Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Red Alert: North Korea -- Is There a Military Solution?

By The Strategic Forcasting. Inc (STRATFOR)

Whatever the political realities may seem to dictate after a North Korean nuclear test, an overt military strike -- even one limited to cruise missiles -- is not in the cards. The consequences of even the most restrained attack could be devastating.


The reported detonation of a nuclear device by North Korea on Oct. 9 raises the question of potential military action against North Korea. The rationale for such a strike would be simple. North Korea, given its rhetoric, cannot be allowed to have nuclear weapons. Therefore, an attack to deny them the facilities with which to convert their device into a weapon and deploy it is essential. If such an attack were to take place, it is assumed, the United States would play the dominant or even sole role.

This scenario assumes that North Korea is as aggressive as its rhetoric.

But what about North Korea's well-armed neighbors -- Russia, China, South Korea, Japan? Would they not be willing to assume the major burden of an attack against North Korea? Is the United States really willing to go it alone, even while engaged in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan?

Leaving these obvious political questions aside for the moment, let's reverse the issue by posing it in military terms: What would a U.S. strike against North Korea look like?

The USS Kitty Hawk is currently sitting in port at Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan. The USS Enterprise is operating in the Arabian Sea, while the Nimitz and the Stennis are conducting exercises off the coast of California. All are an ocean away, and none is less than a week's transit from the region. Nevertheless, naval cruise missiles are readily available, as are long-range strikes by B-2A Spirit stealth bombers and B-52H Stratofortresses and B-1B Lancers currently supporting NATO operations in Afghanistan out of Diego Garcia. A more robust strike package would take longer to deploy.

When U.S. military planners have nightmares, they have nightmares about war with North Korea. Even the idea of limited strikes against the isolated nation is fraught with potential escalations. The problem is the mission. A limited attack against nuclear facilities might destabilize North Korea or lead North Korea to the conclusion that the United States would intend regime change.

Regime preservation is the entire point of its nuclear capability. Therefore, it is quite conceivable that Kim Jong-Il and his advisors -- or other factions --might construe even the most limited military strikes against targets directly related to missile development or a nuclear program as an act threatening the regime, and therefore one that necessitates a fierce response. Regime survival could very easily entail a full, unlimited reprisal by the Korean People's Army (KPA) to any military strike whatsoever on North Korean soil.

North Korea has some 10,000 fortified artillery pieces trained on Seoul. It is essential to understand that South Korea's capital city, a major population center and the industrial heartland of South Korea, is within range of conventional artillery. The United States has been moving its forces out of range of these guns, but the South Koreans cannot move their capital.

Add to this the fact that North Korea has more than 100 No-Dong missiles that can reach deep into South Korea, as well as to Japan, and we can see that the possibility for retaliation is very real. Although the No-Dong has not always been the most reliable weapon, just the possibility of dozens of strikes against U.S. forces in Korea and other cities in Korea and Japan presents a daunting scenario.

North Korea has cultivated a reputation for unpredictability. Although it has been fairly conservative in its actions compared to its rhetoric, the fact is that no one can predict North Korea's response to strikes against its nuclear facilities. And with Seoul at risk -- a city of 20 million people -- the ability to take risks is limited.

The United States must assume, for the sake of planning, that U.S. airstrikes would be followed by massed artillery fire on Seoul. Now, massed artillery is itself not immune to countermeasures. But North Korea's artillery lies deep inside caves and fortifications all along the western section of the demilitarized zone (DMZ). An air campaign against these guns would take a long time, during which enormous damage would be done to Seoul and the South Korean economy -- perhaps on the order of several hundred thousand high-explosive rounds per hour. Even using tactical nuclear weapons against this artillery would pose serious threats to Seoul. The radiation from even low-yield weapons could force the evacuation of the city.

The option of moving north into the North Korean defensive belt is an option, but an enormously costly one. North Korea has a huge army and, on the defensive, it can be formidable. Fifty years of concerted military fortification would make Hezbollah's preparations in southern Lebanon look like child's play. Moving U.S. and South Korean armor into this defensive belt could break it, but only with substantial casualties and without the certainty of success. A massive stalemate along the DMZ, if it developed, would work in favor of the larger, defensive force.

Moreover, the North Koreans would have the option of moving south. Now, in U.S. thinking, this is the ideal scenario. The North Korean force on the move, outside of its fortifications, would be vulnerable to U.S. and South Korean airstrikes and superior ground maneuver and fire capabilities. In most war games, the defeat of North Korea requires the KPA to move south, exposing itself to counterstrikes.

However, the same war-gaming has also supposed at least 30 days for the activation and mobilization of U.S. forces for a counterattack. U.S. and South Korean forces would maintain an elastic defense against the North; as in the first war, forces would be rushed into the region, stabilizing the front, and then a counterattack would develop, breaking the North Korean army and allowing a move north.

There are three problems with this strategy. The first is that the elastic strategy would inevitably lead to the fall of Seoul and, if the 1950 model were a guide, a much deeper withdrawal along the Korean Peninsula. Second, the ability of the U.S. Army to deploy substantial forces to Korea within a 30-day window is highly dubious. Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom both required much longer periods of time.

Finally, the U.S. Army is already fighting two major ground wars and is stretched to the breaking point. The rotation schedule is now so tight that units are already spending more time in Iraq than they are home between rotations. The idea that the U.S. Army has a multidivisional force available for deployment in South Korea would require a national mobilization not seen since the last Korean War.

It comes down to this: If the United States strikes at North Korea's nuclear capabilities, it does so placing a bet. And that bet is that North Korea will not respond. That might be true, but if it is not true, it poses a battlefield problem to which neither South Korea nor the United States will be able to respond. In one scenario, the North Koreans bombard Seoul and the United States makes a doomed attempt at shutting down the massive artillery barrage. By the time the guns are silenced -- even in the best-case scenarios -- Seoul will be a mess. In another scenario, the North Korean army executes an offensive of even minimal competence, which costs South Korea its capital and industrial heartland. The third is a guerrilla onslaught from the elite of the North Korean Army, deployed by mini-subs and tunnels under the DMZ. The guerrillas pour into the south and wreak havoc on U.S. military installations.

That is how a U.S. strike -- and its outcome -- might look. Now, what about the Chinese and Russians? They are, of course, not likely to support such a U.S. attack (and could even supply North Korea in an extended war). Add in the fact that South Korea would not be willing to risk destroying Seoul and you arrive at a situation where even a U.S. nuclear strike against nuclear and non-nuclear targets would pose an unacceptable threat to South Korea.

There are two advantages the United States has. The first is time. There is a huge difference between a nuclear device and a deployable nuclear weapon. The latter has to be shaped into a small, rugged package able to be launched on a missile or dropped from a plane. Causing atomic fission is not the same as having a weapon.

The second advantage is distance. The United States is safe and far away from North Korea. Four other powers -- Russia, China, South Korea and Japan -- have much more to fear from North Korea than the United States does. The United States will always act unilaterally if it feels that it has no other way to protect its national interest. As it is, however, U.S. national interest is not at stake.

South Korea faces nothing less than national destruction in an all-out war. South Korea knows this and it will vigorously oppose any overt military action. Nor does China profit from a destabilized North Korea and a heavy-handed U.S. military move in its backyard. Nevertheless, if North Korea is a threat, it is first a threat to its immediate neighbors, one or more of whom can deal with North Korea.

In the end, North Korea wants regime survival. In the end, allowing the North Koran regime to survive is something that has been acceptable for over half a century. When you play out the options, the acquisition of a nuclear device -- especially one neither robust nor deployable -- does not, by itself, compel the United States to act, nor does it give the United States a militarily satisfactory option. The most important issue is the transfer of North Korean nuclear technology to other countries and groups. That is something the six-party talk participants have an equal interest in and might have the leverage to prevent.

Every situation does not have a satisfactory military solution. This seems to be one of them.

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Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Our Next Secretary General : The Washington Ally ?

By Perry PADA

In my previous article regarding the identity of the next UNSG titled “It’s Time to Show Ambition” (Why not Indonesia Run for UNSG Office), I was convinced that it would be easy to predict the identity of the next person to occupy the position, that is one of the Asian candidates. I clearly stated that “it must be a candidate from among the Superpower’s friends or allies or at least from a country not ill disposed to US Global policy in the region” (The Academia Chronicle, June 2006).

In that observation, I was right, the closest friend and ally of USA in Asia from among other UNSG contenders is of course the South Korea Foreign Minister, Mr. Ban Ki Moon (62). He would be the second Asian UNSG after Mr. U Thant from Burma (1961-1971). While the UNSG contest is still to be finalized by the U.N. General Assembly, he has formally been nominated for the post by the Security Council. Therefore, South Korea outmanoeuvred the other six candidates from India, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Jordan and Latvia. The six rivals had already signalled their withdrawal and support for the South Korea candidate.

My earlier analysis was a contrary one. I argued that South Korea would not be a good candidate to win. My argument was largely based on South Korea’s deficiency rooted in the protracted conflict on the Korean Peninsula. Traditionally, a UNSG candidate was thought to come from a country which was not engaged in either internal or external conflict. This unwritten precondition was thought to be very important in order to maintain the candidates objectivity in a crisis. I was further assuming that it was unlikely that the Korean candidate would gain enough support from both Europe and Asia and clearly not from its South East Asia Neighbours in ASEAN. The ten members of ASEAN had already caucused and formally announced their support for Thailand. Unfortunately, the ASEAN candidate lost support following the 19 September 2006 Military Coup in Thailand. It would appear as if there was an unpredictable miscalculation.

What made Ban Ki Moon – South Korea’s candidate successful? It is an interesting issue since it would entail much geopolitical analyses particularly over the nuclear security issues in the region. This has become even more acute since North Korea’s detonation of a nuclear device at Gilju, Hamgyong Province on Sunday. I assume it is not solely Ban’s profile that contributed to his success, but the country profile of South Korea, and its potential regional role. Ban’s personal profile is more or less comparable to the other candidates. Therefore, one can conclude that the candidates personal capability is not the only prerequisite for victory. The candidate’s country profile is a determinant one and the most advantageous element to the victory. It is a state contest and not a personal one. To this point, we might begin to ask why South Korea? And could Korea promote the interests of developing countries? There are some logical points in responding to the above question.

First, there are some advantageous points in Ban’s personal background, Ban was Educated at Harvard University which familiarized him with the American school of toughness. In addition, he was twice assigned to the South Korean Embassy in Washington and is a former director general of American affairs in the South Korean Foreign Ministry before being appointed as FA Minister. According to some journalists (The New York Times) personally, Ban has the firm backing of the Bush Administration and is known as an ally of Washington. One might further speculate that Ban has been groomed by Washington for some years. To this ‘Washington ally’ issue, Ban denied that his relations with the U.S. would impede his efforts to resolve the burning issues of the Iranian and North Korean nuclear programs. (The Agence France - Presse)

Second, historically, South Korea and the USA have been close allies throughout the post Second World War period. Since the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950 South Korea has become a US military zone in protecting its security interest in the region. Therefore, since the cold war era in 1950s South Korea has been the American backbone in its containment strategy against China and North Korea. The military alliance has also successfully contributed to the economic progress of South Korea. According to some studies, the South Korea – USA mutual security Treaty creates a climate of stability favourable for foreign trade and investment and for preferential treatment by USA. The 30.000 US force presence also provides an economic subsidy to South Korea by enabling Seoul to maintain a much more formidable posture that it could afford on its own. However, this policy also has proven to be an impediment to North/South reconciliation. (Policy Forum on Line 06-28A, 11 April 2006).

Third, one may also question China’s position in support of South Korea’s candidacy. North Korea and China have been in a long alliance since the Korean War. Moreover, according to some reliable sources China is now a stakeholder in North Korea’s economy. China has repeatedly blocked UNSC resolutions against North Korea, including some threatening sanctions. China also hosts the six party talks (North Korea, South Korea, Japan, China, Russia and the USA) to prevent punitive sanctions from the UNSC, the USA and its allies. China is seen as a buffer between North Korea, the USA and Japan. (Council on Foreign Relations, July 2006). The decision to support South Korea’s candidate does not mean China is turning its back on the North. It is to support its own strategy. Since for China, stability and the avoidance of war are the top priorities. The clear worry, according to some, of Beijing is that the collapse of North Korea would lead to chaos on the border creating hundreds of thousands of refugees flooding into China (Stanford’s Asia-Pacific Research Centre) while endangering China huge investments ($ 2 billion /year) in the country..

Therefore, for China it is better to maintain the status quo on the Korean peninsula. Continuing of the US - South Korea alliance will serve China’s strategic regional objective. It is quite diplomacy with a big gain, politically and economically. I assume the “same analysis” can be given to the Russian position to support South Korea. In addition China’s economic and political relationship with South Korea has dramatically transformed in recent years, with the ballooning of trade and investment. To this point, China has replaced the US as Korea’s largest trading partner. China has also been the beneficiary of the rising tensions between Seoul and Washington over the behaviour of US troops stationed in the South Korea.

Finally, regarding the question of promoting (less) developing countries, I am not sure our new UNSG will focus more on third world humanitarian issues, since I am assuming he will be overwhelmed by security’s issues. To this, Ban stated that South Korea can understand the pains and difficulties of developing nations because she has risen by over coming them (Newsweek, October 16). Let us hope our new UNSG meets with success.

Jakarta, 10 October 2006

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Sunday, October 08, 2006

Demonstration or Social Crowd?

By Perry PADA

Was it the “May 1998” demonstrations that made the most powerful Indonesian President Soeharto step down from office? There are a range of political views surrounding that question. To some, the answer is best sought in the fact that the decision to step down at that crucial moment was solely Soeharto’s. The accumulation of power accrued over the 32 years he reigned in Indonesia (1966-1998) provided him and his cronies with sufficient raw power to easily crush the dissidents. The immediate and clear example was the termination of almost half million the so called member of Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) in 1965 – 1966, plus a substantial number of one of our racial minorities. Finally, the famous demonstration in May 1998 yielded a lifetime social security guarantee for Soeharto and the crony families as a result of the “demonstration”

Eight years have now passed since Soeharto’s fall (1998-2006), during which time Indonesia has experienced four Presidents. They are consecutively (1) President Habibie 1998 -1999; ( 2) President Abdurrahman Wahid 1999–2001; (3) President Megawati Soekarno Putri 2001 -2004, (4) President Yudhoyono 2004 to the present. All of these administrations have been colored by demonstrations demanding the upholding of law and justice. To date, however, the reality is that that Soeharto has remained a powerful and untouchable man in Indonesian politics. Amidst the crowded demonstrations and the vacuous political statements, he is fully regarded as a “Guru” by many politicians. However, it is not my intention to discuss the above since we can easily find many clich├ęd views on the issue.

The interesting issue is that most Indonesians since then have come to accept a new praxis that demonstrations are a powerful tool for bringing about change. It is no wonder, since May 1998 until very recently in 2006, demonstrations followed by others of any size and forms have flourished in the country raising a wide variety of themes. Since earlier this year demonstrations have become the most popular means able to bring about elite changes in the broadest sense. But are those demonstrations able to contribute to a social change, in term of economic, social and political life?

In this short article it is impossible to fully elaborate these social movements but one can question if these demonstrations on many occasions are merely a social fallacy and have become a political commodity. Massive demonstrations have been conducted by the people in Indonesia particularly in many big cities since 1998 and certainly they can be identified as one of the elements of the development of democracy. But in the final analysis they are meaningless if they do not bring about significant social change. To this, I am tempted to raise the fundamental question as to why with so many demonstrations have we seen so little real improvement in peoples lives? Unfortunately, they remain laborers marginalized in society. If we look at the rural areas the situation is even worse, with famine, illiteracy and suffering from all other manifestations of poverty.

On the basis of limited and ongoing research, I must admit that it is difficult to fully understand the distinction between demonstrations which produce a solid public opinion resulting in change and demonstrations which merely whip up a crowd and result in no meaningful change at all. For this purpose, a crowd can be defined as “a sporadic mass action without any collective political consciousness while its connective action occurs is limited to the result of its temporarily needs and interests”. The crowd is just contributing to the stagnancy of the evolving of democracy itself. Some precise criteria are needed to judge whether growing demonstrations in all of their forms in Indonesia are gradually and steadily mounting symmetrically to the growing of peoples political consciousness of a democratic life.

Demonstrations, however, are not always identical with social movements that lead to an authentic democracy. Demonstration, I assume, can be an initial step or a prelude to a social movement. Theoretically, any kind of social movement is supposed to ultimately result in the creation of four consecutive levels of an autonomous movement according to some western social scientists, they are; (1) systematic social pressure followed by (2) formation of the public sphere and further to (3) formation of strong public opinion. And the last but not least, the existence of (4) a strong and decisive social class as a peoples guarantor. The development of each level is necessary supported by “good” and “autonomous” NGOs, Media and “People Parliament Representatives”. Of course a series of social, political and economic measures are needed to empower any movement.

It is unfortunate that in reality freedom of expression transformed into demonstrations do not significantly exhibit the essence of democracy that enables people to express their own genuine will. The quantity of demonstrations in Indonesia is numerically significant but the quality remains poor. Demonstrations have turned into street shows with ‘smart’ politicians utilizing them as a forum to increase their public performance. Therefore, rather than the development of a policy for improvement of social and political conditions, demonstrations are empowering the elite to increase and consolidate their privilege. To this point, it is very important to carefully examine whether peoples resistance and support or both of demonstrations, can be defined as a reaction against injustice or are they being manipulated? It is a fact that demonstrations can be easily engineered by some vested groups for their own ends.

In evaluating the effectiveness of demonstrations it is most important to examine the extent to which these events have provided the people with instruments of socio-economic and political empowerment. The easiest way to measure it, is to explore to what extent demonstrations are able to be the influential tool for the changing of reality or to the making of public policy seen by and felt by the people. The end product of public policy after all is that it has to clearly lean to peoples needs and interests.

What concerns us is the possibility that all recent demonstrations have merely been a euphoric psychological release after the experience of three decades of pressure. The worst case outcome would be that demonstrations have, unconsciously or not, been commoditized by a certain elite group. Should this be the case it would be a setback for the democratic process in Indonesia, as the demonstration would merely be a gathering of the crowd. The crowd will never contribute to the development of democracy.

Theoretically, within a society that is neither economically or educationally advantaged the people have not developed the foresight to be able to see beyond their immediate limited material interest. They unconsciously tend to give up their individual wills to powerful economic interests. These circumstances are exploited by fortune hunters to gain their goals through massive demonstration.

It is a fact that desperate people are very easy to be prodded in any direction and therefore, groups can easily be formed within days, and finally a resultant demonstration. Actually, there are current rumors that nowadays, some people have established a “company” specializing in providing masses of people ready to demonstrate on order on any issue as long as they are paid an hourly fee. The companies recruit and train unemployed people in street demonstration techniques. Demonstrations have become a profitable business in Indonesia. For the needy, being a demonstration participant is a shortcut to fulfill their basic needs that cannot be provided by the government. Political issues can be easily promoted, and have been, in this way.
With a population of 222 million, 70 percent under educated with little economic opportunity, Indonesia has faced great difficulty in bringing about significant social change.

It was formally noted by the Indonesian Statistical Bureau in March 2006, that 18 percent or almost 40 million Indonesians, live under the poverty line. Additionally, it is deteriorating with the increase of bourgeois-ism and the lack of “good people” within government circles. Under such circumstances, I have to be very frank that it is difficult to have a good quality of life, at least in the short run. The “fortunate people” who hold a position in the elevated social class are tending to be self centered pursuing their own material greed. Therefore, it is extremely difficult to clearly identify or to control those who usurp their elite position as part of the capitalist bourgeoisie who have come to enjoy profit from the misery of others.

To conclude, yes, the development of pluralism, formal/informal local democratic institutions and the growing of NGOs through demonstrations may be a prelude for the development of a democratic agenda. And yes, some demonstrations are successful in bringing about changes, but there is no single guaranty that they will lead to the creation of an open and democratic society. To this end, the core meanings of our social movements are clearly depending on the quality of the freedom measured by its success in improving the condition of the majority of our fellow citizens.

Jakarta, 28 September 2006

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