When I was thirteen years old, I carried a hammer, a bucket of rusty nails, and a bunch of scrap wood deep into my backyard, and then proceeded to build the most epic treehouse imaginable. It was three stories high, with each ascending level slightly smaller than the one below it, the third being simply a lookout perch, with just enough room for one person to stand and keep watch. The lower level had a roof, to keep the rain off me when I decided I needed to be able to spend the night out there on occasion. Railings were only for show, of course. Who needs them when you’re thirteen and invincible?
This treehouse, or tree fortress really, was my legacy, and I was so proud of it.
When my dad got home, he helped me tear it down.
It was my mom’s fault, really. She told on me. She didn’t know what she was talking about, of course, but naturally my dad took her side. The treehouse was “unsafe.” Rusty nails and 2x4s are not structurally sound enough to support a person’s weight over time, allegedly. And three levels is just too high off the ground, and completely unnecessary. Such BS.
Instead of junk wood and rusty nails, my dad helped me build a single-story treehouse in its place. He used 2x6s and large lag screws to secure the boards to the trees. No fortress was this, but rather a safe and secure platform that even my little sisters were comfortable perching on. In other words, it was useless to me.
If you’re reading this, you probably understand that in my eyes as a thirteen-year-old, the tree fortress I had built was amazing. But you also understand that my parents were certainly correct when they made me tear it down. Because a thirteen-year-old doesn’t have the wisdom to see the big picture—to see the nails that had already begun to work their way out of the tree trunks, to see the dangerous bending of the boards as he walks across them, to foresee the possible dangers of a stumble and fall from 20 feet up. A boy who can’t actually fathom the possibility and finality of death or the likelihood of an accident can’t foresee the dangers of his construction. And, without any background in building, construction, physics, or architecture, he can’t see the eventual and inevitable structural failure of his mighty creation.
What does this all have to do with North Korea? Well, I think the press wants us to look at Kim Jong-un as a petulant thirteen-year-old who can’t see the big picture, and can’t fathom his own mortality, or the strength of his rivals.
The media loves to feed this perception, using terms like “hermit kingdom,” “madman,” and “isolated recluse.” If you spend time studying Kim Jong-un though, you’ll realize that these things just aren’t true. Kim is the head of a government. That means he has the resources of a government behind him, backing his decisions and his thought processes.
It’s easy to envision him as Lord Denethor, the Steward of Gondor, eating a plate of greasy chicken while getting vague, fourth-hand reports from a few select advisors, making ill-informed and misled decisions based on faulty intelligence.
But this isn’t the case. Kim Jong-un has a full Intelligence Committee that reports to him. While they do rely heavily on open-source information, they do a fantastically thorough job of gathering and analyzing that intel. And make no mistake, they have a full network of spies doing human intelligence gathering throughout Asia at the very least. While they may not have the capability and resources of the CIA or MI-6, they are committed and dedicated to giving Kim Jong-un accurate and current data about the United States and our allies.
I read a report by Robert Carlin on 38north recently that stated that North Korea believes it’s nuclear forces have reached a level where the United States no longer has the means to counter them. Here’s an excerpt:
One problem not well understood is that the North Koreans believe recent developments in their nuclear weapons program have boosted them to a level of invulnerability, and that as a result, Washington—whatever it might say—is without options to counter them.
In fact, Pyongyang is so convinced that its strategic position has fundamentally changed for the better that it has recently suggested there may be no need for it to continue building up its program. Since two successful ICBM launches last July, the North’s position is that it has reached the “final stage” in bolstering the nuclear force. It has even explicitly laid out a final goal, a “practical equilibrium” with the United States. What that means exactly we do not know, though presumably Pyongyang has something specific in mind.
This is ridiculously misleading. In order to believe that Kim Jong-un thinks his country is strong enough to be invulnerable to a U.S. attack, you have to believe he’s like thirteen-year-old me. Naïve and lacking knowledge to the extent that he can’t fathom his vulnerability. Secure in the hubris of youth and misinformed, or uninformed, to the extent that lead young me to conclusions of security that couldn’t be justified by the actual facts.
This would mean that Kim Jong-un’s network of intelligence analysts are either too stupid, or too scared to give him accurate information. And this is almost certainly not true. North Korea has to know their missiles and nuclear weapons have not been tested thoroughly enough to be reliable. They have to know their arsenal is not sufficient to disable the United States and prevent a counter-attack. They have access to the same internet that you and I do, and we know this information. It’s their jobs to know it, and to pass it up the chain to the Great Leader himself. They have to know the military might of the world would descend upon them in the event of an attack. They are not stupid, they are not naïve, and they are not thirteen and lacking in life experience.
If North Korea is boasting that they’ve reached the “final stage” in bolstering their nuclear force, they are doing that only as misdirection, IMO. Confusion and uncertainty is their primary weapon after all. It’s almost certain that the west has no human intelligence operatives in North Korea, and that we rely on open-source intelligence and satellite imagery for our knowledge of their activities. That makes it fairly easy for North Korea to misdirect and attempt to confuse us.
So, what should the conclusion be with regard to the statements made by Pyongyang regarding their invulnerability to attack? Perhaps they want the United States to believe that they believe that. And, if U.S. intelligence agents think like Robert Carlin thinks (and hopefully they don’t), then I guess North Korea has succeeded.
If Pyongyang can get Washington to believe that they believe they’re invulnerable to attack, then Trump will believe that any attack on Pyongyang will result in a full and complete war, possibly to the extent that nuclear weapons are involved. And if he believes that, then he’ll be less likely to want to take steps that might lead to that type of confrontation—all bluster notwithstanding.
If Kim can get Trump to back down from his confrontational outbursts, then North Korea will buy time to continue their nuclear program without hindrance, and that’s their actual goal. They want to eventually actually be invulnerable to attack, or to at least have the ability to bite back and inflict serious damage if attacked.
And they’re still a long way from having that ability, despite the fears the media wants to project.
Speaking of projecting fear and uncertainty, on October 31st, Japanese news station Asahi TV reported that a tunnel collapse at the North Korea nuclear test facility inside Mount Mantap on September 10th, had killed at least 100 people, and a further 100 had been killed by another collapse during a rescue attempt. They claimed this collapse could cause nuclear fallout to spread throughout the region. This story was picked up and re-broadcast by such heavy hitters as Newsweek, Fox News, USAToday, and MSN. All of them quoted the Asahi TV story as their source, with no confirmation to back it up, blaming the most recent nuclear detonation from September 3rd for destabilizing the terrain and causing the cave-in.
And it might have all been a lie.
According to 38north.com, there is absolutely no evidence to support the story that a tunnel collapse occurred, or caused any deaths. Although satellite imagery was unavailable due to cloud conditions between September 8th and the 17th, analysis of satellite imagery after the clouds had cleared, showed no signs whatsoever of any equipment or new debris piles that would have indicated a rescue attempt had been performed. Although it is possible North Korea could have removed any sign of such rescue efforts during that period of cloud cover, there was also no seismic activity registered on September 10th in the area. Such seismic activity would almost certainly have been present during two major tunnel collapses of that nature, and the Japanese report claimed an earthquake from settling of the mountain due to the nuclear testing had been the cause of the collapse.
So, why would they make up such a story, and why would nearly every major western news organization pick it up without any confirmation?
North Korea officials claim that the story is an attempt by Japan to subvert their nuclear testing program. They blasted Japan through their state-run news agency, KCNA, calling the attempted misinformation “slander” of their nuclear program.
The big part of the story was the report that such collapses could open a vent in the mountainside that would cause nuclear fallout to spread throughout the region. There were reports from Beijing that any nuclear fallout reaching China would be considered an act of war. And it’s possible that the entire story was completely false to begin with.
I think news agencies have reached a dangerous trend where they don’t try to confirm stories prior to posting them, and these stories can have consequences. Instead of confirming the stories, they simply put a small disclaimer in there, “We have been unable to independently confirm these reports,” or something of that nature. And it’s lazy and negligent reporting at its finest.
Of course, I’ve given up on the news media doing the right thing. They’re far too concerned with ratings and exclusives, and seemingly completely unconcerned with accuracy and integrity.
It’s Fake News at its finest, and it’s disgusting, destabilizing, and potentially dangerous. And it’s only going to get worse going forward.