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The War Nerd February 6, 2003
Berserkers with Red Stars: North Korean Scenarios
By Gary Brecher Browse author Email
Page 3 of 3
Naturally, these 26 clueless infiltrators were spotted and hunted down. Only two of the 26 were captured alive. But the interesting thing is that 11 of the 24 dead were supposedly shot by their officers because they refused to kill themselves. Maybe team spirit is weakening up North. Still, you should never assume your enemy is going to fall apart. In general, overestimating the enemy is safer than underestimating him (with some notable exceptions, like McLellan).

My favorite NK technique is the tunnels. The South Koreans found the first big tunnel in 1974, and detected a couple more in '75 and '78. These weren't little crawlspaces, they were big enough to shunt whole divisions of light infantry past the forward ROK/US defense line. One of the tunnels came up only 44 km from Seoul. Imagine a couple of divisions of North Korean maniacs popping right up out of the ground miles behind what we thought was going to be the front lines. There goes your resupply right there. According to defectors, the North considers each tunnel to be as powerful as a nuclear weapon.

Which brings us to the biggest question: does the North have nukes, and will they use them? They want us to think they do, that's for sure. After all, it's the fear of nukes that makes all the liberals shove sacks of rice at North Korea: "Here! Eat it, just don't detonate those nukes!" And US Intelligence has its own reasons for pumping up the North as nuclear threat. The bigger the threat, the bigger the DoD budget. So it's not so easy to know who to trust here. But there seems to be agreement that the North does have at least a few nukes. Big, clumsy ones, but functional.

A lot of so-called "experts" are trying to reassure people by saying that these nukes are too big to load onto a missile. What these guys keep forgetting is that poor countries like North Korea have to be more flexible in their strategies. So OK, maybe they can't do missiles -- but who ever said a missile is the only way to deliver a nuke? How about just smuggling one into an enemy's harbors in a fishing boat?

If there's one thing that Marxist-Leninist regimes are good at, it's espionage. How do we know that the North hasn't already brought a nuke into Seoul? There could be one (or two, or three) sitting in a rented storage shed or buried in somebody's garden, waiting for Kim Jong Il to send the page.

An even wilder scenario is that Kim and his little coven might decide to go after bigger game -- like Los Angeles or San Francisco. That's the WMDs we should be worrying about. All this talk about Saddam's WMDs is crap. Nobody's willing to die for Saddam. His Army proved that in the Gulf War. His secret agents around the world turned out to be a myth. But North Korea has real secret agents, crazy enough to kill themselves on command, blow up civilian airliners, and plant bombs all over the world. These are smart, disciplined, educated people, miles better than the Allahu-Akbars in Al Qaeda.

If anybody could bring WMDs into the US, it's the North Koreans. How many fishing boats from Asia come into Oakland or San Pedro every year? You weld a nuke inside the engine of an old trawler -- what are the odds anybody'd be able to find it? The only way customs agents ever find anything is when they're tipped off, and the odds of anybody in the North Korean secret police dropping a dime on their bosses are exactly zero-point-nada.

So when you look back over the North's record, you get two strong impressions: first, they're overhyped as a conventional army. If the North tried a conventional attack across the DMZ, they'd get zapped like ants sprayed with Raid. No question. Second, they're underrated as terrorists. They don't play by the same rules as us, and they're not cowards like Khadafy and Saddam. Or loudmouth hicks like Osama.

Ya gotta love'em. The world may be turning to chickenshit woofing and whitecollar crime, but up there in Pyongyang there are people who'd just as soon bite your windpipe open as look at you, real berserkers with red stars on their caps. Our last decent chance for a classic full-on war.

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Gary Brecher
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Email Gary at, but, more importantly, buy his book.

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