As North Korea continues to rattle sabers with missile tests, South Korea is rattling the North’s cage. Using military loudspeakers aimed across the border, South Korea has broadcasted news of the defection of a North Korean soldier since his exit to freedom in November. Video of the escape has been making the rounds on the internet, showing the frantic flight and pursuit by North Korean guards. North Korean soldiers fired at the defector and briefly pursued him across the border. Seoul has criticized the action as a violation of the 1953 armistice, which, technically, ended the Korean War.
South Korea’s loudspeakers are a prime example of psychological warfare. There are nearly a dozen broadcast installations positioned on the border. They play South Korean music, world news, and reports about the abysmal conditions in the North. It should be noted that while this last point seems nonsensical – after all, North Koreans are the ones facing those conditions and should know how bad they are – North Koreans are essentially inmates in the world’s largest prison. Information is strictly controlled, and, in most cases, the people simply do not know what life is like outside their 46,540 square mile prison camp.
Psychological warfare is a powerful tool that can chip away at the resolve of the enemy — and civilian support for their cause. “The supreme art of war,” Sun Tzu teaches, “is to subdue the enemy without fighting.” As the shooting portion of the war between North and South ended in 1953 (despite the occasional flare-up), psychological warfare is one of the few weapons available.
Diplomacy, although difficult given the opponent, is another. Carl von Clausewitz, the Prussian general, military theorist, and unofficial patron saint of military thinkers everywhere, put the issue plainly:
“War is the continuation of politics by other means.”
What this tells us is that diplomacy and warfare, hard and soft power, are two sides of the same coin. They are different means to the same end. Both are useful and, in many cases, are equally compelling. Liberty Nation has reported extensively on the North Korean situation and the ever-moving march to war. One thing is certain. If a shooting war were to revisit the Koreas, the loss of life would be unlike anything seen in modern history.
The South Korea/United States alliance’s greatest strength (our overwhelming military power) is also our greatest weakness. North Korea knows that any military action would lead to complete and total destruction. While some consider North Korea’s military to be a paper tiger, a cornered tiger is still a dangerous one. Left with the certainty of destruction, North Korea would not hesitate to use their military’s full potential immediately. That means thousands of rounds of artillery, rockets, and even the use of nuclear weapons.
Loss of life would reach the thousands within minutes, and the entire situation (not to mention the nuclear disaster) would destabilize the region as a whole.
The Trump Administration needs to learn how to deftly use both sides of the Clausewitz coin, and fast.