October 13th, 2006
I wonder if the claims that there hasn't been any radioactivity detected in the air and that the explosion was smaller than the reports said have any truth to them. I wonder if it's a ploy to get North Korea to test another nuke thereby forcing Russia and China into accepting stronger economic sanctions. It sounds very much like a Cold War type of tactic to me. We used to claim that Russian tests were smaller than their propaganda suggested. The truth usually was somewhere between.
And, of course, if North Korea doesn't test another one, then it's possible that the test was a fake. That suggests that the whole thing is posturing and weakens their position. Either way, it's increasingly probable that the threat from North Korea isn't a threat to us, but to South Korea and Japan primarily.
Of course, Iran has their eyes on this too.
I should probably stop writing about politics and current events, but this sort of situation is really rather fascinating to me. 8)
In this case, the information is coming from scientists in Japan, generally favorable to the US, and scientists in the US, who are generally on the other side. There is some merit to the "small size" claims
, though it is hardly definative.it's increasingly probable that the threat from North Korea isn't a threat to us
NK can load a nuke on a ship (in a container) or sell it to jihadists. Either one of these counts as a threat to the US, in my mind. The missile-delivery is possible too, but this is the blatant, open threat, and in my thinking the smallest of the three.
Were New York City to be nuked next month by a ship in the harbor (pre-inspection), would we flatten North Korea because we suspect that it came from there? As long as Kim Jong-Il picks any other city but San Francisco, he might get away with it.
===|==============/ Level Head
I think that if North Korea were going to nuke anyone, they'd choose South Korea. They already have a number of missiles aimed there. For all of Kim Jong-Il's perceived lunacy, he's purported to be a very clearheaded and rational individual by those who have met with him (Madeline Albright and her aides, mostly).
An active nuclear attack against the United States would almost certainly be small scale at this point and more effective in angering us than helping his case for the lifting of economic sanctions. It would certainly put the Chinese (his only real allies as near as I can tell) in an increasingly awkward and strained position.
After all, Macarthur famously said that about 50 nuclear bombs would be more than sufficient to put an end to the Korean conflict around 50 years ago. A suggestion of that sort might be better received in a post-nuclear attack climate and wouldn't really serve his cause.
I don't see a lot of interest in North Korea cooperating with jihadists. I'd suspect that a fledgling nuclear nation isn't going to want to give up their first few nuclear weapons out of pride and national defense concerns.
Besides, if he were looking for plausible deniability, he would've had the first test without the announcement and not on North Korean soil. I see him as trying to force a diplomatic conflict, not commit an act of wanton destruction.
An active nuclear attack against the United States would almost certainly be small scale at this point and more effective in angering us than helping his case for the lifting of economic sanctions.
Imagine, if you would, the effect upon the US economy of such a "small scale" attack -- a single nuclear weapon in a single city. Death toll less than a million people, perhaps even 100,000 or so. Imagine the effect of long-term contamination of the most expensive real estate we have.
It would do a tremendous amount of harm to the US, I think. And it would tremendously
boost NK's status in the world, particularly the Middle East and Europe. And, if done in such as way as to make the origin unclear, we would likely do nothing.
The half life of shock and anger before we publish "it's the US's fault" would be much shorter than after 9/11. Chomsky would be cheering the same day -- assuming he's not killed in the blast. I don't know where his apartment is. The same fellow who immediately wrote (of 9/11)
"The terrorist attacks were major atrocities. In scale they may not reach the level of many others, for example, Clinton's bombing of the Sudan with no credible pretext, destroying half its pharmaceutical supplies and killing unknown numbers of people (no one knows, because the US blocked an inquiry at the UN and no one cares to pursue it). Not to speak of much worse cases, which easily come to mind.
would be quick to spring to action to defend the perpetrators of the next attack.
Since then, Chomsky's position has been joined by many others -- and is now much more visible from overseas. Kim Jong Il may be "clearheaded and rational" -- though I'm amused at the character witness -- but he may still perceive that, with a bit of misdirection, he COULD get away with it.
And, sadly, he may be right.
===|==============/ Level Head
"Clearheaded and rational" were my words, incidentally. An aide quoted here
said that he's "a very serious, rational guy who knew his issues pretty well".
I think you overestimate the eagerness of some to hop on the anti-US bandwagon. Keep in mind that many of those people were those who protested the construction of nuclear arms during Reagan's and earlier administrations. It would present an interesting dilemma to them, I'm sure. Bobby Fischer would probably call into a radio station, but I don't really think it factors into North Korea's motives. Besides, most of the complaints aren't about the war in Afghanistan -- a direct reaction to 9/11 -- but the war in Iraq.
In my opinion, North Korea would only benefit from a covert strike on the US if followed by an immediate invasion of South Korea. That move might have some merit, but keep in mind that this is a regime which has lived under the reality of MAD for quite some time now. It really is the Cold War to my eyes; just scaled down and with the presence of other larger nations which history has shown would put an end to the conflict.
That's a very dangerous gamble and I don't think the reality of that is lost on Kim. By contrast, he could continue playing the game he's on right now and keep his bartering piece on the international stage. He's already shown what he'll do when an agreement is neglected as the 1994 framework was. With that, he can effectively bargain for the lifting of international sanctions which, in time, would lead to a real gain in status and the continued survival of the regime.
It's lower risk and I don't think Kim is feeling the sort of pressure he'd need to feel from potential opponents to take military action.