Meanwhile, Somewhere in the Pentagon…

As North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong Un declares that “The Entire US Territory Is Now Within Our ICBM Range”, somewhere in the Pentagon, operational plans to neutralize North Korean nuclear and long-range missile capabilities are being refined.

There are undoubtedly two sets of operational plans: one deploying conventional weapons, and the second for deployment of nuclear weapons.

Nothing personal, Mr. Kim Jong Un, it’s just business. A core duty of planners in the Pentagon is to ask “What if” and draw up a range of scenarios and operational plans to carry out the civilian leadership’s policies and decisions.

One such scenario is “what if North Korea launches a ballistic missile that is tracking to strike U.S. territory?”

One response option in this scenario would be to wait and see if the North Korean missile hits the U.S. and if it is armed with a nuclear weapon, and if so, if the warhead detonates.

Another option is to respond immediately with a nuclear strike that neutralizes North Korea’s ability to launch any more nuclear-armed missiles.

The U.S. Armed Forces does not declare war or make the decision to launch a nuclear strike–that is the perogative and responsibility of the nation’s civilian elected leadership. The duty of the U.S. Armed Forces is to be prepared to execute the decisions and policies of the elected civilian leadership.

The ethical considerations of such a decision are not the Pentagon’s purview–those considerations rest with the elected civilian leadership. If North Korea is poised to kill 2 million Americans, South Koreans, Japanese, etc., then isn’t erasing North Korea’s capability to kill millions at the cost of 50,000 North Korean lives in a limited nuclear strike the more ethical choice?

Those considerations are not part of operational plans. The purpose of operational plans is to get the assigned job done. Limiting civilian casualties might well be part of the assigned mission. But it’s not the Pentagon planners’ job to make those mission decisions.

There are no small nuclear explosions, but there are smaller explosions and variations that have profoundly different consequences. Ground-burst detonations carve out craters and send shock waves through the earth that crumple tunnels, bunkers, elevator shafts, etc. Ground-burst detonations generate vast quantities of radioactive particles. Since it’s well known that North Korea has buried its most precious nuclear resources deep underground, ground-burst detonations would be the only way to disrupt the access routes to bunkers deep underground.

Air-burst nuclear detonations generate field effects, i.e. electromagnetic pulses across the spectrum. These can be “tuned” to some degree. Thus a neutron-type weapon is designed to sicken and kill enemy soldiers while leaving buildings and equipment intact. This might be the weapon of choice to neutralize any attempt by the North Korean Army to launch a devastating artillery attack on South Korea in retaliation for the destruction of North Korea’s missile and nuclear capabilities.

Air-burst field effects often include massive disruption of electronic equipment. This might limit the operational plans for air-burst nuclear detonations near ther DMZ, as technologically advanced South Korea might well suffer significant economic losses from an air burst near the border with North Korea.

By the same token, an air-burst nuclear detonation over North Korean military communications headquarters might be considered essential to distrupt the North Koreans’ command and control capabilities.

My point here is that operational plans to decapitate North Korean nuclear and ICBM capabilities exist and are constantly being revised and refined in light of new intelligence. It’s not the planners’ job to make the geopolitical or ethical calculations that inform such a drastic decision. It’s the planners’ job to make sure a strike ordered by the elected civilian leadership of the nation achieves its goal, i.e. eliminates North Korea’s nuclear and missile delivery capabilities completely.

It’s easy to say nuclear weapons should never be used, but what if conventional weapons can’t do the job, or create greater risks? Would you consider it a good ethical trade-off to wait for millions to die before killing thousands? That’s a political choice, and one that will always be second-guessed or disputed. But making such decisions is the purpose of elected civilian government.

The planners job is much more direct. If the elected civilian government orders the neutralization of North Korea’s ability to kill millions of civilians in South Korea, Japan or the U.S., then the job boils down to aligning existing resources and reckoning how many resources will be needed to get the job done in the most effective way available.

A conventional-weapons strike would likely require hundreds (and possibly thousands) of aircraft sorties, and all that such a monumental effort entails. It would also requires a significant amount of time to execute. A nuclear strike requires far fewer resources but has consequences far beyond those of conventional weapons.

There have been no nuclear weapons detonated with the express intention of destroying civilians since 1945. The stakes are high, and nobody wants to launch a nuclear attack unless it is in retaliation for a nuclear attack. But by then it’s too late to save the millions killed by the initial attack.

We all hope deterrence works. But deterrence very nearly failed a number of times in the Cold War between the USSR and the US. Given the possibility that deterrence might fail–over-ridden by a commander with launch authority, or a dozen other possibilities of miscalculation or impulse– plans must be made for a first-strike designed to neutralize a nuclear missile capability.

The decision to launch nuclear weapons is political, not military–but achieving the goal is the duty of the military.

It’s nothing personal, folks–it’s just a peculiar business. 

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  • Zartan

    North Korea is a Sovereign Nation and Has the right to do as it will with nuclear weapons just like USSA. USSA is a far greater threat than North Korea. Give me a Break!

    • Pico Mali-Cocoli

      Iran is a joke: the Islamic Republic placed its hopes on the JCPOA to
      avert war. Now, it is extremely clear that not having nukes is going to
      cost so much to the regime and its people.
      North Korea is the best
      example of what nuclear deterrence is all about, and nuclear force is
      the only language that Washington understands (and fears too).
      Ordinary Iranians better get ready to see their country going back to the stone age (courtesy of Israel and the Arab coalition).

      • Zartan

        Agree, if Iran was smart they would be begging Kim for the Blueprints and Give him unlimited oil supply. Nuclear and Chemical weapons are the only defense against US aggression. However, they are so devious they use bankers and CIA ops to destabilize nations, like Venezuela, which is all CIA: It is tragic that nobody can stand up and punch the bully in the nose!

        Even the people of the US, Slaves, should revolt on Wall Street and Sack the Place. However, they are too lame to raise their fists to their oppressors.

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  • kimyo

    plans must be made for a first-strike designed to neutralize a nuclear missile capability

    chs has gone totally off the rails, sounds just like your typical cnn military cheerleader.

    let’s say the u.s. strikes first, and that every single bit of n. korea’s nuclear program is destroyed.

    the thing is, they don’t need nukes to retaliate. we’ve conveniently provided those. all they need to do is disrupt access or power to a couple of u.s. nuclear plants.

    how? according to wikipedia north korea has at least 25 subs capable of reaching u.s. shores.

    North Korea launches missile from submarine

    “North Korea’s sub launch capability has gone from a joke to something very serious,” this official said. “The U.S. is watching this very closely.” Asked whether the test was successful, another U.S. official told CNN, “essentially yes.”

    or, another approach: U.S. Risks National Blackout From Small-Scale Attack

    The U.S. could suffer a coast-to-coast blackout if saboteurs knocked out just nine of the country’s 55,000 electric-transmission substations on a scorching summer day, according to a previously unreported federal analysis.

    if there ever was a group predisposed to magical thinking, it’s the strategists at the pentagon, the ‘iraq will greet us as liberators’ crowd. they don’t understand reality because they exist solely to sell schemes like star wars or thaad. it’s a shame that chs is cheerleading them on.

    • Dugong

      They were probably playing “What if” games when the 9/11 plane hit the Pentagon almost an hour after the first plane hit the Trade Centre. There on the ball at the Pentagon.

  • Marko

    ” It’s nothing personal, folks–it’s just a peculiar business. ”

    The perfect ending.

    For a jackass.

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  • imbroglio

    North Korea is NOT “poised ” to kill 2 mil. Americans , but US /Israel that has thousands of nuks is threatening humanity . A Vietnam war veteran Brian Willson brings to light the process of demonization directed against the people of North Korea and their President. —

    • Unfluoridated

      Your comments and links here are the best.

      While I did not read the whole thing, it sounds as though Charles Hugh Smith was making out that NK is such a huge threat and the US military needs to “save the US and theworld”. Very disappointed in CHS for this garbage. Washington and Israel are the real threat to humanity, but as usual they present themselves as the cities to hide their crimes. Surely the world has woken up by now?

      • Unfluoridated

        That should be “victims”, not “cities”. Autocorrect is a pain sometimes.

  • imbroglio
  • imbroglio
  • Brabantian

    It’s very clear that not only is the ‘North Korean nuclear threat’ a fake issue being used to fear-monger people of USA, Japan & Europe … it is also clear that ‘nuclear weapons’ as a whole have always been fake, with multiple proofs now that, e.g., Hiroshima was a chemical fire-bombing war crime, just like Tokyo, Yokohama, Osaka, Dresden, Hamburg

    As retired Indian Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar reports, not only are Russian & Chinese media almost ignoring the alleged ‘nuclear threat from North Korea issue’ –

    New South Korean President Moon Jae-In, is so unconcerned about this alleged ‘North Korea nuclear threat’, he even declined to take a phone call from USA President Donald Trump on the issue … Trump was told they could talk about it somewhat later, after the Korean summer holidays

    An excellent new overview of why Hiroshima was not a ‘nuclear’ or ‘atomic bomb’ explosion, is here:

    Key points from above article:

    – Swedish nuclear engineer Anders Björkman, who was asked to investigate building ‘nuclear weapons’ for Sweden, has argued in detail for years that nuclear weapons are impossible, fake, & have never existed (as opposed to nuclear power, which does work)

    – The ‘smoking gun’ proving that Hiroshima was fake, has been found in US military records of 1945, which logged 66 aeroplanes as ‘chemically fire-bombing Imabari, Japan’, close to Hiroshima, at the same date & hour as the alleged ‘atomic bomb’ … however, Imabari no longer existed at that day, the small city being totally destroyed in 2 previous fire-bombing raids … this was clearly the fleet that fire-bombed Hiroshima

    – German Jesuit priest Rev John Siemes, an eye-witness in Hiroshima, heard local witnesses report planes spreading incendiary material

    – US military Major Alexander de Seversky, surveying Japanese cities shortly after the bombings, found Hiroshima to show no signs at all of anything other than chemical fire-bombing, just like Tokyo, Yokohama & Osaka … central buildings were intact with even fragile objects undamaged, even flag poles undamaged beneath ‘ground zero’ … no spot where things had been ‘vapourised’

    – The area destroyed in Hiroshima, was only one-fourth the size of the area destroyed in the Tokyo fire-bombing raid that left identical types of devastation

    – At the time there was huge intimidation, ‘death penalty for unauthorised speaking’, suppression of Japanese & USA witnesses & involved persons … whilst those allowed to make statements seem to be quite scripted & false-seeming

    – Photographs of Hiroshima smoke look exactly like the columns of smoke from chemical fire-bombing, as said by Japanese witnesses who eventually did speak … not like ‘mushroom clouds’ which are also from certain types of chemical explosions, but later marketed as the ‘nuclear weapon signature’

    – A 1990 medical study, completing 40 years of investigation of Hiroshima & Nagasaki survivors, showed no genetic damage, as is typical of those exposed to too-high radiation

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