Drums of War

Cover story of The Atlantic this month. Not a militarily solvable problem. But again, anyone who pays attention over the last few decades already knew that.


He’s more like a trumpeter of doom. Pun intended.

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Joke all you want, its probably not your life at risk.

Oh, I believe that it is. This is serious business. Missiles from NK are not the only thing that could kill people on US soil. They’ve been thinking about this stuff for a long time. Do you think that long range missiles is the only plan? I doubt it.

You might want to make some long term vacation plans…

Please elaborate. You seem to be supposing something I’ve not previously been informed of.

Again, as per my reply to @TobinL above, here in Japan were almost inured to this sort of thing by the DPRK. I didnt act on irrational fears during the disasters of March 2011 and won’t now either.

We can all be concerned and worried about the escalating tensions going on here even if the risks change. It’s not a zero sum game and my fears aren’t any less valid than yours regardless of geography – especially as someone living on the west coast in a major metropolitan area that would likely be targeted by DPRK IBCMs.

I also don’t think it’s unreasonable to assume that there’s contingencies in place as @Akimbo_NOT alluded to to further do harm against Americans and their allies if things like nukes don’t pan out (especially cyber attacks).


So much this.


It’s interesting to note that even here most of the commenters are framing this as NK threatening America.

Although the Kims are fond of delivering ludicrous threats on a regular basis, the Koreans are not the aggressors in this situation.


Flouting the rest of the world with high profile missile launch tests seems pretty aggressive to me.


The realistic range of that last one is preeeeety much everywhere.

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The last thirty years have made it very clear that the only reliable way of deterring a US invasion is to develop nuclear weapons.

North Korea’s nukes are defensive.


None of us here expect NK to start a war by lobbing a missile across the pacific, but maybe they might try it if the US strikes them first.


Unfortunately the calculus of mutually assured destruction in all its variants is the one actual zero sum game. In this case the mutuality is both Koreas long before nuclear weapons enter the question. If you look at the linked article from that Atlantic above for the map of known/best estimate locations of military sites this is very clear

Regarding feelings of fear, those are what they are. Risk on the other hand isn’t fear, its the likelihood of a specific event and associated impact. The risks involved to the population and economic viability of South Korea are near total due to the sheer number of conventional armaments of the North. The risks to major population centers in Japan are significantly high due to population density and the conventional missiles of North Korea. This is even considering THAAD, AGAIS and other defensive platforms. The risk to Japan is probably not significantly increased by the number of literal North Korean citizens here but may be affected.

Risks to CONUS due to ICBMs seems to be far lower. Geography matters here as do systems reliability. North Korea has not demonstrated any great reliability in regards to these platforms and while the potential range is high, the estimated strike capability is low. This puts the actual risk factor in a very different area.

Well its certainly not going to be land, sea or air strikes on CONUS and the actual risks involved regarding potential cyberwar issues range from headline grabbing but not life threatening to FULL TOM CLANCY FREAKOUT but in all honestly don’t seem to be quantifiably significant by any analysts I follow.

Again, if I’m missing something please do let me know. While its easy to speculate on contingencies from a fear based perspective, I’m primarily interested in facts over fears.

Assuming you mean the North Koreans, then perhaps you view the naval strikes, border incursions, repeated missile tests into both South Korean & Japanese waters over the last few years as non-aggressive in nature? I’m sure the South Korean troops who died in one of those naval battles were just pure coincidence?

Well by that point of view arent everyone’s nukes defensive?

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I never said they were nice.

But the threat of conquest is all from the US side. There is no realistic possibility of the North Koreans attempting to conquer the South or launch a nuclear first strike.

The Kim regime is horrific. The Korean people are not the Kim regime.

And yes, I’m deliberately leaving out the north/south distinction. All of Korea is toast if war erupts, and the lives of all Koreans appear equally insignificant to the TrumpGOP regime.

A countervalue deterrent is defensive. A counterforce arsenal is not.



Either you are using the word incorrectly or moving the goalposts.

Same as above. The tensions in the Korean peninsula have not been about conquest since the 50s.

We can’t say this with certainty, its in the category of known unknowns by every defense analyst including those in South Korea.

Again either using words in non standard ways or moving the goalposts. Nuclear armed ICBMs are nuclear armed ICBMs and a variant of MAD theory still applies here.

Countervalue deterrent: “I have a dozen nukes, and if you attack me I’ll trash your cities”. Defensive.

Counterforce arsenal: “I have a thousand nukes, designed to eliminate your military ability before you can respond”. Offensive.

Those are fairly standard terms in discussion of nuclear war.

Nobody ever worried about France or the UK nuking anyone, as they had countervalue weapons. Everybody worried about the USA and USSR nuking everyone, because they had counterforce weapons.


So handwavium dismissal of MAD theory is what you have.

The functioning of MAD requires:

  • Neither side believing that they can successfully pull off an effective counterforce strike.
  • Relatively sane and competent leadership.
  • Leadership that is not being controlled by an outside force actively hostile to the interests of the citizens he supposedly represents.