Intel At Intel Dump

Adam White, posting over at Phil Carter’s Intel Dump while Phil is teaching the operations of law to Iraqis (Phil, I owe you a steak when you come back…soon and healthy, please!) has three great posts up.

In reverse chronological order:

He takes apart the argument that there was no justification for Bush not to have bombed the terror camp where Al-Zarqawi was hiding in the No-Fly Zone in 2002 except as a pretext to rationalize the war.White’s argument is simple; Bush tried to move international institutions (read France and Germany) to support actions up to and including war with Iraq, was ultimately unsuccessful and proceeded anyway. A premature attack would have been sees as reckless escalation, and since there was no way to know that the negotiations would be unsuccessful in advance (we hadn’t seen the Oil-For-Food books yet), it was sensible to try everything in our power – including restraint – to strengthen them.

He highlights the Perry/Carter proposal that we send a Tomahawk in to bomb the Nork launch pad before they launch their missile. He’s kinder to the proposal than I would be, and asks his audience for comments (which are interesting). My view is that this is a fairly typical example of Clinton’s policy calculus: cheap, theatrical, guaranteed casualty-free, and ineffective. The fact that it would constitute an act of war seems to evade folks’ attention.

And he highlights the LA Times/ NY Times articles exposing the (valuable, now hopelessly compromised) financial intelligence programs, and points out the first-cut legal arguments that support their legality.

As a side note, I’ll comment that the LA Times has finally pushed me to cancel my subscription with this article, and I’d encourage anyone else reading this who gets the paper to do the same thing.

54 thoughts on “Intel At Intel Dump”

  1. “Scrappleface”:http://www.scrappleface.com/?p=2283 is priceless:

    “June 23, 2006
    New York Times Secretly Sifting CIA Data”

    “Times executive editor Bill Keller, in a hastily-called news conference, assured Americans that the scope of the intel-sifting and sharing program is “strictly limited” and that the results are “crucial to the success of the war on the war on terror.””

  2. Just to nitpick re North Korea — in the absence of a formal peace treaty after the Korean War, the Tomahawk option would arguably not be an “act of war”, but rather a “violation of the cease fire.”

  3. I think Catch22 in the comments did a fine job of slicing up the claim re: Zarqawi.

    To assert that bombing a camp believed to be used by terrorists to manufacture WMD’s would have doomed any international cooperation against Saddam, while not mentioning that fairly extensive bombing campaigns were already proceeding in Iraq isn’t being ignorant. It’s being blatently dishonest.

    He discusses the NFZ coalition but fails to mention that it consisted soley of the US and Great Britain. As if Tony Blair would have pitched a bitch about taking out an Al Qaida camp at that time.

    Also pointed out in the fairly damning response, NATO had even invoked its collective self-defense clause for the first time. This would obviously extended to an attack on Al Qaida in northern Iraq.

    Adam didn’t “take apart” any argument. Frankly, he made a fool of himself.

  4. Bombing the camp was risky unless there were eyes on the target- ie the way we finally got the guy. We would stand a strong chance of just dispersing the rats and killing a few minions like we did bombing Afghanistan after the Cole. To really do the job we would have needed special forces to surround and engage the camp, and there _is_ a legitimate argument that putting American forces into combat on Iraqi soil would have soured the diplomatic efforts.

    Do I think the administration went into the negotiations in good faith? Well, i think they had faith that the international community didnt have the spine to put the screws to Saddam in a meaningful way, which was the correct read. I dont think it is bad faith to be realistic. That being the case the administration made lemonaid by at least showcasing the duplicity and lack of seriousness in the UN, which made defying them more palpable. This is a non-trivial point, it is largely forgotten but Bush did indeed bend over backwards to accomidate the international community- including not invading Iraq to take out a terrorist base. Considering whatever credit and stature Bush drew from playing the diplomatic game was forgotten almost immediately, the only mistake seems to have been bothering to play at all and not taking out Zarqawi on an earlier trip to Baghdad.

  5. As for the North Koreans, the problem with attacking them has always been the fact that they essentially hold Seoul hostage. If North Korea were to start a full out war, they would almost certainly lose, but only after inflicting devastating losses on the civilian population of Seoul and surrounding areas. There are very densely populated areas of Seoul that are well within range of North Korean artillery. And the North Koreans have a lot of artillery. It’s nothing fancy, but it doesn’t have to be, a sustained artillery barage of only a few hours would lead to massive destruction and thousands if not hundreds of thousands dead.

    That’s why we’ve never used a strong military hand with North Korea, the consequences of escalation are just too high.

  6. The impression I got about the financial monitoring story this morning from NPR (WHYY) was that the administration asked the NYT and WAPO not to print the story, although the WSJ says it wasn’t asked. There just isn’t much doubt in my mind that this was a patently foolish and irresponsible act on their part. And since the legality of holding news outlets accountable if they don’t reveal sources for national security leaks has already been established I’d like to see some aggressive prosecution of the leakers, and of the news outlets if they don’t play ball. Not doing so, it seems to me, is almost equally irresponsible since it would virtually guarantee ongoing leaks.

  7. Robin,

    North Korea no longer has an army – it is no longer capable even of internal security duty. The sole purpose of the continued existence of the NKPA is to provide the gangster confederacy with free labor to exploit. Discipline is so gone that, several years ago, NKPA conscript enlisted were taking their guns off-base and crossing the Yalu to rob banks in Manchuria. This stopped when the PLA moved another 75,000 – 100,000 troops to the Yalu.

    The US estimate is that the ROK alone could conquer all of North Korea in six weeks.

    Your data is ten years out of date.

  8. Bombing the camp was risky unless there were eyes on the target- ie the way we finally got the guy.

    This is a reasonable argument. I’m not sure I’d agree there was much risk involved, but still it’s reasonable. As opposed to Adam’s argument.

  9. > I’d like to see some aggressive prosecution of the leakers

    I think you’ll have to wait for a different administration.

    The current US administration has come down pretty clearly in favor of protecting people who leak national security information, and pretty strongly against the dream (?) of holding anyone responsible for their actions, as long as they are doing things that somehow benefit the administration, financially or politically.

  10. Davebo, did you read the article? I’m not being insulting, but Adam’s blog piece is a discussion of his “article”:http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/012/340fcefr.asp?pg=2 and it wasn’t immediately obvious to me and some of the other commentors over there.

    The No Fly Zones were not expressly authorized, but were in a “penumbra” of UN resolutions.

    Expaning the NFZ concepts had historically met with opposition and cost support from allies like France.

    Though Adam doesn’t make this point, international support doesn’t just mean a U.N. resolution. The U.S. needed the support of neighboring countries like the Gulf States and Turkey to stage an invasion, and as we now know, we were just shy of getting Turkey’s support anyway (which we didn’t know at the time).

    Does NATO now have authority to bomb anyplace al-Qaeda operations are believed to be?

  11. “The US estimate is that the ROK alone could conquer all of North Korea in six weeks.”

    True, but that wouldnt save “Seoul:”:http://cns.miis.edu/research/korea/dprkmil.htm

    “Seoul, the South Korean capitol, lies within range of North Korean long-range artillery. Five hundred 170mm Koksan guns and 200 multiple-launch rocket systems could hit Seoul with artillery shells and chemical weapons, causing panic and massive civilian casualties.”

  12. “You could turn inside out and explode too. The odds of that happening are low.”

    Im not a physicist but i’d wager the odds of me turning inside out and exploding are several orders of magnitude lower than the NKs responding to an attack by pummeling Seoul.

  13. PD

    Yes, I did read the article. But as I said, it just doesn’t make sense to me.

    At the time the NFZ was run and funded only by the US and Great Britian. As noted in comments we dropped over 600 bombs on Iraq in late 2002 through early 2003 prior to the commencement of the war.

    I’m sorry but it just doesn’t add up to me. We were at war with Al Qaida, that much we know. The idea that we couldn’t bomb a known Al Qaida camp, but it was OK to bomb several hundred other targets in Iraq, whom we were not yet at war with just strains credibility to me.

  14. The idea that we couldn’t bomb a known Al Qaida camp, but it was OK to bomb several hundred other targets in Iraq, whom we were not yet at war with just strains credibility to me.

    How do you know the camp wasn’t on of these 600 sites?

    And by this reasoning, would should now bomb the Nork’s missile launch site pemeptively. Right?

  15. How do you know the camp wasn’t on of these 600 sites?

    Because the Administration, and Adam himself, said so?

    And by this reasoning, would should now bomb the Nork’s missile launch site pemeptively. Right?

    We could, but the consensus seems to be that would be a pretty lousy idea. Don’t take my word for it, ask Dick Cheney.

    But hey, that’s a fabulous straw man you’ve erected. Knock away at it.

  16. Forgive me for just asking this instead of reading the primary sources of the argument (I plead lack of time), but could someone explain the theory under which the failure to bomb Zarqawi prior to the war is evidence of some nefarious purpose on Bush’s part? If Bush wanted to use the presence of terrorists in Iraq as a justification for overthrowing the regime, i don’t understand how that justification would have been weakened by killing one or more of those terrorists — there would still be precisely the same amount of evidence that Saddam had supported/harbored terrorists, and the same rational assumption that he would continue to do so in the future.

  17. Because the Administration, and Adam himself, said so?

    So, you mean it wasn’t bombed during the prelude to the invasion either? Can we conlcude from this that it wasn’t a large threat then?

    We could, but the consensus seems to be that would be a pretty lousy idea.

    I agree. I’m just trying to figure out if your positions are based on something other than pure partisanship. Can we assume that you do not oppose premptive action in principle? And that you’d consider suchon a case by case basis?

    Don’t take my word for it, ask Dick Cheney.

    Can you help me out? When is it that I’m supposed to agree with Chaney? And when am I not? Will you stop by from time to time to make sure that I’m listening to him when I’m supposed to, and not when I’m not?

  18. So, you mean it wasn’t bombed during the prelude to the invasion either? Can we conlcude from this that it wasn’t a large threat then?

    I have no idea. Nor does it seem relevent to the discussion. As to the level of threat is represented, I can only go by what my government told me and they were pretty worked up about it at the time if you’ll recall.

    I agree. I’m just trying to figure out if your positions are based on something other than pure partisanship.

    Well good luck with that.

    Can we assume that you do not oppose premptive action in principle? And that you’d consider suchon a case by case basis?

    Yes you can.

    Can you help me out? When is it that I’m supposed to agree with Chaney ? And when am I not?

    That’s something you’ll have to decide for yourself.

  19. Nor does it seem relevent to the discussion.

    I’m not the one that brought it up. AFAIK, supporters of the Iraq War don’t bring it up. The only ones that ever bring it up are those opposed to the invasion. It’s not even evidence against the neccesity of the invasion. It’s supposed to show how Bush was trying to maintain an excuse for the invasion, or how sneaky he is, or somehting. I agree that it’s not relavent. Will you stop bringing it up?

    That’s something you’ll have to decide for yourself.

    Thanks. That’s what I was already doing, before you implied I should be a good droid and take my opinions from him. At least I think that’s what your implication was. Am I wrong?

  20. Davebo, So you agree that the UN resolution didn’t expressly authorize the NFZ, that its a “stretch.” And then when Clinton further stretched the use of the NFZ, France protested and left the program. And all the while, the Muslim world is saying that the NFZ is a form of genocide; that if the U.S. really cared about Muslims it would take out Saddam. As one “commentator”:http://www.ict.org.il/articles/fatwah.htm put it:

    bq. _The best proof of this is the Americans’ continuing aggression against the Iraqi people using the Peninsula as a staging post, even though all its rulers are against their territories being used to that end, still they are helpless. Second, despite the great devastation inflicted on the Iraqi people by the crusader-Zionist alliance, and despite the huge number of those killed, in excess of 1 million… despite all this, the Americans are once against trying to repeat the horrific massacres, as though they are not content with the protracted blockade imposed after the ferocious war or the fragmentation and devastation._

    So further stretching the NFZ had two clear problems: (1) it would risk UN action to remove the fig leaf of international support in the UN resolutions and (2) it would galvanize anti-Americanism in the Middle East and threaten the ability to continue the NFZ from Muslim lands or launch a military deterrent from them.

    And after the smoke clears, Saddam would have brought out the bodies of dead Kurdish babies for the televisions to show that there was no al-Qaeda here.

  21. Fortunately, these media blabbermouths will face a firestorm of controversy, because the Democratic Party has its dander already up after freaking out for months over the leaked identity of a single CIA agent. They won’t stand for this!

    /sarcasm

  22. PD

    My point is that the NFZ really didn’t have anything to do with it since we had already begun an extensive bombing campaign in Iraq in areas outside of the NFZ. We were prepared to deal with the reaction of the international community for those strikes and I seriously doubt the uproar over attacking a terrorist’s camp where chemical munitions were being produced would have been any greater.

    Can you agree with that?

    Again, I’m not arguing for or against us taking out Zarqawi prior to the invasion per the Pentagon’s suggestion.

    I’m just saying that, IMO, Adam’s reasons for not doing so don’t make sense.

  23. Normally I agree with Davebo, but on Catch 22 and shredding White’s belly-laugh claim that we didn’t take out Zarqawi for legalistic reasons, the credit goes to the entire roster of commenters of whom Catch 22 is not even the most cogent.

    To summarize them as I understand them: (1) Zarqawi, as an AQ affiliate, could be attacked wherever he was after 9/11, much less in No-Man’s-Land; (2) the USA was already conducting (secret) airstrikes on Iraq by late 2002, and no rationale has been presented that could authorize these raids but somehow exempt such an exceptionally deserving target; and (3) the collateral defense that Bush didn’t link Zarqawi to Saddam as an excuse to attack the latter is simply untruthful.

    Is there something in Pres. Bush’s body odor that (unarmed) liberals can’t smell that makes people swoon over him? I mean, here’s a guy—White—who’s been a law clerk, OK, as part of the right-wing conspiracy but he must have a 3-digit IQ, and he offers up contemptible, ahistorical nonsense.

  24. AJL

    Agreed re: catch22. It was a definately a group effort. And I was dissapointed at White’s defense. He tended to “cherry pick” comments he felt he could refute while totally ignoring others.

  25. Dabebo: _My point is that the NFZ really didn’t have anything to do with it since we had already begun an extensive bombing campaign in Iraq in areas outside of the NFZ._

    Maybe that’s why you don’t find Adam’s article convincing. Its a response to the contention that the U.S. could have bombed Zarqawi because he was in the NFZ. I don’t think his argument is a red herring, that’s how I’ve heard the criticism before. But clearly, as far as you’re concerned, he could have struck out all reference to the NFZ.

    Still, is the following true?

    _(1) Zarqawi, as an AQ affiliate, could be attacked wherever he was after 9/11, much less in No-Man’s-Land;_

    We could have launched a missle at him when he was visiting Damascus or Tehran? What about the al Qaeda cells in London or Madris or Istanbul? Were there diplomatic costs as a result of the missle strike(s) in Pakistan? Clearly, the ability to launch attacks in Iraq was greater because of the fig leaf of international support that vague U.N. referendums provided.

    And I don’t think operations outside the NFZ were unproblematic. When Clinton launched Operation Desert Fox in 1998 to punish Iraq for obstructing UNSCOM inspections, Russia, China and France called for an end to the sanctions and UNSCOM. I don’t know what unobjectionable bombing campaign in Iraq Dabebo and AJL find comparable, but I’m pretty sure anything other than the deaths of poor, pathetic Iraqis in missile launch sites would have caused diplomatic problems (not legal problems).

    Of course, I also don’t judge the Clinton administration harshly for failing to bomb OBL for diplomatic considerations.

  26. I didn’t agree with everything in the samefacts article I linked to …, but it got me thinking again on how silly it is to try to quash long-range terrorists like OBL by a war on short-range terrorist whom we ourselves pretty much created in Iraq.

    AJL,

    1. Currently in the blogo-flurry is the discussion that Zman was in fact in Iraq in 2002 and part of the AQ team in attacking us.

    But Zarqawi was a figure the U.S. government stumbled upon, rather than raised up. A lone State Department official noticed an NSA intercept of a phone call from Zarqawi, who was in Iraq, to one of the assassins of USAID diplomat Lawrence Foley. (Foley was murdered in his driveway in Amman, Jordan in
    2002).

    2. I am very intrigued by the Same Facts link you brought up. It at least tries to put forward an analysis and a plan. Not all of it may be wrong, but…

    Recognise and name your enemy. It is Al-Qaeda, a small jihadi faction, and its emulators. It isn’t even all jihadis. Near-enemy jihadis have a lot of different enemies, Russia, Israel, Mubarak’s Egypt, Musharraf’s Pakistan, etc. America’s first problem is the few jihadis that kill Americans as such.

    I really disagree with this. Islamofacism is more like a pick up game. Players can prep in one theatre and show up in another later. Also, this is a clash with an idea. We will be seeing more jihadis that are local kids turned by the ideology. The stated goal of the Jihad is a world Caliphate. Just because we think this is ludicrous doesn’t stop them from trying. I notice that you and this article bring up the the idea of near and far jihad. I recommend Mary Habeck’s analysis

    Two 2004 C-Span videos of her ideas (first is best if you have time)

    Video Link on C-SPAN

    Now she has a book out

    Check out the ex military-intelligence reviewer’s statements. I highly recommend her analysis of the near and far jihad concept. I think your article has it wrong. I think it is merely a strategy of convenience.

    Double posting this here as the previous thread had moved to Zman anyway.

  27. Congratulations on cancelling your subscription to the Times. It seems to me that the only thing that can effect change is, ultimately, money and that while each individual cancelled subscription doesn’t seem like that much, over the last three or four years, the LA Times (as well as the NY Times) are drowning in a tsunami of cancelled subscriptions. And the shareholders of each entity *have* noticed.

    I feel guilty when I don’t know about the latest cop-shooting in LA because I don’t read the local rag but then, on the other hand, I’m not straining 24/7 trying to decipher truth from Times’ lies either — locally, nationally or internationally.

    I hope you accompanied your cancellation with lots of exclamation points and underlines, and that you cc’d the bosses in Chicago.

  28. Davebo,

    Mark is right about the chances of success. I went round and round with Danziger on this in an earlier thread.

    Claims that the Bush administration screwed up by not attacking this camp in 2002 are based on the traditional liberal/lefty “magic bullet” fantasy – that a little bit of force in the form of a Tomahawk cruise missile attack sans real-time ground reconnaissance means diddly squat.

    The incorrect assumptions are:

    1) Perfect intelligence on who was in the camp;

    2) Perfect intelligence on how important those people would be later on;

    3) Perfect intelligence on exactly where those people are located at the precise moment the attack goes in;

    4) No risk at all to those providing the intelligence;

    5) Perfect reliability and accuracy on the part of the attacking munitions.

    Because all military stuff is magic when liberals and lefties want it to be magic, and hopeless crap when they don’t want it to be magic.

  29. Tom, we might not have killed Zarqawi. Are you putting the possibility of failure forward as a genuine reason not to make an attempt on Zarqawi, or as some rhetorical triple-bank-shot that is supposedly going to skewer the liberals (the real enemy)? If the latter, it seems like a non sequitur. We certainly could have put Zarqawi’s terrorist training camp out of business, and we might well have forced him to flee (with attendant risk of capture).

    But we did nothing. I wonder why that is? Do you have any suggestion other than the obvious: that Zarqawi’s presence within the nominal border of Iraq (but without Saddam’s effective demesne) was useful for the Get Saddam PR Blitz?

    Unfortuntely for us, the death of Zarqawi in 2006 means a lot less than his death in 2002.

  30. Claims that the Bush administration screwed up by not attacking this camp in 2002 are based on the traditional liberal/lefty “magic bullet” fantasy

    Tom, could you remind me again how, with 140,000 troops on the ground in Iraq, Zarqawi was finally killed?

    Seriously, tossing in the partisan reference is just silly. I recall that socialist Reagan bombing Tripoli and Benghazi in April of 86.

    Heck we have to wonder why to pinko pussies at the pentagon asked 3 times for permission to launch this obvious charade.

  31. Was Zarqawi even considered that important by anyone in 2002.

    Colin Powell’s Feb 2003 presentation to the UN—you recall, the one filled with claims Powell himself now describes as “false“—mentioned Zarqawi about twenty times, e.g.

    Iraq today harbors a deadly terrorist network headed by Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, an associated in collaborator of Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaida lieutenants.

  32. “Tom, could you remind me again how, with 140,000 troops on the ground in Iraq, Zarqawi was finally killed?”

    I’ll field this one. A US special forces task force (TF 145) spent over 2 years tracking the man across Iraq, missing him by feet on more than one occasion. Finally the combination of Jordanian intelligence, infiltrators, and disgruntled Sunnis led them to the area which included the exact safe house which was watched as a possible target for 6 weeks. A group of 3 special forces operatives observed Zarqawi arriving, and fearing his escape called in 2 F-16s (only 1 of which arrived) to drop 2 500 pound bombs, one based on their laser designation, and the other on GPS information.

    That is exactly the point. This was a massive operation requiring years of dilligent and often fruitless intelligence work, and ended by the American operatives eyeballing the man and guiding in ordanance on him. This was anything but a magic bullet.

  33. Mark said in his #13

    bq. Im not a physicist but i’d wager the odds of me turning inside out and exploding are several orders of magnitude lower than the NKs responding to an attack by pummeling Seoul.

    Your near future is going to be very messy and short.

    The Norks have done no maintenance on any of their artillery in range of Seoul for 7-12 years worth of North Korean winters inside thier underground artillery bunkers.

    This leaves aside the fact that Norks have not produced new artillery ammunition for at least as long and what they have is low quality crap compared to Soviet ammunition production methods.

    _Those guns_ firing *that ammunition* are a bigger threat to the gun crews than they are to the population of Seoul.

  34. #35 AJL

    And your point is?

    From the ABC news item you link:

    “George Tenet did not sit there for five days with me misleading me. He believed what he was giving to me was accurate. … The intelligence system did not work well,” he said.

    Does this mean Powell was wrong via Tenet, during the ABC interview, or now? That is, just because some intel is faulty, is all of the information false? Do subsequent developments allow us to rehabilitate Powell? I think you need to apply Occam’s razor to what we knew about AQ in Iraq circa 2002. If they are acknowleged to have operations in 60-70 countries, and Iraq was tightly controlled by SH, then my take is that the nexus exists and WMD could have found its way into AQ hands.

  35. _”The Norks have done no maintenance on any of their artillery in range of Seoul for 7-12 years worth of North Korean winters inside thier underground artillery bunkers._

    _This leaves aside the fact that Norks have not produced new artillery ammunition for at least as long and what they have is low quality crap compared to Soviet ammunition production methods.”_

    You have a source for this?

    _”Those guns firing that ammunition are a bigger threat to the gun crews than they are to the population of Seoul.”_

    Easy to say from your cozy home several thousand miles away. Seems to me artillery shells vintage pre-1990s are blowing up in Iraq every day quite effectively. For that matter you still hear about some unfortunate Frenchmen who puts his spade into a circa WW1 shell every few years.

    I would be a bit more cautious taking for granted the state of repair of some rather simple weapons tucked into the mountains of a police state. Particularly weapons that could very easily kill tens of thousands of civilians if you are wrong. I would suspect that if those ‘obsolete’ weapons were aimed at Seattle you would be a bit less glib in your assessments. Or maybe not, you and Tom seem so entirely sure of your intelligence assessments at all turns, its hard to say.

    For the record, here is the “Global Security”:http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/dprk/army.htm assessment of NK readiness:

    “Before the winter 2000 training, some had suggested that North Korea’s economic crisis had caused North Korean training to decline considerably. Such a decline, in combination with maintenance and support difficulties, would have minimized the conventional threat posed by North Korean forces. For larger units, most North Korean training is traditionally done during the winter training cycle, but little training went on in the winter of 1999. The winter of 1998 was a more robust training period (though less than historical patterns in some ways).

    The North Korean performance in the winter 2000 training was relatively impressive, suggesting that previous judgments have been premature. Immediately following the June 2000 summit, the North Korean People’s Army training cycle in the summer of 2000 was the most extensive ever recorded. It was preceded by the most ambitious winter training cycle for the past ten years. Training levels since 2000 have been record-breaking, with the focus on improving the readiness of major offensive forces.”

    Here is the 2000 Defense Dept’s report to Congress: “link”:http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Sep2000/korea09122000.html

    “North Korea continues to improve its military. In the last 12 months, North Korea has worked hard to arrest a decline in readiness and to improve its military capability. Highlighting these enhancements is an ambitious program to improve ground forces capabilities. A key component of this initiative involves the deployment of large numbers of long-range 240mm multiple rocket launcher systems and 170mm self-propelled guns to hardened sites located near the Demilitarized Zone. Other force improvements include emplacement of anti-tank barriers in the forward area, establishment of combat positions along major routes between Pyongyang and the Demilitarized Zone, repositioning of key units, beefing up of coastal defense forces in the forward area, construction of missile support facilities, preparations for extended range missile testing, and procurement of fighter aircraft. Applying lessons from US operations in Europe and Southwest Asia, the North Koreans have modified key facility defenses, dispersed forces, and improved an already impressive camouflage, concealment, and deception effort. Summer and fall 1999 training levels were extremely high. Key activities during the 1999-2000 winter training cycle were at record levels and demonstrated a concerted effort to improve readiness. Additionally, early indicators reflect that this summer training cycle (Calendar Year 2000) may well be headed toward near record levels. Production of limited numbers of military equipment, to include missiles, aircraft, submarines, and artillery systems also continues.”

    And here is an article from “The Atlantic”:http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200507/stossel with a fascinating discussion by top brass and government types war gaming NK

    “The consensus was that Seoul could not be guaranteed protection. And McInerney, who dissented from that consensus, was projecting up to 100,000 casualties in South Korea in the first few days.”

    So the _most optimistic_ man at the table contenanced 100,000 civilian casualties in Seoul.

  36. Forgive me for just asking this instead of reading the primary sources of the argument (I plead lack of time), but could someone explain the theory under which the failure to bomb Zarqawi prior to the war is evidence of some nefarious purpose on Bush’s part?

    I’ll explain one version of the theory, but I’m not saying it’s true. I’m only saying how it goes.

    The idea is that the Bush Administration knew that Zarqawi’s people had a base in iraq that was making biological weapons, particularly ricin, a biological-derived poison. This base was in the kurdish-controlled north and Saddam wouldn’t have been able to attack it if he wanted to. No proof what he’d have wanted if he could do it, but to reach them he’d have had to fight through the peshmerga. These guys were not particularly al qaeda at that point, but a small independent outfit.

    The Administration announced that the base was in iraq, and used it as propaganda against Saddam. It seemed to imply that Saddam was supporting al qaeda, making biological weapons, and/or letting al qaeda make biological weapons.

    Then there was an abortive ricin attack in britain, possibly using poor-quality ricin from this base.

    It turned out that there had been plans to attack the base with cruise missiles or whatever, and the plans were cancelled.

    So if you assume that the Bush Administration cared only about propaganda, then you might suppose that they not only blamed Saddam unfairly but they preserved the base so it could make ricin. Then there would be another terrorist attack that might kill somebody’s civilians and create just the kind of terror Bush needed to get his war on.

    If you’re willing to assume the worst about Bush etc, it looks real real bad.

    I don’t think it was that bad, myself. I’ve made up a reasonable story that fits the facts I’ve heard. Maybe someday we’ll get more information that might show me I’m wrong. My story is that they didn’t bomb Zarqawi’s camp because it’s a losing proposition. Say you use one million-dollar cruise missile and you succeed in destroying a farmhouse worth $10,000 and equipment worth another $10,000. The terrorists then move a few miles away and spend another $20,000, and your million dollars hasn’t accomplished much. It’s plain not cost-effective to destroy low-tech stuff in rural areas of the third world with expensive high-tech cruise missiles. It might have been more worth it if they could take out important terrorists. But how important were these guys, really? Say the important ones have two years of training, in a secret school in Berlin. In two years they could crank out a hundred like them. We try to track them down and use a hundred more cruise missiles to take them out? That isn’t cost-effective either. Still, the administration thought about it. They weren’t sure they’d get enough important terrorists, too much chance the right guys wouldn’t be there, so they didn’t bother.

    Mark’s argument that we needed guys on the ground is not particularly well-founded. We could have asked the kurds to be our guys on the ground. We could have asked them to take out the camp and not done any airstrikes at all unless they asked. I’m assuming there that the kurds who controlled that area or closest to that area weren’t friendly with Zarqawi’s group. They might have been buddies which would have complicated things for any attack against him.

    Anyway, my guess is that the propaganda guys in the Bush Administration didn’t pay much attention at all to the ops guys, except for getting stuff they could use for propaganda. Probably the attacks were called off for ops reasons, not for propaganda reasons. The propaganda guys might not have been lying — all the things that look like lies might have been things they simply didn’t understand, they learned just enough to come up with a story that sounded good. They didn’t know and didn’t care whether they were lying.

    There was no plan to let Zarqawi’s group run loose and attack people so they could make propaganda from it. There was no plan at all. The only reason we pay any attention to these incidents is they tried to make propaganda from them, and then the media kept investigating. There might have been twenty other little independent groups in kurdistan that were just as significant as Zarqawi’s group was then, that we did or didn’t bomb and nobody cares because the media hasn’t paid attention to them.

  37. Earth to Mark, it is 2006.

    This is Dunnigan’s Strategypage.com version of conventional wisdom on the North Korean’s circa 2006 Army:

    bq. Let the Army Rot
    by James Dunnigan
    June 11, 2006
    Discussion Board on this DLS topic

    bq. North Korea appears to have decided to allow its conventional forces to deteriorate. The amount of money required to rebuild the aging weapons and equipment is far more than the north can expect to extort from its neighbors or the United States. What resources that are available are going into the secret police, ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons. The North Korea leadership is intent on keeping their tyranny going, because the alternative is death at the hands of an angry population, or war crimes trails for a long list of atrocities. South Korea believes that the North Korean government will eventually undergo a “soft collapse” that the south can manage. The U.S. fears that North Korea will, in the meantime, sell missile and nuclear weapons technology to hostile nations and terrorists. South Korea doesn’t care about that, and is more concerned about an uncontrolled collapse in the north.

    North Korean Army draftees were conducting bank robberies and food thefts in China. This was reported in a number of places, which I forwarded to Tom Holsinger when I found them.

    The build up of Chinese Red Army borderguards (between 75,000 and 100,000) on the Nork border to counter this was in in Strategypage.com and the Freerepublic.com

    Artillery relies on some really high pressure hydraulics. Hydraulics that need seals maintained and regularly replaced against harsh climatic conditions.

    Fuzes for artillery shells similarly have to be maintained in good storage conditions before use…and regularly replaced with new fuzes as time degrades them.

    Heavy MRLs require rockets with good quality control and stable rocket fuel to keep from blowing up when launched and hitting what they are aimed at.

    The one thing we know for certain is that none of those three things have happened for more than a decade.

    The Nork production of conventional military weapons tubed about ten years ago. The Chinese have beat out the Norks on the export of everything miltary weapon wise but for Scud derivative missiles and nukes.

    If the Southerners knew what was good for them, they would be offering huge black market bribes for the recoil and breech mechanisms components of Nork artillery. Given the current state of the Nork internal security system, that would defang the threat to Seoul inside of six months.

  38. Trent, I give you sources that include official Pentagon assessments, a panel of high level generals and washington power players run by the man who runs wargames for the National War College for the last 20 years, and you reply with an unsourced peice from James Dunnigan who has never held any sort of government of military position of any signifigance and basically rights books. I enjoy Strategy Page as much as the next guy, but to claim it can be taken as some sort of important or definitive source when it offers absolutely no corroberation is just batty. Give me some real sources if you want this conversation taken seriously. Show me a legitimate intelligence source making claims on the readiness of NKs artillery systems aimed at Seoul.

  39. Mark, Trent’s analysis could be correct. If we ever have to fight North Korea we might be pleasantly surprised that way. I haven’t seen any definitive evidence that he’s wrong.

    It would be real, real stupid to bet the farm that this stuff is right. It makes logical sense and it holds together. That’s the hallmark stamp of black propaganda, but who would want to persuade us of this if it isn’t true? Certainly not anybody who has the USA’s best interest at heart. But then, wishful thinking has probably started up as much bad intel as enemy action.

    Well, suppose that the basic idea is right. North korea is falling apart like albania. They depend on handouts from china. As the dependency gets more and more obvious to their people, maybe the south koreans can offer them handouts instead. Why not be dependent on koreans rather than chinese? And as they get more dependent on handouts from south korea, their authority becomes even more hollow. The south koreans might manage a soft collapse, that leaves behind enough infrastructure they can take over easily. It would be harder than rehabilitating east germany, but these people are their cousins. And they have resources korea can use, and they don’t want half of korea to be dominated by china.

    If the south koreans have a plan along those lines, you can see how they’d be resistant to the idea of a plan that depends on the north korean nerve gas not to work any more. Particularly when the claim is the north koreans are letting it slide because they can use nukes instead.

    In that context how important is it to us how much of the north korean artillery still works?

  40. bq. This base was in the kurdish-controlled north and Saddam wouldn’t have been able to attack it if he wanted to.

    Why wouldn’t he have been able to? “Saddam had sent troops into this area before…”:http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/para/kdp.htm

    bq. In August 1996, leaders of the KDP asked Iraqi president Saddam Hussein to intervene in the war. Hussein sent at least 30,000 troops into the UN-protected Kurdish region, capturing the PUK stronghold of Irbil. The KDP was immediately installed in power. The U.S. responded with two missile strikes against southern Iraq, but in early September Iraq again helped KDP fighters, this time taking the PUK stronghold of As Sulaymaniyah.

  41. HOmi, it was a little terrorist base. By the time Saddam could fight his way through to it, the terrorists would be long gone.

    Assuming he wanted to, which is entirely hypothetical.

  42. “Mark, Trent’s analysis could be correct. If we ever have to fight North Korea we might be pleasantly surprised that way. I haven’t seen any definitive evidence that he’s wrong.”

    You are right, his analysis could be correct. Anything is possible. The question is, in what direction does the available evidence point. It is a deadly dangerous business to evaluate intelligence based on preferred outcomes.

    “But then, wishful thinking has probably started up as much bad intel as enemy action.”

    Yep. Probably more. You expect the enemy to try to confuse your intelligence. You asumedly dont expect to fool yourself.

    “In that context how important is it to us how much of the north korean artillery still works?”

    Extremely important. Politics is played with everybody allowed to use the opinion they prefer based on the facts they wish to contenance. Warfare is not so kind. We would be making a horrific mistake to start building policy on faulty premises, particularly as close a proximity to war as any policy involving NK is certain to be. If we start believing all the enemy’s shells are duds, how big of an impact does that have on our posture? Its a wreckless thing to believe unless you have _very_ solid evidence, and even then you think twice.

    That is the problem i have with the pure faith favorable intelligence analysis are being given in some of these discussions. A truism of intelligence is that you are never certain of anything- a good analyst doubts his own face in the mirror. You deal in probabilities. Another old adage is that that in everything you are certain you know, something is definately wrong, and sometimes its the important thing. Witness the WMDs in Iraq- the whole world got that one wrong. We are talking potentially about the lives of tens of millions of South Koreans here (and several hundred thousand Americans). I consider it utterly wreckless and irresponsible to present things like this with such surity, particularly when the counterevidence is so much more powerful, and most particularly when being wrong could cause us to pursue a course of action which could be disasterous. Ideas are dangerous, we all know that.

  43. “… and most particularly when being wrong could cause us to pursue a course of action which could be disasterous.”

    Um. Uuuuummm.

    What course of action would this be?

    For a long time we’ve avoided attacking north korea partly because they had a lot of nerve gas that could easily reach Seoul. Kill a whole lot of south korean civilians.

    Now we hear *maybe* they aren’t bothering to maintain their nerve gas artillery, instead they’re replacing it with nukes.

    Which reckless action would this news support if we believed it?

    Let’s run that by again. We have unconfirmed speculative reports that north korea has replaced their nerve gas deterrent with nukes. And that tempts us to … to … to ….

    People don’t usually accuse me of lacking imagination, but somehow I’m not finding a way to finish that sentence that’s up to my usual standard of sanity.

  44. “Which reckless action would this news support if we believed it?

    Let’s run that by again. We have unconfirmed speculative reports that north korea has replaced their nerve gas deterrent with nukes. And that tempts us to … to … to ….”

    I cant get through a day without hearing somebody advocating shooting the NK missile on the launch
    pad. Some supposedly responsible people at that.

    Here is the difference: In theory we can either attemp to neutralize the NKs nuclear deterrant in a surprise attack, or at least count on their surivial instinct to not risk certain nuclear retribution by nuking anyone. Until now i havent heard anyone claim we could neutralize a large enough portion of NKs conventional artillery before it left a sizeable smoking husk in the South Korean landscape. But the beauty of this new meme is that, hey, we dont even have to! The NKs are stupidly just sitting around on weapons that dont work! Doesn’t anybody else think the claim that the enemies guns arent really loaded should require _extraordinary_ evidence to be taken seriously?

  45. Ya.

    Let’s review, shall we.

    We are at war. There was an armstice signed about 50 years ago. Our opponent, in addition to kidnapping civilians, running drugs, forming internet crime groups, and building up their military, now tells us that they are building nuclear bombs and missiles to shoot at us.

    And the response from the left is what? That their guns don’t really work that well. That it’s all us – we’re building up these guys because we’re war mongering syncophants who will elect anybody on a war platform.

    It’s all politics, folks. NK is simply misunderstood, puny, and in need of international help. They don’t really mean it when they launch missiles into the ocean in our direction. Or when they build nukes. They just want attention. It’s a cry for help.

  46. The response from the left and right is that their guns may not work… hoping to provoke quite opposite policies im sure. Beware analysis that matches ideal conditions for a favored policy so closely.

    Here is the problem: if the uber-hawks have their way and convince the nation that NK is a paper tiger that will fall over with the first stiff breeze with no collateral damage, then obviously our policy towards their missile and nuclear program (and a whole host of other greviances) should logically be much more aggressive. We should essentially be looking to pick a fight. Maybe we shoot down their missile test, maybe we even blow it up on the launch pad. If the hawks are wrong and NK acts as it has for the past 50 years, the response will almost certainly be violent. Their options would be to either back down and accept that the US can pin point strike as we wish, or to lash out and risk war. They could dectide to launch a salvo at Seoul just to prove a point (all 10,000 artillery peices are not going to misfire, lets get real here for a second), which could easily escalate into full scale war. We would win the war, but the cost would be horrific to the people of South Korea, and hence to the standing of the US with our allies. That is what i mean by saying ideas are not without consequences.

  47. bq. Trent, I give you sources that include official Pentagon assessments, a panel of high level generals and washington power players run by the man who runs wargames for the National War College for the last 20 years, and you reply with an unsourced peice from James Dunnigan who has never held any sort of government of military position of any signifigance and basically rights books.

    Mark, you don’t know how ignorant you just painted yourself.

  48. I take that to mean you either do not have the intention or the capability of defending your suppositions. Fine, as the management says, let the readers decide.

    I happen to own some of Dunnigan’s books. I respect him as a theorist. I have no reason to believe he has some sort of super-prescient insight into the day to day workings of NK that no-one else has and all other sources reject. For that matter i’ll happily cite you theorists on at least as high a platform that will scoff at what Dunnigan suggests (I dont think its going out on a limb to suggest van Creveld would look at Dunnigans cocksure estimates with a skeptical eye, to say the least).

    Again, if you have some source to present us to back your views (or Dunnigan’s for that matter), please do me the great favor of enlightening us.

  49. Mark, I’ve occasionally run into people who believe in astrology. They tell me that they know various things that I don’t know — because I’m ignorant of astrology.

    They believe that their ideas are validated by results. They have made various predictions that came true, and on the rare occasions their predictions did not come true they found the mistakes they made in their astrology that gave them wrong results.

    I tend to believe that their results come mostly from biased sampling. Sometimes they make predictions that are subjective enough they claim success when it’s all a matter of opinion whether they were right or not. Sometimes they forget the times they were wrong. And of course they look for astrology mistakes when they come out wrong, but they don’t bother to find the similar mistakes when they think they’re right.

    But that’s just me making up reasons they’d think they have something when they don’t. I’ve never gone to the trouble of learning enough astrology to give it a fair test. It’s just never seemed like it was worth my time.

    I can easily imagine you might feel the same about other belief systems. And yet, they might be right. You never know. Just because they look moonbatty doesn’t mean they can’t be enlightened.

    And yet, is it worth your time to find out?

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