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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August 10, 2017

Guam, North Korea, Nukes and Trump’s Predicament

 

President Donald Trump is in a precarious predicament when it comes to North Korea and the pressing threats. We can get to the predictable results shortly, but first it bears analyzing the sticky situation in which the President has been forced by his own Congress in which his own party presumably has a majority. The one thing which is always tricky when one sits atop a democratically elected government in a nation which is in no mood for military adventurism, getting backing for starting a conflict. This is even true when the adversary is an obviously crazed dictator with delusions of grandeur who believes he is holding the upper hand. Kim Jong-un believes that now that he presumably, if his threats and intelligence reports are to be believed, has the more powerful position with a nuclear weapon miniaturized and capable of being mounted atop any of his ballistic or ICBM missiles. Even if we were to grant that the North Korean weapons was sufficiently powerful as half a megaton, he still would need five just to level any sufficiently targetable metropolitan area within the United States and a degree of accuracy to give the optimal spread of impact sites. Despite this and now a direct threat by Kim Jong-un to strike Guam with one such said missile, President Trump still has his hands tied.

 

Logically, one would believe that the current situation being what it is, President Trump could simply order a decapitating strike on North Korean leadership and with one set of at most a dozen high explosive missiles from an Arleigh Burke Destroyer and the top generals and Kim Jon-un could be entered into the history books and the North Korean threats put to bed while the United Nations Security Council decided who would be assuming the reconstruction of North Korea, the United States, China or preferably South Korea with a unified Korean Peninsula. That is where the problem enters the picture. While history has shown that virtually no Democrat Senator would ever vote to impeach a Democrat President, Republicans are more than willing to entertain and even advise a Republican President to resign as they will refuse to protect their own Party’s President from impeachment as was the case when Republican Senate leadership informed President Richard Nixon that should he actually fight impeachment, they were ready and very likely to vote for his impeachment. So, should President Trump actually take it upon himself without a declaration of war from Congress to attack North Korea, we can bet that within hours the House of Representatives would have drawn up charges of impeachment, approved them by a significant majority and sent the case to the Senate for trial. All that is required in the House of Representatives to bring forward charges is a simple majority and then a two-thirds majority in the Senate is required to convict, which with the several “Never Trump” Republicans becomes a distinct possibility. On the other hand, should North Korea launch a successful attack then we could expect Congress to again attempt charges of impeachment for President Trump’s lack of action in the face of an obvious menacing threat. President Trump is in a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation.

 

Arleigh Burke Destroyer Missile Firing

Arleigh Burke Destroyer Missile Firing

 

Even should Kim Jong-un launch missiles at Guam, should all the missiles either be intercepted, the preferred case, or simply miss their target thus causing no actual harm, President Trump would remain to be facing the previously described situation of not having complete authority to act without facing potential impeachment and facing the exact same result should he not act and a subsequent strike prove successful. This is most definitely an unpleasant situation faced by President Trump. The latest, as of this writing, the ball had been shot into President Trump’s court with Kim Jong-un’s announcement that North Korea has manufactured a miniaturized nuclear warhead with which they can now top their missiles and his making a direct threat to attack Guam should the United States continue their belligerence. The current ballistic missiles in the North Korean arsenals which potentially could strike Guam include the Hwasong-10 liquid fueled, Hwasong-14 solid propellant and the Pukguksong-2 solid propellant. The liquid fueled missile would require a fueling cycle which might make it being detected by satellite imagery while the solid propellant are ready to launch by the pressing of a launch signal without any preparation other than raising the launch on the mobile carriers, which many claim were provided by China (see image below), or opening the silo on the underground silo launch sites. Each of these missiles is capable of carrying the claimed nuclear warhead or a sizeable high-explosive traditional explosive warhead. These facts make Kim Jong-un’s threat a credible threat and is just another step further climbing the tree and neither side has shown any indication of attempting to steady the situation and reduce tensions. This latest threat was in response to the reaction to the previous slightly more vague threat of severe consequences by Kim Jong-un if the United States did not pull back to which President Trump promised in his response stating, “North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.” This drew the directed threat upon Guam by North Korea. The comments by President Trump received the expected criticisms from Senator Dianne Feinstein as well as Senator John McCain (video blow).

 

Presumed China Provided North Korean Mobile Missile Carrier

Presumed China Provided North Korean Mobile Missile Carrier

 

 

The situation currently stands with the exchange of threats and promises resting with President Trump and the likelihood of actual action sitting with Kim Jong-un as it is highly unlikely that President Trump is willing or ready to initiate and military actions. This in no way intends to claim the United States is not fully capable of taking actions to tackle this problem at any point of its own choosing. Kim Jong-un need understand that the United States could lay waste to his entire nation without taxing more than one ballistic submarine which would still have missiles to spare if further response were required. This does not even begin to take into account the three aircraft carrier groups sitting well within range of their aircraft and the missiles on the support vessels which include numbers of Arleigh Burke Missile Destroyers. There is one pitfall which it might be advisable that President Trump not fall into, and that is considering and contending with the size and variety of attack which would be launched against North Korea should it be deemed necessary. We can recall the “Shock and awe,” promised by President George W. Bush at the initiation of the air campaign against Iraqi Dictator Saddam Hussein. Remembering watching the coverage of the initial airstrikes on Baghdad, we recall being somewhat less than “shocked” and well short of “awe” as it appeared that the main damage came in the form of secondary explosions (video below). Don’t get us wrong, the precision was impressive but the display lacked the traditional carnage and city left in flames images. One needs to perceive the exact effect upon the psyche of your opponent when making a display of strength. Sure, the United States military were extremely pleased with the exact precision of their warheads and the minimal amount of collateral damage to the city left by the attacks. One example which was regularly repeated was the removal of a transmission tower striking it such that it missed striking either of the buildings reportedly close on either side. Saddam Hussein would probably been far more impressed had the attack on said broadcast tower taken down the blocks of buildings in every direction and was probably thinking that if this is what the United States calls laying waste to a city, then they are pretty pathetic. Sometimes, when dealing with dictatorial, or even elected, thugs and self-professed military geniuses who, as Saddam Hussein was want of doing, when striking a village or town in order to send a message, they usually laid waste to the entirety of the town, the majority of the residents, and possibly even destroyed the roads and basements of the school house. Simply put, they caused devastation when sending a message. There was the message sent to the Kurds in northern Iraq where chemical weapons were utilized and not a single person escaped, that was the Saddam Hussein understanding of sending a warning, not taking out a single building with a concrete bomb (that is a thousand pounds of concrete in a thin metal shell, such that only the restaurant where Saddam was presumed to be dining was destroyed and the buildings on either side were undamaged. Had a two-thousand pound World War II blockbuster (called such as it would drop and entire block of buildings) bomb been used, then Saddam Hussein, who was less than a few hundred yards from the restaurant having just left, would have been removed by the attack. Sometimes bigger is better as it assures you destroy the intended target. Just because you can guide munitions through the third window from the end on the fifth floor and only destroy that room leaving the rest of the building structurally sound does not mean that would be the best manner of striking that room. Sometimes the entire building need be destroyed to get the message across.

 

 

When it comes to Kim Jong-un, it is unlikely that any amount of damage to his country would have much of an effect upon him. This is a maniac who had a top general hung for being late or contradicting or correcting him in a meeting, had his uncle murdered for treason and had his half-brother murdered in another country simply because he might make a claim to Kim Jong-un’s position. We are speaking of a man who ordered all men to wear their hair styled exactly like his hair (which begs the question of what bald people were to do) or face execution. Wait, he later ruled that men must not wear their hair styled as he does and must choose from fifteen particular styles. You just cannot make this stuff up. What would it take to impress Kim Jong-un that your airstrikes really were serious and, quoting President Trump, “North Korea best not make any more threats to the U.S. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.” That is setting the bar pretty high when one remembers the twenty-four hour bombing of Dresden during World War II (image of firestorm below B&W). There is no way, honestly, that Kim Jong-u would accept that the damage was more than his subjects were willing to endure in support of his rule. He was raised as a man-god and believes of himself as incapable of errors in judgement or that he could be outsmarted or outmaneuvered by any mere mortal, especially President Trump. Kim Jong-un very probably believes his own propaganda.

 

Image of Dresden Firestorm Consuming the City

Image of Dresden Firestorm Consuming the City

 

The only attack, which would work to prevent Kim Jong-un from carrying out any threat made, would be to remove him from the scene. The required move against North Korea would mean choosing between formulating a coup and implementing a decapitation strike where Kim Jong-un and his top generals are all taken out with one strike. The strike could include several locations, but it would be imperative that the strikes, if at more than one location, be timed close enough such that no one attack point has time enough to convey to their superiors or officials of the state about what was occurring before it was all done. Such an attack could be performed when it is known that Kim Jong-un is attending a launch of one of his missiles or is visiting one of the nuclear facilities or at a test of a nuclear weapon. It would be imperative that the majority of the general staff also be present which is why we chose such events. If there is a known general who would look favorably upon the idea of reconstituting a unified Korea under an elected, honestly elected governance, then sparing him or them would be preferred but they must not be told when and where such a strike might take place as such might allow Kim Jong-un to become suspicious thus leading to his not attending the targeted location. Striking and not removing Kin Jong-un from power would be the greatest possible disaster as it would lead to an immediate launch of an attack on Guam, Hawaii, Alaska and anywhere within the continental United States (CONUS), his missiles could deliver a nuclear payload. It can be assumed that North Korea had at least ten if not many more of these announced miniaturized nuclear devices. Kim Jong-un would not have risked their vulnerability without knowing that he was sufficiently armed with these warheads before allowing their disclosure. President Trump and advisors should take such into consideration and make choices preferably consulting Congress. The problem with consulting Congress would be whom do you trust not to leak the information and thus warning North Korea of the United States intended action or lack thereof.

 

The brinkmanship from both sides is providing a hazardous situation all around. Neither side is showing any signs of climbing down from the tree they find themselves trapped within. The other problem is at what point one side will take action and of what action will they avail themselves. North Korea can technically use knowledge gained from the Iranians very likely with an entire freighter arming kit which would turn any freighter container ship into a missile silo. With this knowledge, Kim Jong-un can use the most basic scud missile to deliver nuclear warheads with little advance warning to every coastal city. Should any freighter so armed receive approval for sailing to make a delivery somewhere along the Mississippi River, then almost every city of any size would become a potential target. Some of the coastal port cities along the east, west and southern coastal regions include but are not limited to New York, Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, New Orleans, Miami, Philadelphia, Tampa, San Diego, Baltimore, Norfolk, Houston and, of course, Washington D.C. despite not being a port city, it is vulnerable from the Chesapeake Bay or Potomac River all the way to the Tidal Basin in the heart of the government. Since North Korea has proven to be capable of orbital insertion, they could place that ever dangerous EMP device they have presumably mastered into a satellite and utilize such at any time simply by detonating the satellite miles over the center of North America and they might wipe out the entirety of the electrical grid or simply destroy well-beyond half of the electrical grid and hundreds, if not thousands, of expensive and in tight supply massive transformers. These devices are manufactured in Germany and Japan and while awaiting delivery, it is possible that the United States might lose as much as three-quarters of its total population with Canada taking similar if not even higher percentages of population loss. Both nations would be decimated and the retaliation upon North Korea might appear to be a purely spiteful move and thus rejected by the State Department and also the Congress. Neither group appears to be sensitive to the people’s desires except at election time, but then they brag about the two or three brave stands they made on legislation they know would be vetoed. Where this is headed appears frightening and one can only hope that the inevitable can be redirected away from any course of actions which includes the destruction of either nation. Thus far, that possibility looks to be bleak.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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