NBC: U.S. May Launch Strike If North Korea Reaches For Nuclear Trigger. The Pentagon response is a dour not-quite-denial: (Reuters) Pentagon declines comment on NBC story on North Korea.
I have been thinking along these lines myself, but in the interest of not tipping the U.S. hand, I refrained. This is an open source blog, but it is also an easy digest for adversaries as well as friends.
This is the root of the conventional, almost unnoticed assumption, that any response to North Korea must be nonescalatory. This piece isn’t contradicting that, but merely drawing it out. If the strict regime of nonescalatory response were loosened, options exist. I don’t want to discuss them. I don’t want to impede a possible U.S. response in any way. So as interesting as the the subject is, I must forgo.
Since (NBC) “multiple senior U.S. intelligence officials” don’t leak stupidly, it’s kosher to discuss this in general terms. I still don’t want to draw all the options. But in Xi-Trump meeting; Long Range; North Korea, I wrote:
Since Trump’s concept of achievements is that they are fungible, he reconsiders the South China Sea. There are things you want to keep, and things you want to trade. It’s key to streamlining a business.
One of the purposes of this blog is to make open source analysis a teachable skill. One of the most powerful predictive tools was devised by Benjamin Franklin: the list of pros and cons. The genius of it is that in the tally, each item on the list is given equal weight. Let’s apply that now to the question of a U.S. action against the North.
- Trump’s vow to solve the problem of North Korea.
- His recent use of force in Syria.
- The enthusiasm of China state media with the Xi-Trump meeting, in spite of China’s awareness of the above. Hence, the “trading material” reference.
- Shared dislike of “Fatty Kim.”
- Possible awareness by South Korea of a grim future with the North.
- The conventional wisdom that force is off the table. Conventional wisdom is always vulnerable.
- A possible attack by the North on the South, with all the ramifications.
- Refusal by the South to face up to the growing threat.
Notice that all the things that could happen to the South are not itemized. In the opposite extreme every casualty could be an element of the list. In Franklin’s use of his method, tightly linked propositions are collapsed into a single list element. Each list element has the same weight.
Since the pros have it, 6 to 2, the estimate is that an attack has significant chance. It may have strange aspects.
China’s role may not be entirely passive.