Friday 01 June 2018
Winning complex wars, not just battles, requires persistent effects that fit the context at hand. In this sense, “winning” is a continual process of seeking relative advantage. Combined effects are blends of diplomatic, informational, military, economic and social (DIMES) effects. Planning to win is not easy, but it combines these interactive effects.
Consider the Korean security predicament. At the inter-Korean Summit in April 2018, Kim Jong-un spoke of a new history of peace, prosperity and better inter-Korean ties. With that future in mind, what will be the North Korean strategy? Let’s assume the following strategic-level ends, ways and means. Desired effects are marked in bold. They reinforce one another:
• Diplomatic: normalised relations with the U.S. to persuade or compel acceptance of North Korea as a sovereign state, and to induce North Korean political influence in re-unified Korea
• Informational: national narrative of self-reliance and main power victimisation to induce social control, and to persuade or compel diplomatic effects
• Military: capability to deter and defend against external powers, to compel or coerce diplomatic effects, to secure or coerce economic effects, and to compel or coerce social effects
• Economic: domestic reforms to persuade and induce investment, trade, and economic aid
• Social: ethnic exceptionalism and personal loyalty to secure the regime against subversion, and to induce external acceptance
Pyongyang’s strategies employ confrontation and cooperation — persuasion, compellence, inducement, deterrence, defence, and coercion. Historically, Koreans — South and North — have sought any available means to eke out sovereignty among predatory powers. Thus it is prudent to assume that North Korea is planning to win every relative advantage it can. It follows that operational-level planning will pursue these conditions:
• Information campaigns to leverage diplomatic recognition, external political influence, and internal control
• Military activities that enhance diplomacy and generate or attract financial resources
• Reforms that grow the economy and complement social control
Uncertainties abound. Domestic propaganda can backfire in the international market or persuade some audiences through Internet trolls. Stopping nuclear and missile tests generates sparse global support while illicit operations continue, and risks internal military opposition. Foreign investment or social media can destroy national myths.
Given such risks, we should expect flexibility in North Korean strategy. A unified Korea could be (another) framework of vague principles, or a commonwealth of sorts. Pyongyang’s domestic narrative could shift to Korean territorial disputes with China and Japan. Military deterrence and defence do not require nuclear weapons. Economic and social controls will adapt over time with threat perceptions.
At the tactical level, we should also anticipate a mix of ways and means. First, old promises such as the 1992 agreements on denuclearisation and reconciliation, which were unfulfilled. Second, new promises such as halting missile firings and nuclear tests, perhaps demonstrating a re-start.
Third, old tactics such as treating reciprocal South Korean or American concessions as bargaining baselines for further North Korean demands. Fourth, new tactics, such as risking unconditional return to the Non-Proliferation Treaty plus its nuclear safeguards (special inspections).
Security strategists plan to win relative advantage, such as the conditional peace of legitimate competition. To protect the nation, strategists have a responsibility to verify the absence of predatory intent and capabilities. This requires recognising the full range of combined effects, and preparing plans.