North Korea, again

North Korea continues to dominate the headlines and ideas abound as to what its implications are for literally everyone in the Pacific region.  Michael Yon, a former Green Beret and now freelance journalist, photographer and author, has some very interesting ideas.  Essentially, North Korea is a willing pawn in the geo-political strategy of both Russia & China versus the US.  The tests by the NORKs constitute a red line that the Russians, Chinese and the North Koreans seriously doubt that the US will cross.  By not crossing this red line, the US is essentially throwing its allies, read South Korea and Japan, under the bus.  It’s a very good article, entitled “War on the Horizon – Is the US ready to meet its Commitments?” and can be accessed here.

Another writer that I follow is Tyler Rogoway.  His work can be found here.  One of his latest articles explores the options open to the US; its entitled “Kim Jong Un has a plan. We don’t, but here are our options” and can be viewed here.  The very title should cause one to ask, does the US really have a strategy for dealing with Kim Jong Un?  As things seem to progress in the media, one would be tempted to admit we do not.  Hints abound that the United States is trying to do something, i.e., the US Treasury Secretary looking at even more severe economic sanctions to a Jolly Roger flag flying from the mast of the USS Jimmy Carter submarine as it returned to base.  (You can read about the Jolly Roger issue, and implications of the Jolly Roger flying from a submarine’s mast here, which is another articles of Rogoway’s.)  However, just because there are signs that the US might be doing something is not an indication these are pieces of a coherent strategy.  Rogoway concludes his article:

“We must confront the issue now creatively using a multi-pronged comprehensive strategy. At least this way if war comes to the Korean Peninsula we would know that we did everything we could to avoid it while still looking out for our own interests and for those of our allies in the region.”

The Trump administration has been very wary of tipping its hand on many issues, unlike previous occupants of the White House.  A President who does not advertise what his plans are for his opponents is a nice change of pace.  Nevertheless, the repeated “shows of force” we’ve seen after every threat or test from the NORKs and the oral posturing seen from the UN, do not appear to represent a coherent US strategy; rather, it seems as though the US is simply trying to show the world, not just Kim Jong Un, something, rather than nothing at all.

My thoughts on North Korea

One of the reviewers of The Gambit mentioned that “International intrigue and political thrillers have always been a popular genre, but in these tumultuous times, the fodder for such writers seems to have increased immeasurably.”  For anyone focusing on Iran and, quite obviously, North Korea, this statement couldn’t be more accurate.  North Korea’s race to achieve nuclear power status and ICBM capability seems destined for nothing more than a Pyrrhic victory—that is should the NORK’s follow in the footsteps of Iraq, Libya, and Syria.  Obviously, the guy in the black suit with the funny haircut doesn’t want to mimic either Col. Muammar Qadaffi or Sadam Hussein, and I’m sure he doesn’t want to emulate Bashar Assad, either.  However, Kim Jong-Un has one thing going for him that none of these other three had:  a large, though potentially hollow, military that is holding a city of almost ten million people hostage to thousands of artillery pieces, or so the theory goes.  There’s a lot at play in North Korea that is often overlooked:

To begin with, the West only has one goal:  A North Korea devoid of nuclear arms and ICBMs.  To this end, China could help but it needs to be made unmistakably clear to them that it is in their interest to reach this goal.  Mind you, this is the West’s goal, not necessarily China’s.  And remember, this is unmistakably within China’s sphere of influence, as distasteful as that term might be to many people.   As such, it is incumbent upon those in the West, read the United States, to make it abundantly clear to China that this goal is in their interest as well—anything short of this, and most assuredly, it will not happen.

Secondly, the United States remains committed to a political—not a military—solution.  To achieve this, China holds a vast interest; indeed, a solution without China’s import offers a bloody mess that makes the situations in Iraq, Libya, and Syria pale in comparison.  Moreover, a military solution—without China’s involvement—opens the door to a decidedly bloody conflict—indeed the butcher’s bill could potentially run into the millions of lives—something that is in no one’s interest, though a rather cynical argument could be made it would be in China’s, as few, if any, of the lives lost would be Chinese.  If a military action resulted, the Korean peninsula would be a ravaged and isolated land; the United States would be spent militarily, and quite possibly, economically.

Finally, the one event that holds the most likely scenario in deescalating the entire peninsula, is regime change.  The only problem with this is that the current occupant at the head of the regime, Kim Jong-Un, has no intention of leaving—and the trail of bodies, including family members, left in his wake serves as apt notice that he will not leave of his own volition.

Enter the Chinese, who not only need to accept that regime change is not only in their interest, they need to convince Kim Jong-Un, that it is in his interest as well—if a peaceful solution is to be achieved.

Right now, we are a long ways away from this.


Since this is my first posting, I thought I’d take this time to thank my wife, Donna, for the inspiration to begin this little endeavor.  You see, she caught me reading one of Vince Flynn’s novels (for probably the third, or fourth time) and she simply said, “You know, you read so much, why don’t you write your own novel?”  Little did she know that I had been thinking of a “What if?” scenario for the past five years or so but never really thought about writing it down until she mentioned it.  She had no more than made the comment, then I realized I had the obvious plot already thought out.

You see, road trips can be pretty cool.  Several years before Donna made her suggestion, I took a road trip from the Pacific Northwest back to Minnesota to pick up our youngest son who was visiting my Mom and sister.  I happened to make this trip by myself as for some long forgotten reason Donna couldn’t make the trip.  If you’ve ever made this trip, especially the part from Central Montana to Northern Minnesota, you know there is not much in the way of scenery in this stretch, providing one with the opportunity to do a lot of thinking.  I got to wondering just what would happen if Israel decided to tangle with Iran over their nuclear program.  I gave my brother a call as he was stationed in Texas at the time to bounce a few ideas off of him as well.  The bottom line of all this is that the plot for this book was born out in a long road trip one summer back around 2007.  I never paid much attention to what I had played out in my mind until Donna made her little comment about six or seven years later.