Why worry? (off topic)

OK, so GG is not a military student or a proper historian or anything like that…but can’t quite find the reassurance that North Korea-U.S. saber rattling is going to end well, which is the popular consensus. Why so glum? Because modern wars start when two sides misunderstand the others’ goals, and this seems quite possible here.  The precept of the “don’t worry” crowd is that North Korea’s main interest is survival. But is it?  If it is only survival, then having a nuclear weapon they can shoot at Seoul or Tokyo is quite enough.  Why push to have one they can shoot at the U.S.?

What North Korea has said in their internal propaganda is that they want to reunify Korea under the North’s government. They have a huge army (twice the size of South Korea’s), so they might well think they could win a ground war if only other nations stayed out. How to keep the U.S. out? Simple: threaten nuclear retaliation.  Keep out of our little war and you get to keep your big metropolises. Hence the ICBMs.

This would be a grave miscalculation as what keeps the U.S. from a military strike is the prospect of a conventional assault on Seoul; the moment North Korea decides to launch an assault, the U.S. and South Korea would try to decapitate the regime and attack any recognized launch facilities. So why would North Korea make such a miscalculation? If they decide the U.S. is all bluster.  Repeated empty threats from the U.S. would encourage such thinking. And if they make this miscalculation, they would probably decide to launch the moment they see the U.S.A.F. heading their way.

Hopefully this is all wrong and all Pyongyang is up to is a new level of their old game of threaten in order to get something in return. But it is hard to look at playing with such high stakes–and looking at the behavior of the players involved–and not get nervous….

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