- - Thursday, July 25, 2019

Pearl Harbor, the Marine Barracks in Beirut, the invasion of South Korea, the first Trade Towers attack, the 9/11 attacks, the attack on the USS Cole — while all different in scale, were all intended to force us out of a particular geographic area. 

Or, to force us out of a particular political dynamic in another part of the world — or to discourage us from getting engaged/involved in a particular conflict. And as such, these attacks were all carefully thought out long beforehand as strategic attacks against us, of one scale or another. 

Also, and unfortunately, there was a big difference in the kind and level of attention the underlying disputes were getting in our country as opposed to the kind and level of attention those disputes had by those who attacked us. In short, we have a long record of not thinking near hard enough about the fairly obvious risks that later caused another country to attack us by “surprise.”

For example: How long had the Japanese been planning an attack on Pearl Harbor? When were the 9/11 attacks planned? Questions like these demonstrate the fundamental difference between the strategic planning we typically do in this country and that done in the countries we compete with adversely — in one way or another.

Accordingly, it’s probably not a surprise to see how we are most always surprised when we are attacked. Complacency perhaps, massive intelligence failures perhaps — for whatever reason it happens, it seems to be the way we are most typically and initially confronted in a serious political–military context. 



Addressed here is the critical need for us to focus on creative planning for the most probable future attacks against us. 

Do the Chinese, for example, have a long-existing and highly secret PLA cell that focuses exclusively on planning for various kinds of attacks against us? Attacks ranging from taking out a “Freedom of Navigation” U.S. Navy mission in the South China Sea, to a broad scale attack against U.S. interests in the Asia–Pacific area, similar to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor — and basically for similar reasons?

For sure they do, and we should not be surprised — again — when they begin exercising large-scale, offensive military operations in the South China Sea. They will do this for sure as soon as they determine they are able to do it. 

We also know, for example, that the Soviet Union — now Russia — has long had similar planning exercises as a continuously ongoing effort, certainly since the very creation of NATO. In fact, during the Cold War we assumed the Soviet Union would probably attack NATO as part of a ruse involving very large-scale military exercises in the Warsaw Pact.

Another irony perhaps, is that North Korean regimes have for many years fretted and complained about ROK-U.S. military exercises. Why? Because their secret war plans — like the Soviet/Russian plans against NATO — probably have them attacking the South as a ruse and out of a large military exercise.

And, because the DPRK now has an operational nuclear force, the “attack from the exercise” plan would also include a threat to use nukes against the ROK if their conventional attack was effectively resisted. The attack itself, of course, would be justified as a “defensive” operation, this however unbelievable such an assertion would be.

This and other very realistic and dangerous scenarios emphasize the need for new declaratory U.S. policies. In this category should also be pre-planned nuclear response options for the following examples of aggressive North Korean actions:

• Preparations for a massive artillery attack on Seoul.

• Massing troops at the border.

• Interception of ocean or coastal traffic.

• Interception of aviation.

• Launch of a ballistic missile with an aggressive trajectory.

Longer-term strategies should also be developed with urgency, but on a different policy track from the shorter-term ones. In this category would be:

• Discussions with the Japanese for a cooperative nuclear relationship.

• Re-positioning nuclear assets — and nuclear-capable assets — to and around the Korean peninsula.

• Maximizing all types of sanctions — in the U.N. and domestically and terminating any remaining Six Party benefits.

• Working trade embargoes, interceptions of suspicious commerce and aggressive information operations.

If we do not want to be surprised again — and none of us want to be — by some kind of attack like Pearl Harbor or the 9/11 attacks, we have to integrate the lessons of the Cold War into our contingency plans, and build in concepts of deterrence. Included in this process would also be new targeting doctrines – again similar to Cold War concepts — which held potentially dangerous leaderships at personal risk in the event of an attributed attack.

Whatever we do, we must realize that our potential enemies throughout the world are continuously planning very specifically how to attack us. Meanwhile, our planning should 1) make their planning extremely difficult and replete with personal risks and uncertainties, 2) include an array of selective nuclear options, and 3) discourage them from ever deciding to attack us in the first place.

• Daniel Gallington served as a member of the U.S. Delegation to the Nuclear and Space Talks with the former Soviet Union, in senior national security and intelligence policy positions, and as general counsel for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

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