The North Korean Stalking Horse

A stalking horse is a person who tests mounts a challenge against a person on behalf of an anonymous third party.

The term stalking horse originally derived from the practice of hunting, particularly of wildfowl. Hunters noticed that many birds would flee immediately on the approach of humans, but would tolerate the close presence of animals such as horses and cattle.

Hunters would slowly approach their quarry by walking alongside their horses, keeping their upper bodies out of sight until the flock was within firing range. Animals trained for this purpose were called stalking horses.

Thanks to Wikipedia for the above definition.

But what if you’re not hunting waterfowl? What if you’re a nation trying to test the military capabilities of another nation?

Let’s say you’re oh, I don’t know — China — and you want to test US missile defense capabilities. You can’t just lob a missile in the general direction of the US without some severe consequences. It’s pretty simple. You find some pinhead willing to launch a missile in the general direction of the US for you. You funnel your nuclear and missile technology to him through third parties and let him do your dirty work. When he launches the missile you monitor the target’s response to determine their defensive procedures and capabilities.

Now, what do you do if you’re the intended target of this kind of attack? Sabotage is the preferred solution, but if you are lacking the necessary intelligence capabilities you’ve got two other choices.

You can send in a couple of missiles of your own to blow it up before its launched and destroy, or at least severely compromise, the stalking horse’s capability to launch future attacks. If you’re unwilling to take that step, you have to let the missile launch and shoot it down if it is going to hit you.

The problem with the second option is that you have to show at least some of your defensive capabilities to the true aggressor behind the stalking horse.

But how then do you both defend yourself from the missile attack and deny your opponent the knowledge they seek?

If you’re smart, you send in the B team.

You deliberately do not use all your defensive capabilities.

Chances are the missile is going to land in the water, hundreds of miles from any population. Even Kim Jong Il is not stupid enough to deliberately target Hawaii. Obama would have no choice but to respond to a missile attack on American soil with overwhelming force. To fail to do so would render him politically impotent both at home and abroad for the rest of his one term. Our enemies and fair weather friends would denounce us for “an inappropriate level of response” but nobody would do anything and many would privately congratulate us.

Let’s hope when North Korea does launch its missile on July 4th it puts on a great fireworks show by blowing up on the launch pad. If it does get airborne, let’s hope whoever’s in charge of defending us from it is smart enough not to show all our cards to the Chinese.

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  • Jerry

    That is the question, though, WHO is defending us. I don’t have any faith whatsoever the current admin.

  • Rupert in Springfield

    The China gambit is possible, but I don’t really like it at least for the motivations laid out in the article. What exactly is the motivation for China to test our capabilities? I mean sure, everyone would like to know what we have got, but the missile launch to test our missile defense capabilities makes no sense. BO and the rest of the dog and pony show show are pretty clearly against missile defense. One doesn’t exactly need a sack of fortune cookies to understand BO will quite happily drain defense to pay for more entitlements. While the Chinese might not know what our capabilities are exactly, there would be no greater way to assure our improvement of those capabilities than to have the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea lob a missile at us.

    Therefore. if it is China who is behind this, and I think that is likely, I don’t think the purpose is to test military capabilities at all. I think the purpose is to test leadership ability and political will. So far the only tough stance BO has taken was during the campaign when he said he would unilaterally launch an attack against Pakistan if certain intelligence criteria were met. Other than that he has been pretty critical of Israel, but that’s about it. Syria? Nice bunch of guys, lets talk. Iran? Sure, mowing down protesters is ok, but hot dogs with the mullahs on the fourth is apparently still a date.

    Conclusion One – I think it is unlikely the missile will make it to Hawaii. I’m not even sure it will be launched in that direction. If the missile does launch, and does reach extended range, the last thing those behind it want to stir up is support for missile defense domestically in the US. Therefore, the missile trajectory will be such so as to show extended range, as well as targeting capability at the same time as maintaining idiotic complacency in the public within the US. It will do this by having a deliberate splash down in the ocean so as to show in no uncertain terms to military forces here that the splash down was deliberate and targeted.

    This will test Obama in a much more profound manner. He can very easily ignore it. If he chooses not to, it will be a real test of leadership since the public will think the test was a failure and will not be very riled up. The decision on Obama’s part will be entirely his own, as with a complacent public there are not political considerations to fuel BO’s decision.

    Conclusion Two – The range of the missile is very important. When we think of the Chinese as aggressors, we should not think in terms of the conventional: military attacks upon the homeland. China historically has not shown interest in this realm. They are not seeking world conversion to Islam or communism for example. What China has had an obsessive interest in is eastern hegemony. They see the area surrounding their country as theirs to control, if not directly rule in far broader terms than we are used to thinking in. International waters extend a lot further off coast in the mind of China than we might be comfortable with. Therefore, the DPK missile will clearly show a range capable of hitting Taiwan. In fact, I have a feeling the missile will be brought down in an area of the ocean the exact distance, but not direction, that Taiwan is from DPK. This would be to show not just range, but precision, the latter being far more important. BO would clearly see the implications. If he responds poorly, then China will be green lighted for invasion of Taiwan, which I think is quite possible in the latter half of BO’s first term, or early second term.

    • Tim Lyman

      The targeting capabilities of the DPK missiles are probably extremely crude – sort of like a long range SCUD, hence my use of the phrase “in the general direction of” when describing targeting above.

      • Rupert in Springfield

        Well, that’s just my point, they could simply be trying to demonstrate improved targeting capability. Let’s face it, they all of a sudden popped up with a nuke when we thought they were a ways off, the same could happen with targeting. The way I see it, if China was able to just somehow, all of a sudden, improve their launch success rate virtually overnight after the Loral satellite went down, its just as possible that by some weird mechanism DPK could make a leap.

        Of course, in the end there might be no missile at all. The announcement might be done simply to test US verbal response to assess resolve.

    • valley person

      Why would China invade Taiwan and risk all the business bona fides it has built up with the west and Taiwan, whose citizens own probably half the businesses in China anyway? China will absorb Taiwan slowly, like a python eating. There is no need for them to invade.

      North Korea is a pipsqueak nation with no future, and we should pay a lot less attention to it.

      • Rupert in Springfield

        >China will absorb Taiwan slowly, like a python eating. There is no need for them to invade.

        Well, glad at least one person on the planet appears to think so. Apparently the Chinese would disagree, as their build up in weapons and basing right in that area and for just that purpose would tend to indicate. You keep on going with what you believe though.

        >North Korea is a pipsqueak nation with no future, and we should pay a lot less attention to it.

        Well, except for the fact that they have nukes, which I guess you don’t regard as a big deal.

        Hmm, and I guess they are busy improving their missile technology, I guess that’s no big deal.

        Gee, they have no money, no real products to sell um except for …. geee I wonder what?

        Oh yeah, nuclear armed missiles.

        I sure am glad you feel fine with that, for the rest of us though, I think we can all agree its for the best your ignorance is bliss theory does not prevail.

        Keep tilting at the windmills Dean.

    • RosA

      “I don’t think the purpose is to test military capabilities at all. I think the purpose is to test leadership ability and political will” Great point Rupert. I think that the launch is symbolic, aimed at making NK appear more formidable, and aggressive than it can actually afford to be. I watched a really interesting video about the proposed 4th of July launch here:
      Ultimately, I think the launch end not with a bang but a whimper.

      • Rupert in Springfield

        Well, the launch, if there even is one, is definitely not about accomplishing anything concrete strategically.

        If there even is a launch, I am convinced it is solely to test US leadership and resolve, and I don’t think the interested parties behind that motivation are restricted solely to the DPK. I frankly doubt only the DPK is behind this, they probably couldn’t even make the pronouncement without Chinese approval.

        What the world will watch with interest will be the US response. If Obama doesn’t handle it well, even if there is not a launch, we will definitely see a decrease in US relevancy vis a vie actions of terrorist nations. In essence it will be a reenactment of the Ayatollah Khomeini’s statement after getting the Carter “One man of God to another” letter. “The US can do nothing!” Or the Clintons ignoring of the embassy bombings and the US Cole incident.

        On the up side, regardless of the administrations reaction, we can still look forward to a dozen more Time magazine Obama covers next year, and all feel really good about how great he is handling things. If there is a launch that did hit HI ( the latter I doubt very highly ), and Obama did anything short of a complete surrender of all US soil to the DPK we would be assured by the press we should all feel good about his success.

        • valley person

          I’m the only one on the planet who thinks China and Taiwan will eventually reunify? Not quite. The notion is shared by over a billion Chinese and probably a lot of Taiwanese, including their own government.

          “Well, except for the fact that they have nukes, which I guess you don’t regard as a big deal.”

          No, I don’t regard it as a big deal. They are a pipsqueak nation with no future and maybe they have a functional nuke or 2. We have multiple thousands of warheads. They may be obnoxious, but do not appear to be suicidal.

          I worry more about loose former Soviet nukes and Pakistani nukes than I do about those in North Korea.

          “If Obama doesn’t handle it well, even if there is not a launch…”

          How should he handle a non event well, in your opinion?

          “Or the Clintons ignoring of the embassy bombings…”

          Ignoring? They sent missiles to multiple places, arrested and convicted at least 5 of the perpetrators, and the Brits arrested several others. All this before Bush waas on the scene by the way.

          OK…Clinton did not invade Iraq if that is what you were expecting.

          • Rupert in Springfield

            >I’m the only one on the planet who thinks China and Taiwan will eventually reunify?

            Well, no one ever said that. Looks like you went off half cocked, yet again. I think you drink a huge amount of coffee.

            Anyway, read first next time, then respond. It would save so much time.

            Keep tilting at the windmills and switch to decaf is my advice.

            >No, I don’t regard it as a big deal.

            Well, I think the last thing anyone would accuse liberals of is being very circumspect. This is why we hear “well it was only done with the best of intentions” when yet another liberal failure comes up.

            Anyway, so no big deal if the DPK has nukes. I guess they wouldn’t sell them to terrorists because they are such nice guys and they have so much other stuff to bring in income.

            Again, the world may be a little bit nervous about Kim Jong Ill, but all breath a sigh of relief your view does not prevail.

            >How should he handle a non event well, in your opinion?

            Because most view even threatening to launch missiles in the direction of Hawaii as a big deal. Obviously you don’t.

            I laid out the reasons why BO’s response, even to just the threat, is important. Since you don’t bother to read before going off half cocked there is little point in cutting and pasting those reasons here.

            >Ignoring? They sent missiles to multiple places, arrested and convicted at least 5 of the perpetrators

            Oh yeah, right, the aspirin factory and the long vacated training camps in Afghanistan when Lewinsky was going to testify. I forgot about that.

            Gee, that was an unusually strong response for Clinton, who ignored everything else. I wonder if it could have been more about knocking Lewinsky off the front page…… hmmmmm I wonder.

            You know, its an odd co inky dink. Clinton didn’t do jack when the world trade center was bombed. didn’t do anything about the USS Cole, didn’t do anything about our troops in Somalia, didn’t do anything about the bombing of our housing complex in Saudi Arabia by terrorists, didn’t do anything when Saddam took Clinton to the woodshed and told him the no fly zone was invalid and threatened to fire on our planes but somehow when Monica was about to testify for the second time, he bombs an aspirin factory and some shacks.

            >All this before Bush waas on the scene by the way.

            The convictions were in in May 2001.

            “Four men, believed to be followers of Osama bin Laden, were convicted on May 29, 2001, for their roles in the bombing of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998. The blasts killed 224 people, including 12 Americans. Some 5,000 people were injured. ”


            Gee, I’m not real sure but I think Bush was on the scene in 2001. Obviously the case was pretty much wrapped up but clearly you need to check some dates here.

            Obviously the conviction of the four worked about as well as bombing aspirin factories and empty training camps.

            Oh, that’s right, I think something big happened in September of that year.

            Gee, the whole treating terror as a criminal matter or just plain ignoring it sure worked didn’t it?

            Oh well, so much for that little theory. You got any more? Personally I think you should give up now.

            Hopefully Obama will not follow the path you advise and ignore the DPK. We saw where it got Clinton and the country, we can’t afford another disastrous blunder in foreign policy like that.

          • valley person

            Where did I write that he should ignore them? I said we should pay a lot less attention to them. I never said we should ignore them.

            Talk about going off half-cocked without reading….

            “Anyway, read first next time, then respond. It would save so much time.”

          • Rupert in Springfield

            >Where did I write that he should ignore them?

            Because you said anything short of a launch at HI would be a non event. Here’s the quote:

            “How should he handle a non event well, in your opinion?”

            Since this was in reference to the threat to launch, at HI, and the build up so far ( we have the satellite imagery of the launch site and prep going on ) you regard those as non event’s. Treating something as a non event means ignoring it.

            You are truly ridiculous.

            If you cannot be bothered to read my post before responding to it, could you at least have the decency to read your own?

            Try and fold with a little more grace next time. This was just plain sad.

          • valley person

            So I did not actually write “ignore them,” but you read that into what I wrote, so therefore that is what I actually meant?

            Treating something as a non event means what it says. It means do not make a mountain out of a molehill. It means not blowing something up out of proportion. It means not getting all wroked up about things not worth getting worked up over. It means not getting sucked into an unecessary confrontation by posturing and acting macho.

            Am I clear now?

          • Rupert in Springfield

            >So I did not actually write “ignore them,” but you read that into what I wrote, so therefore that is what I actually meant?

            No, I didnt read anything into what you wrote, I took your words at their plane meaning. If you now say you meant otherwise, that’s fine. However, poor wording on your part does not constitute misinterpretation on my part when the plane meaning is taken, as I did.

            There is an up side though.

            Your advising to ignore the event ( treat it as a non event ) and now your maintaining that is not what you meant is a nice way to demonstrate both the failure of your argument, and the importance of speaking clearly. That’s what this whole debate was about in the first place. Possibly you have learned words have meaning, hopefully Obama performs better than you.

            At least in that sense you were useful this time and I thank you for that.

          • valley person

            You are most welcome. Obtuse as always, but welcome to your obtuseness.

  • Bob Clark

    We could cut off China imports if China doesn’t stop working the N.Korea puppet. I think China values dollars pretty highly. If we can’t get our government to exact such penalty, we the people could maybe orchestrate aa American consumer boycott of China.

    • Tim Lyman

      Unfortunately, I don’t think we could.

      Almost all our consumer goods are now made in China and even if we could live without Chinese imports, we couldn’t live without the Chinese buying our debt.

      We can’t give them a well deserved middle finger any more than we could Saudi Arabia.

      Three plus decades of irresoponsible congresses (the PJ O’rourke characterization “parliament of whores” comes to mind) have left us bankrupt, unable to manufacture our own consumer goods and short of energy while sitting on top of some of the world’s greatest energy reserves.

      • Rupert in Springfield

        You know, you say Parliament of Whores like it was a bad thing.

        Think of the upside, since we don’t actually make anything here any more, we now get to look at big glass buildings where people do nebulous, but clean and creative, things like credit swap derivative reserves instead of yucky work like slapping a bumper on the front end or making pipe.

        And posh to all that enormous domestic energy reserves blather. Don’t be such a downer. The good news is that because we aren’t tapping into it, according to a bunch of people, we will be two or three degrees cooler in about 100 years, I mean once everyone starts following our lead and stops tapping into their own energy reserves.

        The US is being a leader in doing the intangible, not consumer goods. We are in a leadership role in non domestic production of energy, thereby exporting the environmental problems. Once other nations follow our lead, as we are assured they will, a cleaner, if more inane planet will ensue. The 2-3 degrees cooler thing is just a bonus!

        1984 isn’t the future. Wall-E is.

        • valley person

          “1984 isn’t the future. Wall-E is. ”

          If we follow your advice that is.

  • wookie

    Dear Rupert,

    You must have an enormous amount of time on your hands to be spending so much energy worrying about North Korea. They can’t even produce kim chee for export…….their threats say MUCH more about their fearless leader’s ego, and his efforts to make a jingoistic statement to his own poor, starving, and captive people, than they are a credible threat to the rest of the world. Do you really like awake at night worrying about this? If so, please note that Big Pharma makes VERY EFFECTIVE anti-anxiety drugs for the likes of you! They are not difficult to obtain, and they will allow you more time to do other things…… drool when you listen to Lars on the radio, or attend long, fascinating meetings of the Libertarian Party of Oregon, or read National Review, all of which require limited cognitive activity anyway.

    BTW, if you see Wall-E as your future, I suggest taking a class in portion control. Whatever you are eating can’t be all that bad (or can it be? perhaps I am underestimating you…..!)

    Good times to you in Springfield! Bet there are some meth labs on the outskirts that can furnish you with a wake-up potion that will get you out of your stupor better than worrying about North Korea……

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