Beyond the Cusp

December 5, 2017

Partisanship and North Korean Threat

 

The November 28, 2017, ICBM missile test by North Korea of a Hwasong-15 missile, the first test of this missile, was a development which forced the world, the United States particularly, to be placed on notice that Kim Jong-un just entered near parity with all other nations in launch capabilities. The missile reached an altitude of around 4475 km (2780 miles) and traveled some 950 km downrange with a flight time of almost one hour. If fired on a more traditional attack trajectory, then the Hwasong-15 would easily be able to reach anywhere in the United States and the world (see map below for ranges of previous tests including the Hwasong-14 ICBM). This latest missile is considered to be capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. Whether North Korea has the technology to produce a tactically usable warhead has been debated by Pentagon and CIA personnel. The two questions which would require North Korea to be capable of making a tactically usable weapon come down to miniaturization of an actual weapon to sufficiently small size and weight, and survivability of reentry while retaining all capabilities. Most estimates grant the miniaturization part of the process, though some still have their doubts, but the jury is still out over the survivability part of the equation. We believe that North Korea has likely solved all of these problems and had done so even before Kim Jong-un came to power and he simply lacked the missile for delivery of the package. Now he has all the elements necessary making production and distribution of the missiles and warheads is all Kim Jong-un requires to have the ability to threaten the world whenever he chooses.

 

Hwasong-14 ICBM Estimated Range

Hwasong-14 ICBM Estimated Range

 

President Trump made a statement on the economy and tax cuts but began the media meeting with a short mention of the North Korean missile test in the video below. The remainder of his talk he stressed that the Democrat leaders of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, and the Senate, Chuck Schumer, were absent from the meeting to which they were invited for a discussion with the President and their Republican counterparts. The President noted that the Democrats and Republicans are far apart in their ideas for the country and the direction it should be required to move. The main differences were defined as crime, immigration and national defense and how these issues should affect the budget and the issue of tax cuts and simplification. It was obvious that this meeting with the media had been planned for addressing economic priorities and that the President knew and was well prepared to make hay out of the Democrat leadership refusal to join him just to be harangued over their positions. Sometimes a small shame is preferable to a drawn out spectacle, and the President is long on spectacle and thus far short on production. This has mostly to do with two simple facts, one blaming the Democrat Party and the other the Republican Party.

 

 

We will return to the budget, taxes and the divided Congress and nation, but first a short trip to the United Nations where the Security Council held an emergency meeting on North Korea and their Ballistic Missile Launch. Below is a video about said meeting with commentary from United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley as well as the Ambassadors from Japan, Great Britain, China, Russia and South Korea. The approximately one hour meeting spent much time on the seriousness of the breaking of the United Nations placed limitations on North Korea. The Breaking of this treaty is a serious and threatening action which requires the United Nations to take steps. The estimate was given that if flown on a standard trajectory it would have a range in excess of 13000 kilometers. The polar circumference of the globe is 39,931 kilometers which means that this North Korean ICBM could readily strike anywhere over around two-thirds of the planet with Africa and South America being the only continents not mostly within range and leaving the southern most parts of Australia beyond the missile range. This missile is the game changer which President Trump had set as one of the parameters of the North Korean capabilities which would force the United States to act. The other items included miniaturized warhead capability and reentry-hardened capability, both of which may already have been realized. The problem is without an actual successful deployment of a nuclear weapon on an ICBM, hopefully into an empty part of the oceans and after warnings with adequate time for ships exiting the effected area, there is no means of actually verifying these last two items.

 

 

The meeting was as much of a punch-down on the Democrats and list of their opposing attitudes for the future of the United States. The fact is that the Democrat Party members in Congress, both the House and Senate, will vote almost exclusively as a single entity opposing everything and anything which President Trump or the Republicans attempt to pass as legislation. The President also took a jab at the media for their misreporting on his words parsing his words looking for any single misstep to flaunt before the people. The recent Senate passage of tax reform legislation was a perfect display of both problems faced by President Trump and the shortfall of the Republican leadership in and outside of Congress. The tax cuts were passed without a single Democrat voting in favor, not a single Democrat Senator voting favorably. This has become the expected voting by the Democrats where their leadership has taken an extreme position of complete and total opposition. The sole example of the Republican opposition of President Obama and his legislation was against Obamacare, otherwise the Republicans were permitted to vote their conscience and representing the desires and needs of their constituents. Not so from the Democrat Party which has decided that everything passed which was not of their drafting will be opposed totally and completely until the Republicans realize the error of their ways as the majority party and allow the Democrats, who are in the minority and do not hold the White House, to write and pass into law everything according to their demands and ideas. Very simply stated, the Democrats have decided that only their party may lead the country and they will oppose everything not of their authorship. That is more dysfunction than principled stance. A principled stance would permit those in the party who felt that something written by the other party was worthy, could support that legislation. That is no longer permitted by the Democrat Party and any Democrat voting for any legislation will not be permitted funds from the central party and may face party sponsored opposition in the primaries. That is not the actions of a functional party, that is the attempt of the few to assume all-powerful positions given even the slightest opportunity.

 

The other side of the coin has exactly the opposite problem, as there are a group of Republicans, specifically in the Senate, who willingly oppose the Party leadership and especially the President and his proposals by refusing to pass necessary legislation. Even this tax legislation was held up by the ‘Never Trumpsters’ until they were permitted to weaken some parts and add their own pet propositions which were not desired by the President as his aim was to simplify the tax code and this small set of demands accomplished the opposite. These are the same Republicans who while guaranteed their legislation to repeal Obamacare was guaranteed under President Obama passed legislation calling for exactly that over one hundred times yet now that such legislation would be received with great enthusiasm by President Trump, this small group of anti-Trump Republicans who believe that only political functionaries such as themselves should be permitted to seek the White House, have refused to try and repeal Obamacare now. These few recalcitrant Republican Senators, which include a former losing Presidential candidate, believe their positions are more popular than those upon which the President of the United States campaigned. These problematic Republicans could guarantee that President Trump would be reelected simply passing two or three of the Presidential programs, tax reform, border wall and stronger immigration vetting, to make the Presidential 2020 campaign one based on accomplishments. They appear to prefer he fail and the Democrats gain control. This may be because they find it easier to oppose from the minority than act as a majority and take responsibility for the country and the needs of the people. So the two problems the nation is facing are the complete opposition by the Democrats and the lack of unity in the Republicans. There will always be those who side with the other side and others who insist on the limelight not capable of sharing center stage. If they only would realize that they are but the clown left to entertain before the adults take the stage, perhaps they would act responsibly for a change.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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November 15, 2017

Could United States Forces Prevent North Korean Attack?

 

Lieutenant General (ret.) Jan-Marc Jouas wrote in a leaked letter to members of the US Congress, US troops “are vastly outnumbered by North Korean forces, as well as (South Korean) forces that will conduct the overwhelming majority of the fighting.” General Jouas adds, “Unlike every conflict since the last Korean War, we will not be able to build up our forces prior to the start of hostilities.” May we add that in our opinion, the general is a flaming optimist. There is anywhere, depending on the assessed threat levels, between thirty-five thousand and fifty thousand United States Army forces on the line at any given time backed up by what is considered a significant number of South Korean forces. They are backed up by air power and artillery stationed in South Korea as well as air-power from Guam, the Philippines, Hawaii, Japan and the naval forces from United States Seventh Fleet (Seventh Fleet Battle Group pictured below).

 

United States Seventh Fleet Battle Group

United States Seventh Fleet Battle Group

 

The following is our own assessment of the situation for the United States forces stationed in South Korea and their civilian employees and the rest of the population of South Korea. They are all toast should North Korea decide to initiate a war. The initial threat would be the launching of rockets and firing of artillery which might include chemical weapon rounds and would lay waste to much of the northern sections of Seoul. The initial firings and launchings could be utilized to a devastating effect on the entire length of the DMZ emplacements which defend South Korea and are often referred to as the first line of defense. The name we gave these soldiers was the trip wire which would notify command that everything they prayed would never happen, was in fact happening. These troops were never designed to prevent North Korean troops from invading South Korea, they were placed there such that the United States would have an excuse to reengage in the actual longest running war in which the United States has ever been engaged. The Korean War never ended, it only was suspended with the signing of an armistice which is merely a cease-fire. Every time even a single bullet crosses the DMZ, even an accidental discharge, the armistice is technically broken and the other side could reengage in hostilities while blaming the other side for actually initiating the renewed war. Other than the troops “guarding” the DMZ, the population of Seoul would be the other major group of victims as North Korea has made everything clear that they would intentionally target all of Seoul murdering civilians. This is their intentions despite North Korea being a signatory to the Geneva Convention Protocols.

 

Known North Korea Artillery Sites with Range of Fire

Known North Korea Artillery Sites with Range of Fire

 

In the end, the resulting carnage would be something the Korean Peninsula would find recoverable but requiring decades if not centuries. North Korea would likely face destruction on a scale previously thought unimaginable should this occur while President Trump is in office as it is doubtful Secretary of Defense James Mattis, a retired Marine four star General as well as Commander of United States Central Command, Commander of the United States Joint Forces Command, Supreme Allied Commander Transformation and whose dress blues are decorated with an impressive amount of salad, would even wait for President Trump to order an attack before readying all the forces which could conceivably engage North Korea to prepare to act immediately when given the go command. He did not earn the nickname “Mad Dog” for a passive demeanor, so one would expect him to be ready for any threat. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson may try to be a voice of reasoned response and advise caution, which we would not be surprised to hear, but between Secretary of Defense James Mattis, White House Chief of Staff and John F. Kelly, also a four star Marine General, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph F. Dunford, another four star Marine General and active as well, and if three retired Marine Four Star Generals were not sufficient to convince President Trump to overreact immediately, there would likely be one more voice demanding action, United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley. One might almost feel sorry for Secretary of State Rex Tillerson trying to make himself heard as the voice of reason calling for some degree of hesitation to try to end the confrontation without resorting to escalating the situation. Then again, we are prejudging that Secretary of State Tillerson would not also be in favor of making South Korea into an island off the coast of China.

 

The truth is that should Kim Jong Un actually desire uniting the Korean Peninsula knowing that the United States is tied by treaty and United Nations edict to come to the defense of South Korea should they be attacked by North Korea, Kim Jong Un would be more likely to act first on his threats against the United States as well as President Trump. This could be accomplished in any of a number of means. The most obvious is the expected firing of ICBMs at the major cities of the United States. There has been discussion of the southern vulnerability to orbital missile attack which the United States faces. This exists as the United States defenses were all designed in addressing an attack from the Soviet Union. North Korea is a new threat and was given access to the Soviet Union southern attack plans which they developed back in the 1980’s in order to address a means of avoiding the United States defenses. North Korea has already launched satellites which would have been capable of using just such an approach in the past. But this attack plan has given way to something more realistic, so keep reading.

 

North Korea has tested six nuclear weapons in the recent past. The last two were reportedly thermonuclear weapons, in the vernacular, hydrogen bombs. Most of their weapons have had much lower yields than what most expected such weapons to produce. There is but one rational explanation for this result. These weapons are intended for a specific purpose, to produce the maximum EMP which, for reasons which nuclear expert scientists can ably explain, are a special orientation which while producing the maximum EMP yield and also a rather dirty bomb with high but very short lived radiation, produce lower than expected explosive yields. In other words, they give less pop but more pizzazz than the normative thermonuclear device of old which was designed to destroy a city. These devices are called Super EMP devices which are the result of a concerted effort between the Soviet Union and China and provided to North Korea by their ever-caring provider, China. Yes, the same China which now claims to have lost their leash and declared Kim Jong Un to be outside their control. Of course that is simply only partly true as China and her trade and support financially of North Korea is responsible for most of the economy.

 

The threat such a weapon poses were it to be exploded high in the atmosphere over the central United States is potentially devastating. Such a detonation could conceivably destroy the majority of the North American electrical grid plunging all but the east and west coasts into blackout as the transformers would be overloaded and rendered inoperable. Estimates are that it could take as long as a decade to completely repair the damage. The worse case scenario would have well over three-quarters of the population of the United States perishing in the first year alone and also rendering the United States vulnerable to invasion. There would also be problems for central Canada though northern Canada and her coasts would be unaffected. The dire consequences of such an EMP device is well defined by Dr. Peter Vincent Pry as well as debunking the detractors who claim otherwise. Needless to point out, the United States vulnerability to such a devastating attack should be of far more importance than it has received to date. As pointed out by Dr. Peter Vincent Pry, “For 17 years the EMP Commission warned, in the words of the 2004 EMP Commission Executive Report: “The current vulnerability of U.S. critical infrastructures can both invite and reward attack if not corrected; however, correction is feasible and well within the Nation’s means and resources to accomplish.”

 

The truth is that the Congress and President were first briefed by the military upon their surprise discovery of the dangers of EMP after their own nuclear tests having knocked out electrical devices at a distant base after a nuclear above ground test in the Pacific theater. This was back in the 1950’s when adapting the electrical grid would have been far simpler and almost inexpensive by even the standards of the day. The electronic grid could be modernized and protected from an EMP device and implemented in 3-5 years at a cost of $10-20 billion. The complication is that every year the price will rise and the time required would also grow. Such an upgrade could include other upgrades making the grid intelligent which would lead to lower maintenance costs as well as numerous other advantages. But as nobody in Congress can place their name on an upgrade, the funding will go into items which often are unnecessary but are new constructions which Senators or Representatives can place their name on a sign taking credit. When someone becomes the first to place a sign taking credit for an upgrade, such as this resurfacing brought to you care of Senator Blah, perhaps upgrading on substations could begin. Until such a time or when the people find out the truth of the EMP vulnerability of the United States and entire North American electrical grids, then perhaps the required and necessary upgrades will be considered. What would it take to get these upgrades done, probably a miracle from Heaven. Still, the North Korean madman, Kim Jong Un, is most likely to attack the United States before attempting to unify the Korean Peninsula and such an attack would take the form of an EMP attack. As far as the United States preventing such an attack, that might take a miracle where just the right balance between bluster and pressure on China to pressure North Korea. There will always be those claiming that pressure should come from the United Nations Security Council sanctions where approximately seven sets of sanctions passed already have had absolutely minimal effect. This could be something which can be done with no desired result just to say it was tried, but some point of strength and threat need be put in place always leaving that small amount of doubt in Kim Jong Un’s mind just to keep him balanced, unbalanced is his normal condition.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

October 29, 2017

America at the Tipping Point

 

The citizens of the United States are separated by a division approaching that of the period before the Civil War. There are still a good number of people who have not raced to the far extremes of the political battle but they are being shut from the conversation. Those at the fringe edges have gained in numbers during the campaigns with Bernie Sanders at one end and Donald Trump pictured as the other extreme and Hillary Clinton actually less extreme though with other difficulties she was unable to overcome. The election of Donald Trump as President simply sent more people heading for the exits from rational, polite discourse into frenzied and often irrational vindictive and vicious name-calling with nobody permitted to be in the center. The political climate became take no prisoners, you are with us or you are the enemy of all that is sacred. Discourse became poisonous with assaults thrown from both sides and reason tossed in the trash. Even the news became polarized with many of the stories making nearly unbelievable accusations and claims proved to be exactly that, unbelievable accusations and claims which were proven with time to be false, the fake news with both sides being guilty of such falsehoods and unproven claims. All of this simply served to further push the sides apart until almost none permitted to remain neutral. The only path for remaining neutral, or at least not at the fringes of reason, was to stay silent and wait for the storm to pass. And the reasonable people remained silent and waited and are waiting and the heated rhetoric simply has become more vindictive, extreme and unreasonable. The storm is not passing.

 

There is some good news hidden within this heated storm. Both political parties are falling victim to their most extreme elements pulling them further and further from the center. Many Republicans have taken up the position that President Trump is being unfairly accused of being a monster without feelings and a novice who will soon force World War III or at least a nuclear war with North Korea or anybody else he can insult and thus will defend even his most indefensible actions. On the other side, there are those who would believe anything reported or rumored act of the most insane acts with the flimsiest of evidence. If there were a report on Facebook that President Trump had murdered a Gold Star Mom for talking back to him, they would repeat it till the cows come home and refuse to believe reporting that such never occurred as a cover-up. When everything settles from such exchanges, it is only because the adversaries fell asleep at their keyboards. But that would be fine as others around the globe would pick-up the argument and keep it nice and warm for when they awaken and start right where they left off. These arguments continue day and night and even when one claim for either side is finally beaten to death and disproved, that is fine as there will be another one coming along any moment. At any given time there must be at least ten, fifty, hundred, thousand, who can count the number of news stories being touted at any given moment as the new cycles, fake and real, just continues to feed the flame wars online.

 

The radicalizing of the conversation, and thus the political populace, is drawing the parties to the extremes. There has been discussion of a litmus test for Democrats that they support Senator Bernie Sanders’s Medicare for all single-payer health care. On the other side, the Republicans are divided between Trump supporters and those who are trying to be identified as the core of the traditional party with Senator McCain as their leading spokesperson. The moderates in both parties are being left out of the political discourse and this could be the opportunity for a centrist party representing those who have been left behind, the political center. Come the next Presidential elections in 2020, the Republicans will in all probability be running President Trump for re-election. Whom the Democrats run may define the party for the ensuing four to eight years. Their choice will be between the Senator Sanders wing of the party, the Clinton wing of the party, the Obama wing of the party or the some other group unheard from at this time. In the meantime there will be the 2018 elections which could decide the Senate and, as usual, the House of Representatives. With the extremes of the current discourse, it should be a wild and wooly ride. Imagine an election on top of the current atmosphere with campaigns exaggerating the already diverging differences and you can see how everything is going to get really absurd.

 

Trump vs the World

Trump vs the World

 

Taking measure of the political playing field, the noise from the opposing end zones is grabbing all the attention such that the quiet and calm suggestions emanating from the middle of the field is completely inaudible. Things are almost comical which might make a circus a far more applicable comparison. As a three-ring circus, the spotlights would be on the far two rings while the center ring would be completely dark and not part of the show. We are fast approaching the one-year anniversary of Election Day and that should prove to be interesting to say the least. There have been rumors of nation-wide protests to be launched across the United States with some calling for ever increasing protests in an effort to force President Trump from office. The people calling for these protests are from “The Resistance” and other groups even more radical who are making this sound like President Trump vs. the World. They play their hand as if they really were the true force of the world and their position was the one which was pure, holy and true. They act just as if they were on a mission from the Almighty and their charmed belief was sufficient to carry the day. To say their grip on reality might be a tad less firm than they believe would be an understatement. The problem is the Trump all the way come heck or high water group is any more centered would be just as insane. The difference is those supporting President Trump will not be demonstrating come the anniversary of Election Day, they will be home cheering on the police and, if things escalate, the National Guard troops. Does anybody honestly believe that between now and a week from now that the discourse will have subsided? Where that would be desirable, it is highly unlikely and, if the past is any indicator, things will start peaking and heating up even further this week and next. If there are national protests on November 8, we can hope against hope that they will be non-violent. Unfortunately, some of the more radical groups are not calling for peaceful protests, they want rioting and as much disruption as possible as that is how they expect to bring about change. Such change usually proves to be far less desirable than what is envisioned, as that which brings about change, their change is often for the worse, and it demands that the authorities must resort to tactics which are never desirable. We can only hope that these coming days pass with as few incidents as possible and that they bring a normalcy back to the political debate. We can only hope.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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