A Straitjacket Strategy to Contain North Korea

*Note: This essay was originally published at The National Interest on February 8, 2017.

US Secretary of Defense James Mattis spent the tail end of last week in Seoul and Tokyo conferring with allies about the extreme challenge posed by a belligerently nuclear North Korea. When he gets back, Secretary Mattis should provide President Donald Trump with an option to straitjacket the rogue regime with consistently stiff military restraints to enable diplomacy. Pin down their arms and North Korea’s only option will be to talk.

North Korea is a uniquely vexing challenge with a rapidly closing solution window. Adm. Harry Harris, commander of US Pacific Command, calls them his “most volatile and dangerous threat” because their violent mood swings endanger a key ally in South Korea, 25 million people in Seoul, and periodically hold hostage the critical economies of Northeast Asia. The so-called Doomsday Clock recently edged closer to midnight than any time since the unstable dawn of the nuclear age, an acknowledgement of today’s near-term nuclear risk, thanks in part to North Korea’s reckless behavior. And a recent high-level defector says subversive information is “crumbling” North Korea and the regime’s days are “numbered”; oppositely, widely-reported intelligence tells us North Korea will be capable of striking the U.S. homeland with a long-range nuclear missile by 2020. Continue reading “A Straitjacket Strategy to Contain North Korea”

Same $h*t, Different War: The Curse of Combat Experience

*Note: This essay was originally published on the Modern War Institute’s Commentary & Analysis site.

“If another Korean War comes,” he said, “when society collapses in the north, it’ll look like Iraq – members of the regime going to ground, starting an insurgency, setting IEDs.”

This week I listened to a senior officer game out his vision of a future war on the Korean Peninsula. And, of course, the words above might actually describe what comes when North Korea falls. But what struck me is how much it was based on his personal experience in Iraq.  And Iraq is not Korea.  Continue reading “Same $h*t, Different War: The Curse of Combat Experience”