Sunday, October 15, 2006

Following in the Duck's webprints

Charles Krauthammer's piece in today's Washington Post echoes an idea that I stated in May regarding a posture to take with rogue nuclear states like North Korea.

Terrorism has since grown in popularity, ambition and menace. Its practitioners are in the market for nuclear weapons. North Korea has little else to sell.

Hence Bush's attempt to codify a second form of deterrence: "The transfer of nuclear weapons or material by North Korea to states or non-state entities would be considered a grave threat to the United States, and we would hold North Korea fully accountable for the consequences of such action."

A good first draft, but it could use some Kennedyesque clarity. The phrase "fully accountable" does not exactly instill fear, as it has been used promiscuously by several administrations in warnings to both terrorists and rogue states -- after which we did absolutely nothing. A better formulation would be the following:

Given the fact that there is no other nuclear power so recklessly in violation of its nuclear obligations, it shall be the policy of this nation to regard any detonation of a nuclear explosive on the United States or its allies as an attack by North Korea on the United States requiring a full retaliatory response upon North Korea.

This is how you keep Kim Jong Il from proliferating. Make him understand that his survival would be hostage to the actions of whatever terrorist group he sold his weapons to. Any terrorist detonation would be assumed to have his address on it. The United States would then return postage. Automaticity of this kind concentrates the mind.

Compare this to my statement from "Son of MAD":
I think that the US should stay engaged with the UN and the IAEA to continue to press non-nuclear states to abide by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. But on the side, strictly as a US initiative, we tell nations that will not cooperate the following: non-cooperating states go on the "list". When you are on the "list", all potential nuclear development sites in your country are targeted by US ballistic nuclear missiles. If we do not have good intelligence on where your sites are, we will overcompensate by increasing the number of potential sites we target. These are not tactical nukes, mind you, but strategic.

Now, in the event that the US or any nation that it has diplomatic relations with is hit by a nuclear explosion, and the source of that weapon is not immediately identified, ie. it was a suitcase nuke and not delivered by missile from an identified country, then every nation that is currently on the "list" will be hit with overwhelming nuclear retaliation.

I am thinking of revising the Daily Duck's motto to "If it quacks like the truth, you read it on the daily Duck first."


Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Waiting until after a nuke goes off is not really a policy.

I consulted my nuclear weapons adviser yesterday. His assessment is that there is a very small chance it was a fake and a much larger chance it was a failure. 'There are lot of ways to fuck up a nuclear bomb' is how he put it.

That changes things. Until last week, it was thought that N.K. had nuclear weapons. Now we know it doesn't.

I say the policy is: broadcast to the N.K. army officers that they have one chance to overthrow the regime, revert to a conventional army and declare peace on us. Otherwise, the bombers roll.

My weapons adviser says this is wrong, that nothing we say would induce the N.K. officers to take the risk, that only a promise of support from China would induce them to believe that their backs are covered.

OK, so tell the Chinese to tell them.

This is a last opportunity to do it the easy way.

October 15, 2006 12:26 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Harry is right, ex post facto isn't much of a policy. Unfortunately, it isn't clear what the alternative is.

At the very least, any attack on the NORKS will likely cause massive destruction in Seoul. Besides, at the moment Iraq requires too many resources to leave enough left over to invade the North.

It is interesting that OJ, who so routinely invokes the use of nuclear weapons in his WWII post hoc fantasies, hasn't shown anywhere near the enthusiasm here.

October 16, 2006 9:25 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

I wasn't thinking of an invasion. Just blowin' up stuff.

As a practical matter, you could attempt to save Seoul by broadcasting ahead of time to the N.K. army that the purpose was simply to erase all its offensive capability -- air force, nuclear operations, bridges and roads necessary to move forces south.

'What you do inside North Korea is your own business.'

October 16, 2006 11:53 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...


I'm not thinking invasion, either.

Unfortunately, Seoul acts as the perfect hostage. The Norks have honeycombed mountains within 40 miles of Seoul with artillery emplacements.

So any aerial assault would have to be made knowing in advance there would be serious civilian casualties, because it isn't likely we could significantly degrade that artillery capability in time to prevent them.

October 18, 2006 7:58 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

There aren't any no-cost options.

I have seen a figure of 11,000 guns on ther 38th Parallel. They could do serious damage but not critical in a city as big as Seoul.

Supertyphoons, which S. Korea survives regularly, would be a rough equivalent.

Supposedly many N.K. guns are emplaced in caves, which makes counterbattery fire a problem, although with radar-tracking not insurmountable.

The desired option would be to get the army high command to hesitate to order 'open fire.' The 'Is Paris Burning?' effect.

A lot of artillery south of the 38th would concentrate their minds, too.

October 18, 2006 10:14 AM  

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