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How the hell can Un trump Trump

Saturday, March 10th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — a face-off between two impulsives, and thoughtful planning at a tabletop exercise ]
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How the hell can Un, with one star and no stripes, hope to trump Trump, with fifty stars and thirteen stripes backing him up?

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Or:

How the hell can Un, with maybe a dozen nukes, one of which might be a hydrogen bomb, and some untested missiles designed to reach anywhere in the continental US, hope to trump Trump, with a stockpile of 1,411 nuclear warheads deployed on 673 ICBMs, SLBMs, and strategic bombers [Wikipedis] and an impressive array of generals, admirals and such, one of whom — Gen. Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs — is positively pushing his way out of the photo-frame into at least simulated warfare with North Korea:

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The simulation in question was described, as far as is visible under a cloak of secrecy, in a recent NYT article titled U.S. Banks on Diplomacy With North Korea, but Moves Ahead on Military Plans:

A classified military exercise last week examined how American troops would mobilize and strike if ordered into a potential war on the Korean Peninsula, even as diplomatic overtures between the North and the Trump administration continue.

The war planning, known as a “tabletop exercise,” was held over several days in Hawaii. It included Gen. Mark A. Milley, the Army’s chief of staff, and Gen. Tony Thomas, the head of Special Operations Command.

Anything that occupies two generals “over several days” plus planning and debriefing is serious business — especially those two generals.

War with North Korea — Hawaii their nuclear targets.

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Oops, the NYT article also features some awkward questions commanders of the US battleforce would face:

  • How many conventional and Special Operations forces could be deployed, in phases, to target North Korean nuclear sites.
  • Whether the Army’s 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions could be charged with fighting in tunnels
  • Exhaustive plans to take down North Korea’s integrated air defenses, allowing American manned and unmanned aircraft into the reclusive country.
  • Plans for the morbid but necessary details of personnel recovery plans, such as if pilots are shot down, and the evacuation of the dead and wounded.
  • **

    And Un considers the very fact of the US President agreeing to meet with the dictator of N Korea, ie Donald Trump with himself, to be a clear and unequivocal demonstration of parity. As CNN puts it:

    with the simple fact of the meeting, Kim has already achieved his objective: he’s at the table on the world stage, being taken seriously.

    Or MSNBC, in a piece titled On North Korea, Trump gambles from a position of weakness:

    Trump has agreed to give Kim Jong-un exactly what he wants. North Korean leaders have sought this kind of meeting for decades because it would necessarily elevate the rogue state: it would show the world that North Korea’s leader is being treated as an equal by the Leader of the Free World.

    Equal? Mirror image?

    **

    Nota bene:

    China, Japan and Russia have cheered an impending meeting between United States President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as a “significant first step” towards the de-nuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

    China, Japan and Russia, India, and obviously South Korea, are all actors with significant interesta in any US – North-Korean diplomacy — giving us a seven-node tug-of-war for our planners to map — and Donald Trump to intuitively grok.

    Okay this re North Korea this morning from WotR

    Wednesday, February 14th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — from Korea hands vs nuclear wonks ]
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    Okay, the title of this piece intrigued me: Korea hands vs nuclear wonksVan Jackson at War on the Rocks today.

    Okay, I mostly like wonks, but hands have on-the-ground awareness that beats the hell out of book-footnoted research and chat with like-mindedd others, so to my mind, Korea hands would naturally beat nuclear wonks (Cheryl Rofer and friends explicitly excepted), no contest. Anyway, neat, interest-grabbing title. I therefore clicked to see the piece, and while my own opinion was not affirmed, I found this:

    I ranted about this a bit on twitter over the weekend, but what we’re witnessing is an open split between the United States and South Korea over North Korea policy. It’s not the first time; this happened in the early years of the George W. Bush administration too. Both sides have an interest in papering over differences in public, but the rift is there. The question is why.

    Nuclear scholars see the emerging differences in the alliance as strategic “decoupling”—North Korea’s growing nuke threat is leading South Korea to search for security by other means because U.S. reliability shrinks as U.S. territory falls within range of North Korean missiles. South Korea would be hard-pressed to have faith that Trump would be willing to let Seattle eat a nuke in exchange for Seoul not eating one.

    But Korea scholars see a more familiar pattern in the current divergences between South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in and President Trump. The breakdown of the U.S.-Korea alliance in 2002 and 2003 was about as bad as it’s ever been, it was due entirely to the politics (on both sides) of North Korea policy, and it was years before North Korea had a functional nuke.

    So we all see a fissure opening up between allies, but what’s the best explanation for it? If the nuclear scholars are right, and the fissure is a function of North Korea’s growing nukes, then the alliance is in big trouble, because the nuke problem is on-trend to get worse not better.

    If the Korea scholars are right, then the alliance is in a bad place but the situation is recoverable. South Korea’s president is just being a political opportunist, in this interpretation, and once the domestic mood in the South shifts against him (or North Korea), then the alliance will be in a better place.

    Either way, we’re effectively out of the nuclear crisis from last year. It would take a major miscalculation or act of violence by someone to bring the crisis roaring back. Unfortunately, that’s entirely plausible.

    **

    Two points-of-view — the view from two points, two perspectives — distinct but not necessarily opposed, ie capable of binocular vision, if the balance between the two lenses is adjusted to the perceiver’s taste.

    Binocular vision, adjusted to balance the inputs from the two lenses, is — if nothing else — an opportunity for dialectic, or for the HipBone approach (stereophany — see Meditations for Game Players, vii).

    Binocular — stereoscopic — dialectic vision is a central aspect of my interest in polyphony, the capacity to hear twwo or more points of view at once. F Scott Fitzgerald once said, much to my delight:

    The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.

    Then there’s Sir Lawrence Freedman, in The Meaning of Strategy, Part II: The Objectives:

    For Beaufre, strategy was the “the art of the dialectic of two opposing wills using force to resolve their dispute.”

    Strategy! Dialectic! Stereophany!

    **

    And now, back to N Korea and Van Jackson with all that in mind..

    I’ve taken into account two viewpoints in my “binocular” discussion here — but Jackson offers a third possibility at the very end of his piece:

    Either way, we’re effectively out of the nuclear crisis from last year. It would take a major miscalculation or act of violence by someone to bring the crisis roaring back. Unfortunately, that’s entirely plausible.

    Ack!

    WHat do you think, Zen, Scott, Tanner, Cheryl, Michael??

    Hawaii alert, faux news

    Saturday, January 13th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — “this is not a drill” — maybe it should be ]
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    The time elapsed between the first (8.07) and second (8.20) official messages tweeted here was 17 terrifying minutes.


    **.

    17 minutes between the alarm and the announcement it was a false alarm? Hawaii had a drill not so long ago, and the report tells us how long it would take for a missile from North Korea to hit Hawaii:

    In a public presentation on Oahu, HI-EMA administrator Vern Miyagi said that with only 12-15 minutes advance notice in case of a North Korean missile launch against the islands, his agency has a responsibility to inform the public how to prepare and what to expect.

    Alternatively:

    Lt Col. Charles Anthony from the US Department of Defense, told CNN: “If North Korea uses an intercontinental ballistic missile, from launch to impact in Hawaii is approximately 20 minutes.”

    Vern Miyagi, of the Hawaii’s Emergency Management Agency, also predicted that Hawaii’s residents will only have 15 minutes to seek shelter.

    He said: “Pacific Command would take about fives minutes to characterise a launch, where the missile is going, which means the population would have about 15 minutes to take shelter.

    “It’s not much time at all. But it is enough time to give yourself a chance to survive.”

    Okay, 4660 miles, more or less. I’ll take my guidance from Mr. Miyagi. Poor man, I’ll bet he gets a ton of ribbing — he’s actually a General, retd — and I for one am contributing to his load.

    **

    17 minutes is way too long for an alert of this sort to be cancelled. Those 17 minutes were terrifying for those who were aware of the initial alert — and those who weren’t should alert us all to the dangers of inefficient signaling in case of emergency.

    **

    Okay.

    Gen. Barry McCaffrey dialed the “scary” factor down close to zero on MSNBC — I’ll add the link when available.

    General purpose note: always dial worst case down by a factor of ten, then verify.

    Okay, okay.

    Once again, we have a god-given opportunity to think though our preparations for one of the unthinkables: we usually turn a deaf ear to God, whether or not we are believers.

    Maybe that’s not such a great idea.

    What’s the distance between inside, and within — and politics?

    Sunday, January 7th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — eerie distances between thus and so, this and that — and Trump, Wolff ]
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    Speaking practically: switching between the delicate details of the North Korean situation, and those of the Iranian situation, each of which involves a potential nuclear adversary and some deterrent balance, and each of which contains the other as a subset — what’s the mental distance between those two mindsets? How fast can a sharp mind switch betweeen them. Or, for that matter, between foreign affairs and domestic politics? Or between dealing with House and Senate? Or between treating with Democrat and Republican?

    Is there a zoom at work here, between these difficult distances?

    **

    I’d been wondering recently about some mental distances that illustrate the difference betweeen qualitative and quantitative realms, subjective and objective realities..

    I’ve been asking myself, what’s the distance between inside and within, between x-ray and insight, or sky and heaven?


    Wm Blake, Newton (left); Angel (right).

    And what scale should we use to peer into such questions? — the compass Blake’s Newton uses to parcel out earth is purely terrestrial, purely rational, and Blake’s own blazing angels would have no place in it. Should we perhaps use Taleb‘s Wittgenstein‘s ruler?

    Unless you have confidence in the ruler’s reliability, if you use a ruler to measure a table you may also be using the table to measure the ruler.

    Here, the distance between the measurer and the measured is itself in flux.

    **

    Back to politics.

    How do those whose entire lives have been concerned with the largely substantial, ascertainable or verifiable facts of focus groups, polls, votes, election results, majorities, minorities, policies and so forth — with no time for Rilke‘s “angels’ hierarchies” — function when weighing the “mental stability” or “very stable genius” of a President with that same President’s policy with regard to — gasp — Kim Jong-Un?

    Who has his own issues of “very stable genius” or “mental stability”?

    And who doesn’t even have a semi-reliable chronicler like Wolff to illuminate the swathe he is cutting through ideology, dogma, doctrine, advisors, generals, and.. Juche?

    How many minds do we have among the generals, among the punditry, who can roam at all scales of the relevant realms, psychological and political, blatant and nuanced, knowable and profoundly unknown?

    Through a glass, darkly

    Sunday, August 20th, 2017

    [ by Emlyn Cameron — On North Korea: a retrospective as preemptive strike ]
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    Charles Cameron’s introduction: Regular readers may know my son Emlyn from previous contributions on Zenpundit [1, 2]. Here he wages a war of miniturization on the Korean fiefdom of Kim Jong-Un.

    ***


    Snow falls on Kim Jong-Il‘s funeral cortege

    Reflecting on the Nuclear staring contest now ongoing between the United States and North Korea, I confront mixed feelings: Obviously one must consider different strategies and engage in a pragmatic calculus; One must consider the pros and cons, the risks and rewards, and the numerous lives which might be ended or fail ever to be lived as a consequence of any policy. It is, I need not say, a very complex issue. Worse still, it is an issue of severe import to many whose lives hang in the balance.

    But I find myself grappling with a less practical question and coming away irresolute: If North Korea’s brand of surreal statism could be overthrown without bloodshed or tragedy, how would I feel? Would I be proud? Pleased? Grateful? Somehow, I can’t convince myself that I would be entirely satisfied. I feel certain that any pride, pleasure, or gratitude would be alloyed with something else. And this in spite of my knowledge that such a coup would be, well, a coup, and of the welcome it would justifiably receive.

    “The bloodless anticlimax to an Orwellian police state?” I hear the likely refrain, “Terrific!”

    “A peaceful end to a regime which embraced not only Stalinist propagandism, but De Facto Monarchy? Still better!” The voices continue.

    “And a conclusion to tantrums and ICBM rattle throwing? Who could hope for more?” Comes the triumphal call.

    And yet, I am unconvinced in the recesses of my heart. That might be strange to many people, even a tad immoral, but it’s how things stand.

    In order that such a stance might make more sense, I’ll admit that I have a strange affection for the turbulent little state and its Emperor’s New Jumpsuits. This probably extends from more general conflicted feelings about overt dictatorships: I am someone who deeply loves enlightenment philosophy, and cherishes my personal freedoms. I am, all the same, a morbid person, prone to fatalism, and I harbor dark anticipations about the future of humanity. Somewhere in the middle I developed a great relish for bleak wit. For these reasons, it should come as no shock that I am a great admirer of George Orwell and a fan of his writings. Perhaps like others who count themselves among his readers, I find myself emotionally torn while reading Nineteen Eighty-Four or Animal Farm; The dystopias he presents disturb me, and yet, (in spite of my philosophical leanings) a small part of me is always tugged at by a desire to relinquish the struggle of self determination, and to escape the paradox of choice by giving in to such an oppression. The terrible certainties, even of state assigned conclusions and death, speak to some tired part in me, which recognizes strain from the ongoing alertness required of anyone who wants to be the arbiter of their own affairs.

    North Korea, likewise, is a natural antagonist to the individualism I hold dear, but, perhaps because of its total conviction and flagrance in opposing my worldview, I am captivated by its iconography and insular existence. I have always been fascinated by the ludicrous spectacle, the stark imagery, and the total devotion of totalitarian nations, though I revile their premises. Having one around, therefore, leaves me in rather a strange position: I desire the grip of the North Korean state on its people broken as a matter of principle, while simultaneously fearing the death of a kind of dangerous endangered species; I am struck by the feeling that the end of the North Korean state would be a victory for my values, and the loss of one of the world’s great curiosities.

    A friend recently called North Korea “an Eighth Wonder of the World”, and I agree. It is a tragic wonder, dangerous rather than glorious, but a wonder none the less.

    My grandfather, a conservative philosopher, referred to himself as a “sentimental monarchist”. If a peaceful end came to the militaristic regime in North Korea, my relief would be tinged with a similar kind of sentimental loss; Something interesting would be gone, and I would feel a nostalgic pang for the missing strangeness. I fancy that I would rather keep the aggressive little power, not on a map, but on a shelf. I should like to keep it in a snow globe, I think (the state already more or less frozen as it is).

    I’d like a little magnified globe, not unlike the coral paperweight in Orwell’s book, in which would be held the repressive slice of 1950’s authoritarianism: Marches and missiles behind safety glass. Occasionally, on a quiet night, I might chance to hear a soft, televised threat to my safety, or a report on bountiful rations; If I felt a stab of longing for the atmosphere of suspended aggression from my parents and grand parents age, I could go to the mantle and wind the little state up by hand (rather than by tweet) and hear a tinkling anthem that takes me back; I’d like to visit the trinket now and again and watch snow fallout from a nuclear winter after I shake it, or watch tiny jackboots and smiling, slightly condescending diplomats go about their days work. Maybe the mandatorily grateful workers would even build a cardboard city for my benefit, to give an impression of plenty. And once I had seen the last settling flakes fall, I would place it back above the fire place with a feeling of having harmlessly revisited my childhood, glad of a souvenir to solidify the bittersweet memory. After all, a snow globe can cast nothing else from the mantle to the floor, nor launch beyond its translucent border.

    Then again, just because I’d have the terror held safely under glass, doesn’t mean it wouldn’t continue in earnest within.


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