Thinking Through a North Korean “Downfall”

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

He did it. Kim Jong Un defied the world, again. Despite the American warships, despite the Chinese pressure, North Korea’s leader tested another illicit missile. Even if the practice launch “fizzled,” as with gifts, it’s the thought that counts—and in this case, the thoughts are pretty disturbing. And he’s still got a nuke “all primed and ready” to test.

Of course, North Korea has conducted nuclear tests on five previous occasions, including twice last year (not to mention 24 provocative missile tests in the same twelve-month stretch)—and US aircraft carrier visits to the region are not rare. But the backdrop of palpably increased tensions against which these developments are taking place gives them a particularly ominous character.

While an outbreak of war remains unlikely, because this recent cycle continues a long, dangerous trend, we have to ask: What would a war to end the North Korean regime look like? What historical example could we reach to? It is critically important for planners to set their scales correctly to understand the scope war might entail. And in this case, the task’s enormity demands accurate forecasting. Continue reading “Thinking Through a North Korean “Downfall””

Victory at the Movies: The Gatekeepers and The Monuments Men

 Two films I’ve recently watched really got me thinking about the nature of victory in conflict: The Gatekeepers, an Israeli documentary which contains interviews with six former heads of the Shin Bet (Israeli intelligence arm); and The Monuments Men, the George Clooney movie about saving art from the Nazis at the end of World War II. Though the movies varied greatly in quality (the former was stunningly good, the latter left a lot to be desired), both had something to teach about organized, armed conflict. Continue reading “Victory at the Movies: The Gatekeepers and The Monuments Men”