Questioning the Timing

Posted by lex, on October 28th, 2011

Not usually my cuppa, but the pol/mil headlines the last few days have been weighted heavily on the topic of North Korea.

See – US, S. Korea Warn Against North Korean Aggression

And the Korea Times – Allies Toughen Stance Against NK

At issue appears to be the long cycle of off and on negotiations about the North Korean nuclear weapons program:

The WSJ – U.S. Expresses Skepticism About North Korea Talks

With that as a background, SecDef is preparing to give a rare classified speech to the House of Representatives:

The session is billed as a “national security update” without offering further details, but House insiders expect it to cover all ongoing U.S. military operations, including Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, the Horn of Africa and Uganda, among other hot spots.

Republicans have been highly critical of President Barack Obama’s announcement that all U.S. troops would leave Iraq on Dec. 31.

And lawmakers also have raised serious concerns about Obama’s decision to send 100 troops to Uganda to serve in an advisory role in the fight against the Lord’s Resistance Army, a guerilla group accused of numerous atrocities in Central Africa over the past two decades.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testified before the House Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday following her most recent trip to Afghanistan and Pakistan. U.S.-Pakistani relations have been particularly strained since American special forces killed Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden earlier this year, and the decade-long war in Afghanistan is continuing with no end in sight. But Clinton said the United States must remain committed to being fully engaged in the region.

The elephant in the room probably is not Iraq and Afghanistan, about which not much remains unsaid. HOA operations have been quietly biffing pirates and Yemeni jihadists without much stir. Libya is over, for now. Even the strange decision to deploy 100 SOF to Uganda in a quixotic quest to capture or kill the leadership of the LRA does not seem to have captured official Washington’s attention. And these pages have often noted how the logistical requirements of our deployed forces in Afghanistan have forced us to make absurd compromises with a paranoiac Pakistan military, without coming up with plausible alternative courses of action: Certain ugly truths must be endured.

And nowhere more than in North Korea. Sure, the Norks are bad actors both locally and internationally. It’s a gulag state with the criminals in charge, ready and willing to foment mayhem, rattle sabres and proliferate all kinds of nasty things abroad, from nuclear weapons and ballistic missile technology, to drugs, to counterfeit currency so long as it keeps the rest of the world off balance and focused elsewhere. But it’s also in possession of nuclear weapons to go along with sufficient conventional artillery to walk from Pyongyang to Seoul without ever having your feet touch ground, and it’s run by a cult-of-personality clique whose only strategic interest is survival.  A regime, moreover, that is so stewed in its own hermetical juices that it is capable of any number of strategic miscalculations if they feel like their backs are to the wall. The Norks have a long history of extortionate belligerency followed by half-hearted, quickly withdrawn concessions. But they’re simply not going to be talked out of their nukes under any conceivable circumstances.

So why now?

Here is one plausible answer, courtesy of ReutersU.S. 5-yr defense budget to count $250-260 bln in cuts

I’ve been rather more impressed with Leon Pannetta’s brief stewardship of DoD than I expected to be. But this is a strange tiger’s tale to pull, especially with all of the more pressing security issues we face elsewhere. The best that can be hoped for in North Korea is a graceful collapse of the regime, worse yet is an ungraceful collapse. But there are worse things still.

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Filed under Carroll "Lex" LeFon, Military

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