How I briefly defended North Korea from American aggression.
- By Michael PeckMichael Peck is an award-winning writer specializing in defense and national security issues. He holds an MA in political science from Rutgers University.
The Dear Leader was right. The Dear Leader is always right. Kim Jong Un predicted that someday the imperialists would strike across the DMZ like treacherous snakes. And so they did, using the pretext that our peaceful, defensive nuclear weapons program was so provocative that it justified a ground invasion to overthrow the benevolent reign of our Glorious Leader.
But they had not reckoned on the foresight of the Ever-Victorious, Iron-Willed Commander. In his wisdom, the Father of the People had chosen me, Field Marshal Kim-Il Noob, to lead the defense of the Workers and Peasants Paradise.
The field of battle was "Drive on Pyongyang," which belongs to that most fiendish of capitalist inventions, the tabletop wargame, which seek to divert the masses through the fascination of historical simulation. The game is published by the aggressor mouthpiece known as Modern War Magazine, which every two months publishes a paper wargame on a post-World War II historical or future conflict. They will regret choosing the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) for their latest topic.
Puppets on a Battlefield
"Drive on Pyongyang" is a paper wargame played on a roughly two-by-three-foot map overlaid by a hexagonal grid, upon which maneuver some 280 half-inch cardboard pieces depicting the forces of the combatants, mostly division- and corps-sized formations rated for their attack, defense, and movement capabilities. The United States and its Republic of Korea puppets make up the bulk of the Coalition order of battle, plus two British and French armored divisions and a few special forces detachments. Our heroic North Korean People’s Army has a few strong mechanized corps, but our forces mostly consist of numerous small infantry divisions that unfortunately lack the firepower of the aggressors.
The game mechanics in "Drive on Pyongyang" would seem to confirm the imperialists’ arrogance. Coalition units are stronger than their North Korean counterparts. Some Coalition forces (mostly American) are capable of conducting "Netcentric" warfare, which is more powerful than a regular attack. Their relentless exploitation of the proletariat has given them attack helicopters, paratroopers, naval gunfire, air and naval resupply, and a heavy-strike capability (those sinister B-2 stealth bombers).
Even the game rules state that "there is little doubt that the North Koreans will suffer defeat in this war in the classic military sense." Ha! Guided by the Peerless Leader, how can we be defeated? Besides, while Coalition forces have to trace supply lines back to South Korea, our glorious troops don’t have to worry about supply. (As the rules rather crassly state, "there are no supply lines for the North Korean units because, by Coalition standards, they’re simply out of supply all the time owing to aerial interdiction, etc.") Coalition troops in their monstrous vehicles can zoom over roads and clear terrain, but our tough People’s Infantry moves faster over rough terrain and over rivers. The map is shaded white for clear terrain and brown for mountains and hills, and unfortunately for the imperialists, there is much more brown than white.
But most of all, our advantage is iron will. Other nations like North Vietnam have triumphed because of superior determination, and we shall do the same. National morale in "Drive on Pyongyang" is reflected through Media Perception Points. The Coalition starts with 200 points, and while that number will never increase, it will inevitably decrease every time their treacherous plans fail. When the Coalition takes significant casualties, or if an attack on our valiant warriors fails, they lose Media Perception Points. If our troops counterattack, the Coalition also loses face. If we fight and fight hard, we can be victorious.
Woe to the imperialists, for the Democratic People’s Republic has many means of smiting the snakes. We start the game with three fixed Scud sites near the border, plus 17 peaceful, defensive WMD sites located around the country. Every turn that there is at least one surviving Scud site, the Coalition loses one to three Media Perception Points, and additional points if there is at least one surviving WMD site.
The Coalition’s goal is to capture cities. They roll dice each turn, and depending on the number of cities taken, there is a chance the communist regime will collapse. North Korea wins if Media Perception Points sink to zero, or if the Coalition hasn’t achieved regime collapse after 15 turns (equivalent to 30 days of real time). Thus the aggressors have only a month to accomplish their goal of regime change before their toiling masses revolt in solidarity with peace-loving Korean workers and peasants. We trust that the impetuosity of the imperialists will lead to rash decisions on the battlefield.
And what about our peaceful, defensive nuclear program, you ask? As long as we hold Pyongyang, North Korea can choose to use battlefield nuclear weapons to weaken Coalition combat units, or conduct a "strategic" strike against a South Korean city (not Hawaii or California…yet) that reduces Media Perception Points. In either case, the Coalition may respond with a tit-for-tat battlefield strike against our troops. Since our People’s Army is happy to die for the Father of the People, this would seem to make nuclear weapons an obvious choice. However, every time North Korea uses a nuclear bomb, the Coalition player rolls a die, with a one-in-six chance that the United States responds with a full strategic nuclear strike that automatically costs North Korea the game.
Preparations to Repel the Unjustified Aggression
In the standard "Drive on Pyongyang" scenario, China remains neutral, rather than coming to the fraternal assistance of their socialist brethren. No matter, we are strong, self-reliant, and our haircuts intimidate the enemy. Not to mention that this is better than the alternate game scenario, in which Chinese troops intervene against North Korea.
The Coalition deploys its forces first. We are horrified to discover that the imperialists have committed yet another atrocity, this time against the innocent fabric of space-time. Their Alternate Reality Device has created a world where neither the Iraq nor Afghanistan wars — nor sequestration — ever happened. Thus the aggressors field 10 U.S. Army divisions plus a Marine division, while the British and French each contribute an armored division. The world has not seen such an armada since Desert Storm, and we are perplexed that the United States and its lackeys could still muster the money and political will to accomplish this.
Because most of the U.S. troops are mechanized, the American running dogs position their forces along the western edge of the DMZ, presumably aiming for a thrust up through open terrain to Pyongyang. Likewise, the ROK mechanized units deploy along the narrow strip of open terrain on the eastern coast, where they can advance on Wonsan, backed by a U.S. Marine division that can land amphibiously in support. Most of the ROK army consists of infantry (a single U.S. mech division is rated as stronger than an entire South Korean corps), so the aggressors station them in the center where they can more easily advance through the rough terrain, block a potential counterstroke, and be able to turn east or west to support the offensives along the coasts.
Now it is our turn to deploy. I place our strong armor formations around Pyongyang, where they can maneuver more easily in the open terrain. The best infantry entrenches in the capital itself, while the remainder of our forces deploy in the hills and mountains in the center and east of the country. I know that the Yankees will use their Marines to stage amphibious landings behind our li
nes, probably along the east coast.
The three fixed Scud sites must be set up near the border, so I place them in the hills in the center of the DMZ, where they will be harder to reach. The WMD sites have a predetermined setup, mostly around Pyongyang or along the Wonsan-Hamhung-Sinpo axis in the east. Fortunately, two sites are located in the far north, near the Chinese border. To avoid losing Media Perception Points, the imperialists must destroy all sites, and the far northern ones will be difficult to reach.
Our basic strategy is to hang on until the imperialists grow weary of a fruitless war. Through endurance comes victory. The Dear Leader himself devised that clever phrase.
The Aggression Begins
Before hostilities commence, each player randomly draws Strategic Events chits from a cup. The Coalition gets "Additional U.S. Forces," which adds an additional four brigades of capitalist mercenaries. We get "Rioting in South Korea," which means the ROK puppets cannot cross the DMZ on the first turn. As I expected, the Coalition cannot afford to wait. American and NATO troops cross the DMZ, though our border defense inflicts some losses. Special forces units attempt to raid a WMD site in the far north, but the dice know their socialist duty, and the raiders are repelled.
I take advantage of the ROK puppet inactivity to shift some forces to the west to delay the Americans. Between casualties and surviving Scud/WMD sites, the Coalition loses 10 of its 200 Media Perception Points on the first turn, as CNN shows footage of burning American vehicles. It is a promising start for the Democratic People’s Republic, but will it be enough? I remind myself to have faith in our Beloved and Respected Leader.
On Turn 2, the ROK puppets make good progress, capturing two Scud sites. The U.S. Marine division lands between the DMZ and Wonsan, while the advance on Pyongyang continues. About a fourth of our People’s Infantry has been destroyed, but they are delaying the advance.
By mid-game, the imperialists find themselves in a quandary. As the Korean Peninsula widens north of the DMZ, the aggressors discover that they cannot mass forces for offensives at selected points without creating gaps that our infantry can infiltrate. Just like 1950, they always worry about their supply lines. As our Dear Leader said, woe to the society that has motor vehicles.
Patiently, I wait for an opportunity. A lone Yankee mechanized division spearheads the thrust on the capital. The massed steel fist of our People’s Armor pounces on them. Alas, we do not destroy them, but only force a retreat. However, this is good enough to cost them more Media Perception Points.
Will the Coalition take Pyongyang? I suspect they would like to bypass and starve it out, but how can they starve an already half-starved army? Besides, the clock is ticking. The exploited Western and ROK masses only have so much patience for an imperialist war. This forces Coalition forces to assault the city.
Our Invincible and Ever-triumphant General is now faced with a momentous decision. Once Pyongyang is captured, we will lose the option to use our People’s Nuclear Weapons. But in his wisdom, and with the Coalition down to 120 Perception Points, the Sun of the Communist Future believes that it would be folly to risk destroying the Socialist Paradise when we can defeat our enemy by wearing him down.
The Coalition does assault Pyongyang at fearful cost. The Dear Leader was right that the imperialists could be worn down. Unfortunately, the masses were not yet equal to the task set before them. By Turn 13, the superior firepower of the Coalition enabled them to win. Except for a few scattered formations in the north, our army is mostly destroyed. I write this from exile in the remote far west of China, where my hosts keep me in a compound across from a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant.
Even by the inhuman standards of the imperialists, "Drive on Pyongyang" has flaws as a simulation. Beyond the inflated Coalition order of battle, one would have expected their airpower to be the primary instrument against WMD sites rather than a costly ground advance through unpaved roads over mountain ranges. And even I must admit that it is generous not to force the People’s Army to maintain supply lines, given that our tanks need gasoline as much as socialist ardor to operate. It is also gratifying how the game incorporates the iron determination of our people, for I shamefacedly admit that there are times when I wondered whether our starving conscripts would surrender or desert rather than fight to the death.
To be fair, there are assumptions in any hypothetical conflict, some of which will inevitably prove wrong. The warmongering Pentagon may have reams of classified intelligence that it can feed into computers, but do not assume that its predictions will prove any more accurate than a civilian tabletop wargame.
Regardless, given that there aren’t too many games on a ground war to overthrow the North Korean regime, "Drive on Pyongyang" will illustrate a few truths for the exploited Western masses. One is that North Korea is not an ideal battleground for a mechanized Western army. The mountains care not for your tanks and UAVs.
A ground invasion of North Korea will be a conventional war of an intensity the West has not experienced since 1950. However, it will not be a blitzkrieg, or a race toward Baghdad. The Coalition can take any piece of ground that it wants. The question is how many casualties it is willing to suffer for it.
Alas, even I now succumb to capitalist temptation. That box of KFC Extra Crispy smells very good.
Field Marshal Kim-Il Noob (retired)
Xinjiang Province, China
Uri Friedman is deputy managing editor at Foreign Policy. Before joining FP, he reported for the Christian Science Monitor, worked on corporate strategy for Atlantic Media, helped launch the Atlantic Wire, and covered international affairs for the site. A proud native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, he studied European history at the University of Pennsylvania and has lived in Barcelona, Spain and Geneva, Switzerland.| The List |