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The Continuum of Conflict: Iraq and North Korea

Discussion in 'Issues Around the World' started by Sierra Mike, Jan 8, 2003.

  1. Sierra Mike

    Sierra Mike The Dude Abides Staff Member

    Over the past few weeks, while North Korea and Iraq both make headlines, there's been a question bandied about that might actually have a cogent--though hidden--answer: Why Iraq and why not North Korea?

    Why not indeed, thinks I, from the comparative safety of Fortress America, that bastion of strength protected only a year-and-a-half ago by formidable geography and an inarguably supreme military. Perhaps there's more to it than the casual journalistas, those supposedly objective interpreters of right and wrong and closeted decriers of all things military, could ever see?

    To me, it's pretty simple. Iraq now, because it's the easier target. We can refine our tactics and doctrine, test out our newest weapons, TTPs, and force structures. This will be a complex initiative because it involves--perhaps the first time in a century--pretty much a unilateral attack wherein US forces will invade a sovereign nation, overturn a decidedly twisted regime, and in its place, install or assist in the installation of a new, hopefully more democratic, definitely less murderous governing body that will bring Iraq back from the brink. It's for the good of the Iraqis, it's for the good of the region, and it's definitely good for the West. (And here I must define an apparent complexity: Why do I use the word "unilateral" when, in fact, Britain is apparently 100% on board? Because the United Kingdom and the United States share the same world view, in my mind. There is hardly anything the US could ask of the UK that would not be granted; one can only presume the reverse works as well. I cannot for the life of me imagine a cycle of events wherein the UK might be in need, and the US not immediately jump and run to assist.)

    A successful operation in Iraq would result more in just the stated goals of the Bush Administration. Whether ultimately successful or not, it does one thing entirely overlooked by the media: it provides the US military with real-world operational experience in invasion and subjugation of an enemy regime. The Second Gulf War will likely be wholly unlike the first in terms of complexity; this is going to be a deep attack, where we will actively pursue and decimate Republican Guard and Special Republican Guard formations. The regular Iraqi Army is unlikely to put up much of a fight; it lacks the specialized training of the other combatants, and is wholly unused to maneuver warfare. The opening stages of the war will effectively leave the regular Iraqi Army, itself a flawless design of centralized command and control, without eyes, ears, and brains. If they leave their revetments, it's likely to be so that they might flee. Here's hoping they don't charge off in the wrong direction, because if they make a movement toward inbound US troop formations, it's likely to be a fatal mistake. US forces are probably disinclined to be halted by thousands of surrendering troops, especially since the message delivered so far has been Do not get involved. Remain where you are.

    The lessons of the First Gulf War are effectively useless beyond generating new books for the USMA and other military academies. To be sure, very few of the lessons learned were incorporated into ENDURING FREEDOM; in the First Gulf War, special operations forces were marginally sidelined due to Schwarzkopf's inability to perceive the utility of SOF/LIC contingency operations that could provide hidden and unexpected force multipliers. Clearly, GEN Tommy Franks had a different idea in mind during ENDURING FREEDOM. While a substantial part of the Second Gulf War will involve more traditional military formations--after all, the terrain is beneficial to such--one can also surmise that SOF/LIC will play a paramount role. There are usually legions of detractors in regards to special operations forces, yet they are generally mum when ENDURING FREEDOM comes up. Because, honestly, the largest body of SOF work available to the public was provided courtesy of the Vietnam War, and their contributions have had decades to be subjected to vitriolic attack by the extreme left, as well as merely growing stale with the passage of time.

    Clearly, the Second Gulf War will not suffer from the handicaps of history or the parochial views that hobbled Schwarzkopf. Franks, like GEN Wesley Clark during Kosovo, is motivated to use all the tools in the kit to affect a speedy and decisive engagement.

    I can only speculate as far as specific tactics that might be used in the Second Gulf War; I wont detail them here, because as the time draws neigh, it's neither prudent nor wise to advertise what I perceive as advantages our military might exploit. I'm no Clausewitz, but then and again, neither was Stormin' Norman; during the First Gulf War, when we heard about the Great Left Turn down the Tapline Road, even us warrant officers kind of rolled our eyes at the supposed "audacity" Schwarzkopf was demonstrating. Even I knew that an enemy that had been pounded day and night by blistering aviation attacks for 40 days wasn't going anywhere. They weren't going to suddenly displace and stream out of their revetments if they perceived the Hail Mary Play was going into effect. What were they going to do--cross the open desert in the middle of the day?

    Regardless, my main thrust of attack is this: the Second Gulf War will help us identify which weapon systems work, where we are doctrinally weak, and determine if the digitization efforts of the past decade have generated a credible gap no adversary is likely to be able to span during combat operations. I'm pretty confident that we'll score well in all areas, whether the situation in Iraq improves drastically or not.

    Then we'll use that knowledge and roll in on North Korea.

    The DPRK promises to be extremely different from Iraq with regards to the DPRK's warrior ethic, the terrain, the weather, and the geography. At the same time, the DPRK is very much like Iraq in that it favors large, mechanized divisions, fixed gunnery emplacements, a marginal naval force, and an air force that is generally only effective in the daytime. It is one thing for them to attack Seoul; it is entirely another to attack an armored cavalry regiment in advance of an infantry division rolling hot across the DMZ.

    The DPRK was not subjected to synchronous attacks on several fronts during the Korean War. Back then, the US did not have the ability to realistically project force onto an enemy in several coordinated axes of attack at the same time.

    But it doesn't matter how hard we hit them, if we allow them to hit firstwhich is why I'm thinking that the DPRK, if it becomes troublesome, will get a righteous beating without any real warning. I think we'll hit them first. Because, really, there is no other way.

    Initiative and audacity win wars. Kim Jong Il has both; allowing him to keep them is not in our best interest.

    SM
     
  2. ethics

    ethics Pomp-Dumpster Staff Member

    Nice post, and thanks for a clear explanation of your view. I certainly agree with it.
     
  3. fritzmp

    fritzmp Fire Fire For Effect

    Informative of the times and vague (as in not overly detailed to ensure procedure and combat knowledge) at the same time. Good post Steve.
     
  4. aedumo

    aedumo Veteran Member

    very nice steve, but i believe that for both political and military reasons we will do everything we can to avoid an all out war with korea. not because of anything korean, but because of alot of chinese, whom i am certain are behind the timing of north koreas latest escapade.
     
  5. Sierra Mike

    Sierra Mike The Dude Abides Staff Member

    I doubt the Chinese are really deeply involved with this. The threat of war on the peninsula is a direct impediment to their economy, and there's nothing the Chinese love more than money. They've long recognized the need for American forces on the peninsula, which in and of itself is a startling thing.

    Politically, it's always good to avoid a war; war with the DPRK would be costly in pretty much every dimension. But if a war must be fought--and if the DPRK does not accept the face-saving gestures availed to it now by the US--then there may not be a lot of choice.

    SM
     
  6. Sierra Mike

    Sierra Mike The Dude Abides Staff Member

    Thanks, but my reluctance to openly discuss TTPs is probably what's keeping me from being a well-paid military correspondent on CNN. :haha:

    SM
     
  7. mikepd

    mikepd Veteran Member

    Last I checked, honor, duty, and country have a currency all their own. There is a value to money and there is a value to pride and self-esteem.

    Money pays bills. Pride and self-esteem pays your self-worth. It all depends which you value higher. You have proved what matters to you and I admire you for it. Let the shills earn the judas pay. You will get what you richly deserve, I have no doubt. Good guys don't finish last, they finish with their heads held high.

    Mike
     
  8. EMIG

    EMIG Yup

    Yeah, but how do we deliver the beating without tipping our hand? Clearly a lengthy military build up a la Gulf War would not be wise.

    Great post.
     
  9. Sierra Mike

    Sierra Mike The Dude Abides Staff Member

    Re: Re: The Continuum of Conflict: Iraq and North Korea

    Realistically? We couldn't. If we really wanted to play it safe, we couldn't even tell the ROK what was up; they're rife with spies from the North, who are dedicated to not only reporting an impending attack, but by responding via subterfuge and terrorism.

    Aviation assets and USMC components storming the beaches would be the only way to strike first, along with SOF penetrating the rear areas.

    SM
     
  10. MisManager

    MisManager Runs With Scissors

    Re: Re: Re: The Continuum of Conflict: Iraq and North Korea

    <b>THE</b> key, IMHO, is to knock out the DPRK artillery ASAP. That's the one real way that the North can turn this into a quagmire. Their artillery are well within range of greater Seoul, and a dedicated attack from them could kill hundreds of thousands of people and pretty much level the city. That scale of destruction would have the South lobbying for peace (as well as much of the rest of the world).

    The second goal (if the above is Goal 1, this is Goal 1A) is to disable their nukes. We think we know they have a couple, and we think we know where they are, but we aren't sure. We need to be. A coordinated attack on DPRK artillery is useless if the North panics and lobs its nuke at Seoul. See above for result.

    Both of these are achieveable, but would take lots of intel and planning.

    Eric
     
  11. Sierra Mike

    Sierra Mike The Dude Abides Staff Member

    Well, like I said, I wasn't particularly keen on drilling down to narrow specifics, but yes, I think we can pretty much be certain we have 70% of their arty batteries zeroed for either counter-battery fire or cruise missiles.

    SM
     
  12. EMIG

    EMIG Yup

    I heard on NPR they could dump half a million shells an hour on Seoul under ideal conditions.

    But you have to consider the source, and the fact we'd make sure conditions were not ideal for long, if at all.
     
  13. MisManager

    MisManager Runs With Scissors

    That's the generally-cited number. Without going into specifics, ideal conditions are, well, adjustable. The fact remains that any plan for North Korea involves neutralization of this threat, by a variety of means.

    Of course, given the rhetoric coming from some in the South these days, perhaps our best move is to send our 37,000 troops to Okinawa. If they don't like us there, we can fix that for them.

    I think the real key here is the China/Russia angle. Both countries have their own problems with Islamic insurgents, and both of their "problem groups" have been named by bin Laden and Co. as borthers in arms. In the case of the Chechens, they've shown moxie in holding up that theater. It's not hard to imagine bin Laden buying a bomb from cash-strapped North Korea and handing it to the Chechens for their next trip to Moscow.

    Russia, at long last, seems to be understanding this. China less so, but I see this as an either/or. We only need one of them on our side to get somewhere.

    Russia needs to lean on the North, and hard. The IAEA and other supranational Toastmasters clubs need to put their money where their mouths are.

    North Korea can be resolved diplomatically, but I think it's clear that the efforts of the past 10 years weren't heading in the right direction.

    Finally, to follow up on Steve's (cogent and well-reasoned) initial post, I agree that there are differences between Iraq and DPRK. I also believe that Iraq and DPRK can be seen as occupying different spots on the same continuum. North Korea shows us how the Iraq problem will complicate itself if no action is taken. Conversely, Iraq shows us where we will end up if diplomacy fails in North Korea.

    Iraq has exhausted its diplomatic options, or nearly so. North Korea is approaching that point, but is not there yet. The message to North Korea needs to be just that - once diplomacy fails, the 'Iraq' options will emerge with a Korean flavor. The message to the rest of the world needs to be that leaving Iraq alone won't make it go away.

    Eric
     

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