1). As Strategy Page reminds us, the North Korean economy continues to nose dive. Pyongyang recently resorted to stealing the Chinese aid trains themselves arriving from China, kicking the Chinese crews back across the border. The regime totters on the brink more every month. There is almost no more elasticity to be gained by offloading food and other shortages on to the civilian population — to the point of mass starvation — while preserving the military and regime. This growing potential social implosion only heightens unpredictability.
2). We disagree usually with the revanchism of of “The Korea Liberator” group blog. Their blog is, however, a reliable window to what certain Non-Neocons-But-Neocon-Influenced circles advocate. (The Korea Liberator folks have taken the Neocon liberation memes at face value, alas for them).
Their particular analysis yesterday of why the North launched is not too far off the mark. (Yet they omit two vital missing ingredients in the bid for attention — North Korea can not be credibly tied to a threat to Israel and they lack oil.) But otherwise the blog offers the predictable Bolton-esque responses. Here's their wish list for a U.S. non-military response.
3). Quite sensibly, the Chinese, the South Koreans and even the Russians are likely to focus on 1)., supra and ignore this “wish list”. Further “liberation” theology from the U.S. will not avert either a desperation military option from the North or a social implosion. Their strategic priority — as literal next door neighbors — is to seek policies fostering a soft landing for the regime.
For the South Koreans, the specter only slightly less alarming than military adventurism is an Egon Krenz — a regime that disintegrates in the North, flooding the South with millions of refugees, etc. The South Koreans can only look at the German experience to see the political and economic costs of rapid (and forced, by default) integration. The Japanese, also not connected by a common border (and with imperial history as well) are in the U.S. camp.
4). The real winner in all of this are the Korea Liberators, Boltons, etc. And Rumsfeld et al. in OSD. The psychological costs of the test failure was a double plus bonus. Politically, the Administration will push for more sanctions unilaterally and at the hated (from their point of view) UN. Over at OSD, expect the Missile Defense Agency to get higher visibility and more money for a system of dubious operational viability. If you are a shareholder on the prime or subcontractors for the Alaskan or sea based missile defense subcontractors, your equity position just went up.
(We will post some more thoughts on Hamdan, war crimes and Addington in a bit).