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Divided in the face of the enemy 

There are many issues that evoke concern among Americans and this past week turned up the thermometer on several. There are pressing issues to worry about, like impending war in Asia and a nation becoming increasingly divided by political extremists.

Let me address the issue of impending war in Korea: I don't believe we will be undertaking any military operations against North Korea in the near future unless they actually fire upon U.S. territory, our allies, or attack elements of our armed forces. In the latter case, the most at-risk units are the unarmed strategic reconnaissance aircraft that routinely keep tabs on the North from international airspace. In 1969, North Korea shot down an unarmed U.S. Naval intelligence aircraft from VQ-1 over international airspace, killing all 31 crewmembers. VQ-1 is the same squadron that the Chinese forced down over Hainan Island in 2000.

In the 1970s, the North Koreans attacked a tree-trimming detail on Freedom Bridge at the Peace Village, using axes to hack several American officers and soldiers to death. We responded by flying multiple low-level bombers over the demilitarized zone and sent a full infantry battalion onto the bridge—not to trim the tree, but to cut it down entirely. Message received. The North Koreans have a long history of violent provocations against South Korea, its allies, and neighboring states. The regime has so starved its population (as the ruling clique prospers from foreign assistance) that the North Korean populace has actually suffered a decline in physical stature due to government-induced malnutrition. It's literally the most brutal totalitarian dictatorship on the planet ruled by a xenophobic, possibly psychotic, mass-murderer with the most evil intent imaginable, determined to hold onto power regardless of cost.

This is what makes Kim Jung-Un dangerous as acquisition of nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them will give him the ace he needs to initiate a war of conquest against South Korea. The latter provides substantial components to our tech industry and its economy substantially contributes to global prosperity. The loss of its 50 million productive citizens to be absorbed into the North Korean "gulag" would likely result in a global recession, not to mention the moral implications of selling them out to an evil regime. Kim is not likely to directly attack the United States. He's more likely to use his "nuclear arsenal" to neutralize our will to uphold our commitment to preserve South Korean independence against North Korean aggression. Kim's nuclear arsenal would likely be used first against the South to break their resistance or against the U.S. in a revenge strike if he was facing defeat, which is likely in a conventional war. Long-term, his nuclear weapons will pose an existential threat against the American homeland: This situation doesn't get better over time.

Kim's military is comprised of outdated and poorly maintained armaments. His artillery is not as formidable as TV talking-heads proclaim and only a small number can be brought to bear upon Seoul, South Korea's capital of 25 million. We would quickly take out much of his artillery with counterbattery fire, airstrikes, and "smart munitions." When North Korea attacked the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong in 2010 with artillery fire, only 47 percent of the 170 rounds fired actually hit the island and about 20 percent were duds. The North Koreans aren't "10-feet-tall" and we're better than the prognostications of armchair strategists. Most importantly, there is no sign of American noncombatant evacuation operations commencing, (to protect American forces, dependents, diplomats) or signs of naval forces being surged or troop movements by Army or Marine forces in the Pacific. The Marines are standing down their aviation assets for a safety assessment for two weeks due to a plethora of recent aviation accidents and half of our Air Force fighter squadrons are still non-deployable. That's not a prescription for an impending war in the Pacific, but I could be wrong.

And Saturday's riot in Charlottesville, Virginia, doesn't represent America any more than the 500 racist losers and Klansmen represent even a fraction of a fraction of a percent of Americans. Lift up enough rocks and you will find something slimy, unpleasant, and occasionally lethal. Charlottesville is a liberal community that gave 80 percent of its vote to Clinton; the violent groups that rioted were mostly from out of state. Sadly, the community response was a prescription for disaster and represents a dereliction of duty by local police and city leaders.

Two violent extremist groups were allowed on the same ground at the same time; the police failed to interject themselves between the groups, both of whom came armed and looking for a fight. The police withdrew, making no effort to intervene and allowed a full-scale riot to ensue, which cost a young woman her life at the hands of a domestic terrorist. This has been a pattern for the last several years as the police stand down at the behest of civilian leadership. This time innocent people were killed and injured. This is a path to national destruction: no nation can face external threats that pose an existential threat over time and survive if we remain so divided. Δ

Al Fonzi is an Army lieutenant colonel of military intelligence who had a 35-year military career, serving in both the Vietnam and Iraq wars. Send comments through the editor atclanham@newtimesslo.com.

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