greatest strengths are actually weaknesses
Much has been made of North Korea and its ability to
destabilize the region with its powerful military and fanatically devoted
populace. Although most of the world dismisses Kim Jong Un's bluster as just
that, there are a few who remain concerned that a miscalculation could cause the
new leader to blunder into war. In such an event, despite the fact North Korea
is a technological backwater, the North Korean juggernaut remains feared.Nobody
knows what this contraption does, and that's scary in an absurd way.Catholic Online:
While plenty reason
exists to fear North Korean might, there's also a lot of reason to discount it.
Here are four of that country's greatest supposed strengths and why they are
really liabilities in the event of war.
Army of 1.2 million. North Korea
is legendary for its large military. With approximately 1.2 million soldiers in
its army, it can easily overwhelm the South Korean military with an advantage of
more than 2 to 1.
However, this isn't such a strength, particularly following
any initial thrust.
One million troops consume a lot of food and during
combat they consume fuel and ammunition among other supplies. While North Korea
can lay in plenty of ammunition, food is perishable and it will be difficult to
feed a moving, fighting army that is subject to interdiction by superior enemy
A more likely outcome will be mass defections and the
surrender of large numbers of troops when they are faced with starvation and a
lack of supplies.
North Korea is already dependent on international food
aid to feed its starving population and most food aid is diverted to the army.
However, in the event of war, all food shipments would likely cease and the only
food many soldiers would get is that foraged from the countryside. That's not
enough to ensure the success of a military campaign. Undoubtedly, this weighs
heavily on the minds of North Korea's military planners and leaders and serves
as a brake on Kim Jong Un's imperialist ambition.
The fanatic devotion
of the people. North Korea runs much like a religious cult. Even the news
reporters and media personalities are bombastic, emotional, and show more public
devotion to "Dear Leader" than many westerners show God in their churches.
People are commonly photographed and taped bowing before portraits of their
"Dear Leaders" which are regarded as shrines.
Such fanatical devotion
could prove dangerous as the populace is apparently ready to fight to the death
for their dear leader.
Certainly, there are true devotees. There were
good Nazis, and even Japan had to turn away volunteers for kamikaze service.
Many Branch Davidians died because they refused to flee their compound as it
burned. However, most people are not fools.
North Korea is a nation
governed by fear. Not only is the individual who infracts the rules subject to
severe punishment, including death, but their families are as well. Many people
who would otherwise break away and speak out against the North Korean regime
would probably do so if not for fear their family, including children, would
spend the rest of their lives in a forced labor camp.
Much of the North
Korean economy depends on forced labor and it is widely exploited to prop up the
national economy. As a result even minor infractions can land an entire family
behind barbed wire.
For this reason, many people will harbor secret
resentment against their Dear Leader and hope for a day when they no longer have
to feign selfless devotion. A war could provide such an opportunity, especially
if it went badly. This is not to suggest that North Koreans would also willingly
accept foreign occupation of their country, but they aren't likely to be as
quick to die for Dear Leader as one might assume. In fact, the country could be
filled with people who would like to see Kim Jong Un fall from power.
This could be the very purpose of the current manufactured crisis. Many
speculate that the crisis is being manufactured by Kim Jong Un as a means of
consolidating his domestic power. The people are ruled by fear, which works, but
also breeds resentment. If the people find an opportunity to throw off the
chains of oppression, they may be quick to turn against their own leaders. So
far, despite the tough talk, it appears to be a risk Kim Jong Un is unwilling to
The bomb. Some of the greatest concern over North Korea is related
to its nuclear capability. Kim Jong Un has threatened to deploy nuclear weapons
against any nation that threatens North Korea, and has made a public spectacle
of threatening South Korea and the United States. The world knows North Korea
has the bomb. This will give many pause when it comes to fighting with the state
rather than negotiating.
While the bomb can deter aggression, it can
also inspire it. North Korea has both the bomb and a crazed dictator in control
of it. This is an unstable combination and that can inspire other states to
intervene powerfully before something unpredictable happens.
conflict does occur, the allied nations will probably strike that much harder
and with greater intensity in a bid to neutralize the country's nuclear
capability. That would include striking command and control facilities and any
other infrastructure seen as essential to deployment of a bomb.
rather than discouraging intervention, the bomb could encourage swift and
powerful intervention of the most aggressive sort at the first sign of perceived
Nothing. Perhaps North Korea's greatest wartime asset is quite
literally nothing. The country is wracked with poverty, disease, and hardship.
What is left for the country to lose when its people already live in a primitive
state compared to the rest of the world?
Actually, quite a lot. Anyone
who lives in privilege from Kim Jong Un himself to his generals, to his
supporters, and to his bureaucrats, all enjoy a fair standard of living compared
to the rest of the people. That means anyone who enjoys power of any sort also
enjoys privilege and can lose it at the moment of conflict. This is a powerful
disincentive to war, especially one the country is likely to lose.
from being fearful of North Korean conflict, the world should recognize that
there's little to worry about from North Korea. What we are most afraid of is
also that which keeps them restrained. In reality, they must fear war as much as
we do. For that reason we can go back to sleep at night.