Monday, May 18, 2009

The Weekly N&C for May 18th, 2009

In another world

*Note: the following scenario is illustrative only; no such operation has ever been mooted in any open-source way, ever.*

With the imminent collapse of the central authority of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK; North Korea), it has been necessary to prepare alternatives to allowing the nuclear arsenal of that state to fall under the control of those factions or individuals may act outside the constraints upon a state actor. The ongoing turmoil in the command authority that began shortly after the demise of the head of state is apparently accelerating, and it is judged very likely that the unitary structure of the DPRK Army may well be compromised. Were that to result in a further fragmentation of authority, it is deemed an unacceptable risk that said weapons might be used or more likely sold by opportunistic elements in the command authority. In meetings this week, the United Nations Security Council has resolved to call upon the interim government to assure the security of all Weapons of Mass Destruction possessed by the DPRK, in specific requiring demonstrable efforts to disable from use all nuclear armaments and their associated ballistic missile delivery systems. As of this writing, no reply has been made to the UNSC by the interim administration.

Sources in the Japanese Self-Defense Ministry have provided an outline of what course of action is impending: Based upon the decades of careful placement of agents in positions of vital importance in the scientific ranks (and likely the military officer corps) of North Korea, Japanese military intelligence is in possession of information on the location and security precautions surrounding the (sources say) 11 nuclear weapons in the North Korean arsenal. A massive operational contingency plan is in place, calling for the insertion of over 6,000 elite members of the Airborne Regiment and Special Forces, backed by a seizure of air superiority, naval support, and advanced intelligence capabilities that would provide technological and information dominance in the region of the targeted objectives. The source also implied strongly that cooperation with elements of the Republic of Korea (ROK; South Korea) Armed Forces and Intelligence Services is a vital part of this plan. Given the serious nature of the situation, it is clear that this information has become public to assure the people of Japan, and of neighboring states equally threatened by the fall of the Kim regime, that in a crisis the nuclear arsenal of the DPRK will not fall into the hands of rogue military leaders or terrorists.

Are you reassured, yet?

…or does the improbability of that scenario make you stifle a laugh?

…or perhaps you are just stunned by the idea that sources within a government would let such a thing out to a media source, for any reason.

Well, take a moment to compose yourselves, and then let’s take this matter on.

It is entirely immaterial as to whether the hypothetical-Self-Defense-Force of the scenario actually has such a plan. It is sufficient for purposes of this argument that the real Self Defense Force of Japan does have (at least on the Table of Organization) or will likely soon have all the elements cited above, excepting perhaps the massive number of agents infiltrated into the DPRK. Given the decades of interaction between the two nations since the 1950’s, it is not beyond believability that by building on clandestine relationships some (un-named) Japanese Secret Agency could have placed hundreds of agents at various levels, and that is particularly plausible to both North and South Korea observers as those two nations have been engaged in a covert campaign for as long as they have been at war. The elements of “possibility” must exist, and that is enough for now.

If the reader is willing to suspend disbelief this far, then we can use this scenario to make a case about the conduct of the “sources” and the “media” in this case.

The question in challenge: Is anyone’s interest served by “sources” leaking this to the “media”?

If by anyone, one would mean: The agents in place; The soldiers tasked with the mission; The forces of the friendly country said to be acting in support of the mission, or; The government whom the “source” was a part of (in the scenario, Japan)…

Then the answer would be, in sequence: NO; NO; NO, and; well, that depends on how feckless they really are.

If by anyone one meant the “media”, the question would be almost self-answering. The “media” runs stories like this for the perceived benefit to the media, and perhaps that of the reporter. It was a scoop, don't you know.

For one thing that the modern way of war and politics should have already taught any observer is that the enemy reads the news too. To cite but a single example, al-Qaeda's propaganda efforts are full of references to recent events, news reports, and other timely information (partly to prove they are still alive, of course).

That would mean, in the case of the scenario, that after such a story runs in the “media” the agents in place are subject to redoubled efforts by the foe’s counter-intelligence forces, the information on location of and security measures at the target sites is likely to be in flux and defensive preparations will generally be heightened. That pretty much covers the NO; NO; NO part of the answer.

But in regards to the “source”, the answer gets wrapped up in the politics of the moment. Perhaps the “source” is opposed to the proposed plan; Letting out word of it might well torpedo the whole plan. Perhaps the “source” was acting under instructions to say there was such a plan to make the leadership of the government ‘look tough’ for political gain. Perhaps the “source” was sent out to run a fake; there is a plan, it is so risky that no one in the government seriously believes it would ever be used, so someone higher up than the “source” has decided leaking out the plan will cause some intended action on the part of the “foe” (like massively tightening security over their weapons arsenal). It might even be a crude negotiating ploy, were there to be secret discussions on the side happening to get an allied power of the “foe” to quietly take ‘temporary’ possession of the weapons, or to take away the cause for action from a third-party (from the scenario: “don’t worry, Americans; we’ve got a plan”).

None of those possible explanations is particularly beneficial taken as they are.

Were there to *actually* be a plan like the one in the scenario, and it were the only viable option even if the chance of failure or incomplete success was high, such a leak would be disastrous. In fact, it would arguably be criminal.

Now set aside the scenario as presented, and welcome back to the real world.

Pakistan is in the midst of a threatening situation, with Taliban forces within 100 km (60 miles) of the capital, Islamabad, and a weakened central government.

Pakistan is also determined to improve and increase its nuclear arsenal, from the ~100 weapons believed available now.

It has even been openly questioned in the mass media as to how secure the Pakistani nuclear weapons really are.

Someone thought it was a good idea to talk about the situation in Pakistan in the same terms as the fanciful scenario presented here.

Are you reassured, yet?

End Notes:

All End Notes are linked in the text, above.


Mr. Bill said...

…or does the improbability of that scenario make you stifle a laugh?Honestly, what kept me from laughing was there was no mention of the Science Patrol or Ultraman.

L.Douglas Garrett said...

@Mr. Bill

Hehheh, that *would* have been overdoing things.

Karl Reisman said...

I thought, "This would make a cool anime, I'd watch it, if the writers were cool about it."

As for Pakistan I am competely pessimistic, I am thinking it os going to be a sea of bubbling flesh and knives very soon, The sort of brew you only touch with a 3000 mile pole or view from orbit.