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October 12, 2006

The Nork Military: A Paper Tiger Small Feces-Flinging Tree-Monkey

NYT link, so here's the skinny. "Experts" (whatever) argue plausibly that the Norks seek nukes not to blackmail the West, but because they are accutely aware their conventional military will be quickly decimated in a conventional war.

The military in North Korea is by far the largest consumer of the country’s scarce resources. But even so, its combat jet pilots get only about two hours of flying time a month, its soldiers sometimes have to grow their own food, and much of its equipment is old and outclassed by that of its neighbors. According to South Korean and Western experts, if a conventional war breaks out on the Korean Peninsula, the best the North Korean military could manage would be to fight to a bloody stalemate.

It is the deep insecurity born of these shortcomings, the experts say, and not any desire to grab attention or gain leverage, that drove President Kim Jong-il’s decision to defy international warnings and declare this week that his country had tested a nuclear weapon.

“I think North Korea wants an effective deterrent against the U.S. in case of war on the Korean peninsula,” said Park Yong Ok, a former lieutenant general in the South Korean army who served as vice minister for defense in the late 1990’s. “Kim Jong Il wants a nuclear weapon at hand. It’s not a bargaining chip.”

Although the North has an active army of more than one million soldiers — an immense number for a country of 23 million people — its poor and outdated equipment and huge difficulties in maintaining combat readiness mean it is outgunned by the smaller forces of South Korea and the United States troops stationed in the South.

Until now, North Korea’s main deterrent against attack has been the 8,000 artillery pieces and 2,000 tanks it has positioned close to the demilitarized zone that separates North and South. Many of the guns have ranges long enough to reach Seoul, a city of 10.3 million people, and can fire chemical-weapon shells.

But military officials and analysts interviewed today said that the North closely watched conflicts elsewhere in the world, particularly the invasions of Iraq in 1991 and 2003, and saw that masses of tanks and artillery could be neutralized with ease by superior American military technology. So, methodically but with growing nervousness, the Communist regime sought a new trump card to maintain the security standoff on the peninsula.

“It’s a large army, but the equipment is old,” said a Western military attaché based in Seoul, who did not want to be quoted by name because he was not authorized to speak for his government on the matter. “I think the caliber of the army is not that great anymore. Kim has to look at other means for protection.”

The attaché said it was unlikely that the Mr. Kim would now bargain his nuclear arms away. “He might talk, but not to hand over that capability,” he said. “It’s his security blanket.”

I grow weary of Democrats calling for "diplomacy." Diplomacy is only effective if two parties genuinely seek similar goals and simply need to concede lesser points to one another to reach an agreement, or if "diplomacy" is really simply a naked threat backed up by the promise of military force.

The Norks simply have an entirely different agenda than we do. They want to continue running their Gulag State, and maybe conquer the south at some point (dare to dream); everyone except Russia and China would like to see that gulag closed down at some point.

"Diplomacy" cannot bridge the plainly incompatible goals here.

John Kerry continually claims we should have gotten "our allies" involved in Iraq, ignoring the fact that "our allies," such as France and Russia, wanted to keep Saddam in power and, barring that, wanted us to fail in Iraq. It was, and remains, in their national interest to see America weakened and pinned down.

How can "diplomacy" overcome such a chasm? Some glad-handling and charm is going to cause the French and Russians to act against their own national self-interest?

Bush has pretty much taken "diplomacy" as far as it can go. Hopefully now come punitive measures.

Counterpoint... From the Herald UK, which claims attacking North Korea is "not feasible."

Because they're "dug in," protected by "rock and concrete and steel" in the mountains, and that nothing short of nukes can blast them out.

I rather doubt that. For one thing, a fuel-air munition or thermobaric bomb can suffocate such folks, no matter how well dug-in, right? And missiles are getting pretty damn good at flying in right through the window.

Guns have to poke out of a hole, or else they're not guns.

For another thing, the bulk of the Nork force is massed right on the border. If 10% of the Norks' guns and rocket emplacements are too hard to get at, 90% aren't hard to destroy at all.

Via Hot Air, which notes that the sanctions against North Korea have been watered down, thanks to, of course, Russia and China. But watered down is not piss, either.

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posted by Ace at 05:53 PM

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