The Army Chief of Staff, General Mark A. Milley, addressed the National Press Club three days ago and much of his comments have been basically dismissed or ignored in the Fake News Industrial Complex (FNIC). For reasons that are obvious, the general went through a litany of information regarding Russia, China and Iraq without questions, but it was his comments on North Korea that were surprising and eye-opening.
In his speech about Capability and Will, in so far as war is concerned, he spoke about the capability of Russia to do damage to the United States of America. This is what he had to say about that aspect of his assessment.
“With Russia, it is clear that the Russian capability is significant. In fact, it’s the only country on Earth that represents an existential threat to the United States because of the inherent capability of nuclear weapons…and we do, too, by the way…that can strike and destroy the United States of America. It’s got millions of people. And so, by definition, they’ve got extraordinary capability. Other countries have nuclear capability as well, but only Russia has the actual capability to destroy the United States.”
When speaking about the will of Russia, he struck a different chord. He was very diplomatic and careful to say that although things have been tense with Russia, what with the “unsavory” approach to relationships between them and their neighbors, like Crimea, Georgia, and incursions into Ukraine, for the most part, the U.S. has to look beyond those and at a bigger, broader picture of the world stage. We have to work together with them on common goals to remain focused on what we can do together in order to strike a balance between competition and solidarity.
“China’s a different strategic situation. China is a rising power…significant rising power…and I would argue that in China’s case, you’re looking at a country that since Deng Xiaoping’s reforms of 1979 and over the last 39 or 40 years, China has advanced really significantly in terms of economic development. They were clicking off at 10% GDP growth a year; they slowed down to 7% in the last couple of years. But it is probably…and this is open to argument, I suppose…probably one of the most significant, if not the most significant, economic shift in global economic power in the last five centuries…really since the rise of the Western Industrial Revolution. Historically, when economic power shifts so significantly, military power typically follows. And I believer we’re seeing that today.
With China, he also spoke of will and that was that the Chinese are very up front with their intentions for the future. They have something, he explained, called the Chinese Dream, and that is that they would by the middle of this century be back to the Chinese Empire of old, to a point where they were on par, both economically and militarily, with the United States. They want to have a significant presence in world affairs and be considered as a superpower along with the others. He also said that they are “the most rational actor in the system” in regards to their intentions.
“When you get to Iran, it’s a different situation. Iran’s desire for a nuclear weapon has sort of been put on pause…we hope for good…but we’re watching that very closely. But even if it is, we can say with certainty that Iran consciously and with malice aforethought tries to undermine U.S. national security interests in the Middle East. And they do that through a symmetric means with a lot of terrorism and the support of terrorist troops. So, we are always in a posture relative to Iran to support our friends and partners in the region and to be very, very wary of Iran.”
With Iran, for obvious reasons, the general did not go into will, because as we all know, Iran has the will to send children out to kill themselves with suicide vests. It’s a pretty safe bet that they have the will to use a nuclear weapon on us or anyone else who opposes them (or doesn’t bow to the will of Allah).
“The fourth country I think is the one that’s in the news a lot…and rightly so…which I think is the single most dangerous threat facing the international community and facing the United States right now, today, it’s the near-term, very significant threat…and that is the threat of North Korea. I don’t want to go into a tremendous amount of detail on it. Much of it is Classified. But it is clear, based on what happened over the July 4th weekend that North Korea has advanced significantly and quicker than many had expected. Their intercontinental ballistic missile capability could possibly strike the United States. More to follow, but the time has shortened significantly and North Korea is a significant threat.
Later in the question and answer, he was asked what a ground war would look like in North Korea and this is what he said.
“Let me use descriptive words rather than specifics…obviously we have plans…kind of different things that shouldn’t be talked about in public. But a war on the Korean Peninsula would be highly deadly. It would be horrific. I think General Mattis said it would be..I think he used the word “catastrophic” or “horrific” or something like that. And it would. When you think about it, you’ve got the city of Seoul, it’s 25 million people or greater, you’ve got a metropolitan area of 10 million people in the city itself. North Korea has a wide array of conventional artillery and rockets across the border, they’ve got a sizeable conventional force, they’ve got sizeable chemical capability, not even including the nuclear weapon piece.
Do I think that North Korea’s military would be destroyed? I do. I think that the United States military, I believe, absolutely, the United States military in combination with the South Korean military would utterly destroy the North Korean military. But that would be done at high cost in terms of human life, in terms of infrastructure, there’s economic consequences to a war on the Korean Peninsula. There’s a whole wide variety of consequences. War on the Korean Peninsula would be terrible. However, a nuclear weapon detonating in Los Angeles would be terrible. And some real…the comment that’s been out there…”there are no good options”…is a very apt comment. At this point, for lots of reasons, we can go through about 25 years of history dealing with North Korea, but the fact of the matter is we are at a point in time where choices will have to be made. One way or the other.
None of these choices are particularly palatable. None of them are good. The consequences of doing nothing is not good. The consequences of accepting the nuclear weapon that could strike the continental United States is not good. The consequences of armed conflict is not good. The consequences of a collapsed North Korea is not good. And there’s a wide variety of scenarios. So, the idea of the downsides of all these options are bad…that’s true. They are. That doesn’t relieve us of the responsibility of choice. And we are going to have to make conscious decisions that are going to have significant consequences. And I’ll just stop there.”
There were a few light moments. After all the talk of the big four nations and how their posture is in regard to the United States and our readiness and capabilities, General Milley also went into a small amount of history of World War I and II and about how America was instrumental in maintaining a peaceful global aspect in the world, in so far as many nations not being at war with one another. He pointed out that, of course, there were conflicts going on all over, but that the main world powers, for the most part have tended to stay out of these and that for 70 years, this relative peace has remained. At this point he talked about how this 70-year peace was at a stressful point in its history and that there were many forces, especially in the Middle East striving to wreck that peace. He talk about how the U.S. has 180K troops spread over 230 countries around the world to help with this stability. In light of that, he took his first question.
What was the first question from the American news media?
Transgenders in the military! No joke. He smirked and shook his head, visibly perturbed at the stupidity of the question, but he answered the question nonetheless. “I’ll be honest,” he answered, “Yes. There are significant challenges that we’re dealing with in regards to that issue.”
What was the second question? How did you hear about this new policy by President Trump? Was it through a tweet?
Again, he was snarky in his answer. He let the press corps know that he didn’t really appreciate the fact that the press, that gets things wrong many times, seemed to indicate that the chain of command receives everything on paper. “If I had a nickel for all the times I head something on the news before it was through the chain of command, I’d retire.” He insinuated that the press was trying to once again go at President Trump for his excessive tweeting, but the general was playing their game.
Another light-hearted moment was when the host commented that General Mattis had been asked by a reporter, “What keeps you up at night?” And the general answered, “I don’t stay up at night. I’m the one keeping everyone else up at night.” The host then asked General Milley, “What keeps you up at night?”
The general smiled and answered, “General Mattis.”