I don’t mean to harp on North Korea (yes I do) and perhaps many of you probably aren’t sure why I make a big deal of this. In one of his occasionally brilliant moments Piers Morgan, whom I tolerate because he’s British (who doesn’t like a Brit), hits the nail on the head. Right in the opening lines of this piece he writes,
“Kim Jong-Un is a repulsive excuse for a human being; a megalomaniac tyrant with a penchant for torture, executions and systematic abuse of his people. He is also marching very rapidly toward his goal of making North Korea a full nuclear power, which makes him a very real and dangerous threat.”
He looks like this happy-clappy cartoon character of a man. He has what is an almost sweet face, just before the joyous smile turns to a frown you realize your screwed and he orders your death like some villain from a bond movie. “Ha, ha, ha Mr. Bond, now you are going to die!” Well okay then. But as Moran goes on to write, “But this is no laughing matter”. It really isn’t.
So we have a dangerous man who has made it clear his goal is to nuke up and strike America. If that’s true, I’m hearing some of you say, “well then, bomb him already.”
Setting aside the philosophical for a moment let’s talk about the practicality of such a plan. Let us say, for argument’s sake, that attacking North Korea does, to all of us, represent a valid use of the U.S. Military for defensive purposes. With all of America on board then, we decide to go forward. What would such a conflict look like?
First let’s talk about Iraq and Afghanistan.
It’s tempting to look at how things went in Iraq and try to overlay that success onto North Korea. Though what happened after our attack wasn’t exactly brilliant the attack itself was swift and well executed. We pushed in all the way to Baghdad. This was made possible, in part, to advanced SEAL teams that entered the country and were actually able to tag mobile targets like SCUD launchers and hard targets like bunkers and fixed artillery pieces. That’s pretty – well – ballsy! Just like something out of a movie rather than real life our soldiers dropped into the country, tagged the targets, then high tailed it out of there. When the time came to attack we knew just where to send the bombs.
450,000 dead and the country was ours. Of course we didn’t come there to colonize so I use the term “ours” in the sense that we could have kept it if we had so desired. That number, 450,000: how many of you have heard that number? It doesn’t get bandied about often. If you watched the news during the height of the war the number you heard was always the number of American troops killed. The official total of Americans killed stands at 4,486. Yes, we won. This has got to be one of the most lopsided victories in military history at the very least since the Bar Kokhba revolt saw the Romans take down about the same number of revolutionary Jews.
The same is really true of Afghanistan as well. We were able to take that country in what wasn’t, but seemed to be, overnight. What the American military did there is especially impressive since the Soviet’s were unable to do it after nearly 10 years of fighting. In Afghanistan the number of slain is around 91,000 and the number of U.S. soldiers killed is 2,386.
We were able to have these incredible victories because Iraq and Afghanistan were weak nations. Due to world sanctions they were economically weak, due to the pressing boot of oppressive dictatorships and religious thugs they were weak in morale, due to the fact that their neighbors were also weak, or weakened, they didn’t need to build up their military, not that they could have anyway.
North Korea is also a weak nation.
Despite the show of military might we know that the equipment is old, some of it literally fake, and that the economy of the country is terrible. We know that they can’t keep the lights on, that food supplies are short, and that economic sanctions mean that during a war there aren’t going to be any supply lines to help them out. Though they have a lot of land mines and well dug in artillery placements these aren’t enough to win a war against the United States of America.
The citizens of North Korea are sitting ducks. It is reasonable to believe that just like in Iraq and Afghanistan that at the very least 500,000 people will be killed. That is in a conventional war.
Weak and dangerous are not mutually exclusive.
Just because I say North Korea is weak doesn’t mean I don’t think they are dangerous. The half of a million dead on their soil would only be a small part of the total casualties of a war with them.
Seoul is the capital of the South Korea, the sworn enemy (for some reason no one in the north will recall well) of Pyongyang. The population of Seoul is 10 million people. It’s also a major center of trade, business, and industry, not just for Asia, but for the world. Hyundai, LG, and Samsung are just three of the major companies with operations in Seoul.
Remember that great line that Nicole Kidman’s character Julia Kelly says in the movie The Peacemaker? “I’m not afraid of the man who wants ten nuclear weapons, Colonel. I’m terrified of the man who only wants one.”
What if the North lets fly a nuclear missile at Seoul?
To be honest, part of the reason I harp on North Korea can be stated best by that famous line from Star Wars, “I’ve got a bad feeling about this”.
Even though there was a lot of fear over Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction they never really posed a thread outside of his own country. There was no delivery system. North Korea has a way to at least reach Seoul and more recently tested a missile that could potentially reach LA and most certainly Alaska in 30 minutes. It’s a conflict that could spread and suck other nations into it. It has the real possibility of being the first nuclear conflict since World War II. Millions of people could die needlessly and even more suffer as the those deaths, and the ultimate destruction of property ripple around the globe.
I’m very particular about war. I’m of the mind that it’s always bad even when it is necessary and the outcome is good. Take the American Civil war for example. In the end the nation held together and the horrifying injustice of slavery was ended. But not until nearly 2% of the entire American population was killed. 620,000 men, many of them in their teens.
It’s not something to glory in. Kill shots aren’t cool. We aren’t going to kick their asses.
“I’ve been where you are now and I know just how you feel. It’s entirely natural that there should beat in the breast of every one of you a hope and desire that some day you can use the skill you have acquired here. Suppress it! You don’t know the horrible aspects of war. I’ve been through two wars and I know. I’ve seen cities and homes in ashes. I’ve seen thousands of men lying on the ground, their dead faces looking up at the skies. I tell you, war is Hell!” – General William T. Sherman.
You have likely heard the quote, which Soviet historian Anton Antonov-Ovseyenko attributed to Stalin, “When one man dies it’s a tragedy. When thousands die it’s statistics.” Not for me. When I quote casualty rates above, when I say 500,000 were killed, I don’t think of that as a statistic. I think of that as a terrible loss of human life. I think of fathers, sons, mothers, children, loved ones – dead. I even think of the lost and emaciated family dog wandering the street confused as to where its humans have gone off to.
General Sherman was right, war is hell. War with North Korea would be hell. I hear the ramping up in the words of world leaders. I’m not sure it has to be done but I’m increasingly sure it will be.
Kim Jong-Un is a repulsive excuse for a human being; a megalomaniac tyrant with a penchant for torture, executions and systematic abuse of his people.