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Sunday, April 7, 2013

Negotiating With Rebellious Rogues

I don't think that anyone would disagree that the situation between North Korea and it's neighbours is undesireable. It's been decades and it seems as though little if no progress has been made towards a genuine, long lasting peace. Recent events indicate that things may have changed for the worse though...

Part of the problem is that even in recent past history indicates several so called 'rogue states' (including North Korea) have:
- shared information, research, and (they've even flown scientists around the world to participate in joint research) expertise regarding weapons (WMD in particular) technology with one another
- probably not recognised the difference between standing up for their interests and crossing the line into belligerance (cultural differences do not help)
- have often ignored communications with other states (particular with respect with nuclear dis-armament)
- possibly co-operated with regards to timing in during senstive times to possible  distract others from other 'illicit activity'
- have agreed to measures towards nuclear disarmament and increasing stability only to go back on their promises. Do some basic research/background and you'll see that the line between criminal and state activity sometimes blurs to become indistinguishable
- not (perhaps they have?) recognised have sent all sorts of strange and sometimes conflicting signals
So what are the options?
- wait, watch, and see. Basically, what has been done so far. Be aware of the situation, increase surveillance, do drills, take measures to guard yourselves against any possible manouvres. Problem is you're always reacting to what they do
- be proactive. Tighten restrictions/sanctions/aid even further. Shutdown EVERYTHING (including co-operation at Kaesong). Do not rule out pre-emptive attacks/covert action especially if there are imminent signs of a launch/attack
- ignore. Not a good option particularly in light of past 'incidents'
- he may simply be trying to tighten control/hold on power. In which case, we should just play along and hope that one day North Korea and it's neighbours can come to a peaceful arrangement. Obviously, this is a dangerous option and if we don't judge things correctly we may be worse off in future than we are currently 
- this may simply be probing/poking us to see what the response will be in case of a real conflict. Likely that responses gathered from this particular situation will be used in subsequent situations. Wide range of responses possible here... job of defense, foreigns affairs, and intelligence analysts/strategists
- if they refuse to give up nuclear weapons technology offer their neighbours nuclear and/or ofther arms (offensive as well as defensive) technology. Possibly even if it is under foreign/allied control. Make them realise that it is in neither sides interests to pursue this tack. Obvious problem is how other countries would react to such an offer and the precedent it would set worldwide. There's also the issue of operational security. In the past, Japanese rocketry research was successfully penetrated, research into American nuclear weapons was breached, and it's been clear that South Korean cyber security needs some work
- offer a peace agreement (are they genuinely interested in peace though?). However, make it known that if we do go down this route North Korea has to know that it's neighbours have to be able to ensure their safety as well. Concessions will likely have to be made on both North Korea's part as well as that of it's neighbours. Recommend gradual, phased standing down of military forces, expansion of buffer zone, and inspections from both sides that they are they are complying with the terms of the deal. Similar in nature to nuclear weapons inspections but these will occur primarily between neighbours. International intervention a choice if desired- go to war. Choice up/down scale between 'measured response', 'escalation', and 'all out attack'. Long range bombardment to hit all known launch sites and sites of danger. They may back down at this point or act even more irrationally (based on conventional wisdom). Obvious risk is that not all dangerous assets are hit and they have may nuclear assets still in possession. Moreover, not sure how others in the region are likely to react. China may seem them as a strategic nuisance/buffer zone (reminds me of Iranian policy with regards to Syria actually) but it's also clear that North Korea is becoming more difficult for both allies and enemies alike. Would China join in (pictures of border indicate build up of Chinese forces)? A proxy war ensues similar to Syria? Another major issue is if the regime falls who takes over (UN forces until transition takes place or would someone else?)?  How could it get worse though? Major humanitarian, economic, stability, and other problems at stake...
- mount a phony war? Exfiltrate regime, bomb regime headquarters/all relevant sites, and then basically start from scratch? Practicality (suspect that even basic things like secure communications would be problematic)?
- Chinese strategic concept of buffer zone needs to factor in ability to control situation though. Perhaps they need to tighten grip on North Korea? Stop thinking about North Korean regime disappearing but make the Chinese realise that they will be the ones who have to support North Korea from now on. No more international support...
- pursue nuclear research in parallel (as opposed to nuclear arms inspections) if it really is their intention to pursue nuclear power rather than nuclear weapons?

Key questions:
- perhaps the regime actually is in trouble (based on what I've seen they've always been able to manage in spite of sanctions)? Is this is just a means of solidifying power? Is this just a campaign of mis-information?
- is this just internal stuff that we're unlikely to understand unless we are North Korean? Defectors to help interpret some of these messages? I remember reading reports/accounts from defectors in the past and a lot of what they said just seemed bizarre when viewed from a Western perspective (as an aside, I once remember taking a personality test of how I perceive myself and how I thought others perceived me. Not only were they unusual but there was somewhat of a disconnect between what I thought and what others thought as well. Suspect this may be happening (limited impact though) here)
- obvious question but one that should be asked. Are they reacting to us or are we reacting to them? If we do 'play along' do we keep our message muted or go out of our way to praise their state?
- should we negotiate with the knowledge that they will almost definitely go back on their word?
- would temporarily stopping excercises/scaling back help?

Either way, I believe that we need to be more clear/firm in our communications. Clear that there is some room for interpretation at the moment. Many people can talk but there must only be one or a limited number of responses and it must be firm with no room for mis-interpretation.

Keep in mind standard tenets of nuclear warfare/strategy. Richard A. Clarke's Cyber War is slight alarmist but actually does  a good job of outlining some of the strategies that have been used to avoid nuclear catastrophe in the past.

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