call from South Korea’s Blue House.

They agreed as well to work together to punish North Korea for Sunday’s nuclear test, pledging “to strengthen joint military capabilities,” a White House statement said, and to “maximize pressure on North Korea using all means at their disposal.”…

Haley ruled out the “freeze for freeze” proposal backed by China and Russia, which would suspend U.S. joint military exercises with South Korea in return for suspension of North Korean nuclear and missile tests.

“When a rogue regime has a nuclear weapon and an ICBM pointed at you, you do not take steps to lower your guard. No one would do that. We certainly won’t,” she said.

Instead, she reiterated a White House threat from Sunday to cut off trade with any countries that also trade with North Korea. That would presumably include China, with which the United States had nearly $650 billion worth of trade in goods and services last year.

But at this point I wonder how much leverage China really has over North Korea on this particular issue, and I wonder whether the Chinese will ever use what they do have. China has its own reasons for wanting Kim Jong Un to stay in power in North Korea, because they don’t want the country destabilized:

The fall of the North Korean regime would send vast numbers of refugees pouring into China, and in the long run, Beijing fears that a unified Korea would mean a permanent U.S. military presence right on its border.

Meanwhile, the longer the world waits, the less empty Kim Jong Un’s threats become. He definitely has nuclear weapons and he talks as though he also has the will to use them, even preemptively if he sees fit. Is it just bluster, or does he mean it?:

Kim Jong Un has been very open about his regime’s ambitions. North Korea regularly issues apocalyptic warnings to the U.S. and its allies. Last month, the regime’s official Rodong Sinmun newspaper said the U.S. would be “catapulted into an unimaginable sea of fire” if it imposed more sanctions or threatened military action. In May, the paper said the North was “waiting for the moment it will reduce the whole of the U.S. mainland to ruins” after President Donald Trump dispatched a naval strike group to the region.

Such threats have been a staple of Kim’s regime since he took power after his father’s death in 2011.

In October, top North Korean official Lee Yong Pil told NBC News that “a preemptive nuclear strike is not something the U.S. has a monopoly on.” He added: “If we see that the U.S. would do it to us, we would do it first.”

The conventional responses have been previously tried by the US and the West—and tried, and tried, and tried. I agree with John Bolton that they don’t work:

…Former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton said Sunday that economic sanctions against North Korea is a useless gesture, because North Korea is more like a huge prison than a real country that can be hurt by sanctions.

“It’s a 25 million person prison camp,” he told Fox News.

“The sanctions simply give people a warm and fuzzy feeling that we’re doing something about North Korea. We are not,” he said.

If this administration follows the same policies as Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations of carrots and sticks, and efforts to persuade North Korea, it will fail just like they did,” Bolton added.

The option—some sort of military action—could spark a huge attack on South Korea. What are South Korea’s defenses against that kind of action?:

The First Terminal High-Altitude Area Defence (Thaad) systems were installed on a South Korean golf course in April and now more will be installed. Thadd is intended to be able to stop missiles from hitting their targets. This is how the system works.

Developed by Lockheed Martin, the Thaads system is designed to detect missiles flying through the sky. It is essentially a rocket system mounted on the back of a truck that fly into other missiles and destroy them. This is done in four steps: using radar to spot an object, identifying it as a missile, firing a counter Interceptor missile, and using kinetic energy to obliterate the target…

Thaad isn’t the only missile defence system in South Korea. US armed forces also have the Patriot 3 system, which it started upgrading earlier this year and is designed for shorter ranges than Thaad.

Barrie says this approach is a layered defence technique using different systems to cover a variety of firing ranges.

How effective would this be in the event of an attack? These defenses seem to work pretty well as long as they’re not faced with a great many missiles at once, but we just don’t know how well they’d do against a barrage.

The dilemma is profound.

46 Responses to “The North Korean conundrum”

  1. Ymar Sakar Says:

    Why do people who complain about Afghanistan and Iraq, like to ignore the US troops in other countries like Okinawa or South Korea?

    I guess if the media isn’t listing casualties, the isolationists don’t respond to their dog whistles.

  2. Ymar Sakar Says:

    NK is like that mine canary, a fodder that is good for the Deep State false flag ops. Anything bad happens, you can always find the scapegoat, even if the scapegoat wasn’t responsible.

  3. steve walsh Says:

    It is impossible to know the best thing to do until we know what Kim is trying to accomplish. Once we know that we can decide whether to give him that which he wants, in exchange for what we want, or not. Otherwise all this discussion, chatter, hand-wringing, and kvetching is a waste of time.

    We’ve talked and negotiated and threatened and sanctioned, for a very, very long time, and the result is that Kim has what he has sought: nuclear weapons. To what end? That is what we need to determine.

  4. Ymar Sakar Says:

    The Deep State told Hussein to give weapons to Iran and NK for reason.

    With North Korea, all solutions are bad ones. The real question is which one is the least bad?

    How about people get an angel to drop a kinetic strike on the regime like what happened to soddom and gomorrah. That way, America doesn’t have to send troops to occupy another country, so those kvetching about OIF and Afghanistan still being occupied by US blood and treasure, and breath a little easier since they won’t have to complain and protest against another foreign expedition adventure.

    But that would require Americans to abandon the “we did everything on this planet” attitude.

  5. miklos000rosza Says:

    I’ve had the — no doubt completely crazy and unsound — that with Mattis as Sec Def we might get all our ducks in a row defensively (and S. Korea’s) without bein “transparent” about anything, then bait Kim into attacking us first.

    That he went first shall be clear even to the UN and the faux neo-pacifists in the EU, UK and US.

    We then destroy Pyong-yang and much of NK “with extreme prejudice.”

    They ASKED for it.

  6. Oldflyer Says:

    It is really hard to grasp that all of these decades after the Cold War, the world is once again under a nuclear threat.

    Ironically, at the time of the “Pueblo Incident” I was in a Navy carrier based attack squadron ready to deploy. We were absolutely certain that we would be sent to punish North Korea. Nothing happened, except that the USN called up the Reserves, and because of political considerations that threw the regular squadrons into disarray (there were not enough front line aircraft to go around, and the Reserves had to have their share–to do nothing.) It is possible that the North Korea

  7. Oldflyer Says:

    Ooops. —that the North Korean problem could have been resolved right then. But, Vietnam was the focal point; and I suppose that there was fear of how China would react to an attack on N Korea..

  8. Mr. Frank Says:

    If we can work a deal with China to stay out, a preemptive massive strike before NK has an ICBM is the only option that might work. Waiting until NK has lots of ICBMs is a loser.

    The bad news is South Koreans would take a big hit.

  9. Richard Aubrey Says:

    It’s been said that the Norks have ten thousand artillery tubes–in mountain hideouts–ready to hammer Seoul if and when.
    “ten thousand” means a very large number. And for many of them, hopefully, only part of Seoul is in range.
    OTOH, if you don’t have to aim–since the target is a large city–between rounds and you don’t have to worry about barrel wear so you can shoot as fast as you can reload, and you aren’t planning on getting the guns or crews back, even three thousand guns is a problem. If the guns are in tunnels, which supposedly they are, winkling them out before they fire is tough, and if they pull back between rounds–which can be aided by the recoil–it takes a very accurate weapon to get them. That means one delivery platform paying attention to one gun until it’s gone. It’s not like dumping hundreds of submunitions on an artillery position out in the open and nailing half a dozen at a time.

  10. Irv Says:

    I am convinced that Trump is saying to China (N. Korea’s primary trading pardner without whom they could not survive) that the present situation is unacceptable and therefore only 2 options are left.

    One is that China cuts Kim off and tells him that he either disarms his nuclear weapons or the government changes with the same result.

    There is no chance he would attack China so this could stop him without us going to war. This option retains N. Korea as a communist buffer state between China and the west which is very much to their benefit.

    The second option is that we are forced to take him out and reunify the country under the S. Korean leadership with the result that China would have an armed western state on its border.

    This option would also trigger a mass exodus from N. Korea into China, which is something they fear greatly. Having to provide for millions of unskilled, uneducated peasants would wreak havoc on their economy which is already beginning to struggle.

    The good thing about the present situation is that Trump has the credibility necessary to convince China that these are the only 2 options. It’s easy for them to see which one is is their best interest.

    I know this is a dangerous game but containment is just not on the table. If we accept Kim having a nuclear attack capability then he will leverage that into selling nukes to every enemy of the west. That would guarantee that terrorists get them and they wouldn’t hesitate to use them against us and our allies. It also would make a nuclear war in the mideast inevitable.

    We are rapidly coming to this same situation with Iran and handling N. Korea would put the mullahs on notice that their options are limited as well.

    The previous presidents punted when faced with this dilemma and they were able to because his threats (and those of the mullahs) were just so much bluster because they didn’t have the wherewithal to carry them out. They could have handled N. Korea and Iran without the risk of a nuclear war and thousands to millions of casualties. They chose to not make the hard decisions that they were elected to make.

    Trump does not have the luxury of being able to pass the problem on to his successor. He’s not the type of person that would do that anyway.

    He would have a much bigger chance of success if the congress was united behind him but he doesn’t even have the support of his own party. The constant attacks on Trump might be doing a whole lot more to endanger the country than him personally but too many people seem to not care about that.

    We are in for one helluva couple of years!

  11. blert Says:

    I keep reading this cock-eyed notion that Koreans can cross the border into Red China.

    HOW ?

    The Yalu river is about as wide as the Rhine in most spots that count.

    The rest of the border has virtually NO roads… and looks like Switzerland.

    Their is ZERO chance that a mass exodus will ever occur from North Korea into Red China.

    It just can’t happen.

  12. blert Says:

    The SINGLE most likely event in our future is the re-introduction of tactical nukes into both South Korea and Japan… if not the transformation of both of these lands into atomic powers.

    Trump does not want to flatten Pyongyang with atomics.

    Conventional war is no longer in prospect.

    The conflict will be atomic.

    Adolf Kim is driving this.

  13. Ira Says:

    “Therefore this will be less comprehensive than I’d like.”

    And then a pretty damn comprehensive essay followed.

  14. n.n Says:

    Let them develop nuclear weapons. Then in accordance with the philosophy of rights and responsibilities, respond to them with a force that is proportional, and overwhelming if justified, when they Choose to betray their responsibilities.

  15. Cornflour Says:

    This is a small point, but one that’s been gnawing at me for a while. It’s common for media analyses to note that China, in the event of war, is afraid of being flooded with North Koreans escaping the conflict. Of course, the Chinese government wouldn’t want to see that happen, but it wouldn’t be hard to stop.

    For decades, the North Korean government did little to seal its border with China. When the Yalu River was low or frozen, small numbers of people were smuggled across to China and hidden in Chinese villages. From there, an informal network smuggled escapees to South Korea. This was often done via Southeast Asia. The smuggling cost was high, but the real price was paid by the escapee’s family, who were severely punished by the government. That punishment was the principal means of discouraging escape, so tight border security was seen as superfluous.

    During the last five years or so, the North Korean government has built more fences, barricades, guard towers, etc. along the Chinese border. During a war, civilians attempting to escape would be shot. Those who made it through the border would be shot by the Chinese army. I can’t believe that they’d have any qualms. Currently, they send back any escapees that they catch. After returning to North Korea, these people are executed. For China, the unlikely prospect of a refugee flood into China pales beside other concerns.

    At least, this is what I’ve gathered from reading books and articles about escapees from the North. I’ve never talked to any of them, so I have no personal knowledge of their experiences. If anyone has, then I’d certainly defer to their expertise.

  16. neo-neocon Says:

    blert; Cornflour:

    blert, if you read escape stories, you’ll see that the river freezes in winter and it’s a common escape route then. See this, for example.

    blert, Cornflour: see also this.

    And if the North Korean government becomes destablized and chaotic, more people will want to leave AND the destablized government might have a lot more trouble guarding the border and keeping them in.

  17. Manju Says:

    1. Containment is the best option.

    2. Will someone from the Banker’s Party please buy Trump and Econ 102 textbook and open up the chapter on Comparative Advantage?

    I mean, this is no time for him to be deploying his neo-socialist anti-trade agenda on SKorea. If anything, he should be convincing N.Korea to drop socialism and embrace globalization like their sister did and they can be just as wealthy.

    And the USA doesn’t mind because textbook econ tells us we will get weather in the process.

    Containment and Globalization to the rescue. The “Deep State” strikes back.

  18. om Says:

    Manju:

    I doubt that the North Koreans read or accept the same economic or political theories as the Deep State (and the rest of the world). So far the Deep State approach hasn’t shown much success, so what we need is more of it? You meant that we will get wealthier not “weather.” Or maybe we will get less Anthropocentric Climate Change?

  19. Frog Says:

    several of the comments here are discouraging. Irv’s seems the best thought-out to me.

    Reunification of the Koreas is a preposterous notion. Doomed to fail even if OK with China. The South cannot afford to support 25 million NORK drones, and drones now constitute the huge majority of the North after some 70 years of Kim rule.

    The South will suffer greatly with our necessary pre-empt of the North, but the South has had 70 years to shift its population southward, gradually abandoning Seoul.

    The US is not and technically NEVER has been at war with the North. The Korean War was a UN action, not an American one, though the US contributed most of the UN forces, since it began only five years after WW II. The state of war still still exists, but only between the two Koreas.

    The Kims know what they are doing and have done.

    The South has done very little to address this long-standing issue. It will have to suffer the consequences, maybe by individuals hiding in Kia and Hyundai cars, and Samsung refrigerators. Now the South wants the US to sent a carrier task force and stealth fighter-bombers into the area. That is nuts: they want?

    Trump has no choice except to tell China (probably already has) that he will have to nuke the North, if China is unwilling to militarily intercede, since the NORK threat is against the USA, and its Guam. Even if liberal heads explode!

  20. Matthew M Says:

    Weren’t the dance steps supposed to be: test missile or bomb, watch US ambassador flail at the UN, have some talks, get free stuff. All we’ve seen lately is the first step. This seems different than the previous shakedowns. Could that repugnant tyrant’s belligerence have to do with fear of being overthrown by people in North Korea?

  21. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    “Experts on all sides have been wrestling with this problem for decades and not had any success.” neo

    True. Which will continue as long as America is unwilling to use decisive military force. Sooner or later it will be forced upon us, the only question is how many outside N. Korea must die.

    “It is impossible to know the best thing to do until we know what Kim is trying to accomplish. “ steve walsh

    There is only one thing that Kim can want, reunification of Korea under the North. That’s their strategic goal. Which leaves the tactical question; how do they plan to use their nuclear ICBMs to attain that goal? I’m betting on nuclear blackmail.

    “That he went first shall be clear even to the UN and the faux neo-pacifists in the EU, UK and US.” miklos000rosza

    Right. That’s a good one. Do you actually believe that they’d let objective facts matter in their response? No matter what we do, it will be our fault.

    “I suppose that there was fear of how China would react to an attack on N Korea..” Oldflyer

    That was the fear then and, that is the fear now.

    “If we can work a deal with China to stay out” Mr. Frank

    Good luck with that. A snowball has a better chance in hell of that happening. N. Korea is China’s “test dummy” and it is in the Chicoms national interest to have a proxy, pet pit bull.

    Irv,

    China will neither cut Kim off nor oust him. China just announced that if we attack first, they will come to N.K. aid, so attacking Kim risks an escalation into nuclear war.

    n.n @ 12:03,

    So, you’d place at risk American cities to earn the ‘opportunity’ to retaliate and take the Norks out?

    Manju,

    Containment has FAILED. Get real. Or do you lack the intellectual fortitude to do so?

  22. BrianE Says:

    1. Containment is the best option.

    2. Will someone from the Banker’s Party please buy Trump and Econ 102 textbook and open up the chapter on Comparative Advantage?

    I mean, this is no time for him to be deploying his neo-socialist anti-trade agenda on SKorea. If anything, he should be convincing N.Korea to drop socialism and embrace globalization like their sister did and they can be just as wealthy. – Manju

    How exactly do you contain a country with nuclear tipped ICBM’s and the seeming propensity to blackmail us when they have them?

    Kim and the NK leadership no doubt have bunkers to hide in so you’re assuming he wouldn’t start a nuclear war with the US because of the devastation it would cause to his citizenry?

    AS to comparative advantage, any country with a low standard of living with few or no worker protections, few or no environmental protections will always have comparative advantage.

    While in the short term, it seems to be an ideal situation, the dislocation, economic disruption and subsequent imbalance of wealth to capital doesn’t create a long term healthy society.

    Yes, China will try and leverage South Korea by applying all its trade disruptions to that country, the long term economic disadvantage is toward China if sanctions against NK take the form of trade barriers against China.

    While it could have severe economic consequences, it’s still preferable to any direct military action against NK and the tens of thousands, probably 100 of thousands of deaths on the Korean peninsula.

    As to convincing Kim to abandon his dictatorship and embrace the world paradise just around the corner from global trade, good luck with that.

  23. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    BrianE,

    “Yes, China will try and leverage South Korea by applying all its trade disruptions to that country, the long term economic disadvantage is toward China if sanctions against NK take the form of trade barriers against China.”

    Doesn’t that presume that China’s communist leadership places a higher priority on avoiding long term economic disadvantages than regaining Taiwan and acquiring control of the S. China Sea? And doesn’t that presumption rest upon the premise that economic considerations are more important to China than nationalist/ideological imperatives?

    You correctly ask, “How exactly do you contain a country with nuclear tipped ICBM’s and the seeming propensity to blackmail us when they have them?”

    Which prompts the concern; if Kim demonstrates that he can blackmail America, why can’t Iran, China and Russia?

  24. blert Says:

    Pyongyang’s atomic program IS Tehran’s atomic program.

    Iran is the fount of money — courtesy of Barry Soetoro.

    Iran is the reason why Kim no longer is in the sway of Beijing.

    North Korea’s GDP is under 15,000,000,000 per year; Barry gifted the maniac duo 150,000,000,000 — a staggering sum by Kim’s calculus.

  25. blert Says:

    A trickle of Koreans skating across the frozen Yalu is nothing that Beijing can’t handle… now that it’s a priority.

    Of course, such a calculus assumes that the war occurs in the Winter.

    The REAL reason that Red China does not want Korea unified: the final phase of the Korean War would repudiate the propaganda ethos that Beijing has maintained all these decades.

    It would mean that all of the Chines lost in the 50’s achieved absolutely nothing — in the long run.

    Xi and company CHOKE on such a thought.

    Further, the land west of the Yalu is ALSO Korean. The folks there speak Korean — not Chinese. That’s why Koreans can pass as locals so easily.

    The idea of the CHINESE part of Korea falling in to the lap of Seoul totally freaks Beijing out.

    That would reprise the opening moves of WWII in the Pacific… remember ?

  26. blert Says:

    Iranian money has permitted Kim to purchase Ukrainian rocket motors of the first quality.

    Kim is also exporting missile tech to Iran… missiles, entire, too.

    Iran is a back door to the financial world for Kim.

    IIRC, Barry let Tehran back onto the SWIFT network… which was the mechanism for shifting the 150,000,000,000 to Iran.

    Iran is also weaponizing Boeing airliners// Airbus aircraft.

    So Kim’s program is setting the table for atomic war across the Persian Gulf.

    It’s also apparent that Iran is setting up missile factories inside SYRIA.

    Jerusalem is freaking out, for obvious reasons.

    You’ll note in all of these antics, Tehran is funding and constructing outside its own borders — so that a pretence can be made that Iran is observing Barry’s deal.

  27. BrianE Says:

    Doesn’t that presume that China’s communist leadership places a higher priority on avoiding long term economic disadvantages than regaining Taiwan and acquiring control of the S. China Sea? And doesn’t that presumption rest upon the premise that economic considerations are more important to China than nationalist/ideological imperatives?– Geoffrey Britian

    Yes, it does to some extent.

    But Kim is a distraction that directs attention to China’s greater goals. China, IMO, would much prefer to pursue it’s hegemonic goals outside the spotlight.

    China has proposed a quid pro quo if we drop joint military exercises with South Korea. We can’t do that, IMO, without damaging the alliance.

    As to Iran, China or Russia playing nuclear blackmail, I think it only works on fanatical regimes who “might” use their nuclear arsenal.

    MAD worked because Russia was considered a rational regime. Same with China. No need risking nuclear annihilation when their ambitions are succeeding through subterfuge.

  28. BrianE Says:

    I think it only works with fanatical regimes who “might” use their nuclear arsenal.

  29. expat Says:

    Most Germans seem to want an diplomatic agreement like we have with Iran. Of course they also praise Obama and criticize Trump for their take on the climate hange agreement. I guess they have forgotten about Chamberlain’s Munich Agreement and the Molotov Ribbentrop Pact.

  30. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    BrianE,
    I agree that China greatly prefers pursuit of its goals outside the spotlight. I suspect Kim’s egotistical bluster that if provoked, he will destroy the U.S. is the only area where China is dissatisfied with him. They’d greatly prefer Kim speak of the need for nuclear ICBMs as a deterent from ‘certain’ future American aggression. If their propaganda entirely took that slant, it would provide the world the excuse it needs to look the other way.

    Once Kim demonstrates that nuclear blackmail will work, short of a direct attack upon America, China and Russia can be as aggressive as they like in the future. Since we will have proven that we will not chance escalating a conflict into nuclear war. China will know that we won’t use nukes to save Taiwan or to retain open sea lanes in the S. China Sea and Russia will know that if it invades the Ukraine and the Baltic States that we won’t use nukes against them either.

    While its a given that Iran can engage in nuclear blackmail of Europe’s cities.

    Deterrence against rational actors only works if the enemy is convinced you’ll use them if pushed too far. When ‘too far’ is reduced solely to national survival, the rest of the world becomes an open hunting preserve.

  31. Dave Gore Says:

    It takes only one ICBM to destroy the US, if that weapon creates a continent-spanning EMP (electromagnetic pulse). Our defensive missiles are not yet in place, so we can only hope Kim is deterred by our threat to retaliate. It is hard to believe he would want to watch his country being incinerated, whatever he says.

    The greater danger is that Kim or someone else will attack the US anonymously. How can we retaliate if the attack is launched from an unmarked ship in mid-ocean? Who should we blame?

    We need to establish a “Trump Doctrine” that states that if our nation is attacked, we will retaliate against everyone on our list of hostile or nuclear-proliferating nations. We also need to ensure that our submarine commanders have the authority to launch if communications are cut off by a preemptive EMP attack.

    This situation will not go on forever. In another decade or two we will have space-based kinetic kill weapons that will make the world a lot safer.

  32. Richard Aubrey Says:

    It’s been said that nobody knows how WW I started. Actually, it would be more accurate to ask “why” as why various people made various decisions.
    See Lidell-Hart’s History of the war, and Showalter’s book on Tannenberg. Both go into great and confusing detail about the interlocking treaties, understandings, ambitions, histories, dueling excuses for ordering partial practice mobilizations.
    But, for grins, see the Austro-Sardinian War, which you never heard of, for similar goings on leading to it.
    And consider WW II began with the German professionals knowing they had less combat power vis-a-vis their potential opponents than they had in the previous go round which said professionals had participated in losing.
    And the Japanese figured they could win because of the samurai spirit or something.
    Point is, the preceding comments presume rational actors and people not getting confused and Kim being convinced he’d survive, or is convinced that dying was worth it–he’s conscious of being part of a dynasty–and those presumptions–see preceding examples of various wars…ARE STUPID AND WILL GET US ALL KILLED.

  33. blert Says:

    Dave Gore

    EMP is a FAKE risk. We live in a world of circuit breakers — not fuses. Back in the 60s the nightmare was that fuses were blown — which are cheap to replace — but not numerous enough to re-fuse the entire system overnight. With circuit breakers, one need merely step out and re-set them.

    At the power company level, Automatic Reclosers replace circuit breakers. Fuses are simply not used. EVERYTHING is built to be instantly re-set.

    At the worst, the grid would have to be re-booted. This has happened all over. it’s not the end of the world as we know it.

    The real threat is that North Korea will hack our power grid and much more. The NSA has set things up such that our software has back-doors going on forever. They are engineered in, and by order of the NSA.

    &&&

    Richard Aubrey

    Tokyo figure that the USA was so decadent that Washington would simply give up and negotiate. On the numbers, Tokyo knew that she’d lose.

    They were two wars too early.

  34. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    Dave Gore,

    I’ve read a wide spectrum of various ‘certainties’ opining on the effectiveness of an EMP attack. There’s no apparent consensus. Prudence would indicate defensive measures be taken.

    “In another decade or two we will have space-based kinetic kill weapons that will make the world a lot safer.”

    How will China having the ability to drop rocks on our heads with far more destructive power than nukes make us safer? Oh! You’re assuming only we will have that capability…

    Richard Aubrey,

    It’s my understanding that,

    “The trigger for the war was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, by Yugoslav nationalist Gavrilo Princip in Sarajevo on 28 June 1914. This set off a diplomatic crisis when Austria-Hungary delivered an ultimatum to the Kingdom of Serbia,[11][12] and entangled international alliances formed over the previous decades were invoked. Within weeks, the major powers were at war and the conflict soon spread around the world. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_I

    Do you dispute this?

    blert,

    I’ve read that the EMP pulse is far quicker acting than any circuit breaker can effectively stop. Also, if an EMP pulse (or physical terrorist attack) took out just nine key electrical substations serving the grid… it’s game over.

  35. Richard Aubrey Says:

    blert. WRT Japan. Exactly. Point is, everybody with half a brain should have known they were wrong. In fact, when the Germans start going on about the Aryan superman, the Japanese about samurai, and when Mussolini says of the English, “once a race of magnificent adventurers but now a line of tired rich men’s sons”, they’re whistling past the graveyard of comparative combat power.
    But the point is, dumb as it was, it cost a lot to convince them.
    My point is that Nork could actually be that stupid and self-deluding and subject to confirmation bias. Running long chains of rational decisions to predict what those clowns will do IS STUPID AND WILL GET US ALL KILLED.

  36. parker Says:

    Rarely come back to yesterday’s papers, but an EMP attack is not a fairy tale. Not only is it possible, but if the warhead is not destroyed before it detonates it really is game over. Amateurs who never post 9/11/01 were never involved in dhs war games should not dismiss an EMP attack. Or how easily it can be negated. Think about an ICBM nuke launched from a sub 13 miles off shore and calculate the time window.

    Yep, I was told to war game as a radiation safety officer at Iowa’s only nuke power plant. Along with professors familiar with chem/bio threats from IA, MN, and NB. It is no joke.Those who say otherwise have their heads stuck where the sun don’t shine.

  37. groundhog Says:

    As far as an attack, a time of our choosing would likely be better than a time of their choosing if it comes to that.

    One worrisome possibility is N. Korean warheads outside of the state. Essentially it would be a primitive version of our submarine strategy.

    The mainland is destroyed but some vessels at sea survive.

    They don’t even need specialized delivery systems to use them. A simple one would make it possible to send them at night at motorboat speed into populated coastal areas even after N. Korea has been defeated.

  38. Cornhead Says:

    China has a ton of leverage on NK and we have a ton on China.

    Recall candidate Trump complaining about trade deals with China. He can now say to China, “Cut off their oil or I impose tariffs on you.”

    Dealing with NK for the last 25 years as an honorable country has failed. Bill Clinton got duped into giving them uranium. Nice Yalies didn’t realize the Norks are lawless cavemen. Big mistake.

    Recall the discussion here about how Donald took his daughter to a real estate closing. He cooked up something out of thin air and claimed there was a defect in the real estate. Made it up. Said he wouldn’t close unless price was cut. He knew seller needed to close and sell more than he needed to buy and seller couldn’t take the delay and litigation expense. Trump is ruthless. He’s doing much of the same thing with NK but the stakes are way higher. He knows Kim is lawless and answers to no one. Trump is the same. He is not a nice and professional guy who follows the rules.

  39. blert Says:

    Cornhead,

    Trump is causing Xi and Kim to really part ways.

    That’s something we’ve never seen before.

    The deal with Oriental politicians is that they can’t admit error or reversal.

    THAT’S why Tokyo had to be nuked to terminate the Pacific War.

    Kim has climbed out so far that he can’t walk his propaganda back.

    His party line is not open to adjustment.

    His dependency upon Tehran is not getting enough media comment.

    It is TEHRAN that is obtaining H-bombs.

    Tehran has out sourced its atomic program.

    That’s why Israel had to bomb the infamous Syrian facility.

    Iran is right back at the same store — building missiles in Syria — right now.

    And in a similar vein, Pyongyang is shipping ballistic missiles to Iran.

    So Barry Soetoro sold the West down the river.

    Parker:

    We accidentally EMP’d ourselves in 1962. It was NOT the end of the world as we know it. It was a complete surprise.

    EMP is not a bit different than a lightning strike in terms of physical effect. It’s a jolt of energy. You’re NOT going to find EMP operating faster than the speed of lightning.

    The power industry has to deal with lightning strikes — constantly. They have been solved with automatic reclosers. Further, big power lines have provisions — unpublicised — to dump excess energy.

    If you are paranoid, install surge protection at your panel.

    The BIG hazard is North Korean cyber war against our power grid.

    We stand NAKED against that threat.

    My digital meter can be shut off by using a cell phone app.

    There are millions of said meters — and they were never built with any cyber protection. They are still out there. Everywhere.

    EMP is a joke compared to the open barn door of cyber threat.

    Ask Sony how cyber attacks worked out for them.

    And we are DEFENSELESS against Nork cyber attacks.

    Check out how Pyongyang stole $90,000,000 from the Bank of Bangladesh — via cyber attack.

    North Korea is a near peer cyber power. THAT’S the nightmare.

    And America is permitting driverless trucks and cars to roam our roads.

    VBIEDs coming our way — courtesy the arrogance of Washington.

  40. AesopFan Says:

    And there’s almost no reason to trust the experts on what to do. Experts on all sides have been wrestling with this problem for decades and not had any success. – Neo.

    The Experts know diplomacy, not child development.

  41. Manju Says:

    BrianE,

    AS to comparative advantage, any country with a low standard of living with few or no worker protections, few or no environmental protections will always have comparative advantage.

    Yes…they will have a comparative advance in regards to low-skilled jobs. Wealthier nations will have a comparative advantage for high-skilled ones.

    While in the short term, it seems to be an ideal situation, the dislocation, economic disruption and subsequent imbalance of wealth to capital doesn’t create a long term healthy society.

    No, this is backwards. Dislocation and economic disruption are short-term consequences of free trade. In the long run, jobs lost (dislocation) are replaced by jobs created.

    Keynes’ famous quote is actually a retort to this truism: in the long-run the free-market works. Its just that in the short-run, you have to help those who are victims of the disruption / dislocation.

    Also, disruption applies more to the wealthier nation, not N.Korea…because when you ain’t got nothing you got nothing to lose.

    That leaves “subsequent imbalance”, which I read as “inequality”. This is true. In the long-run capitalist economies will be unequal. I don’t have an issue with this, but apparently the RingWing in this country suddenly does.

    Well, freedom and equality will always be at odds. (I think Allan Bloom said that).

    As to convincing Kim to abandon his dictatorship and embrace the world paradise just around the corner from global trade, good luck with that.

    Well, somebody convinced the Maoists in China to embrace the Market. And, in my book at least, Chinese Communists were as Evil as Hitler. So you never know…

  42. BrianE Says:

    Wealthier nations will have a comparative advantage for high-skilled ones.- Manju

    The problem is, we need both, medium skilled and high skilled. Only we’re now seeing the peverse incentives of importing high skilled labor, kind of a reverse outsourcing. How does that help American labor?

    Interesting Forbes article that concludes offshoring was done for short term profits (share price) and an end run around unions.

    Why the focus on the short-term and the stock price? In the 1970s and 1980s, public corporations began adopting a notion that even Jack Welch has called “the dumbest idea in the world.” In an effort to deal with the pressures of globalization, deregulation and new technology, these companies embraced the notion that the very purpose of a corporation is to create shareholder value as reflected in the current stock price. Their focus turned inward towards making money for the shareholders and the executives as the primary goal.

    The practices that emerged, such as a focus on quarterly profits and the current stock price, along with massive share buybacks—some $3.4 trillion over the last ten years— created the appearance that the company was doing well. It was (and is), in effect, illegal stock price manipulation. Yet everyone climbed on board: business execs, boards of directors, Wall Street, brokers, regulators, politicians, and investors.

    Companies scrambled to find ways to keep their current share price rising, by whatever means necessary. One of those ways was off-shoring.

    One of the reasons for this phenomenon is the emergence of technology companies offering huge returns. How do more mundane companies compete for investor dollars? Beat analyst’s expectations.

    While this has always been true, the focus on short term returns has led to companies making decisions that are counter to their long term interests– all the while concentrating wealth to a degree never seen before.

    No one, at least not me, is suggesting for equality. I’m merely pointing out that sustaining a healthy, productive society won’t be done with minimum wage jobs.

    https://www.forbes.com/sites/stevedenning/2016/03/08/should-we-blame-trade-agreements-for-loss-of-jobs/#62cca6bc210d

  43. BrianE Says:

    More from the Forbes article:

    Now some mainstream economists are beginning to agree that there is a problem. Celebrated labor economists David Autor, David Dorn and Gordon Hanson, have just published a study, “The China Shock: Learning from Labor Market Adjustment to Large Changes in Trade.” It shows that increased trade with China caused severe and permanent harm to many American workers:

    “Adjustment in local labor markets is remarkably slow, with wages and labor-force participation rates remaining depressed and unemployment rates remaining elevated for at least a full decade after the China trade shock commences. Exposed workers experience greater job churning and reduced lifetime income. At the national level, employment has fallen in U.S. industries more exposed to import competition…but offsetting employment gains in other industries have yet to materialize.”

    The study shows that the affected industries and regions “have been hit hard and have not recovered. Workers in these industries and regions don’t go on to better jobs, or even similar jobs in different industries. Instead, they shuffle from low-paid job to low-paid job, never recovering the prosperity they had before Chinese competition hit. Many of them end up on welfare. This is very different from earlier decades, when workers who lost their jobs to import competition usually went into higher-productivity industries, to the benefit of almost everyone.”

  44. Manju Says:

    BrianE,

    Allow me to summarize the situation (and nothing I’m writing here contradicts the Forbes article.

    1. Trade between rich and poor nations raises the real income of poor nations. (This is the least controversial idea in play, as we’ve all witnessed the emergence of Chin, India and before that the Pacific Rim, not to mention Europe after WWII).

    2. Trade between rich and poor nations raises the real income of rich nations. (This is not addressed in the article, but is not challenged either. It is true, not only in theory, but in practice…mostly because cheap imports raises the REAL income of all Americans).

    3. Trade between rich and poor nations depresses wages / reduces jobs for poor members of rich nations.

    #3 is the crucial point.

    So what we are arguing here is whether or not the government should intervene in the Markets to help the losers.

    I’m willing to have that argument. But I just wanted to make sure we know what we are arguing about.

  45. BrianE Says:

    Manju,

    The Forbes article fleshed out what I have noticed for some time. Global trade has benefited the Investor class more than the Working class.

    1. Trade between rich and poor nations raises the real income of poor nations. While on the surface this is true, there is an unaccounted cost that isn’t being factored in the rising income– the environmental and health costs. This is something that conservatives often ignore. What would be the economic gains in China had the same environmental laws been in place that we have? It would still be cheaper to manufacture in China due to labor costs, but the gap would be closer.

    2. Trade between rich and poor nations raises the real income of rich nations. Global trade has benefited Capital more than Labor. Or as I said, it has benefited the Investor class more than the Working class. I’m not a socialist and would expect that Capital always has the upper hand. But the disparity is massive and not healthy, IMO.
    As to real income of the working poor benefiting from cheap goods– I would posit that the cheaper goods haven’t offset the falling wages. That is born out by data.

    3. Trade between rich and poor nations depresses wages / reduces jobs for poor members of rich nations. The 5 million manufacturing jobs lost due to outsourcing since the 1990’s weren’t “poor” jobs. These were middle income jobs paying wages significantly higher than the minimum wage jobs (sometimes part time) that have replaced them.
    Yes, these are the “losers”. This did not come about as a by-product of “Markets” but a legislative choice by congress to allow products produced in countries that have minimal labor and environmental regulations to be sold on par with ours.

    We are still battling sub-standard products sometimes using toxic components being imported because of lax quality control/inability to monitor quality control in facilities offshore.

    While a certain segment of Americans have benefited from this unaccountable global trade (I think free trade is a misnomer) the long term costs of losing manufacturing in this country will be catastrophic.

    So what we are arguing here is whether or not the government should intervene in the Markets to help the losers. I think you have mis-characterized the issue. Government intervened by creating favorable trade agreements that exacerbated the problem.

  46. BrianE Says:

    Speaking of disparate labor costs, the company I work for opened a manufacturing plant in China approx. 10 years ago. While it moved some production from the US to China for re-importation, most of it’s production is sold in the region to be competitive.
    In that respect this example bolsters your argument.
    I spent some time with an engineer sent to our plant to learn production techniques. He, his wife and daughter relied on a motor scooter as their means of transportation (which is quite common, I think). His goal after starting work for this company was to be able to afford a car. He explained it wouldn’t be an American car, since he wouldn’t be able to afford it. I talked to him a few years later, and sure enough, he had bought a Chinese manufactured car.
    So yes, he was living the Chinese dream– and his wages did rise. But the disparity to the standard of living between China and here should be troubling. This same pool of talent is being imported to many tech companies to compete with American workers.
    There is another way skilled labor directly competes with American skilled labor. Our company uses an Indian engineering firm and outsources some of the engineering work. We are expected to send a certain amount of work to them.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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