2017/02/21

The recent missile crises

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Both Iran and North Korea recently gained attention for testing ballistic missiles. Both events were treated as a crisis by the international Western media, and Drumpf took severe criticism for his display of lacking professionalism when read presumably confidential reports in full view of clearly unauthorised personnel. Well, at least we saw him reading more than 140 characters in one sitting for once. I actually found that to be rather reassuring.

The whole exasperation is in my opinion entirely misplaced, regardless of what the UNSC thought about it.

Western countries and Russia are testing nuclear warhead-capable missiles often and we don't presume that anyone else should feel threatened. The United States have thousands of nuclear warheads, Iran has none and would need many years to build a weak one - which remains practically impossible as long as the IAEA keeps inspecting it finding no nuclear arms program (Iran does follow its NPT obligations, while the U.S. doesn't) and the recent treaty on the issue remains in force (which Drumpf doesn't want it to be). 

North Korea meanwhile has a few nuclear warheads of low yield (but they're likely very dirty because of their inefficiency), but evidently doesn't use them on any other country. 

The entire exasperation about North Korea testing long range ballistic missiles (which could be intercepted by the operational BMD, but maybe wouldn't) is about the scenario of a nuclear warhead reaching Honolulu or even CONUS cities. This is supposed to be scary. That, of course, would also be possible if they launched a simple rocket from a ship four nautical miles off the coast, where - freedom of navigation! - they have the right to cruise anyway.

My advice is to ignore all these issues. Ignore North Korean nukes, ignore Iranian and North Korean ballistic missiles.

One hint should have been that North Korea didn't use its nukes so far.

They won't use them, ever. The North Korean regime is a hereditary tyranny with a fig leaf of communist ideology. The first and foremost objective of the entire state is to support and sustain the rule and safety of the leader and his children. Everything else is of much lesser importance (even the lives of uncles and half-brothers).
To use a nuclear warhead all but ensures defeat by a nuclear power, maybe three of them. 
Moreover, even if North Korea was in a  conventional war and losing badly, with the leader and his last troops pushed back to the Yalu - North Korea would still not use any nuclear warhead as long as the PRC offers the leader a life in exile. To use a nuclear warhead at that stage would no avert defeat, but it would ensure that the leader would be extradited or assassinated instead of surviving in exile.

Nuclear munitions larger than the really small ones (up to 1 kt TNTeq) are almost perfectly unusable post-WW2, at least against targets on land. The powers that have them have no use for them against smaller powers, and face the threat of nuclear retaliation in regard to attacks on other great powers.
A country can threaten to use nukes, but that's about it - it's almost 100% a bluff.

It's thus best to call the bluff by ignoring such "threats", even perceived peripheral threats such as ballistic missile tests. We are almost certainly safe as long as we don't attack them,and even then a use of nukes is unlikely. A military history parallel for this exists in the German non-use of Tabun nerve gas during WW2.

Next time North Korea launches a big ballistic missile congratulate them to their achievement and ask them when they will launch their first geosurveillance satellite that helps the country's agriculture to optimise the use of land for food production. Don't treat it as a national security issue. It isn't one.
One advice in particular to politicians who want to communicate the "strong man" image; being easily scared by harmless missile tests doesn't fit the image you want to project. Cool, dismissive statements on the other hand would do so.


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7 comments:

  1. I'm sorry, but actually using "Drumpf" makes it incredibly hard for me to take you seriously.

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    1. What a coincidence.
      That's EXACTLY hat I think when I listen to him and his confused half-sentences that would earn an F in 3rd grade English tests.

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    2. Are we talking about the same person? Trump strikes me as extraordinarily intelligent and well-spoken. Just watch his interviews on economic topics before he became president, he can give most economists a run for their money.

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    3. You sound like a satirist to me.

      https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/right-turn/wp/2016/09/29/trumps-gop-is-clueless-about-the-21st-century-economy/

      https://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/dec/19/what-the-us-economy-doesnt-need-from-donald-trump

      Drumpf talked a few times about how more investment in infrastructure is necessary, but his first try at proposing how to pull it off was nothing but a make-billionnaires-richer scheme because he wanted to pretend that it's possible without higher taxes or more public debt.

      Besides, the odds of Drumpf to create a strong growth are marginal because there's going to be no catch up effect after the long years of recovery any more.
      An average 2% p.a. per capita real GDP growth would a huge success in the next four years. 1.2-1.7% would be rather more likely.

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  2. Because you are soooooo much smarter than him. Sven, your military mind is awesome, but your politics suck. Drumpf. Whatever.

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  3. I don't think it's a good idea to be too dismissive of a test that is intended as chest beating, while you probably are right that they will never use the nukes they might resort to some other aggressive actions against their neighbors that aren't simply symbolic.

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    1. Well, yes.

      Next time they attack and sink a ship announce that the NK navy ships will be destroyed in 48 hours, and only their ships. Then do it.

      Next time they violate airspace intentionally - same drill with their air force, but in 24 hours to keep them from hiding the planes in time.

      Next time agents land in mini subs in SK - launch a propaganda leaflet campaign that lasts one week for every agent who tried to land.

      That little fat tyrant needs to understand that the West will leave him alone if he leaves the West alone, and punishes him harshly if he misbehaves.

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