Military Quietly Prepares for a Last Resort: War With North Korea

And beginning next month with the Winter Olympics in the South Korean town of Pyeongchang, the Pentagon plans to send more Special Operations troops to the Korean Peninsula, an initial step toward what some officials said ultimately could be the formation of a Korea-based task force similar to the types that are fighting in Iraq and Syria.

.. President Trump’s own words have left senior military leaders and rank-and-file troops convinced that they need to accelerate their contingency planning.

.. In perhaps the most incendiary exchange, in a September speech at the United Nations, Mr. Trump vowed to “totally destroy North Korea” if it threatened the United States, and derided the rogue nation’s leader, Kim Jong-un, as “Rocket Man.” In response, Mr. Kim said he would deploy the “highest level of hard-line countermeasure in history” against the United States, and described Mr. Trump as a “mentally deranged U.S. dotard.”

.. on Jan. 2, Gen. Tony Thomas, the head of the Special Operations Command in Tampa, Fla., warned the 200 civilians and service members in the audience that more Special Forces personnel might have to shift to the Korea theater from the Middle East in May or June, if tensions escalate on the peninsula.

.. Military officials said General Milley has cited the ill-fated

  • Battle of the Kasserine Pass during World War II, when unprepared American troops were outfoxed and then pummeled by the forces of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel of Germany. General Milley has also recently mentioned
  • Task Force Smith, the poorly equipped, understrength unit that was mauled by North Korean troops in 1950 during the Korean War.

.. fretted about a loss of what he has called muscle memory: how to fight a large land war, including one in which an established adversary is able to bring sophisticated air defenses, tanks, infantry, naval power and even cyberweapons into battle.

.. There have been no travel warnings advising Americans to stay away from South Korea or Japan, and no advisories warning American businesses to be cautious.

.. It is unlikely that the Pentagon would launch military action on the Korean Peninsula without first warning Americans and others there, military officials said — unless the Trump administration believes that the United States could conduct a one-time airstrike on North Korea that would not bring any retaliation from Pyongyang to nearby Seoul.

.. Some officials in the White House have argued that such a targeted, limited strike could be launched with minimal, if any, blowback against South Korea — a premise that Mr. Mattis views with skepticism,

.. But for Mr. Mattis, the planning serves to placate Mr. Trump.

.. protects Mr. Mattis from suggestions that he is out of step with Mr. Trump.

.. The maneuvers were aimed at forcing an enemy to fight on different fronts early in combat.

.. Officials said maneuvers practiced in the exercise, called Panther Blade, could be used anywhere, not just on the Korean Peninsula.

.. Another exercise, called Bronze Ram

.. Air Force B-1 bombers flying from Guam have been seen regularly over the Korean Peninsula

..  B-52 bombers based in Louisiana are expected to join the B-1s stationed on Guam later this month

.. three B-2 bombers and their crews had arrived in Guam from their base in Missouri.

.. unlike the very public buildup of forces in the run-up to the 1991 Persian Gulf war and the 2003 Iraq war .. the Pentagon is seeking to avoid making public all its preparations for fear of inadvertently provoking a response by Mr. Kim

.. “I’ll also add that right now, the Defense Department is in support of Secretary of State Tillerson, who’s got a campaign to be the lead with North Korea in a diplomatic endeavor,” General Jamieson said.

How Congress Failed to Plan for Doomsday

What would happen if some crazed gunman or terrorist massacred Congress? We don’t really know—and that’s bad news for our democracy.

without the coincidental presence of Majority Whip Steve Scalise—there wouldn’t have been any Capitol Police presence, meaning no security to return fire and stop the shooter. “It would’ve been a massacre.”

.. if ever there were a mass slaughter of top members of Congress—a chemical or biological attack, or even a shooting incident that merely injured or incapacitated a large number of senators or representatives—business could come to a grinding halt and leave the House and Senate impotent for weeks or even months.

.. America’s continuing inability to rebuild Congress after a catastrophic attack is, one might say, supposed to be a feature, not a bug.

.. The men and women who have occupied the House leadership before Scalise have decided that they don’t want members to be easily replaced, even if preserving congressional traditions means that senators and representatives would be sidelined from post-disaster decision-making.

.. What if an attack incapacitated large numbers of senators and representatives without immediately killing them?

.. From the 1940s to 1962, as it wrestled with the issue of presidential succession, Congress saw more than 30 different proposed bills and constitutional amendments about what to do in the case of a mass death of its membership

.. The Senate .. had relatively clear constitutional policies about how to appoint interim senators to fill a vacancy. The House, though, had no clear way to reconstitute itself quickly

.. The House prides itself on the fact that every person who has ever set foot in the body has been duly elected by the people

.. Had United Flight 93 taken off on time, instead of 41 minutes late, and the passengers hadn’t had time to learn of the other attacks and storm the cockpit, the plane might very well have successfully continued to Washington and hit the Capitol building at about the same time as American Airlines Flight 77 hit the Pentagon.

.. “With hundreds dead and perhaps hundreds of others in burn units in hospitals, Congress would likely have been without a quorum, without a building, without the ability to function,”

.. What if an attack wiped out the vast majority of the body? Would anyone want a subset of just a handful of representatives, perhaps just a dozen, score, or even a hundred, making sweeping decisions about declarations of war, new appropriations or the massive civil liberties curbs likely to be imposed following a large-scale attack?

.. In the case of the death of the president and vice president, a nine-member House could then elect a new Speaker, who would become president of the United States for the remainder of the term.

.. if the sitting vice president had been a victim of the incident as well, a new No. 2 could not be confirmed absent a House quorum, since both bodies have to confirm such a position.

.. Two years after 9/11, in 2003, its final report called for a new constitutional amendment to expedite special elections in the wake of an attack and to otherwise smooth the reestablishment of a devastated Congress.

.. One idea floated was that each member of Congress should designate his or her own list of successors in case of incapacitation

.. Every single proposal for congressional continuity was imperfect and troublesome in one aspect or another

.. Nevertheless, since the beginning of “continuity of government” planning during the Cold War, officials had successfully made just these types of trade-offs in other areas

.. they looked at it from their own narrow parochial perspective and it was, ‘I’ll be damned if I’m going to let this son of a bitch pick my successor!”

.. Speaker Hastert finally attached “continuity of Congress” legislation to an existing appropriations bill—a parliamentary move frowned upon in normal practice—and forced the Senate to accept it without amendment. The bill, which ultimately became law and remains in force today

.. it required states to hold “expedited” special elections within 49 days

.. Congress has effectively abdicated its responsibility to participate in the nation’s governance during the worst-case scenarios that could befall our country in the future