North Korea-South Korea: A soldier walked across the DMZ over the weekend, after having shot his superior officers. Once in South Korean custody, he vanished, no doubt, for debriefing.
Comment: The South Koreans have published few details, but the story is familiar to old hands. What never gets old is the surprise that a single soldier can walk safely across four miles of Demilitarized Zone through the most heavily mined strip of land on the planet. This requires coordination and synchronization across the Zone.
The DMZ is supposed to be impenetrable because it is the most mined and heavily defended border in the world. Nevertheless, in the past 20 years it has been crossed with regularity because of cross border communications and bribery.
The North Korean soldier was not lucky so much as helped. The crossing had to be arranged in advance so that South Korean border guards didn't shoot the defector.
Still there remains the fact that over the past 20 years North Korean military and civilian defectors have managed to cross the most heavily mined border in the world repeatedly with no one getting blown up.
The important lesson is that the Koreans know how to solve their problems. Occasionally they need some help.
South Korea-North Korea: South Korea would consider a pre-emptive strike against North Korea if there were indications that Pyongyang might use its nuclear weapons, General Jung Seung Jo, the Chairman of the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on 9 October.
Comment: General Jung articulated the doctrine of attack on strategic warning. This means that South Korea applies the doctrine that NATO used with regard to the Soviets. Neither NATO nor the Soviets intended to wait for an attack. The two used different language but it meant that both intended to attack when it was apparent from national behavior - indicators -- that the other intended to attack.
The competence of intelligence collectors and analysis centers in providing strategic and tactical warning are critical to the success of the doctrine. The indications that support strategic warning always are ambiguous. However, the US experience in strategic warning is that waiting for clarity means waiting for strategic damage.
North Korea-US: On 9 October a spokesman for North Korea's National Defense Commission said North Korea possessed rockets capable of striking the US mainland. The statement was the North's response to a new US-South Korean agreement to allow the South Koreans to build and field extended range ballistic missile systems.
Comment: A few points require clarification to help put events in context. Unable to maintain an effective air force, More than 30 years ago North Korea began to develop ballistic missiles to provide an offensive attack capability that its obsolescent air force lacked.
The North's missile units provide the capabilities to attack all of South Korea, all of Japan, Guam, parts of Alaska and possibly the Pacific northwest of the United States, i.e., the US mainland. The weakness of this missile force is that it is a one-time use force, a use and lose force.
North Korea lacks the industrial capabilities and land mass to enable it to fight from production, so it must fight from existing stocks. That means, once the missiles fire, there is no refire before retaliation. Moreover, the North has no ballistic or cruise missile defense capabilities. The North can shoot once, but would be reduced to barbarism by the Allied counter-attack.
South Korea did not develop long range ballistic missiles, primarily because of US arms control agreements negotiated with the Soviets mainly for the European Theater, the Missile Technical Control Regime (MTCR).
The South Koreans developed cruise missiles, like the US Tomahawk instead, which are not governed by the MTCR. More importantly, North Korea has no defense against cruise missiles of any kind. However, ballistic missiles carry larger payloads and can be more accurate than cruise missiles.
Under the new agreement, the US apparently will waive some of the range restrictions of the MTCR to allow South Korean to build longer range ballistic missiles. New South Korean ballistic missiles would be able to range all of North Korea and adjacent regions of China for the first time.
The North Koreans lose their entire country in any missile exchange scenario. The new agreement with South Korea means that the US has agreed to delegate to South Korea responsibility for handling the missile fight on the Korean Peninsula. That is a clear sign of a maturing defense relationship.
Pakistan: For the record. In Swat District, a Pakistani Taliban young man stopped a school bus with the purpose of identifying and assassinating a 14-year old girl who publicly advocated the education of women. The boy asked for someone to identify the girl activist. Another girl identified her and both were shot by the boy.
NightWatch Special Comment: There is no justification in the teachings of Islam or any religion for killing a person who wants to learn. The impact of modern ideas about personal self-image and opportunities, conveyed by modern telecommunications, on Muslim girls pose a greater long term threat to the future of Islam than modern weapons and drones.
Iraq-Russia: Update. During a meeting between Russian Prime Minister Medvedev and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on Tuesday, the two countries released a document showing Baghdad has agreed to contracts under which Iraq will purchase over $4.2 billion worth of Russian weapons. The document shows Iraq's acting defense minister signed the agreements while in Russia on visits in April, July, and August.
Comment: Details of the agreements have not yet been released in open sources. Negotiations have been in progress for most of the year to date. The Saddam Hussein regime ended with the nation of Iraq heavily in debt to the Soviets for years of arms support. Most of those debts were forgiven, but the Iraqis and the Russians remembered the long-standing relationship.
The Russians are poaching on American turf to give the Iraqis options.
Turkey-Syria: The Turkish military retaliated with artillery fire for a seventh day on Tuesday after another Syrian shell hit its territory, Yesterday, Turkey's president warned that "the worst-case scenario we have all been dreading" is unfolding in Syria and along its borders.
In Monday's Syrian attack one "artillery" round landed in a cotton field near the town of Altinozu. People were working in the field, but no one was injured.
NATO has promised to help defend Turkey from Syria's artillery attacks.
Comment: Thus far, a search of news reporting about the Syrian artillery attacks indicates that once a day somebody in Syria is firing a single mortar round just across the border into Turkey. News reporters seldom differentiate mortar from gun or howitzer rounds. Some say it is an artillery round. None report the Syrians firing an artillery barrage.
According to open source reporting, the firing from Syria targets no Turkish military facilities and usually causes no casualties. The Syrian rounds have done no damage since the first round.
Nevertheless, NATO is in high dudgeon over the Syria "shelling" of Turkey and Turkish army forces keep firing back, also without hitting anything or killing anyone, fortunately.
Israel-Drone: Update. Forty-eight hours into the investigation of an unmanned aircraft flying into Israeli airspace there is no confirmation who flew the drone.
Saturday morning, Israeli radar tracked the drone flying toward the coast from the Mediterranean, then over the Gaza strip and into Israel. Twenty minutes after it crossed into southern Israel, scrambled fighter jets from the Israeli Air Force shot it down.
Comment: Israelis judge that Lebanese Hezbollah operated the drone with Iranian technical assistance. This remains a hypothesis.
What is important for Readers to note is that the US has no monopoly on drones and that every enemy of the US has observed US drone operations in the past decade. In any future war, US drones will not be alone in the airspace and they will be vulnerable to countermeasures that US enemies have had more than ten years to develop.
If Hezbollah can fly drones, imagine what China can do. As for the Israeli success in shooting down a drone, compare the cost of a drone loss to that of the Israeli missile that shot it down and the cost of just scrambling a pair of Israeli fighters to shoot it down.
Venezuela: President Chavez won re-election on 7 October, according to the official announcement.
Hugo Chavez: 54.42% or 7,444,082 votes
Henrique Capriles: 44.97% or 6,151,544 votes.
The other four candidates received less than 1% each of the votes, and added that the turnout was 80.94%.
Comment: A majority of Venezuelans approve of Chavez. His brand of socialism is a disaster for Venezuela and no model for other South American states, but has had a revival in the Chavez regime. His re-election ensures that failed economic policies will persist, but with no better prospects for making the country prosperous.
Chavez has impoverished one of the richest countries in South America. Those policies now will continue for six more years. The lack of prosperity will be blamed on the US and US companies.
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