The Gander Airport of Defense Policy Update: Awaiting Canada’s Defence Policy Review
The Trudeau regime promised Canadians a defense policy update on June 7 after PM Trudeau visit with his counterparts at NATO and G7. Meanwhile, North Korea tested two ballistic missiles, (May 13&21, 2017), one that demonstrated a re-entry vehicle for nuclear warheads, and the latter a solid fuel MRBM that directly threatens much of Western Europe and the Middle East when launched from DPRK’s Axis collaborator Iran. The following analysis of what is likely to be in the forthcoming Defense Policy Update is based on analysis of submissions and pubic consultations, public statements by officials in Canada and allies, and discussions with defense industry experts and suppliers.
The “updated” Canadian defense policy will go down in history as the Gander Airport of Canadian Defense: Gander airport was the largest, busiest mid-North Atlantic refueling stop until the jet age. Ottawa invested to upgrade the airport in 1971 even as longer ranged jet aircraft began to dominate air travel in the 1960s and bypassed Gander, creating a white elephant that only was used to full capacity exactly once: 9/11.
Canada is about to repeat the Gander story in Defense Policy with the “update” that will be shown by 2018 to have failed in identifying the main, imminent existential threat to Canadians, and with it, how the Canadian Armed Forces can address the challenges and what it will cost in 2017 and 18, not by 2030. What are the failures?
North Korea under Kim Jong Un is a clear and immediate existential threat to Canada and allies. This is now generally recognized by Pacific allies like South Korea, Japan, Australia and the US but not Canada. European NATO allies are in the process of joining the consensus after the most recent DPRK missile test that was a proxy for their financier and Axis partner Iran.
Yet, the Liberal regime of Canada put forward a Defense Policy that ignored the near term threat from North Korea’s nuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles beginning 2019. By then, DPRK will be a credible thermonuclear ballistic missile threat to Canadian population centers like Vancouver. Furthermore, Canada’s defense and foreign policy establishment failed to recognize the motivations that is driving the Kim Jong Un regime, preferring to be concerned with softwood timber tariffs and milk quotas.
DPRK is not arming with WMDs that can threaten Canada just for the sake of deterrence, but for the purpose of extortion. Extortion is the use of force or threat of force to obtain money, property. It is fundamentally and legally distinct from blackmail. (Bracken, 2017). Nuclear blackmail has precedence with Israel’s threat to use nuclear weapons unless they received urgent conventional arms aid during the Yom Kippur War. Nuclear extortion has no known precedence EXCEPT DPRK.
If sanctions and military action failed to prevent Kim Jong Un’s North Korea from successfully practice nuclear extortion, it will be devastating to the existing world order. It is a matter of time before states like Canada become tribute paying vassals if DPRK prevails. Or nuclear blackmail will be applied to other issues like genocide, imposing religions by force, or other purposes that Anglo-Europeans abhor.
Canada need to urgently evaluate the extent and scale of threat in the Second Nuclear Age where Canada cannot solely rely on American extended deterrence as sufficient to deter regimes like North Korea in the near term. The Defense Policy review is silent on what needs to be done in 2017 to have a deterrent and/or defensive capability in place by 2019 or sooner.
Allies like Australia, Japan, S. Korea, and the United States are giving Beijing China a last chance to curb the DPRK threat this year. Should that fail, Canadian Defense Policy must prepare for military options in concert with allies. This is not a problem for the next decade or 2030, but a problem in 2017.
Near term military action against North Korea will strain resources from every NATO and Pacific ally including Canada. A prescient defense policy update would have recognized that on this short a timeframe, urgent action and expenditures need to be undertaken today to bring existing Canadian forces to a high level of readiness. That is to say, everything from training, maintenance, to having adequate stockpiles of costly precision munitions. Plans need to be put in place to rapidly improve and update capabilities ahead of a major, high intensity and long duration conflict that Canada has not fought in since World War II. Orders need to be placed yesterday for missile defense systems, which will be in short supply. To date, Canada’s DND have not even initiated a formal request for information to manufacturers of missile defense systems when they are within a year of being swamped with priority orders from other allies.
Canadian warfighting systems are not just underfunded, poorly equipped and antiquated that successive governments pay lip service to improve – and then break the solemn government-to-government pledges. What the Policy Review does to improve Canada’s credibility (or lack thereof) in the short run (2018-2020) without concrete, irreversible action is an open question. If it is to happen, it should already be in the public record like the Canadian Federal Budget released in March, 2017.
Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan the Trudeau regime loyalist, within the span of one year, went from sounding the alarm about a fighter “capability gap” in June 2016 that must be immediately met by a no-bid purchase of 18 “interim” F/A-18 Super Hornets, to have the deal being reconsidered in May 2017 by Liberal regime loyalist colleague Foreign Affairs Minister Freeland. This abrupt change in defense policy against the Boeing made F/A-18 in retaliation for the ITC investigation against Bombardier – with Boeing calling for countervailing duties and antidumping charges of 80% – strains what little credibility the liberal regime has left.
Expeditiously acquiring 18 F/A-18s was an important enough issue to have Prime Minister Trudeau press President Trump during their February 2017 meeting for “immediate acquisition”. When the deal is questioned in May (not even 100 days later), no alternative was proposed to meet the former “capability” and credibility gap by Sajjan, Freeland, or the PMO. Would Canadian commitments to NATO presented by Prime Minister Trudeau in Brussels May 25 do any better than his track record with President Trump?
Beyond the chronic problem of underfunding of Canadian Armed Forces, decades of engaging in low level conflicts and peacekeeping primarily against poorly equipped irregulars have weakened Canadian’s ability to fight in a high intensity war. A war against North Korea will not be a replay of Gulf War I or II against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Or a fight against rag tag armies in Afghanistan or Rwanda or Mali: It will not be a slow motion “war” that Canadian Armed Forces presently excel at. Yet, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia “free rider” Freeland apparently have no inkling that traditional Canadian Forces missions like UN Peacekeeping will be the least of Canada’s concerns once allied consensus crystalize about the DPRK-Iran threat.
War on the Korean peninsula is unlikely to be a limited war of high tech stand-off strikes touted by planners. Or a short duration war with Canadian troops “home by Christmas”. Canadians and allied forces cannot automatically count superiority in quantity or quality (technology, doctrine, training, logistics, or anything else) taken for granted since World War II. Or the security of unprotected supply lines from Canada. Nor can Canada count on immunity from nuclear strikes against the Canadian mainland for which Canada presently have no defense. Will the Defense policy update talk of fielding a missile defense by 2030 when credible threats exist beginning 2019? In order to have a missile defense in place by 2019, orders should have already been placed. None is known to be placed or planned for 2017.
In a likely high intensity conflict in the Korean Peninsula where DPRK will be supported by other peer competitor belligerents, Canadian and Allied Armed Forces will quickly discover that the cumbersome doctrines, tactics and rules of engagement built up over the half century of peace are not only an impediment, but have fatal consequences against first rate enemies with no such concerns. A review of these quaint, outdated legacy codes, archaic as the Code of Chivalry, need to be urgently be undertaken and contingent doctrines and ROEs devised. Canadian Forces have apparently learned nothing from the training mission with the Ukraine: at least in the urgency of revising ROEs and doctrine for high intensity multi-dimensional warfare.
Finally, the Defense policy update failed to recognize that reform of the cumbersome, outdated, obsolete and costly procurement system that Canada (and most allies) operate is an urgent priority with or without the looming threat of a high intensity, long duration war in the Korean Peninsula. Canadian defense procurement systems in its present form will collapse within months of a high intensity conflict; but not before failing to deliver Canadian forces in the field up-to-date gear needed to survive. Just how will the Canadian public react to Canadian Forces being outmatched 10:1 by DPRK precision munitions that are superior when it happens?
There is still time to sketch out contingency plans for the issues and eventualities and append it to the Defense Policy Update before it is released on June 7. Or alternatively, to suspend release pending an update that address these contingencies in the Appendix.
Canada will have the opportunity to listen very carefully to allies at the NATO summit and consult with Pacific allies like Australia, Japan, South Korea to ensure that the draft Canadian Defense Policy is consistent with the consensus view about the DPRK threat before the document is finalized. Canada cannot field a credible missile defense against without the participation of non-NATO allies Japan, South Korea, working with the US nor participate in a high intensity war in the Korean peninsula in their present condition.
The Trudeau regime need to act now lest we end up with another Gander Airport.
Note: The Liberal regime did not see fit or necessary to issue a statement, comment, tweet, or any other expression of Canadian government views after the most recent North Korean Ballistic Missile test on May 13th and 21st. A curious omission for an aspiring member of the UN Security Council.
Trump and the Russian Connection: The Critics Grasp at Straws
I’m absolutely certain there’s no Trump-Putin connection. Nothing. Nada. Nichivo.
I worked in Trump Tower during the campaign. There, I probably had the strongest ties to Russia; I’ve made the former Soviet Union my business for almost 25 years. I know most of the players cast in the Democrats’ Collusion Delusion – some, like Roger Stone and Paul Manafort, I’ve known for more than 30 years.
But still, I’d have to be pretty naive to construct my certainty from that alone: I wasn’t in the dominant leadership group of the campaign and plenty went on which I didn’t see. What confirms my certainty is my unshakable knowledge that President Donald Trump would not betray the United States of America.
I served my country in several capacities; I believe I know love-of-country when I see it. Several years ago, I had the honor of sitting with Donald Trump the businessman for one-on-one conversations about America. We talked about the Founders, the Constitution, the Second Amendment, our military, veterans, the future. He spoke often of his deep appreciation for the gifts his parents and his nation gave as he built a successful and blessed life for his family. And he talked earnestly of his deep and abiding love for our nation.
I simply cannot believe Donald Trump would ever betray his country, nor tolerate any betrayal in his ranks. (I feel the same about Manafort and Stone.)
In the end, it’s not just my firsthand knowledge of Russia that informs my belief there is no Trump-Putin connection. It’s not just my firsthand knowledge of the campaign, either – it’s my lucky firsthand knowledge of the President. Today, I feel blessed that I asked important questions when I had the chance, long before he ran for President.
This is my unvarnished perspective. I possess unique primary knowledge of facts from several angles. To me, it’s not an opinion, it is a fact: Donald Trump simply would not do this. I have liberal friends who viscerally disagree, but I’ve never before been so certain of something so important.
This will all be cleared up in the months ahead.
People who know the drill tell me the FBI could be just a few months away from wrapping up.
I think they’ll come back with proof the wild accusations of the Collusion Delusion are groundless.
I trust the House and Senate investigations to continue to pursue regular order and achieve the same result. I’m also satisfied with the choice of Robert Mueller as special prosecutor, and I am happy to hear he intends to move robustly.
Hopefully, next year, this whole political attack – a coordinated, silent coup – will be over and the President can get things done.
But what of the people who called me and my friends traitors? What happens to them?
If you accuse someone of treason, you damn sure better be right. When the music and this merry-go-round stops, who gives us our reputations back?
Republished with permission of the author.
Editor’s Note: The conspiracy of critics of Trump using the Russian association card is ironically a throwback to a period which liberals have lionized as a dark phase in US history.
So now we have McCarthyism of the left?
We Need a New Systems Architecture to Protect Personal Data and to Deal With Foreign Espionage
A threshold now may have been tragically crossed in Electronic Surveillance.
Meta data collection is merging with machine-based analysis to filter actionable intelligence. And this information can now be merged with facial recognition software and ubiquitous camera presence. In a police state like the PRC, this provides significant tools to both control citizens and to deal with foreign influences which the regime will not tolerate.
The PRC also has access to commercial credit databases like Experian, etc. that is a gold mine of info for recruitment of spies in every OECD nation.
While serving as Director Technology Assessment, International Technology Security, (ITS) Office of the Secretary of Defense (2003-2009) I became familar with information systems that captured metadata and then harnessed powerful machine based analysis to filter actionable intelligence in order to make America and our Allies safer.
I personally saw the power of their vision being merged with the power of information age technology and was hugely impressed.
However, in our ITS office, we then had a series of discussions about employing such metadata collection and analytical efforts for our Counterintelligence (CI) mission. I saw tremendously powerful new tools.
But, during our ITS office robust discussions, a very smart co-worker flagged his deep concerns about proceeding down this path. This colleague pointed out that it was way too much power to give to the government.
The lowest common denominator is the key source of concern about a government information collection system gone wild. It is not even about the integrity of the system; it is about a system that can not ensure the integrator of the lowest common denominator.
I personally don’t want a PFC Manning using my personal data for whatever advantage he believes he has the right to gain from that data. PFC Manning is most definitely at the bottom of the Chain-of-Command but what about our leaders and their performance as well?
We need a new systems architecture that compartmentalizes our personal information not just for the sake of protecting civil liberties, but to prevent misuse by both our own government and foreign powers.
We are creating a “one stop” collection effort for PLA Ministry of State Security (MSS) “collectors.” What PFC Manning can do, certainly the PLA can do.
China to control their citizens makes no pretense about protecting privacy and routes their cellular exchanges through the Peoples Armed Police. Inside and outside of China, PLA collectors try to collect everything important t their interests and their presentation of reality. This is their constant unrelenting pattern and practice.
We are now quickly making it very easy for them. The issues of cyber penetration by collectors can be very simple; touch one classified secure system and very possibly a spy can touch them all.
Tragically, thanks to a recent and extremely important Washington Post story we now know that PLA cyber attacks to acquire highly guarded information about critical defense technologies have been very successful. Hopefully the US is rapidly addressing that problem and fixing it.
Now a great human tragedy has been identified as playing out in China.
The New York Times just broke one of the most important stories about a successful 21st Century counter intelligence operation by the PRC.
The South China Morning Post gives reporting kudos to NYT and their headline captures the current state of play:
China killed or jailed up to 20 US spies in 2010 to 2012, report says
‘One of the worst US intelligence setbacks in decades’ may have been the result of hacking, code-breaking or betrayal by moles within the CIA
Beijing systematically dismantled CIA spying efforts in China beginning in 2010, killing or jailing more than a dozen covert sources, in a deep setback to US intelligence, The New York Times reported on Sunday.
What has been missed so far is the potential merging of all things in U..S total information awareness electronic files with accurately reported successful breaches by hostile intelligence services. These services can merge data with the next step in counter intelligence technology — facial recognition technology. Merging purloined highly classified information about U.S. Intelligence Community sponsored “collectors” or agents of influence in play inside the PRC with facial recognition technology become a powerful tool.
The PRC may well have deployed automated speech recognition software to screen a large amount of verbal conversations they monitor as well. Already we have seen the use by China of surveillance and facial recognition systems at the 2008 Olympics.
Under Beijing’s seven year, $6.5 billion program called the Grand Beijing Safeguard Sphere, the Chinese government has installed roughly 300,000 video surveillance units around the city, according to a Los Angeles Times article. Included in that project and in conjunction with the video cameras, China has also deployed a face recognition technology in hopes of catching unwanted visitors at the Olympics in Beijing this summer (2008).
Chinese officials are hopeful that it soon will be able to identify individuals out of a moving crowd. While China does have legitimate concerns over watching for Chinese critics and activists as a recent attack killed 16 police officers, Western security experts fear that China is pushing the envelope.
In addition to video surveillance, there are reports of the Chinese Government monitoring and controlling internet access, monitoring hotels and taxis, and employing ordinary citizens as snoops for suspicious behavior.
During the run-up to the Beijing Olympics, a system of monitoring cameras that combined the optical TV scanners with facial recognition software and a database of known terror suspects was initiated. The system was designed and able to flag people and issue alerts in near real time.
As usual, the PLA in reaching out globally would demand that the technology transfer would include database of known terrorists.
It is unknown how far the transfer of any database would have been allowed.
And such merging of data is indispensible to the kind of activity reported by the New York Times by the Chinese counter intelligence services.
America Needs to Set the Example
Lately, America’s diplomats have had to explain the new administration’s policies to foreign governments while grappling with a reduced budget, but their work is getting more difficult by another factor as well.
They have been hobbled by unforced errors in Washington that make it harder for them to promote transparency and the rule of law.
As a result, our Foreign Service guys and gals will have to do their best rendition of that old diplomatic standard, “It’s different when we do it.”
There are a number of key errors made in Washington prior to Trump coming to power that need be corrected in shaping a more effective way ahead for a more credible US government stance in the world.
The first key error is weaponizing the tax authority.
No, it’s not just the Russians. America’s Internal Revenue Service has decided to prioritize politics over, you know, revenue.
In 2013, the IRS admitted that since 2010 it targeted applications by groups for not-for-profit status strictly on the basis of their Tea Party or conservative leanings.
The IRS delayed applications for several years and typically demanded additional information, including the names of the groups’ doors.
It might have been regarded as typical of a service-challenged bureaucracy but the bureaucrat-in-charge regularly admitted in her official email how much she despised conservatives.
Congress started digging and unearthed the fact that the head of the IRS spent a lot of time at the White House, well, just because.
And most of the relevant 30,000 emails were, sadly, missing, until they weren’t because someone forgot to erase the backup tapes.
The case has is still on the burner as another 7,000 documents were recently found – two years after the IRS was sued to produce them.
The second mistake is using the deep State against your political opponents.
Before the 2016 election, the “Deep State” was thought to be the employer of Cigarette Smoking Man of The X-Files, but real life is now imitating art, or television at least.
President Obama’s national security advisor had a pronounced interest in the identities of Trump campaign and transition officials who were “incidentally” collected by the NSA.
Inspired by Obama’s admonition to “spread the wealth” she “unmasked” the Trump associates and gave once close-hold information of the identities of Americans broad distribution among the security services in the waning days of the Obama administration.
The Attorney General met the husband of presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, allegedly to talk about the Clinton grandchildren.
The FBI used an unverified dossier funded by Trump’s opponents to launch an investigation of Trump and his associates.
CIA Director John Brennan then briefed Harry Reid, the Senate Democratic leader, on alleged Russian connections to the Trump campaign.
Reid, predictably, sent a public letter to FBI Director Comey demanding to know what was going on.
The House and Senate Intelligence Committee investigations of the surveillance of Trump are being stonewalled by the FBI, CIA, and NSA who insist they are working “in good faith” and President Obama’s national security advisor has refused to testify to Congress.
For Russia’s state-directed media, the stories write themselves.
And every guy who spends too much time listening to Coast to Coast AM now knows he was right all along.
The third is threatening reporters with jail.
Turkey has been called the “world’s worst jailer of journalists”.
Good thing that can’t happen here!
If President Trump decides to aggressively pursue leakers and publishers of classified information, he can thank Presidents Bush and Obama for the tools he will use.
The Obama administration used the World War I-era Espionage Act to launch prosecutions in nine cases for publishing leaked information, up from President Bush’s three, and one solitary case by their predecessors.
According to Reporters Without Borders, the U.S. has fallen from 17th (2002) to 41st (2016) in its measure of press freedom, but up from 49th in 2015 if that’s any consolation.
It was amusing to see a New York Times reporter threatened with jail by Obama’s minions, especially after the Times worked so hard to usher Obama into office, but it was a sobering reminder of the importance of the First Amendment.
And the government must save its prosecutorial energy for its own employees who cavalierly betray their oath of office.
In today’s global media market, words are no longer “for local consumption only.”
Granularity and “context” matter less.
Details, like the fact that the FBI and the Justice Department weren’t cooperating and, in fact, distrusted each other, are (literally) lost in translation.
And any time we excuse our own fouls with “Yes, but…” we echo that same Soviet tactic.
The crises in Ukraine, Syria, Iraq, the South China Sea, and North Korea will respond to American leadership, but only if America gets its house in order and stops living by “Do as I say and not as I do.”
James Durso is the Managing Director of Corsair LLC.
He was a professional staff member at the 2005 Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission and the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Mr. Durso served as a U.S. Navy officer for 20 years and specialized in logistics and security assistance.
His overseas military postings were in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, and he served in Iraq as a civilian transport advisor with the Coalition Provisional Authority.
He served afloat as Supply Officer of the submarine USS SKATE (SSN 578).
Refocusing NATO on Imminent Existential Threats
President Trump will be at the May 25 NATO meeting.
Nuclear Ballistic Missile Threats from North Korea are an existential threat to NATO members.
DPRK is presently not on NATO’s agenda.
It must be.
NATO was founded as a collective security organization to defend against existential threats to members. Post war core Anglo-European values that war is abhorrent, and causes of war, whether economic, political such as territorial disputes, etc. should be settled peacefully are at the heart and soul of NATO.
After the cold war, when Russia violated these core values, first in Georgia, then Crimea, and finally the Ukraine, NATO members unambiguously defended these core Anglo-European values against Russia.
Today, the greatest existential threat to the Anglo-European NATO alliance is not Russia, but coming from North Korea under Kim Jong Un.
North Korea will be able to directly pose an existential threat to at least two NATO members (Canada and USA) within a matter of years, and shortly thereafter, Western Europe. Existential threats are not just the ability to terminate the existence of an opponent.
But, “the capability to permanently change another group’s values and the way it governs itself against the latter’s will”.
North Korea pose an existential threat in at least two ways: First, by acquiring a credible capability to launch a thermo-nuclear ballistic missile strike aimed at any NATO member in Europe or North America. Secondly, by attacking core Anglo-Western values.
Western analysts and the priesthood of DPRK apologists applied their rose tinted glasses to the DPRK and presumed that they share the Anglo-European abhorrence of war. North Korean motives for acquiring thermo-nuclear weapons and ICBMs to deliver it worldwide is presumed to be for the purpose of “deterrence” rather than war fighting or other motives.
North Korea is assumed to be no different than every previous nuclear power (whether P5 or not) who have acquired nuclear WMDs as an insurance policy but have never used it after WWII. In the classic view, nuclear weapons are only useful as deterrence against existential threats.
But this view does not apply to the DPRK’s historical and present behavior.
DPRK under Kim Jong Un is in fact attacking a core post-war Anglo-European value no different than Russia unilaterally changing borders by force: No war for profit.
The Anglo-European value under attack is that economic gains is not a legitimate motive for war, and winning wars should not result in economic gain. This core value was the result of centuries of European wars fought for wealth and spoils, which in the 19th century resulted in the collection of indemnities by European and later, Japanese victors.
After the Great War, the term “indemnities” was replaced with “reparations” in recognition that no amount collected by the victors could “break even,” let alone garner a profit from the war. Unfortunately, the smaller Great War “reparations” was found to be itself a cause of World War II.
Thus, post war, the very idea of victors receiving sizable economic gains of “reparations” never entered into the equation. Germany, Japan, Italy and other belligerents that lost paid modest (or none) reparations.
The notion that a major 21st Century state can go to war for economic gain in the old fashioned European Way prior to the Great War, and in the process, collect sizable indemnities that make war profitable is nearly inconceivable to Anglo-European statesman.
Until Kim Jong Un’s DPRK, this consensus was shared by every nuclear armed power: Russians/Soviets, Chinese (whether communist or not), Indians, Pakistanis, Israelis, etc.
North Korea under Kim Jong Un is now challenging this core consensus by acquiring a credible nuclear arsenal with global reach for the purpose of extortion.
DPRK behavior – the long term, sustained and widespread, formal use of military capabilities – for the purpose of extortion by a government that is not a failed state has no precedence in modern history since 1945.
Extortion is the use of force or threat of force to obtain money, property. It is fundamentally and legally distinct from blackmail. (Bracken, 2017).
DPRK is primarily motivated by profit, not deterrence.
Based on DPRK’s history and precedent, and the dynamics of the Kim Jong Un regime, there is no doubt that the ultimate goal of DPRK’s nuclear arsenal programs are to extort wealth, money, etc. from anyone they can threaten and collect from.
Or in Northeast Asian lingo: Demand Tribute from vassals.
The threat from DPRK is against NATO members “within range” like the US and Canada or successfully extorting from NATO is at present limited. Other states more immediately threatened by DPRK: Republic of Korea, Japan, China, Russia are prospective tribute paying vassals of DPRK in the medium term.
If DPRK succeeds in extortion with WMDs, a core value and necessary element of global commerce will be undermined. Once North Korea breaks this taboo, it opens the door for Kim Jong Un to sell the same capability to other powers like Iran, jihadists, and any takers that want to set up their own local racket.
Global commerce as we know it cannot survive the return of extortionist regimes who “tax” commerce or require the payment of “protection money”.
If extortion successfully begins with DPRK, it will not end with Iran.
Nor will it end with economic motives but revive others like religion and race, to name a few. As such, Kim Jong Un’s DPRK is, indisputably, an existential threat to all NATO members and the world as we know it.
NATO members, including the United States, have failed to recognize the severity and dangers of this existential threat and the power of collective Anglo-European defense.
NATO was never intended to address an existential threat originating outside of Europe from Northeast Asia.
How to reorganize NATO and seek a new, closer and robust defense pact with Asian allies like Australia, Japan, South Korea, etc. is a clear, present, immediate problem.
President Trump have the opportunity to secure a new NATO consensus about the severity and imminency of the DPRK threat during the meeting.
The Trump Administration must before it is too late.
Trump Strategy and the Days of Our Lives Washington Post
President Trump has made a very clear point that he will give no aid and comfort to the enemies of America especially ISIS by announcing what he is going to do.
Consequently, what is evolving is a series of tactical moves, some military strikes, others diplomatic, and many shadow war efforts such as intelligence operations and taking down financial networks.
Mike Wynne former Secretary of the Air Force astutely pointed out as the tactical engagements go forward a Trump Doctrine will emerge.
Tragically with leaks of classified information two very nasty results occur.
Our enemies get information and the American media often only focuses on a specific leak data point without context and thus misses the ever evolving Commander-in-Chief”s engagement across the board to keep America safe.
As Fred Fleitz has noted:
Under U.S. law, the President of the United States is our nation’s ultimate classification authority.
He can declassify information as he sees fit to conduct his national security policy.
The real scandal here concerns the current and former U.S. officials who spoke to the Washington Post to generate this story.
We don’t know if these sources lied, misrepresented what went on in the Trump meeting with the Russians, or were second-guessing what Trump told them.
But the Washington Post seems to function as an Inside the Beltway Days of our Lives soap opera, rather than focusing on the key issues which the Trump Administration is indeed focused upon. The President has indicated in every way he can that he is shaping a new approach to defeating ISIS, and that will include working with the Russians and not coming up with fake red lines.
Indeed, when Face the Nation interviewed the President he made his approach crystal clear:
JOHN DICKERSON: Why do these missiles keep blowing up?
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Well, I’d rather not discuss it. But perhaps they’re just not very good missiles. But eventually, he’ll have good missiles.
JOHN DICKERSON: You don’t want to discuss it because maybe we have something to do with it?
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I just don’t want to discuss it. And I think you know me very well, where you’ve asked me many times over the last couple of years about military. I said, “We shouldn’t be announcing we’re going into Mosul.” I said, “We shouldn’t be announcing all our moves.” It is a chess game. I just don’t want people to know what my thinking is.
But rather than sort out the evolving approach to the ISIS challenge, or figure out ways the US might more effectively deal with the problem, the Days of Our Lives Washington Post focuses on a “leak” from the President which by definition can not “leak” classified information for he is the ultimate decider about classification!
This is really politics 101 but for Days of our Lives this does not matter.
And breathlessly we learn that the information “leaked” by the man who ultimately classifies information was from an ally, perhaps Israel.
Well let us deal with this possibility.
The Israelis after watching Obama’s moving Red Line and performance in Syria moved on with deepening their relationship with Russia. And it will take the Trump Administration some effort to catch up to where the Israelis already are in their working relationship with the Russians.
According to an interview we conducted with a leading Israel strategist in the Fall of 2015, the Israelis made their own strategic move with regard to Russia and the Middle East:
Question: How do Russian actions affect his relationship with key players in the region, such as Israel and Iran?
Amatzia Baram: You have to start from the fact that Putin does not fear Obama or any strategy, which the President will put together.
A measure of this was that he informed Washington of his air strikes coming in Syria through a junior functionary in Iraq.
In contrast, Putin met with the Israeli PM in Moscow and senior Israeli and Russian military officers met for a few hours to talk about coordination.
There is now a “red” phone line between the head of the Russians Operations Center and the Israeli Air Force.
Maybe it is blue-and-white on one side and red on the other but it’s a direct link.
Putin knows that Israel takes his actions very seriously.
And he remembers what happened when we had a direct exchange in 1970 where the IAF downed all five Russian fighters over the Sinai. He has a long memory with regard to this kind of impact.
He is respectful of Israel and we of him.
It is obvious; we do not want to go to war with Russia.
There is a key danger however.
Our pilots know every tree and every trench between Israel and Turkey. The Russian pilots do not and there is a clear danger that they will show up in key conflict areas unintended with perhaps negative consequences.
That is why deconfliction hot lines are important as well.
In Syria, the U.S. and the allies have vast areas to adjust; in between Israel, Lebanon, and Damascus, and the Alawite mountain and shore line, we are talking only a few kilometers.
Ok if the Washington Post wants to do analysis rather than Days of Our Lives voyeurism, perhaps they might start by sorting out the gap created by Obama with the Israelis as they deepened their working relationship with Russia.
And it should be noted that the subject of discussion raised in the “leak” was nothing less than the question of protecting lives against a new set of capabilities which terrorists are developing with regard to airplane destruction. And there is no secret about this for the EU and the United States are in discussion about the possibility of banning laptops from trans-Atlantic air travel. Oops! Another leak!
If the Washington Post wants to challenge President Trump’s trying to save innocent lives then a future possible tragedy will be, by the logic of their attack, on them.
If the reporting is true, and no idea on even that fact, that the President gave Russia a heads-up on current and possible future ISIS capabilities than that is a very appropriate thing to do-full stop.
And if it stops an attack on Russian civilians all the better.
This current Russian dust up after all the hot-house hyperbole is fading have planted the seeds to bring everlasting shame on The Washington Post.
Doesn’t the WashPost and Jeff Bezos have any humanity about saving lives?
Sadly I guess it is much more important to Bezo’s Blog agenda to do all politics all the tim.
I bet if it was President Obama or HRC warning Russia it would have been reported as a very positive joint effort to stop ISIS killers.
Time for an understanding of intelligence practices and considerations:
The President can do whatever he thinks with information dissimilation that is in the best interest of American National Security
Intel goes “up and out”
The only thing worse than no Intel is bad intel
If the President wants to protect innocent civilians in all countries in danger of an ISIS terror event he can do just that.
Russian mothers and fathers faced one of the most horrific terror attacks ever launched since 9/11 and the government of Russia is clearly not interested in seeing this happen again.
The Beslan school siege (also referred to as the Beslan school hostage crisis or Beslan massacre) started on 1 September 2004, lasted three days, involved the illegal imprisonment of over 1,100 people as hostages (including 777 children), and ended with the death of at least 385 people.
The crisis began when a group of armed Islamic Groups, mostly Ingush and Chechen, occupied School Number One (SNO) in the town of Beslan, North Ossetia (an autonomous republic in the North Caucasus region of the Russian Federation) on 1 September 2004.
And they also lost an airliner.
Please can all just have an appreciation that President Trump is trying to do a very important thing in trying to eradicate ISIS and thus save innocents.
But I am sure for Days of Our Lives reporting this is not important.
And the Post is working the old razzle dazzle gig seen here in Chicago which may reach back into the old Obama days.
Understanding North Korea’s Motives
The question of DPRK’s motives for acquiring a nuclear arsenal is central to the current debate about international security.
Motives are ephemeral constructs that are difficult to assess. To wit, historians are still debating the motives of leaders of Germany, Japan, Britain, France, and US as to why they entered WWII.
But without an effort to understand DPRK’s motives, it is impossible to craft a viable set of policies.
Coming just 10 days before the NATO head of state summit meeting, DPRK’s test of an intermediate range Hwasong-12 missile on May 14 was a landmark event that indisputably demonstrated their ability to reach targets within 4,500km. The technical ramifications of this test of a single stage missile based on an indigenously developed engine quantitatively and qualitatively increased the credibility of the North Korean threat.
A careful reading of the KCNA statement that used terms like “large-size heavy nuclear warhead”, “new-type high-thrust rocket engine”, and other statements that suggest they have systematically solved (or are solving) the problems with subsystems involved in a nuclear weapon delivered by ICBM.
Studies of the long term behavior of DPRK over decades their behavior across a range of issues ranging from formal DPRK involvement recently in robbing central banks, narcotics manufacture and smuggling, kidnapping of foreign nationals abroad, targeted killings, counterfeit currency printing and distribution, arms exports, missile proliferation, nuclear weapons exports, cyber extortion, and sensitive material exports show the genetic code of the regime see nothing beyond them historically and right up to the present.
Should we even mention that DPRK is widely suspected to be still holding allied POWs from the Korean war?
This is a regime that certainly have no concern about warfare as a profitable enterprise. Indeed, the “WannaCry” ramsomware is in the process of being explicitly linked to the DPRK’s cyberwarfare teams.
DPRK behavior – the long term, sustained and widespread, formal use of military capabilities – for the purpose of extortion by a government that is not a failed state has no precedence in modern history since 1945.
Extortion is the use of force or threat of force to obtain money, property. It is fundamentally and legally distinct from blackmail. (Bracken, 2017). Nuclear blackmail has precedence with Israel’s threat to use nuclear weapons unless they received urgent conventional arms aid during the Yom Kippur War.
Nuclear extortion has no known precedence EXCEPT DPRK.
Reviewing the regime long historical evidence of DPRK behavior, when set in the context of the history and traditions of Northeast Asia, it is as obvious as night and day to all but the priesthood of Korean “handlers” and “arms control advocates” that motives for North Korea’s WMD, Missile, and Nuclear Weapons program since 2011 materially changed.
DPRK’s nuclear arsenal program being explicitly motivated by extortion and economic gain — rather than regime survival like every other nuclear weapons state is alien to the North Korean analyst priesthood.
If we assume that DPRK did not make enormous sacrifices internally to fund their accelerated nuclear arsenal programs (as Zulfikar Ali Bhutto said, “Eat Grass”), and we take seriously the indisputable evidence of an INCREASE in the standard of living in DPRK under Kim Jong Un — particularly for the military and security elite in and around Pyongyang, then money had to have come from somewhere.
The question is where?
The default explanation is a significant and material injection of economic resources at least in the USD billions range into DPRK must have happened somehow since about 2013. It is hard to believe that Pakistan, jihadists, Syria, or non-state actors would so fund DPRK at this level. Or that funds of this scale could have been raised by traditional DPRK state sponsored criminal and other enterprises (e.g. North Korean restaurants abroad).
It could have been raised by being a major player in the global narcotics trade, but we are seeing no signs of such mass movements of physical commodities, be it product or cash). There had to be wealthy patrons that most likely, are a middle power state or parts of such a state that have the capacity for such wealth transfers.
Likewise, the “product” or “service” sold by DPRK must be of such a nature as to be readily exportable because it is small, compact, easy to smuggle — like data from simulations and drawings on a flash card.
Nuclear arsenal and missile technology fits this bill nearly perfectly as a sanction buster.
Few in the arms control community have recognized that circa 2014, when the US began to lift sanctions on Iran and enabled them to access USD tens of billions of wealth was, curiously, directly correlated with DPRK acquiring state of the art tooling, equipment, and systems to forward their weapons programs.
And to conduct a series of expensive tests despite the tightening of sanctions.
DPRK motives for acquisition of nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles, and WMDs do not conform to previous nuclear arsenal states. If DPRK’s motives under Kim Jong Un was solely an “insurance policy” against existential threats to the regime, that goal could have been achieved with a modest, but credible nuclear arsenal similar to what Israel or Pakistan developed.
Neither went the next step to developing long range MRBM or ICBMs.
What are the economic & political impetus then?
Sometime after Kim Jong Un assumed power in 2012, North Korea’s behavior, posture, and pattern changed abruptly. Economic reforms that were long stalled by Kim Jong Il was revived, resulted in an explosion of state capitalism similar to what the southern Chinese provinces experienced circa 1978.
Prior “opening” reforms under Kim Jong Il was ad hoc responses to the famine and hardships brought about in the 1990s by the collapse of their Soviet patrons and the unwillingness of Beijing-China to continually expand subsidies.
After Kim Jong Un consolidated power, these initiatives have become a more or less permanent feature — with concomitant benefits no different than the explosion of wealth and incomes seen in PRC, Russia and former Soviet Republics, and everywhere communist regimes based on the early 20th Century model abandoned tightly controlled central planning and severe limits on private enterprise.
Today, the image of a starving, Stalinist DPRK of 1994-98 that staggered under sanctions is no more appropriate than an image of Shenzhen, PRC in 1984 at the height of the Cultural Revolution in 1967.
What are the political consequences of the Kim Jong Un economic reforms?
For one, it accelerated the loss of formal control over the regime as officials from top to bottom discovered that their position and power translates into rent-seeking opportunities. That be the case whether it is the border guards that took a fee for letting goods through (both exporting and importing), to the officials that control people, facilities, resources, knowhow, etc. who all of a sudden, are free to flog their resources to anyone willing to pay them or work with them (aka joint venture). P
RC managed this very same transition with the PLA/N going into business for themselves.
That be the case whether it is the setting up of factories in DPRK that are “contractors” for firms in PRC, who are in turn, selling the goods worldwide, or the export of DPRK labor (a traditional cash earner for the regime). Such opportunities, however, are not evenly distributed throughout the DPRK regime.
What about the sectors that are left behind?
The largest and most critical sectors that are left behind are the military and security forces (beside the party and government) upon which Kim Jong Un depend on for his grip on power. The opening up that saw wealth flow to other (formerly less influential officials like border guards and managers of run-on-the-mill state owned enterprises) at the expense of the bureaucracy and military.
Where have we seen this before?
This is virtually a cookie cutter description of what happened in PRC circa 1989 just prior to Tiananmen, when the opening of the economy and inflationary pressures brought on by new found wealth impoverished the traditional privileged class of senior officials who did not have rent seeking opportunities.
Recall that the proximate cause of Tiananmen protests was students who’s elite, privileged parents got them into the most prestigious institution in PRC after they themselves survived grueling exams discovered that, a) they were not getting what they expected in cushy jobs in the bureaucracy; b) even if they did, inflation made the “iron rice bowl job” reward nominal; c) “lesser” people who did not have their connections and paper qualifications are surpassing them in opportunities and outcomes.
The upending of the established pathway to wealth, power, and success by economic reforms in PRC nearly collapsed the regime. It was fortuitous that when the PLA was called to restore order in Beijing, they obeyed and the regime survived.
Kim Jong Un’s DPRK no doubt saw this direct parallel. His father, for the same reasons, resisted economic reforms for these reasons to the very end.
But Kim Join Un is different.
He was Swiss educated in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, where he is exposed to wealth and riches that are unimaginable in DPRK for all but the elite ruling clans. He more likely have some language abilities beyond Korean, possibly English, French, or German. What’s more, as a member of the ruling elite, he had first-hand experience and access to the explosion of electronics, games, communications, and outside influences well before he assumed leadership of the Dynasty.
Kim Jong Un, like his assassinated brother, had no illusions as to how backward and perilous the regime he inherited was and is.
Economic reforms by Kim brought not just newfound riches but also political problems in a Stalinist system. Wealth are expressed in many different ways, from more freedom, more (and deeper) penetration of knowledge about the outside world and culture into DPRK. As recently as 2005, it was a big deal and the height of luxury to have access to old (obsolete / junked) Video Cassette Recorders (VCRs) to be imported from China and Japan, with tapes of South Korean shows smuggled in.
Today, that is largely displaced by the smuggling of portable media players, content on flash memory sticks and SD cards. A significant portion of the population is well within broadcast range for cell phone and data transmissions, let alone other broadcasts, and have easy access to the means to receive and enjoy such “forbidden” content such as the latest K-Pop shows.
No doubt illicit wireless repeaters easily sourced from China have extended the reach of South Korean, PRC, Japanese, and Russian wireless to much of DPRK. DPRK, as of 2011, is no longer a “Hermit Kingdom”.
The greater concern faced by the Kim Jong Un regime is that such opening up not only create new wealth and centers of power outside of the formal state system, but it places the DPRK regime in direct competition with the new “private” enterprises and the couture of state capitalist officials being enriched by new opportunities.
Each of these are a potential threat to his power and regime.
Regime stalwarts in the military, security services and government have to be adequately compensated beyond what can be extracted in monopoly rents or taxes from the economy. Otherwise, Kim Jong Un’s DPRK risk a Tiananmen. The old days of Kim Jong Il when scarce foreign products like imported brandy etc. served as an adequate bribe is over.
Kim Jong Un had to do better, and fast.
KCNA extensively cataloged how Kim Jong Un did inspection tours of facilities once he assumed and consolidated power. Western trained analysts often laughed at these events as crass propaganda exercises of Kim being taken to Potemkin Villages as his father was for decades. But what if there is more to this?
A look at the propaganda and how it changed revealed how Kim initially inspected the standard KWP showcases that made food, etc. and then moving to him inspecting military units. Standard socialist fare until 2013.
A very telling tale was how Kim Jong Un visited a Missile Factory in 2013 and “angrily demanded” that the plant be updated with state-of-the-art robotics, CNC machines, etc. which was promptly done, resulting in a precision metals manufacturing capability that is more than adequate for their missile programs that was evident during his next inspection. It would be farcical to presume that the young Kim would not have the wherewithal and language skills to access the web to see published photos and catalogs of advanced manufacturing facilities of manufacturers like Samsung.
Or to think that the Swiss educated Kim could not recall how a tiny country manufactured a range of ultra-high tech goods and services.
Kim recognize that DPRK economy inherited from his father is well behind the times. And he had the capacity to look, see by just consulting material found on the internet.
Turning to the next problem beyond the absolute priority of holding onto power. Sanctions notwithstanding, if DPRK is to spend on importing high tech equipment, training, expertise, and development, however, must realize a profit in some way shape or form so as to provide rewards and maintain the loyalty of Kim’s power bases.
While no public estimate is available, clearly, the DPRK missile and nuclear programs must have had significant costs at least since Kim’s reign.
In the modern history of costly (and relatively unusable) weapons development programs like ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons by all but the wealthiest, largest nations, financing and funding these programs have proven to be a budget busting burden.
Thus, it is not a surprise that strategic cost sharing partners are sought after.
France benefitted from the US experience in acquiring nuclear weapons, Beijing China had no compunction about aiding Pakistan up to and including transferring Chinese weapons designs. Other states, like Israel, with a perfectly straight face, sold missile technology to Taiwan, and worked with South Africa for nuclear weapons development. Beyond these formal, state-to-state deals, there is the precedent of the Abdul Aadeer Khan network that sold nuclear capabilities to any customer with cash before he was stopped: Libya, North Korea, Iran, PRC.
Is it even plausible that DPRK can undertake such programs without a clear, substantial profit motive and pathway to riches?
DPRK motives for acquiring a credible nuclear arsenal with the capacity to strike anywhere in the world (including the United States and Western Europe) is both current profit (paid by regimes like Iran) that is essential for rewarding the regime loyalists, and almost certainly with that, for purposes of extortion in the future against any and all states.
It changes our calculus as to what is likely to be an acceptable outcome to DPRK if the US and Allies do not develop a viable military option.
Clearly, de-nuclearization in any way, shape or form is off the table for DPRK.
Can DPRK stop at just developing a nuclear arsenal?
What to do when clients like Iran are no longer willing to pay billions for nuclear weapons and missiles from DPRK?
What will they sell then?
What will the Kim Jong Un regime do to bring in cash for the next round?
To see the dangers from DPRK and what policy options must be acquired, we must speculate as to what his next move will be.
If Kim Jong Un failed to raise the living standards of his core power base, he is history.
The question is how?
Refocusing on High Intensity Conflict: The North Korean Case
DPRK’s track record and motives over decades affirm that deterrence (or sanctions) as usual will not work. The modus operadi of extortion (now with Weapons of Mass Destruction) is a feature of the Kim Dynasty and represent a fundamental departure from every previous regime that sought a nuclear arsenal that elude explanations via conventional deterrence theory that focus on regime survival.
Deeper understanding of the DPRK’s perspectives and statecraft traditions is essential to crafting a new DPRK strategy.
A recurring theme in the Northeast Asian region’s history is how a small, cohesive, well organized group (often organized on ethnic lines) was able to time and time defeat the incumbent (and on paper stronger) Dynasties ruling over the Chinese Empire. That was the case for the Mongols, Manchus, First Sino-Japanese war, CCP vs. the ROC.
Overlaid on top of this is the millennium long conflict between the Japanese and Chinese empires and how Korea regimes eked out an existence between two (and then more) great powers. The end of WWII brought a stability to the area enforced by the U.S. which temporarily froze the normal dynamic of the region: except in China where the ROC was unceremoniously run off the continent.
Had the US and allies not intervened, DPRK would likely won the Korean war and Taiwan would have been successfully invaded by the CCP.
Post War stability is now reverting to traditional patterns of conflict and statecraft that have characterized the region for more than a millennium.
This history speak to the dangers of presuming that realist calculations of relative power that so much define European statecraft automatically apply in Northeast Asia. Japan was not deterred in going to war against the much stronger Russia, Imperial or Republican China, or the US. Japan won every war except with the US which could have turned out to have been a draw.
The CCP, similarly, had a tradition of taking on much stronger ROC forces who recognized that they are a greater threat than the Japanese, and ultimately winning.
Similarly, the PRC was not deterred from armed clashes by the nuclear armed Soviet Union during the Sino-Soviet dispute.
In all these cases, the (on paper) weaker power did far better than expected.
The historical memory and tradition that a highly organized and cohesive group can defeat on paper established powers that are on paper much stronger is deep in the mindset of Northeast Asians in general, and in the Koreans and their close ethnic brethren the Manchus that dominate the Northeast Asian provinces.
A related feature is the willingness of these groups to coalesce (as Genghis Khan achieved), and willingness to take on allies as they conquered and assimilate technologies from the conquered.
The mindset of DPRK’s key officials are at least 50 years old — still in Cold war, still thinking of winning at “all cost”, very much like the United States prior to the end of WWII.
Few Americans wish to be reminded that toward the end of WWII, the Allies nearly ran out of targets to bomb in both Germany and Japan. Post War, and particularly post PGM Revolution notions of restraint in the use of WMDs (deterrence), limiting collateral damage, avoiding unnecessary civilian deaths, or the revolution brought about by PGMs to achieve war aims with little unintended harm to civilians are alien to the DPRK regime and their military.
What matters to the DPRK is winning. And in such a calculus, they have reverted to the Northeast Asian historical norm.
This perspective suggest that DPRK’s calculus of risk, reward, cost, etc. will be very different from western models.
DPRK propaganda and bravado such as threatening nuclear attacks on CONUS or the sinking of a US carrier should not be automatically dismissed. Nor should their stated goal to force the US out of the Korean Peninsula and compel ROK to “reunify” on their terms.
These threats are at least as credible as the threats Genghis Khan made in 1207 against the Western Hsia Empire. Coincidentally, Genghis Khan’s war aims was to acquire a tribute paying vassal. DPRK is pursuing similar goals today. ROK is a prime and plausible candidate to become a tribute passing vassal to DPRK in the near term, leading to reunification longer term.
The appeal of DPRK “aggressive Confucianism” should not be underestimated in South Korea, who, beneath their public persona, exudes pride at how Koreans are a nuclear power — even if it is in the hands of DPRK.
The US should not automatically take it as a given that ROK will fall into line with allied interests or perceive the ICBM nuclear threat to the US as a threat to the Korean people as a whole. Nor should ROK cooperation to eliminate nuclear weapons post bellum on the peninsular be a given.
The larger question is, can South Koreans resist the siren song of history? Who can the DPRK count on as their supporters beyond significant elements in the ROK?
The involvement of outside powers in the Korean peninsula is another longstanding historical theme. Korean regimes have historically had to balance their relationship with all the region’s powers, which in the post war era, for the DPRK, became a network of anti-establishment powers like USSR, PRC, Pakistan, Iran, Syria, etc.
Thus, it should be presumed that any resumption of conflict with DPRK will very quickly result in participation from outside. Given attitudes, history and preparation, the DPRK has positioned itself to try to take off the table any quick decapitation option off the table. Although given the nature of the regime, there is always concern that intrigue at the top or strikes directed to take down the top leadership might work.
But the West can not necessarily assume that this is the only or the most viable option.
A long war against DPRK will likely be the defining conflict of the century, with consequences similar to either WWI or WWII. The US and Allies is not up against an “isolated” North Korea. North Korea may be presently “isolated”, but once conflict breaks out, it is a foregone conclusion that outside powers will intervene very much like the Spanish Civil War.
Korea will be the testing ground for weapons, tactics, and doctrine by every state and non-state actor that harbor a wish to undermine the incumbent international system dominated by the US and allies. Assessments of DPRK military capabilities without taking into account likely contribution from their allies will end badly: DPRK is not Syria.
Who are likely to be DPRK’s supporters this time around?
North Korea, for all their alleged isolation, have forged an extensive network with numerous “anti” states and non-state actors. What’s more, DPRK is no longer the Stalinist centrally planned and tightly controlled economy (circa 1960 – 2011).
It is now transformed into an economy very similar to PRC’s southern provinces circa 1978. Significantly, the porous border with Russia, China, and the booming illicit sea trade with neighboring states have exploded under Kim Jong Un with extensive participation by both state and non-state actors including many criminal syndicates.
If trade sanctions failed to work against a highly vulnerable Stalinist DPRK economy, it has almost no chance against a mixed economy with plenty of room for non-state actors to participate. That is, in fact, what the NY Times recently reported. That is before the PRC’s explicit refusal to impose “airtight” sanction “humanitarian” trade including food and energy. North Korea consumers fewer than 76,000 bbl/day of oil.
Rather than being the trump card of PRC, An embargo on oil exports to DPRK can be worked around by entrepreneurs with tanker trucks via the land border, or at sea with much larger transfers. Absent air strikes on land shipments and a complete blockade of all shipping that is unlikely to be sanctioned by the UN, it will work.
ISIS did it, why not DPRK?
No doubt the DPRK will do at least as well as Rhodesia under Ian Smith at sanctions busting.
This brings us to the point that supporters of North Korea are not just rogue states (or penniless ones), but major regimes like Iran, Pakistan, the Northeast Provinces of PRC, Russia, and indeed, found within South Korea as well. Over and above these are long term linkages to Syria, Taiwan, Venezuela, jihadists, and global criminal syndicates that DPRK have had dealings with from counterfeit currency, narcotics, counterfeit pharmaceuticals, cigarettes, liquor, to arms.
Any active conflict with DPRK that do not end in regime change within 90 days will result in all these networks being activated by DPRK for the war effort.
During the first Korean War, intervention by Russia and China, after the initial surprise, required physically large, visible transfers of troops, war material like munitions, heavy weapons, on top of food, fuel, and other logistics. Interdiction of these bulk shipments is not a problem. If the Korean war restarts, much of the bulk shipments will be “humanitarian” shipments of food, fuel that the US will find extremely difficult to interdict politically. Smaller shipments of key components, knowhow, etc. that make or break a modern war can virtually slide through any known feasible sanction regime.
It is irresistible for Beijing China and their many “local” authorities, together with Russia, to use a Korean conflict to collect as much intelligence as possible on US and allied militaries. Whether authorized by Beijing China or not, entities from PRC will likely be furnishing DPRK with technical assistance, critical parts, assemblies, knowhow, and ad hoc transfers if not to test out the equipment against the US.
Russia still retains bitter memories of how the U.S. funneled arms like Stingers that played no small role in their defeat in Afghanistan. It would be hard to see Putin restraining many organizations in Russia, especially the criminal syndicates that control the Far East, from intervening.
Assessments suggest that DPRK can acquire a mid-late 1970s capability similar to Canada or Australia, or late 1960s UK in conventional weapons without great difficulties within six months of a conflict. Indeed, a few relative small shipments (e.g. 10 TEU containers) of component parts can substantially increase the lethality of a significant portion of legacy DPRK systems like artillery or short range ballistic missiles, or greatly improve the performance of their existing air defense systems.
This is over and above what DPRK can do to improve their nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities “on the fly” should their supporters like Iran and “local” PRC governments decide to support them.
The U.S. cannot assume DPRK missiles will not work, or be the relative primitive versions seen to date. Once the spigot for aid is opened, it is conceivable that DPRK within a relatively short period of time can field an ICBM force that is close to the sophistication of Pakistan’s, with penetration aids, decoys, and tactics specifically intended to overcome defenses within a matter of months.
Should Beijing China fail to deliver on mitigating the DPRK threat, the U.S. and the allies presently have a an potentially outdated OPLAN 5015, with or without the use of WMDs. Given the rate of advances that DPRK have proven over the past two years, the window for military action with limited WMD risks to CONUS may be closing in as short as 3 or at most 5 years.
That is not enough time for a full scale re-orientation, training and rearmament of US and allied forces who have spent two decades fighting rag-tag terrorist armies.
An urgent program to facilitate better conventional and nuclear military options with deliverables measured in months and at most a couple years need to be on the agenda for the Trump Administration and Congress.
Editor’s Note: We have focused for some time on the need to look at North Korea as it is and is evolving rather than through the lens of the 1953 war. This means that the Command needs to be led by a USAF general and a high intensity war plan developed with relevant nuclear capability woven into it.
And the thoughts about shifting the Command to South Korean leadership is a virtual non-starter because of the centrality of the nuclear weapons issue to any war fighting and/or deterrence equation.
And dealing with North Korea is the harginger of things to come in terms of the acceleration of U.S. and allied capabilities to fight a high intensity war, rather than the slow mo wars of the past decade.
This requires a shift in resources, an emphasis on accelerated introduction of new warfighting capabilities and training, training, and training for new operational tempos and challenges.
The template of the last decade is dysfunctional for dealing with threats which are clear and present dangers to the homeland.
In effect, the Trump Administration might be facing a triple transition. The first is a rapid transition to shifting resources to preparing to fight high intensity conflict. The second is to position the US and the allies to fight a long war with ISIS, in which insertion forces and intervention without long ground engagement is required. The third is to recalibrate Afghanistan away from a significant ground war with large numbers of US and allied troops needed for operational control of territory.
As the then NORTHCOM/NORAD Commander put it in our interview with him last year with regard to the revitalized nuclear threat to North America from 10 and 2 O’Clock:
Question: The nuclear dimension is a key part of all of this, although there is a reluctance to talk about the Second Nuclear Age and the shaping of deterrent strategies to deal with the new dynamics.
With regard to Russia, they have changed their doctrine and approach.
How do you view their approach and the challenge to us which flows from that change?
Answer: Both the Chinese and Russians have said in their open military literature, that if conflict comes, they want to escalate conflict in order to de-escalate it.
Now think about that from our side. And so now as crisis escalates, how will Russia or China want to escalate to deescalate?
They’ll definitely come at us through cyber.
And they’ll deliver conventional and potentially put nukes on the table. We have to treat the threat in a global manner and we have to be prepared to be able to deal with these through multiple domains, which include cyber, but that’s not in NORAD or NORTHCOM mission sets.
We clearly need the capacity to have the correct chain of command in order to confront this threat; and if you look at where we are today with NORAD or NORTHCOM, we are only dealing with an air defense threat and managing to that threat.
We are not comprehensive in a manner symmetrical with the evolving threat or challenges facing North American defense.
This is a notional rendering of the 10 and 2 O’Clock challenge. It is credited to Second Line of Defense and not in any way an official rendering by any agency of the US government. It is meant for illustration purposes only.
Question: Clearly, the new leadership in North Korea is working to shape new nuclear and strike capabilities.
There probably is NO homeland defense threat more pressing and clear and present than the nuclear threat from North Korea.
How do you view this challenge?
Answer: I own the trigger to deal with this threat in consultation with the National Command Authority.
We are prepared to shoot in our defense.
We have invested in a ground missile defense system in Alaska; we have 44 interceptors in all. We have a sophisticated system of systems in place, but we need to improve its robustness as the system has been built over time with the fits and starts politically with regard to the system.
I testify along with the head of the Missile Defense Agency with regard to our system and the ways to improve it.
We need the maintenance and modernization of the system and the tests in order to assure ourselves that it’s going to work and I have high confidence in the system at the current time.
Then, we need improvements in the sensors. And we need investments and research and development to get us on the correct side of the cost curve, because both the theater ballistic missile defense and ballistic missile defense of the homeland have been on the wrong side of the cost curve.
We’re shooting very dumb rockets down, inexpensive rockets, with very expensive rockets, and we’re only doing it in the case of ballistic missile defense in mid-course so that the debris doesn’t fall on the homeland.
What we need to do is invest in those technologies that keep them from being launched, detect them, kill them on the rails, kill them in boost phase, start knocking the count-rate down instead of just taking a single rocket and shooting it down in mid-course.
It is about the kill chain, and shaping a more effective missile defense kill chain which is integratable in the overall North American NIFC-CA type capability which can integrate air and sea systems which is important to deal with the evolving threat environment.
But one has to think through our deterrence strategy as well.
What deters the current leader of North Korea?
What deters non-state actors for getting and using a nuclear weapon?
What will deter Russia from using tactical nuclear weapons in the sequence of how they view dealing with conventional war?
It is not my view that matters; it is their view; how to I get inside the head of the 21st century actors, and not simply stay in yesterday’s set of answers?
Six China Myths and the Need to Diversify Australia’s Asian Links
When considering Australia’s future in Asia, many of us have had difficulty looking beyond China—but we have many better options in Asia.
At the core of our misperceptions are six myths about the potential for cooperation with Beijing.
The first myth is that China is driven by a political and business culture broadly compatible with ours where business and politics operate independently.
In reality, Chinese business is inseparable from politics because of the omnipresence of the ruling party, to which all other concerns are subservient, even in private enterprises.
The Communist Party leadership sustains its legitimacy by striving to deliver economic progress and restoring the global preeminence the Chinese civilization once enjoyed. Many rules are tilted against foreigners. Corruption is common, intellectual property theft is rife, and there’s no recourse to an independent judiciary.
A second myth is that a substantial liberalisation and democratisation of China is likely.
Since he came to power in 2012, Xi Jinping has taken personal control of the primary organs of the state; dissent has been quashed; the ‘Great Firewall’ has been strengthened, drastically curbing access to international information; religious and other organisations have been suppressed and state intervention in the economy has increased.
China is a tightly-controlled authoritarian state which treats dissent harshly.
A third myth is that China is not expansionist.
In a 2011 address in London, Malcolm Turnbull stated: ‘it is important to note that China’s growth in power, both economic and military, hasn’t been matched by any expansionist tendencies beyond reuniting Taiwan.’
That would come as a surprise to Tibet, Vietnam and the Philippines, let alone the 23 million in the vibrant democracy on Taiwan.
Then there is Beijing’s effective seizure of over 80 percent of the South China Sea, an area about the size of Western Europe from Poland’s eastern border to the English Channel.
The Chinese have effectively occupied almost all of the waters from Hainan to Indonesia and Malaysia and they vigorously apply Chinese domestic law there.
A fourth myth is that China generally abides by international law.
The Permanent Court of Arbitration on the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea determined unanimously last July that there was no legal basis for China’s claim to historic rights over the resources and areas in the South China Sea.
This judgement, carrying the full force of international law, was immediately dismissed by China as ‘null and void.’
In September 2015, when Xi Jinping met President Obama in Washington, he stated that: ‘relevant construction activities that China is undertaking in the Nansha (Spratly) Islands (in the centre of the South China Sea) do not target any country, and China does not intend to pursue militarisation.’
This statement was a falsehood.
Finishing touches are now being made to three fighter bases on the islands, each with protected facilities for 24 fighter-bombers and at least four larger aircraft. Missile installations to target ships and aircraft are also nearing completion.
A fifth myth is that Beijing would never interfere in Australian affairs.
In reality, China is running substantial programs to influence Australian opinion with the acquisition of nearly all Chinese language publications; the courting of decision-makers, journalists, business executives and academics through fully paid visits to China; substantial contributions to political parties; the establishment of pro-Beijing associations, including 14 Confucius Institutes in Australian universities; the regular insertion of supplements in newspapers; and the organization of ‘patriotic’ demonstrations, concerts, and other events by its embassy, consulates and other pro-Beijing entities. Cyber and intelligence operations reinforce messages, recruit intelligence agents and ‘agents of influence,’ and intimidate, coerce, and deter counter-actions.
Beijing tolerates little foreign involvement in Chinese life but simultaneously conducts intrusive programs overseas.
A sixth myth is that Australia has no choice but to subsume its interests because China is its most important economic partner.
China is Australia’s largest trading partner in terms of imports and exports but Australian firms operating in the US earn four times the value of our simple imports and exports across the Pacific and so America is clearly our most valuable economic partner.
China is only the seventh largest source of foreign investment in Australia, far behind the US and Europe. In 2015 alone, the US invested more than the entire stock of Chinese investment here.
China isn’t Australia’s most important economic partner and, because of rising production costs, mounting debt and slowing growth, it may never achieve that.
Even if it did, taking a ’value-free’ approach of absolute deference to China would be cynical because it would place Australia’s economic interests above all else and put a price tag on our sovereignty. It would also be naïve because China’s appetite for our compliance could never be satisfied.
In order to make the most of the Indo-Pacific century, Australia should certainly cooperate with China where we can and sell a wide range of goods and services there.
However, if are to maximize our success and retain our independence, we need to recalibrate risks and turn increasingly to other parts of the region, especially to our ASEAN neighbours and India.
Malcolm Turnbull’s recent visit to Delhi and his enthusiasm for expanded links is an important advance. India and a number of other Asian countries offer more trustworthy governments, more compatible business and legal cultures, higher rates of economic growth and more sustainable political, economic and strategic partnerships.
Ross Babbage is CEO of Strategic Forum in Canberra and a Non-resident Senior Fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments in Washington DC.
Republished with permission of the author.
Major General (Retired) Molan on the Reshaping of Australian Defense
During my recent visit to Australia, I had a chance to meet with Major General (Retired) Jim Molan.
He is a frequent commentator in the press and on the media generally defense issues and given the significant dynamics of change in Asia and the coming of Trump to the presidency, provided some thoughts on the challenges facing Australia and building out an appropriate defense capability.
We started our discussion by discussing his recent trip to Israel and the meetings, which the analysis group of which he is a part had with senior Israeli officials.
Major General (Retired) Jim Molan
Major General (Retired) Molan: The Israelis face a number of difficult threats, and threats, which we need to pay attention to in Australia, as some of the capabilities being displayed by the Hezbollah, are globally transferable. The Hezbollah have access to thousands of missiles, many provided by Iran.
A key threat to Israel then is the potential use of these missiles not just against Israeli territory but the shipping into and out of Israel. Israel is a very export dependent country as many of us are.
And the threat to attack civilian shipping and then freeze the sea trade is real. For these are civilian ships which move because there is a commercial insurance trade; and that trade stops when ships are sunk or attacked in areas of high threat. And in turn traffic is stopped.
Hezbollah sank a commercial ship at relatively long range in Israeli waters in 2006, and not one ship visited Israel for a month. And this is one of the things they’re worried about.
The ability of terrorists or states to hit commercial shipping is one which should be of high concern to the liberal democracies.
Question: And given our dependence collectively on foreign merchant marines this is doubly so. Your thoughts?
Major General (Retired) Molan: That is a good point.
If we don’t think more broadly about the security of seaborne commerce we are collectively facing a very serious challenge indeed. What good is keeping sea lines of communications open if no ships come?
The Israelis focused on how the state of Lebanon has become a launching point for Hezbollah and they underscored that they were not simply going to sit back and wait to see a full scale attack from Hezbollah.
They were not going to accept the notion that Lebanon is a sanctuary from which Hezbollah could operate. The government of Lebanon had to understand that they were a possible subject of a preemptive strike if needed.
As we were told: “We have the option of acting preemptively. But we’ve got to be provoked to act preemptively”.
And if they do, then their view is that they will see no difference between Hezbollah and Lebanon, and they will ensure that any supporting infrastructure from the Lebanese community that goes to Hezbollah will be destroyed. It would take ten years to replace that, if the Israelis are provoked, act preemptively, and do what they’re very good at doing.
And we do not want to see a similar strategy show up in our region threatening Australia’s sea lanes of communication as well.
Question: Trump is clearly not the most popular American president in recent memory in Australia. But the inability of the US and the allies to stop North Korea is clearly putting in place a more realistic sense of what needs to be done.
How do you see this?
Major General (Retired) Molan: One reason Trump is not popular is that he has spoken the truth about American capabilities.
The US is no longer a hegemonic superpower; the rise of China can not simply be met by the United States. We, the allies of the US, need to do more, much more in our own defense.
The best allies are strong allies.
We Australians have shaped a very good template for 21st century defense; the service chiefs and the Minister have done a good job.
I have never seen a better defence policy in Australia since the first in 1976, nor have I seen the Australian Defence Force as good as it is today.
But the demands from the strategic environment in which we operate are so very much higher and unpredictable than anything really since 1945.
But we are still significantly underfunded to get that template in place with enough capability to make a real impact on the Chinese or other challengers in the region.
In the past we have spent as little as we possibly can spend on defense, because we expect the US to do the heavy lifting.
We’ve been a long way away from any significant conflict in the post-War world, we’ve never had to mobilize seriously, or even expand seriously.
That has now changed.
Question: How has the situation changes for Australia and how would you identify the way ahead for Australian defense policy?
The threats are in Asia and on our doorstep.
We need a policy and resourcing that recognizes that we are facing not wars of choice but threats close to home, including real nuclear ones, real wars of necessity.
We now find the US as a much less relatively powerful country, a point which Trump has realistically underscored.
We Australians need a policy, which recognizes this and builds more of our capabilities and alliance capabilities in the region, not just with the United States.
If we were a logical nation we would say, “the strategic environment has significantly changed, therefore Australia can no longer be the dependent ally , it must be a self-sufficient ally.”
The Australian National Flag flies high on Anderson Air Base during Exercise Cope North. Held from 15th February to 3rd March 2017 at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, an Air Task Group from the RAAF involving F/A-18A Hornet, E-7A Wedgetail, C-130J Hercules aircraft as well as combat support and medical elements have deployed for the Exercise. CN17 involves over 2000 personnel and approximately 100 aircraft and aims to increase the combat readiness and interoperability of the USAF, JASDF and RAAF. Credit: Australian Ministry of Defence
And that makes us a much better ally in the big challenges that are to come down the road.
We’re always a good ally because we provide relatively high quality small forces to whatever is going on, therefore you’ve got a good flag and you’ve got some forces on the ground. And that’s how we paid our dues.
The situation has changed dramatically, but it hasn’t affected our defense policy one iota in terms of resources or sense of urgency.
It then is a question of focus as well.
Where do we put our emphasis?
Clearly part of this focus needs to be building out our capabilities with our regional allies.
It is as well shaping the forces necessary to make a difference.
One way to do this is to focus on the Chinese push out in the South China Sea and recognize it for what it is.
We need to work with Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia on our own version of anti-access area denial to the Chinese pushing out into our common area of interest. We need to get serious about proactive capabilities, which can enforce sea denial to the Chinese.
Any South China sea conflict will occur through the Indonesian archipelago, that’s where the things will start to happen first. The first thing that anyone will want to do is close off the energy flows that go to China.
And the way to do that is to close those straits, and the way to do that is to either put mines in them, clever mines in them, or put clever submarines in them.
Working with our allies we can certainly do this; but it will take focus and resources, something that is required now because of the objective situation of the United States and the proximity of the threat to us.
It is no longer a show the flag at distant shores drill; it is preparing for the real defense of Australia in a world where the United States is not a hegemonic power.
We need to get serious in terms of funding and commitment and act on a sense of reality.
Editor’s Note: The following biography of Jim Molan was taken from Wikipedia:
Major General Andrew James “Jim” Molan AO, DSC (born 11 April 1950) is a former senior officer in the Australian Army.
During his career he was Commanding Officer of the 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, Commander of the Army’s mechanised 1st Brigade, Commander of the 1st Division and its Deployable Joint Force Headquarters, and the Commander of the Australian Defence College.
In April 2004, he deployed for a year to Iraq to serve as the Chief of Operations for the new Headquarters Multinational Force in Iraq. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross by the Australian Government, and the Legion of Merit by the United States Government. In August 2008 Molan released his first book, Running the War in Iraq.
Following his retirement from the army, Molan was appointed by the Abbott Government as a special envoy for Operation Sovereign Borders and was subsequently credited with being an architect of the coalition’s Stop the Boats Australian border protection and asylum-seeker policies.
In 2016 Molan was endorsed by the Liberal Party as a candidate for the Senate representing New South Wales at the 2016 federal election.
In August 2008 Molan released his first book, Running the War in Iraq. The book concentrated on his experience as Chief of Operations in Iraq during 2004–05, and contained some criticism about Australia’s capacity to engage in military conflict.
In an August 2008 speech, Molan stated that: “Our military competence was far worse than even we thought before East Timor, and people may not realise that the military performance bar has been raised by the nature of current conflict, as illustrated in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
Writing in a February 2009 article, Molan called for a doubling of the Australian military presence in Afghanistan, from about 1,100 troops to 2,000.
Editor’s Note: In a recently published edited book, Molan discussed the current situation facing Australia and concluded the following:
Therefore the profound shift in the threat environment means that the traditional role of the ADF, to provide small forces for wars of choice distant from Australia, now needs to be supplemented by serious preparations for the conduct of high end joint warfighting in defence of the nation…
As a nation with the fifth highest per capita income, the twelfth highest GDP and the fifty-fourth highest population of about 200 countries in the world, the only thing that Australia needs to defend itself, even against extreme threats, is resolve and time.
The more resolve we develop now, the less time we will need in the future, and the greater our ability to deter conflict or to win if deterrence fails.
And for a 2016 radio interview which discussed the global refugee crisis, see the following:
Are we at an impasse in terms of Australia’s refugee policy?
Retired Major General Jim Molan, former federal government advisor and envoy for Operation Sovereign Borders, says Australia’s current refugee policy is heading in the right direction.
He’s part of a panel discussion at Manning Clarke House on Tuesday night: https://manningclark.org.au/category/events/
Duration: 8min 11sec
Broadcast: Mon 10 Oct 2016, 9:00am
Published: Mon 10 Oct 2016, 10:58am