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The PJ Tatler

by
Bryan Preston

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April 1, 2013 - 10:35 am

North Korea traffics in threats. Its latest: A declaration of a “state of war” between itself and South Korea. South and North Korea have technically remained at war since 1953, but the new threat promises a new war. The reclusive communist dynasty has used threats of war against South Korea, Japan and the United States for decades, both for internal reasons and for external purposes. Internally, threats help keep the people unified around and against common foes. Externally, threats extort food and fuel aid from the US and our allies. North Korea has not been able to feed itself for going on 20 years, despite its juche self-reliance propaganda.

Up to now, there has been little reason to take Pynongyang’s threats very seriously. North Korea’s military could be expected to inflict severe damage on Seoul, South Korea’s capital city, in the early stages of a conflict due to its artillery positioned in the mountains just north of the border. But South Korea’s modern military and the overwhelming might of the US could be expected to come down on the North quickly and, with Japan’s assistance in the mix, pound the Kims’ forces into oblivion before too long, provided China stayed out of the fight.

But this time could be different. North Korea’s new leader, Kim Jung-Un, is the least prepared and least tested head of state the North has ever had. Kim Il-Sung, the dynasty’s first and founding leader, led the fight against Japan during World War II and then led the fight against the UN and the US during the Korean War. After that, he had nothing to prove to the outside world or to the generals around him or the people of North Korea. Kim built a personality cult around himself to entrench his power, but there was at least a grain of truth to the tale that he had personally fought to preserve the people. Each successive generation of North Korea’s leaders have had less connection to past military success, leading now to the current Kim. Kim Jung-Un comes to the helm with no military experience. He is a pudgy man of only 29 or 30 years old. He may be relying for much of his authority on his resemblance to his grandfather, Kim Il-Sung. The new Kim may intend to prove his bona fides, or he may have to proves his bona fides, to his generals by engaging in military conflict.

South of the border and to his west, Kim may see weak leaders instead of formidable foes. South Korea has just elected its first female president, Park Geun-hye. Kim Jung-Un may see her being a woman as itself a weakness. It would not be the first time a male dictator has made the mistake of seeing a female leader as weak. Park is not new to politics or to North Korea’s brutality. She has been around the South Korean presidency since her father was president in the 1970s. A North Korean assassin murdered her mother, the First Lady at the time, on August 15, 1974. Park has even been attacked by a knife-wielding criminal herself, in 2006. It would be a mistake to see Park as weak, but Kim Jung-Un may see her that way just because she is a woman. One thing Park does lack, though, is any military experience.

In the US, we have President Barack Obama. He never served in the military. He knows nothing of military strategy. He is an ideologue who has made habits of apologizing for perceived American sins and weakening our relationships with staunch allies like Japan. Obama led from behind during Libya, showing a strong aversion both to putting US boots on the ground and to telling the American people the truth about conflict, and has yet to take any decisive action one way or another on Syria. Obama heralds ending wars, but never strives to win them. Domestically Obama has ushered in a policy, sequestration, which he and his former defense chief advertised to the world as a policy that will weaken the US military. His new defense chief, Chuck Hagel, is also not a proponent of a strong American foreign policy. Hagel does have military experience, but it was in Vietnam, and that defeat has made him a defeatist and skeptic of the use of US force for good. Hagel and Obama helming the US military may lead Kim to conclude that whatever the Americans say in response to his threats, and however many of our slick airplanes we send to Seoul, we aren’t likely to actually do very much. America is very unlikely to risk ground troops under Obama. Given the weakness of our economy, how much of a conflict we could afford to take on halfway around the world is a real question.

The Kims have always believed and propagated the myth that South Korea would welcome rule by the North. If you’re Kim Jung-Un, you have an unrealistic understanding of the world outside your hermit kingdom and you need to burnish your military credentials, there may never be a better time than the present to do that than now.

Bryan Preston has been a leading conservative blogger and opinionator since founding his first blog in 2001. Bryan is a military veteran, worked for NASA, was a founding blogger and producer at Hot Air, was producer of the Laura Ingraham Show and, most recently before joining PJM, was Communications Director of the Republican Party of Texas.

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All Comments   (3)
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China does not concern me, at least on an economic level; So they call our note and we say "Sorry, we are at war right now, call back later- next time keep your dog on its leash." Would China go to war to collect a debt? That seems counterintuitive to me.

It might actually be a good thing for North Korea to start a fight they can't win, especially if China is also tired of having to discuss their problem child and stay out of it. The absence of the Crazy Norks would be an improvement, provided enough of them die so we and South Korea would not go broke feeding them. A little harsh but true.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"But South Korea’s modern military and the overwhelming might of the US could be expected to come down on the North quickly and, with Japan’s assistance in the mix, pound the Kims’ forces into oblivion before too long, provided China stayed out of the fight."

I hope you're not expecting too much from the Japanese. As I understand it, their constitution permits only a self-defense force. Apparently, the people manning the self-defense force are far closer to civil servants than soldiers. They don't sound like a force to be reckoned with....

I think you've hit the nail on the head with the remark about China. If China stays out of it - or even co-operates with the West to punish North Korea, the great cost of a North Korean attack is likely to be major devastation on Seoul which may or may not be tolerable. (Obviously, it's more tolerable to foreigners than to residents of Seoul!) But if North Korea sends missiles against Japan, which is apparently within range, or simply plants a nuke in a fishing boat and detonates it in, say, Seattle or New York, then things will take a very ugly turn indeed.

What are the prospects of sending Seal Team Six over to take out a few of the top North Koreans they way they did Bin Laden?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"Given the weakness of our economy, how much of a conflict we could afford to take on halfway around the world is a real question."

China could call our note, that would sequester our world.

The baby nut in the pajamas doesn't want to start a war he can't win and Obama doesn't want to win a war he can't start.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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