It didn't take long for TV coverage of North Korea to enter the "Retired General Sketches Out War Games on a Big Map" phase. The April 3 edition of the Situation Room saw CNN's Tom Foreman and retired Gen. James "Spider" Marks game out a potential North Korean attack.
Tom, the very first thing we're going to see is large concentrations of artillery and missile fire from the North against targets in the South, for example, Seoul, which is just a little south of the DMZ.
And the conversation continued:
FOREMAN: So while that firing is occurring from these mountains down here, what else is going on from the North?
MARKS: The North is going to activate the insertion of special operations forces, both along the coasts.
FOREMAN: Taking them in by ship or submarines?
MARKS: By submarines most likely, as well as the activation of sleeper agents that have been in the South, in some cases as many as a couple of decades, identifying targets for these missiles and for these artillery pieces.
FOREMAN: OK. The U.S. and South Korea is not just going to sit this while all of this happens, so what is the immediate response if such an attack took place?
MARKS: Number one is the U.S. Navy will increase its presence. For example…
FOREMAN: More aircraft carriers?
MARKS: More aircraft carriers. More aircraft is what we're looking for.
Marks went on to talk about how to "completely own this airspace above North Korea," and Foreman wonders:
So if all of that happens, obviously you have a shift in the battle. The North takes the initiative to start the attack, but then the South and the U.S. responds. How quickly does it turn so the initiative is not in the hands of the North, but is in the hands of the U.S. and coalition forces?
Well, this is all starting to sound pretty alarming. Until they get to the end of the discussion:
FOREMAN: But you don't think this will happen?
MARKS: Not at all.
Oh. Sorry to waste everybody's time, then.
But alarmism seems to be the order of the day. On NBC Nightly News (4/3/13), Richard Engel warned:
North Korea's military declared today it had, quote, "final approval" to launch merciless strikes on the United States, including the use of nuclear weapons possibly within days.
As we pointed out, some experts urge caution–not only about North Korea's real-world military capabilities, which don't seem to include striking the U.S. (mercilessly or otherwise), but also about the fact that much of this rhetoric is about what North Korea is threatening to do in response to an attack on its country. That's not to excuse the militarism, but some context–and caution–might be helpful.