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Utopia Talk / Politics / The 2020 commission report
Seb
Member
Fri Aug 31 18:25:13
Just binge read it. Worth reading.


A nuclear arms policy wonk sets out a fictionalised but highly plausible worked example of how America ends up in a nuclear war with North Korea where millions of Americans die (no, the norks don't win)

Anyone else read it yet,?

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Commission-Report-Nuclear-Attacks-Against/dp/0753553163
Hot Rod
Revved Up
Fri Aug 31 19:15:48

http://www...-Attacks-Against/dp/0753553163


tumbleweed
the wanderer
Fri Aug 31 21:47:17
it's definitely plausible with the idiot child in the White House... he came close to starting war already when playing chicken w/ the other dictator

and we heard about how he asked for attack options but the Pentagon didn't give many as they were afraid he'd do it
Nimatzo
iChihuaha
Sat Sep 01 01:51:01
I think this is hilarious. Really, it is hilarious, I was making fun of people here on UP 10 years ago for thinking about the world in terms of a Tom Clancy book (Aeros and sam). Now we have the more subtle and sophisticated ”expertly” ”plausible” fictional think tank production of ”The Sum of All Fears”.
Seb
Member
Sat Sep 01 04:43:01
Nim:

Not a Tom Clancy novel. Basically it's a wonk pointing out how absolutely ropey US nuclear war planning is since the end of the cold war, and the inability to apply systems thinking and perceive the world from the North Korean perspective means you can spiral put of control quickly. People making rational decisions with the best available information in limited circumstances.

Which is pretty much how both world wars began, but particularly WWI.


I'll do a digest later if anyone's interested. But it's a good read.




jergul
large member
Sat Sep 01 05:00:51
Its always good to debunk the idea that nuclear weapons are not usable.

Miscalculations on that score are pretty dangerous.
Seb
Member
Sat Sep 01 05:02:47
E.g. Sanctions on North Korea mean their secure communications used by the top ranking leaders is an encrypted GSM system that's not independent from the cell networks infrastructure, which is not robust.

So the kinds of mental model people have about how their leaders might respond in a crisis are based on assumptions of communications being good. So even a limited attack might not be perceived as such by the regime: the volume of mobile calls could causes a network outage that would look a lot like a cyber attack, and add to confirmation bias to those that believe a larger attack is underway.

But the key thing is getting our heads around how North Korea sees nuclear weapons: not as a strategic deterrent but as the means of preventing an invasion by launching a premptive attack on US troop concentrations in the region.

Seb
Member
Sat Sep 01 05:04:49
So wargame + crisis could plausibly escalate enormously quickly.

jergul
large member
Sat Sep 01 05:13:48
Seb
Strategic deterrence is compatible with a first strike doctrine.

But yes, it is important to know that nuclear weapons are not weapons of last resort for NK.

It is better equipped to deal with a tit-for-tat tactical nuclear exchange while retaining a strategic arsenal capable of taking out hostile population centres.

Putting NK in a use it or lose it situation would be a horrible way to counter its first strike on Guam and other select targets.
Nimatzo
iChihuaha
Sat Sep 01 05:47:35
The ownership of phones and phone numbers is heavily regulated in North Korea. GSM networks can also block numbers from access.
Seb
Member
Sat Sep 01 07:34:49
Jergul:

Not quite how this scenario plays out.

Essentially NK shoots down a civilian jet liner by accident, south Korea retaliates with a symbolic attack with six missiles. The fragility of the NK c&c results in NK nuking regional bases while the US is still figuring out how it will respond to what they anticipate to be a provactive new nuclear test.

Nim:

Yes. Best read the book.
Nimatzo
iChihuaha
Sat Sep 01 07:47:36
Apart from the fact that North and South Korea have had several deadly exchanges without nuclear war breaking out.
Seb
Member
Sat Sep 01 08:24:32
Nim:

Yes.

Surprisingly, the gut whose specialised in arms control policy is aware of that obscure fact.
Seb
Member
Sat Sep 01 08:27:24
You may wish to read up on SK's responses in those situation Vs planned responses, the role of the US and in particular its role as leading the UN force.

And consider whether the north would ever entertain (let alone believe) a south Korean response was not ordered by US forces.
jergul
large member
Sat Sep 01 09:20:44
Seb
NK would only have to believe that the US intented of honour its security obligations to SK.

The UN force being a coalition of the willing pretending to act under UNSC authority, but actually citing resolutions from the 1950s?

The point is valid however. If NK believes escalation is unavoidable for whatever reason (including crappy c4 throughput), then a tactical nuclear first strike is more likely than not.

And will increase in likelihood as NK builds down its conventional deterrents.

Seb
Member
Sat Sep 01 12:02:00
Jergul:

I don't think that's quite what Jeffery Lewis is outlining. I wouldn't call it tactical, he's talking scores of high tens to hundreds of kt targeted at infrastructure to make a conventional war untenable for the US on the assumption they'd give up and go home after sustaining a few tens of millions dead from direct in theatre losses; it's a limited, strategic counterforce which is not that different from US or Russian counterforce planning options.

But it does involve blowing up Japanese and South Korean cities with millions dead.

The thermonuclear weapons are held back to deter escalation.

The political dimensions of the book are more interesting. His take on the SK US relationship is that it's quite different to what is imagined and understood by senior US politicians, media and public.

He also thinks the North Koreans and US top level also fundamentaly misunderstand each other.

That's where the real risk comes in.
jergul
large member
Sat Sep 01 17:32:25
I will read it when it is released on kindle, so am really just giving an alternate analytical framework for speculative fiction.


Here specifically that tactical nukes would be used exclusively against a select number of military bases to render a military build-up in theater close impossible.

With the strategic deterrent retained intact as you suggested.

We know the US and NK fundamentally misunderstand each other. NK is trying to reap a peace dividend from gaining a nuclear arsenal. It could in theory realign its economy to peaceful development for as long as its security needs are met by a nuclear umbrella.

But not while under a rigid sanction regime. Which gives the worst of both worlds; a highly militarized NK with nuclear weapons.

To my mind, the only way forward is a Turkish agreement. China offers nuclear security guarantees and give NK legal possession of a nuclear arsenal. NK demobilizes its own nuclear arsenal and accepts that China retains physical possession of NK arsenal on North Korean soil. With that we remove the sanction regime.

But we live in the age of extremes. So it is better that NK is sanctioned as has its own nukes.
Seb
Member
Sun Sep 02 06:27:11
I don't think JL believes (I don't either) that NK has the level of accuracy, reliability and miniaturisation to target even large facilities like airbases: we are looking at several to high tens of kT yields.

So we are really not looking at "battlefield" use, but that the NKs see large nuclear weapons being deployed like this in much the way that a major bombing operations against military/logisitcal targets were seen in WWII (e.g. bombing an port city for months to disrupt supply lines), when this would be seen remarkably differently now.

Equally I think the misunderstanding he's focusing on is deeper than "what is NK's intent"- people have drifted into using a model of NK as a mini USSR. However sanctions mean that while NK can focus huge resources on developing a nuclear weapons and delivery systems, it hasn't been able to develop the breadth of other infrastructure that stabilised USSR and US nuclear postures.

So many of the assumptions that underpin "nobody wants a nuclear war so we will always avoid one" are not valid. Deterrence was "safe" (though we came alarmingly close to conflict in crisis situations on several occasions) because of that broader infrastructure and capabilities.

To a great degree this is a failure in the west.

And then there is the gulf in diplomacy. The US and NK have allowed each other to speak past each other in a way on individual issues that NK probably thinks does not matter to much; but which matters hugely for the US. NK has no intention of disarming (especially when Bolton talks of Libya style disarmament) and by allowing expectations to get out of hand to secure tactical diplomatic victories like the prospect of a summit means that the US (even post Trump) is boxed in that it would have to now reduce its expectations.

I don't think NK would ever trust China - again the book points out that the North's relationship with China is demonstrably more tense than we tend to think of in the West. In other places JL has likened this to the inability in the west to understand or even believe there was a Sino Soviet split until after they fought a border war.

Kim's aggressive purges against people in the regime who have a good relationship with China is likely motivated by his fear they will get rid of him to impose a puppet. If Kim's nuclear ambitions are largely motivated by his desire for personal survival, I find it difficult to believe he would entrust that to China any time soon.

I still think containment is the only options. Without formally rewarding or recognising NK as as a nuclear power, quiet work needs to begin on creating the kinds of diplomatic and technical infrastructure that stabilised the US/USSR nuclear postures. That might mean, e.g. turning a blind eye to imports of modern communications technology.

jergul
large member
Sun Sep 02 08:37:08
Seb
"So many of the assumptions that underpin "nobody wants a nuclear war so we will always avoid one" are not valid"

Yah. Given that most everyone would rather have a nuclear war than lose a major conflict.

Seb
Member
Sun Sep 02 08:52:54
Again, the failure mode is before that.

The assumption in the west is we will both work to avoid a major conflict *for that reason*.

The point is the diplomatic relations and surrounding infrastructure that allowed the cold war to be managed in this way doesn't exist.

Seb
Member
Sun Sep 02 09:07:15
To put it another way, nukes incentivised managing the cold war to avoid major conflicts, but it happened due to huge investments in understanding and predicting each other, in processes and mechanisms for desecalation, and robust infrastructure to minimise the risk of poor situational awareness leading to rapid escalation.

In this case, many in the west seems to have forgotten this and assumed the existence of nukes alone is stabilising.

And the Norths nuclear doctrine doesn't seem to treat nukes as an escalation or strategic asset so much as a weapon of first resort if it believes any kind of conflict to be in the offing as its role in their strategy is to prevent US mobilisation *before* it happens.

So if anything North Korean nukes are destabilising not stabilising - but the US does not appear to view it this way. It is considering and adopting policies designed to pressure the North - not just economically but militarily - with increased bomber flights, air defence probes, military build ups, bigger war games etc.

Some of which look increasingly like the events that North Korea would use nukes against.


jergul
large member
Sun Sep 02 09:07:17
I was speaking of the post cold war era.

jergul
large member
Sun Sep 02 09:16:59
If you mean in-theatre mobilization, then sure. A first strike target list would not be very long due to BRAC centralization.

Nukes are inherently stabilizing if you assume rational behaviour aimed at avoiding the use of nuclear weapons.

We accept Israel, Pakistan and India. The NPT was never designed to compel compliance. For good reason.
Seb
Member
Sun Sep 02 13:41:24
jergul:

"Nukes are inherently stabilizing if you assume rational behaviour aimed at avoiding the use of nuclear weapons."


Yes, that is what I thought to, but the book makes a plausible case this is rather complacent.
jergul
large member
Sun Sep 02 13:48:54
The assumption of rational behaviour is the kicker.

The problem is best resolved by *gasp* honouring westphallian principles and the carrots stated in the NPT.

A country should not have to fear attacks and crippling sanctions. It should also expect servious help in exploring peaceful nuclear technology.
jergul
large member
Sun Sep 02 13:51:11
I shorthanded this. But it is inherently irrational to destabilize nuclear powers. In order to not encourage countries to become nuclear powers, it becomes equally irrational to destabilize non-nuclear powers.
Nimatzo
iChihuaha
Sun Sep 02 14:11:11
First off, how rude to tell me ”read the book” and then keep explaining things to Jergul from the book.

Secondly you offered us a digest. And then told me to go read the book. Very confusing. Are you doubting your ability to defend this book and relying on my laziness to not have to?

Thirdly, this is precisly the type of stuff you expect from a triggered liberal progressive movement, it isn’t even a new phenomena. Every time a republican is elected as president in the USA, 7 kinds of ”plausible” hell scenarios are reported or written about. No no I understand, your fears are plausible and interesting to mastrubate over with Jergul and they come in paperback! It is not rent seeking and fear mongering at all.
jergul
large member
Sun Sep 02 14:13:25
Rent seeking?
Seb
Member
Mon Sep 03 01:13:39
Nim:

Opening with the likes of "cell phones are restricted and North Korea and south have had minor conflicts", plus your track record of extraordinarily bad faith arguments, I feel it would be an uphill struggle to get you to page 1 against the weight of your preconceptions. Especially as you've already convinced yourself this is about republicans Vs democrats.

Easier if you read the book.

Jergul:
Does sinking ships count as destabilising? What about kidnappings etc. North Korea isn't passive in that respect.
Nimatzo
iChihuaha
Mon Sep 03 01:15:50
Preconceptions? You mean FACTS about GSM and North Korea? :)
Nimatzo
iChihuaha
Mon Sep 03 01:18:54
Yes OF COURSE this is about ”you” vs Trump (republicans). There is the reverse as well of course. You are no worse than your mirror image seb, I keep trying to tell you, you are like everyone else!
Seb
Member
Mon Sep 03 02:13:43
Nim:

Facts that are the same as those in the book and don't contradict it. Because the author is a leading expert on arms control and specifically North Korea and has been working in the field for decades.

It's tedious to play whack-a-mole on the details like this. Read the book (you may also need to check put his technical output too, I've followed the guy for about as long as I've posted on utopia) and then critique it. It's one thing to summarise, another to essentially recount the whole thing point by point. Theres a kindle edition out.

No, this isn't about republicans. The critiques of Trump are more about his approach to executive practices rather than matters of policy and would not extend to e.g. Bush (or Pence). The author has made it clear in the past that the drift and decay in nuclear strategy and operational policy (and NK foreign policy) is a bipartisan one.

It's sad you can only see this through the lens of the US culture war you have subsumed yourself in through your readings.
jergul
large member
Mon Sep 03 02:38:58
One thing you could say is that the argument is framed in a poor format. A Congressional report written shortly after a nuclear war would tend to victimize the US and have very little focuse on objective flaws in US policy.
Nimatzo
iChihuaha
Mon Sep 03 04:08:55
”a leading expert on arms control”
AKA I read political science, impressive. He is an academic, academics are not experts in anything but writting and using semi colons correctly. He fits ”no skin in the game” perfectly, draft policy, never have any responsibility, then for some odd reason be labled an ”expert”.

They didn’t extent this to Bush, because no one cares about Bush now. But the same types of stories and plausible scenarios were indeed said and written about Bush. He even started 2 wars, it was even more plausible that he would bring the end of the world, invade the entire middle east etc. and so on, you remember.
Nimatzo
iChihuaha
Mon Sep 03 04:20:06
”It's sad you can only see this through the lens of the US culture war you have subsumed yourself in through your readings”

If it sounds like a duck... One of us is aware of what he doing, the other thinks reality has a ”liberal bias”.
Seb
Member
Mon Sep 03 04:26:17
jergul:

I think you are assuming that he would be focusing on writing a realistic post war report. It is fair to say he upfront says that the foreign policy flaws that led up to the crisis are out of scope.

The focus of the report is just to say "what happened".

Nim:
You should read his Bio better. He's been policy director in a number of think tanks.

"Academics are not expert in anything" is a rather interesting take.

Fine. This thread is probably not for you.

I still think you think this is all about the US. As I think I've pointed out, the war isn't "started" by the US at all. The problem in the book is the lack of awareness by any party that the North Koreans end up very quickly believing they are already at war, due to circumstances that are all "perfectly normal" for how Korea has been handled since the 90's.

The book isn't based on "Republicans are mad warmongers", nor is this "OMG, Karl Rove and Bolton want to fight a war on Korea".

Like I said, its tedious having to argue fifty posts to get you to page one. Read the book, then comment on what it is like or not like.
jergul
large member
Mon Sep 03 04:36:33
http://www...ks-Against-ebook/dp/B079VDR6HM

Except I am not paying print price for a kindle edition (I absolutely hate it when publishers do not pass on publication and distribution savings). I will be traveling soon and will look for the physical edition at airports.
Nimatzo
iChihuaha
Mon Sep 03 04:50:38
"You should read his Bio better. He's been policy director in a number of think tanks."

"The book isn't based on "Republicans are mad warmongers", nor is this "OMG, Karl Rove and Bolton want to fight a war on Korea"."

See I pre-empted all of this in my first post. Just from reading your post and clicking your link, prior to googling him. I am expert sebologist.

"Now we have the more subtle and sophisticated ”expertly” ”plausible” fictional think tank production of ”The Sum of All Fears”."
Seb
Member
Mon Sep 03 05:00:07
Jergul:
Oh that's shitty. Fair point!

Nim:
Right, so he's au fair with policy and policy development.

Fine, whatever. You are convinced this is a partisan hack job, having not read it.

Moving on.
Seb
Member
Tue Sep 04 15:50:46
Nothing in the book actually turns on Trump being Trump, but reading some of the woodward book excerpts in the press and his portrayal of Trump and Mattis dynamic seems, if anything, unduly kind.
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