FEBRUARY 5, 2013 12:58PM

North Korea's Not Bizarre Propaganda "Nuking" New York

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For MEB, forever.

It actually was a clever, stylish signal from the North Koreans as to their theory of deterrence at the least, compellence at the most, the latter of course being a "cosmic gamble with potentially awesome consequences."

The signal of course was to simulate nuking New York in what some are calling "bizarre propaganda," to the tune of "We are the World," Michael Jackson. Get it?

Who's Michael, plus, "We Are the World" is the presumably the global socialist trope, as opposed to the "imperialist camp" in the West led by America.

That's very stylish in its way, with a double entendre mandatory for style points in signalling such things as to at least a bluff of the resolve to try to take out New York in the event of war with the United States.

It could very well be like the Iranian Space Monkey might be, a bluff in the sense of lacking the technical capacity to really do that, if it's nice to have an Aegis cruiser around in a general sense, just in case.

As to the probable implicit theory of deterrence, it can't be said to be bizarre or crazy at all, to send the message that New York would be a very high priority target for nuclear weapons in the event deterrence failed in Korea.

Seoul is used to that already, to be "turned into a sea of fire" with North Korean artillery perched right over the DMZ.

That's how the North rolls, always.

The bigger concern is about compellence, compellence being unlike deterrence as to having a positive policy objective, rather than "merely" to preserve the peace.

With deterrence, you just have some version of the "Francis" theory of Stripes; "Call me Francis, cross the DMZ, I'll kill you." Otherwise, stay where you are, like Ivan on his side of the Fulda Gap in the Cold War, we live and let live.

Compellence is different in that one tries to force a state to do something that it wouldn't do in terms of giving up something it already has grabbed, as opposed to deterrence being about trying to prevent someone from taking something they don't have already, if there is something of a blur between the two at times, especially with the North.

The way they use the word deterrence seems to be about both deterrence and compellence, in the sense that they have made remarks to the point of "Our deterrent will make the Americans alter their policy."

That leads some academics to almost nipick/lecture pedantically about "Silly DPRK goose, that's compellence not deterrence," if it is an important thing to consider as to American policy.

That is because it might be the case that the North has a theory of taking out one target, and then seeing what happens next, since they would have to have more than one nuclear capable missile before it made any sense to fire even one, as to presumably committing regime suicide for sure if they only had one.

Testing at Vandenberg has sometimes been thought to be the right return signal, as to multiple RVs, upping that symbolic ante so to speak. It's always a good time to watch a Trident fly.

But whatever it may be said, the North Koreans signal was not bizarre at all, as one can only talk down to people only so much about such things, before it gets closer to the time of the message "Are you going to just bark little North Korean doggie, or are you going to bite?"

But of course, reasonable people disagree about such things, wanting to be careful not to create what Thomas Shelling called "reciprocal fear of surprise attack," and the North hasn't tested a warhead they can know for sure is reliable, unless they are using someone else's design, or are just willing to role the dice on computer simulations.

And, Aeigis should be able to handle such a thing, especially more than one Aegis, if open deployment has risks beyond the North too.

The other lesson of course is that life with a nuclear armed North Korea isn't going away, and that sort of thing is what Seoul has had to deal with for years, and, Seoul hasn't burned to the ground to date, if the North even during the Cold War was regarded as ...eccentric, kind of scary a little bit, if some say that is "demonizing" the North, to be fair.

finis

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