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The Council Has Spoken!! This Week’s Watcher’s Council Results – 03/15/13

Submitted by on March 15, 2013 – 2:07 pm ESTNo Comment

The Watcher’s Council

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Alea iacta est… the Council has spoken, the votes have been cast and we have the results for this week’s Watcher’s Council match-up.

It’s always the problem you discount and ignore that ends up causing you the most grief in the end, no matter what the assorted ‘wise men’ say.

That could be the moral, if one was required of the well written and incisive piece submitted by this week’s winner, The Razor’s What If The Experts Are Wrong About North Korea? I’d also add my own thought that once again, a gullible American government has gotten its nose rubbed in an ancient truism – peace comes from victory, not fuzzy objectives and concessions. Here’s a slice of The Razor’s fine piece:

Today making good on its threats the North Koreans cancelled the 1953 armistice ending the Korean war. It has also threatened a nuclear attack against the United States.

Despite the strong language, analysts say North Korea is years away from having the technology necessary to mount a nuclear warhead on a missile and aim it accurately at a target.

And, analysts say, North Korea is unlikely to seek a direct military conflict with the United States, preferring instead to try to gain traction through threats and the buildup of its military deterrent.

What if the analysts are wrong?

A 2006 article in the Asia Times states North Korea has some of the most developed missile systems in the world. According to a 2009 report by the International Crisis Group, North Korea has 6-12 nuclear weapons. Experts remain divided as to whether North Korea has the capability of weaponizing these nuclear warheads, or fitting them to a missile. This is a nice way of saying 50% of experts believe the North has this capability.

The truth is the Hermit Kingdom is living up to its moniker and our intelligence there isn’t very good. The Chinese have the best intelligence, but they aren’t willing to share it with us. But Chinese support of new sanctions says a lot. If the Chinese know the North is bluffing again, they would have resisted additional UN pressure because a belligerent North suits their foreign policy interests. If they know that North Korea has both the weapons and the means to deliver them and is considering attacking the US and its allies, supporting sanctions would be the final act in the hopes of leashing the regime before sending in Chinese troops and taking the country over. By supporting the sanctions China may be giving a sign that the regime is serious, and the danger it presents is real.

There are three likely targets if North Korea used a nuke. The first is Seoul, South Korea. Being only 60 km from the border with the North attacking this city would be the easiest. It is well within range of its missiles, and the short flight time and low trajectory would make shooting down the missile more difficult. The downside of such an attack is that it would pretty much guarantee a conventional invasion from the South as well as invite a retaliatory response from the US. In such a case it’s unlikely the Chinese would come to the aid of the North Koreans, and the North Koreans probably know that. The deaths of hundreds of thousands of South Koreans also would not go down well in the North either, and would shock the regime internally increasing the likelihood of an internal coup, possibly one backed by Chinese intelligence and special forces units.

The North Korean regime would really like to hurt the United States. An attack on the US would contain the element of surprise, and is ideologically the best target. But it’s also the hardest to hit. The continental US is over 9000 km away, meaning the North would have to rely upon its longest range missile to fly in a suborbital trajectory, providing ample time for the US to determine its trajectory and likely target and to employ its anti-missile defense systems. It has tested such a missile twice, and neither test was a complete success as far as our intelligence has learned, so not only would the missile have to survive US countermeasures, it would also have to avoid falling apart.

If the North Koreans are rational even in their apparent craziness, the only target is Japan – likely a sprawling metropolis such as the Kanto containing Tokyo and Yokohama or the Kansai area where Nara, Kobe, Kyoto and Osaka sit. These areas would not require precision guidance systems beyond current North Korean capabilities and fall well within range of its Taepodong 1 missile that North Korea fired over Japan in 1998. An attack on Japan would temper the response by both China and South Korea: China would be hard pressed to punish the regime for attacking a foe China itself is threatening war against over the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, and both North and South Koreas hold deep historical animosities towards Japan for its treatment as a Japanese colony from 1910 to 1945.

If Japan was nuked by North Korea it cannot retaliate. It lacks nuclear weapons and its conventional forces do not have the capability for an invasion. Japan would therefore have to rely upon the United States. Would the US launch a nuclear attack against North Korea on Japan’s behalf? It’s not a given, and such uncertainty increases the risk of an attack on Japan.

How would the United States respond, and more importantly, how do the North Koreans believe the United States would respond? Unfortunately it’s impossible to know what the decision makers in the regime are thinking about the Obama administration, but monolithic regimes tend to see the world much differently than those living and working in Democracies.

In our non-Council category, the winner was Victor Davis Hanson with Explaining the Inexplicable submitted by Joshuapundit. What is the always stimulating Professor Hanson on about? Let’s just say he does an exemplary job of pointing out a number of glaring paradoxes. Do read it.

Okay, here we go with this week’s full results:

Council Winners

Non-Council Winners

See you next week! Don’t forget to tune in on Monday AM for this week’s Watcher’s Forum, as the Council and their invited special guests take apart one of the provocative issues of the day with short takes and weigh in… don’t you dare miss it. And don’t forget to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter… ’cause we’re cool like that!

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