A classified military exercise last week examined how American troops would mobilize and strike if ordered into a potential war on the Korean Peninsula, even as diplomatic overtures between the North and the Trump administration continue.
The war planning, known as a “tabletop exercise,” was held over several days in Hawaii. It included Gen. Mark A. Milley, the Army’s chief of staff, and Gen. Tony Thomas, the head of Special Operations Command.
They looked at a number of pitfalls that could hamper an American assault on North Korea’s well-entrenched military. Among them was the Pentagon’s limited ability to evacuate injured troops from the Korean Peninsula daily — a problem more acute if the North retaliated with chemical weapons, according to more than a half-dozen military and Defense Department officials familiar with the exercise.
Large numbers of surveillance aircraft would have to be moved from the Middle East and Africa to the Pacific to support ground troops. Planners also looked at how American forces stationed in South Korea and Japan would be involved.
Pentagon officials cautioned that the planning does not mean that a decision has been made to go to war over President Trump’s demands that North Korea rein in its nuclear ambitions.
Sure it hasn't, it's just readiness exercises. No need to be alarmed, citizens!
A war with North Korea, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has said, would be “catastrophic.” He and Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have argued forcefully for using diplomacy to address Pyongyang’s nuclear program.
Commanders who attended the exercise in Hawaii were told that roughly 10,000 Americans could be wounded in combat in the opening days alone. And the number of civilian casualties, the generals were told, would likely be in the thousands or even hundreds of thousands.
The potential human costs of a war were so high that, at one point during the exercise, General Milley remarked that “the brutality of this will be beyond the experience of any living soldier,” according to officials who were involved.
So, too, would be the sheer logistical enterprise of moving thousands of American soldiers and equipment to the Korean Peninsula. Moreover, senior military officials worry that after 17 years in Afghanistan and Iraq, American troops have become far more used to counterinsurgency fighting than a land war against a state, as an attack on North Korea would likely bring.
But Mr. Mattis also has ordered top Pentagon leaders to be ready for any possible military action against North Korea. Already, ammunition has been pre-staged in the Pacific region for ground units.
And Mr. Trump’s words — “Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely,” he said in an August post on Twitter — have left senior officers and rank-and-file troops convinced that they need to accelerate their contingency planning.
It's one thing to simply say "the Pentagon is keeping its options open" if the point was saber-rattling. This is a very specific leak of very specific information on preparations for what would be one of the bloodiest wars in human history.
If anything I hope this leak is being made to convince Trump and the people around him that military action against North Korea will result in hundreds of thousands, if not millions of casualties. Trump would go down as an absolute monster and the horror sinking in of the first major American war in the era of instant social media would be completely unprecedented.
Meanwhile, John Bolton's Mustache is penning op-eds in the Wall Street Journal calling for pre-preemptive strikes on North Korea.
Pre-emption opponents argue that action is not justified because Pyongyang does not constitute an “imminent threat.” They are wrong. The threat is imminent, and the case against pre-emption rests on the misinterpretation of a standard that derives from prenuclear, pre-ballistic-missile times. Given the gaps in U.S. intelligence about North Korea, we should not wait until the very last minute. That would risk striking after the North has deliverable nuclear weapons, a much more dangerous situation.
In assessing the timing of pre-emptive attacks, the classic formulation is Daniel Webster’s test of “necessity.” British forces in 1837 invaded U.S. territory to destroy the steamboat Caroline, which Canadian rebels had used to transport weapons into Ontario.
Webster asserted that Britain failed to show that “the necessity of self-defense was instant, overwhelming, leaving no choice of means, and no moment of deliberation.” Pre-emption opponents would argue that Britain should have waited until the Caroline reached Canada before attacking.
Would an American strike today against North Korea’s nuclear-weapons program violate Webster’s necessity test? Clearly not. Necessity in the nuclear and ballistic-missile age is simply different than in the age of steam. What was once remote is now, as a practical matter, near; what was previously time-consuming to deliver can now arrive in minutes; and the level of destructiveness of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons is infinitely greater than that of the steamship Caroline’s weapons cargo.
Those drums of war are getting extremely loud now. It may be only a matter of time. Exactly who would alter Trump's course on this? Where's Defense Secretary Mattis?
Why, Mad Dog is busy clearing the decks and removing the people who might stop Trump's war.. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster is now leaving this mess behind and not of his own volition.
The White House is preparing to replace H.R. McMaster as national security adviser as early as next month in a move orchestrated by chief of staff John Kelly and Defense Secretary James Mattis, according to five people familiar with the discussions.
The move would be the latest in a long string of staff shakeups at the White House over the past year and comes after months of strained relations between the president and McMaster.
A leading candidate to become President Donald Trump’s third national security adviser is the auto industry executive Stephen Biegun, according to the officials.
Whoever they are, I hope they save us, but it's not looking good. Bolton's Mustache is also reportedly in the running for McMaster's job, and if that happens, the odds of a military conflict with North Korea moves well above 50%.
Millions will die, and that's just the opening few stanzas of this blood-soaked epic. It's a race now between Mueller and the military.