North Korea: Iraq the Sequel

Reply Mon 13 Dec, 2004 08:00 pm
Those happy chappies from PNAC (Project for the New American Century) are at it again. This is the group of neocons and allies that pushed and pushed and pushed for the invasion of Iraq, realizing this great dream when their poster boy made it to the White House.

Now they want him to take steps to:

Make clear that regime change in North Korea and reunification of the Korean peninsula are our ultimate policy goals.

I'd describe it as nation building myself. This is not the goal of US foreign 'policy' and is going to end up in a new Asian quagmire, only with nukes for real this time.

This isn't a cop vs bully question. This is why a lobby should hijack the entire nation to fulfill some sort of military wet-dream.

Feel free to add your bitches and moans here. I will.
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Mr Stillwater
Reply Mon 13 Dec, 2004 08:13 pm
Original article:

Hawks Push Regime Change in North Korea

by Jim Lobe [23 Nov 2004]
The coalition of foreign-policy hawks that promoted the 2003 invasion of Iraq is pressing President George W. Bush to adopt a more coercive policy toward North Korea, despite strong opposition from China and South Korea.

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Mr Stillwater
Reply Mon 13 Dec, 2004 08:17 pm
PNAC press release:

SUBJECT: Toward Regime Change in North Korea

Recent reports suggest the presence of emerging cracks in the Stalinist power structure of North Korea, and even the emergence of serious dissident activity there. These should remind us that one of President Bush's top priorities in his second term will have to be dealing with this wretched regime.
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Mr Stillwater
Reply Mon 13 Dec, 2004 08:27 pm
The recommendations:

Tear Down This Tyranny
From the November 29, 2004 issue: A Korea strategy for Bush's second term. by Nicholas Eberstadt

THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION is not famous for patience with its critics. But for the sake of national security, the new Bush team should listen to constructive criticism of its policies--in particular, its policy for the North Korean nuclear crisis. The current U.S. approach to the North Korea problem is demonstrably flawed; arguably, even dangerously flawed.

Just what is wrong? After nearly four years in office, the curious fact remains that the Bush administration plainly lacks a strategy for dealing with the North Korean regime. Instead, it merely confronts Pyongyang with an attitude.

President Bush and his inner circle regard Kim Jong Il and his system with an admixture of loathing, contempt, and distrust--as well they might. Unfortunately, a mechanism for translating that point of view into effective action was manifestly absent from the statecraft of Bush's first-term administration. Long on attitude ("axis of evil") but short on strategy, the administration on North Korea was at times akin to a rudderless boat on an open sea.

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Reply Tue 14 Dec, 2004 09:54 am
Stillwater, great selection of links. I am not sure anything has to be "done" about the Korean problem other than to install some effective defense for Seoul and make it clear that nuclear retaliation is imminent should N Korea use its supposed nukes.

Economic sanctions would only worsen the humanitarian problem there, and the government doesn't seem to take the welfare of the populace seriously, just as Saddam did not.

I can't imagine S Korea is looking forward to integrating with the North should it fall. What a can of worms that will be!
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Reply Tue 14 Dec, 2004 11:30 am
Actually, most citizens of ROK do want and look forward to reunification, though not on Kim Jong-Ils terms.

Korea was a semi-autonomous province of China until the late 19th century, and had been for many hundreds of years previously. It was Japan's attempt to wrest Korea from the Chinese that provided the basis for the Sino-Chinese War. Japan handily defeated the Chinese in short order, but Korea's status was still unclear. Russia, which had been gobbling up Asia expanding its empire to the Pacific, also wanted Korea as a possession. The squabble between the two led to the Russo-Japanese War. The Japanese owned the seas with modern battleships, but was unable to secure a complete victory on land. Russia sent its combined fleet around the world to engage the upstart Japanese. Bad decision. The Russian fleet was sunk by fast Japanese ships using outstanding naval gunfire, and the Russian Admiral was captured. Teddy Roosevelt got the Nobel Prize for negotiating the end of the war, and Korea had its independence ... for awhile.

Japanese government increasingly fell under the control of high military officers, and it began to expand throughout Asia in search of raw materials, oil, and markets. Korea was one of the first to come entirely under the banner of the rising sun. It was not a happy occupation. The Japanese enslaved the whole people, and shipped many away to work in Japanese war industry. Good-looking young Korean girls were seized and forced into sexual slavery for Japanese troops. Many Koreans were killed, many for almost no reason beyond the fact that the Japanese could do it. Korea was one of the last foreign footholds of Imperial Japan, and they left the country in ruins. Anything left of value was shipped to the home islands, and what couldn't be moved was destroyed. Even today a great many Koreans harbor as great a hatred for the Japanese as WWII Jewsh survivors have for the Nazis.

Kim Jong-Il's father was a dedicated Communist who spent most of WWII in Moscow and Siberia, but rushed into the Peninsula as the fighting diminished, and with the might of the USSR behind him set up a Communist government in the North. The U.S. managed to salvage everything in the South by putting troops directly on the ground. Europe had its "Iron Curtain", and in Asia there was the "Bamboo Curtain". The primary countries inside the Asian Communist block by the end of the 1940s were DPRK, PRC, and North Vietnam. DPRK was the most repressive of them all, and Kim Il-Sung was just as brutal as Stalin himself. (Kim is the family name, and is more common in Korea than Smith or Jones is in the U.S. Though there may be no direct familial relationship between two families named "Kim", there is a cultural feeling that they are distantly related. This is also common in China where almost everyone belongs to one of the families of the "Thousand Names".)

South Korea was still under reconstruction when the North came South. North Korean troops quickly overran Seoul, and murdered perhaps a hundred thousand Koreans that they suspected might not entirely love the Communists. The UN demanded a cease-fire, but the DPRK ignored that and continued its attacks. Execution of South Koreans and prisoners of war also continued. U.S. troops were not prepared to meet the onslaught, and were pushed into a small pocket at the end of the penninsula, Pusan. With ammunition almost extended, lack of almost every supply needed to maintain the troops it looked like another Dunkirk.

MacArthur's "hail Mary" at Inchon flanked the North Koreans. Many were taken prisoner, but most were able to retreat North in front of the quickly advancing U.S. lines. (BTW, by this time the UN sanctioned military action against the DPRK). US forces owned the air, and on the ground had seized the initiative. DPRK resistance stiffened as the frontlines steadily moved deep inside North Korea. Kim pleaded with Stalin to intervene, but Uncle Joe declined ... he had other fish to fry and didn't want to face off against the Americans who might use the Bomb on Moscow if things got out of hand. China was more interested, but Mao was also unwilling to jump into the fray. Mao did warn the U.S. not to approach their borders, and President Truman ordered MacArthur to stay well south of the Yalu River. Mac, had a long history of disobeying Presidential orders (think attacking the Bonus Marchers in defiance of Hoover's orders, etc.). The result was that the Chinese sent massive columns of "volunteer" infantry across the Yalu surprising and overwhelming U.N. forces.

The USMC had advanced to the Chosin reservoir on one side of the central Korean mountain chain, and the U.S. army was likewise very far North. The mountains helped protect their flanks, but it also made communications and coordination almost impossible. The massed Chinese infantry turned Chosin into one of the bloodiest encounters the USMC ever had. "We are not retreating! We are attacking in a different direction", has become an essential part of the Corp's memory. The US/UN forces were pushed again South of the positions they held when the DPRK opened hostilities. Then the lines stabilized, and began pushing Northward again. By the time the US/UN forces were again deep into the DPRK when the war settled into a near stalemate; the Chinese and North Koreans had enough and a cease-fire went into effect. It is still in effect today, and officially the Korean War has yet to end.

114,500 Chinese and 34,000 North Koreans refused repatriation after the cease fire, and 22 American prisoners elected to stay in the DPRK. The US forces in the war zone reached 1,600,000, and we suffered 24,000 KIA, 100,000 wounded, 9,000 MIA, and 2,675 captured and held under brutal conditions in violation of the Geneva Convention. The Korean War cost over $20,000,000,000, and astonishing cost for the time. As the war progressed, the American public became more and more disenchanted with it, and that may well have been a major contributor to the election of the Republican candidate, Dwight D. Eisenhour (USA, Ret.).

Korean culture is extremely paternalistic and family oriented. Division of the country into North and South has kept families apart now for over fifty years. ROK is still a very authoritarian society, but popular democracy and representative government is well-rooted. ROK has done very well in the global economy, and as a result the standard of living among its citizens is relatively high. Most of the needs of life are being met, and many in the ROK are well-educated, and happy consumers of "luxury" products. Most in the ROK are extremely nationalistic, and their pride in all things Korea is intense. They built a tower on top of a mountain, for instance, so that they could claim to have the highest tower in Asia. The Korean Olympics held in Seoul is still a matter of national pride. Even innocent remarks, that would go un-noted in the West, can insult and send young Koreans to the barricades in protest. A popular American entertainer made what to us would be a casual, playful remark on American television, and she is now personal non-grata to many Koreans. The young have been strongly targeted by DPRK propaganda playing off of the Korean desire for tight family groups. ROK is one of the largest contributors to food and health aid for the starving people of DPRK.

If reunification of Korea were to occur, its likely that ROK would be at least as important to salvaging a terrible situation as West Germany to the East when The Wall came down. Like the DPRK, ROK has as one of its highest goals the reunification of their very much loved country.

BTW, there probably isn't any really effective way to improve the defenses for Seoul. Seoul is within range of DPRK artillery on the DMZ. One in flight, there isn't much anyone can do to keep artillery from doing its worst. Counter-battery fires and airstikes would, of course, immediately take place, but the DPRK tubes are mostly in hardened sites. It might take weeks to silence the guns, and in the meantime Seoul (especially North of the Han River) would take a very severe beating. Seoul is also vulnerable to infantry/armor attack being only 25 miles south of the DMZ. On the other hand that is a kill-zone that has been elaberated on for over fifty years. Terrain features would make it difficult to flank Seoul by going around the kill-zone, so a DPRK advance on Seoul would pretty much have to go through the defensive zone. DPRK casualities would be heavy, though they very well might in some circumstances break through to the Capital ... especially if US relief forces were delayed for very long.

I don't think Kim is likely to try to roll-up the South in the forseeable future, but he has surprised us in the past. The atomic weapons possessed by the DPRK are small in number (3-6, by many estimates), but they have never been tested and the North's delivery capability is at this time still limited. For Kim to use a nuclear device would be suicide for him, and though he may be unpredictable, he is not sucicidal or crazy.
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