[March 7, 2016] One of the many things leaders must do is to stay up-to-date. So too must senior leaders who expect to succeed at their mission. The U.S. and the world for the past 60 years has relied on “strategic patience” to deal with the unpredictability of North Korea. There is evidence however that this grand strategy may be inadequate for the future.
U.S. military leaders, along with their South Korean counterparts, have long discussed and refined a strong military presence to prevent war on the Korean peninsula. This military strategy, based on strategic patience, involves a significant fighting force with most of the combat units forward in South Korea. Deterrence is the main thrust of the military strategy and, in fact, new consolidation of forces concentrates even more combat forces.
With the introduction of a North Korean capability to create and deliver a nuclear weapon, this changes the dynamics of how combat forces should be deployed but more importantly affects the deterrence of conventional combat forces themselves. How forces are arrayed on a potential battlefield changes when nuclear weapons are introduced as a variable into the equation.
A similar situation existed during the Cold War in Europe. Military forces from various NATO countries were arrayed in such a way that a nuclear attack upon them would minimize their destruction. For those of us who were stationed there during those times can attest to the efforts we expended preparing for a nuclear strike. We also prepared for chemical warfare regularly. These forms of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) could be used either offensively or defensively.
The unpredictability of North Korea, its megalomaniac leader Kim Jong Un, and the nuclear variable changes things. Kim Jong Un, while described as brash and a risk taker, has proven the “experts” wrong on so many occasions that it is somewhat embarrassing. The fact is that his true abilities, intellect, and style of leadership have yet to emerge. This is smart on his part because it makes him harder to figure out what he will do.
And so it is with keeping the peace on the Korean peninsula. The world’s strategic patience strategy will have to be rewritten. The problem is that while the military recognizes this, it has not convinced the Obama White House that a new grand strategy is necessary to protect the lives of millions of people.
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