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January 30, 2003

Beware the Ides of February

Beware the Ides of February

I thought it might take longer than this, but it looks like North Korea is already running out of power. What's scary is that they're admitting it.

Big Brother governments don't disseminate bad news unless there's a point to be made. 5 years plans are always met, enemies are always gloriously defeated and the workers are always happy. Bad news, as Pyongyang's increasingly more strident statements show, is always blamed on outside forces. Even then the story is spun so that the ruling regime is presented in the best possible light, so that anyone wanting any real information has to read between the lines. Take the following story from the Korean Central News Agency, for example.

Anecdote about Kim Jong IL

Pyongyang, January 29 (KCNA) -- On June 5, Juche 91 (2002) Kim Jong IL visited the Komdok Mine and met workers of a mining work team. Among them were six heroes of labor and well-known miners. Conversing with them, he happened to know that they had worked hard to increase the ore production, eating and sleeping at their working face for days. He, afraid of their health, said they should not be allowed to sleep at the face.
    That day he enjoyed with them a performance given by the traveling art instigation troupe of the mine.
    After the performance, he told officials to invite them on his behalf to visit Pyongyang and have a vacation.
    So, the miners enjoyed themselves in Pyongyang together with their families at a special invitation of the state leader.

If North Korean miners are sleeping at the work face, it's because the mine is the best place to sleep. Given an electrical shortage in the middle of a Korean winter, it's probably the warmest place to sleep on the whole northern half of the peninsula short of Kim Jong IL's palace.

In Big Brother parlance, a "slight delay" usually means something like an "8 or 9 hour wait", if not more. I shudder to think what the words "acute electricity shortage" are actually describing. "Dropping like flies in the prison camps," is probably the least part of it.

With at least a couple of months of cold weather left, and an end to the U.S. oil embargo not even being discussed, internal pressure on the North Korean regime is going be very intense. We've already demonstrated to Kim Jong IL that the U.S. will go through whatever contortions it needs to in order to avoid addressing the situation to his satisfaction, so we've cut his list of options to the bone. As I pointed out before, his ability to transport military forces is going to start degrading soon, if it hasn't already. He's got to use it or lose it. There's a distinct possibility that he doesn't know this, as dictators habitually surround themselves with advisors that will tell them whatever they wish to hear. But someone one near the top will know, and they'll want to protect their lifestyle and privileges just as much as he would.

If the North Koreans are going to attack South Korea in an attempt to prop up the Kim regime, it'll have to be soon. Not only because of the time constraints forced on them by the oil shortage, but because the best time to attack your enemy is when he's distracted by something else, and the U.S. is almost certainly going to be distracted in Iraq within the month. Given that viewpoint, the most advantageous time to attack will just after U.S. Ground troops cross the Iraqi border. We'll have most of the forces the we would normally respond with already engaged, and the two or three week's worth of air strikes that will proceed ground action will have severely diminished our stock of airborne ordinance. North Korean strategy depends on the southern peninsula being conquered in 30 days, and their forces will have their best shot at that while we're fighting Iraq. Once the Iraq war is over, the North's window of opportunity will not only be over, but they'll also be faced with an already deployed force, flush with victory and passing close by on the way home.

If Kim Jong doesn't attack before the end of the Iraqi war, he'll have to wait until the U.S. goes to war again. The problem with that from his point of view? He's the most likely candidate for the next one. Nothing we've done indicates that we'll allow him to produce nuclear weapons 12 months from now, and if he doesn't attack, he won't get another chance to.

Posted by Bigwig at January 30, 2003 02:36 PM | TrackBack
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