Saturday, May 6, 2017

"A rapidly vanishing window of opportunity"

Good morning. How is your Saturday going so far? Perhaps you have a to-do list for the day, maybe some social plans. If this weather weren't so annoyingly sub-normal, there might be some gardening to be done.

But I feel compelled to offer this backdrop to your thoughts and actions today. We face a situation that is not just going to calm down of its own accord, and we've really and truly run out of good options.

Dr. Peter Pry is the Executive Director of the Task Force on National Homeland Security, Chief of Staff of the Congressional EMP (Electric Magnetic Pulse) Commission, and is considered one of the country’s most knowledgeable experts on nuclear weapons technology. He is the undisputed preeminent authority on the existential threat presented by the proliferation of EMP weapons and gained national prominence in various testimonies before Congress, where he has categorically stated that the detonation of a single EMP weapon by a rogue state such as North Korea or Iran could destroy the US. 
In September of 2014, Peter and I collaborated on a Blaze Magazine article, Blackout, where he outlined how a single EMP nuclear weapon, detonated at apogee (between 50 to 200 miles above the US), would destroy the country’s entire electrical grid. Airplanes would fall out of the sky, our cars would not start, banking, nearly all non-barter related commerce would cease, and nine out of ten Americans would eventually die due to total societal collapse. 
I recently caught up with Peter to ask him what he thought about the new North Korean nuclear missile crisis.
Kelley: If Trump’s negotiations with President Xi Jinping and the Chinese government fail to bring about regime change in North Korea, can the US successfully take out their nuclear sites? And do we know where they all are? 
Pry: We don’t know where they all are. We do, however, have the ability, I believe, to do a successful preemptive strike. Which doesn’t mean we get a hundred percent of everything. But we would be able to effectively disarm them, certainly of their ICBM’s (intercontinental ballistic missiles). They don’t have that many of them, maybe only a dozen. So, we have this window of opportunity when it comes to their ICBM’s.
Kelley: How should the strike be conducted? 

Pry: It should include everything in our arsenal, our own EMP, cyber, conventional forces (ours and Korea’s). We can get most of their stuff in a first strike but there’s no guarantee we get all of it, even all of those small number of ICBM’s. But if any of those survive, our missile defense forces should be able to handle them.
Kelley: But what about all those vast numbers of short-range missiles we read are pointed at South Korea? Can all of those be taken out in a surprise attack?
Pry: It’s problematic when you’re talking about medium-range missiles, the no-dong’s. Most are not nuclear-armed. But I think we are grossly underestimating the number of nuclear warheads they have. They could have 100 nuclear weapons, most of them mounted on the no-dong’s. So there is no doubt, our allies would be more at risk from some of these surviving missiles. They hide them in tunnels and under bridges. But what are we going to do? Wait until they have enough (nuclear weaponized missiles) to make preemption impossible?
Kelley: Is North Korea reaching critical mass in terms of its nuclear weapons capability?
Pry: Not yet. Through our offensive and defensive systems we still have a reasonable chance to get all of their weapons and systems. But some of the short range missiles, the no-dongs, could get through and hit some cities.
Kelley: Cities where?
Pry: South Korea or US military bases in Japan. They could even get off an EMP attack which would be utterly bad news. We now have a rapidly vanishing window of opportunity. If they were to hit our allies with an EMP, we could help them recover. But if they deploy many more nuclear-armed short and long-range missiles, the problem becomes unmanageable. The key is to stop them before they get more ICBM’s, when they can hold the US mainland at risk. No American president is going to take out North Korea, at the risk of Los Angeles or Chicago, for the security purposes of Japan and South Korea.

It might be useful at this time to revisit a chillingly prescient 2003 Commentary article by Joshua Muravchik entitled "Facing Up to North Korea." He walks the reader through the chain of folly that was North Korea policy up to that time - the Agreed Framework, the predictions of wonks that the regime would sink under the weight of its economic failure. Of course, since then, we have seen utterly pointless Six-Way Talks and eight years of "strategic patience."

And now we are forced to face what Muravchik urged us to consider fourteen years ago:

Horrible, war would be. But to say that it is unthinkable is once again to hide our head in the sand. Pyongyang itself suffers under no such illusions and no such inhibitions. For its part, it insists that economic sanctions will be taken as an act of war, implying that it would respond with military strikes. Indeed, far from having viewed war with us as unthinkable, the North has calculated its demands on us over the years—that we remove our tactical nuclear weapons, that we persuade the South Koreans to forswear nuclear weapons of their own, that we cancel joint military exercises with Seoul—precisely in order to weaken our ability to resist its own military power. These demands we have systematically granted.
Not only does the North’s belligerence leave us no choice but to “think” about war, we cannot exclude the possibility of initiating military action ourselves. Part of the cause of our present predicament is that we ruled out the use of force at earlier points in this saga—when, however painful, it would have been less costly than today. And today it may be less costly than a few years from now, when North Korea will have dozens of nuclear weapons and long-range missiles (it has tested one that could reach Alaska) or when it will have shared them with al Qaeda and others.
Let that phrase "less costly than a few years from now" echo in your head as you head out to engage the world today.


  1. I will go with the "sub-par weather" for news of the day. A little dry here.
    So lets look at that scenario, US- North Korean escalation towards nuclear intervention. China will decide there. Our ability to influence this area of the world diminishes. North Korea drops bomb, bad for Chinese business, not happening in readers opinion.
    Sun Tzu and the modern World I guess.

  2. Unsettling development in last few days, though: North Korea sending signals to China that it is going to do what it wants regardless of the impact on that relationship.

  3. I personally think China long ago infiltrated the N Korean's. I do agree it is unsettling and ever vigilant is the watch word. China likes N. Korea being the villain, if it gets in the way of their business, N Korea is gone.