Streetwise Professor

July 10, 2010

Not Damning the Torpedoes

Filed under: History,Military,Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 2:59 pm

Back when the South Korean corvette Cheonon sunk, I said to myself: if they raise it in two pieces, NoKo torpedo.

Why?  Because that’s what modern torpedoes do.  They don’t hit on the side of a ship.  They detonate underneath the keel, amidships.  The explosion creates a rapidly expanding air bubble that raises the center of the ship upwards.  The bubble works as a fulcrum, and the weight of the fore and aft sections of the ship pushing against this fulcrum break the ship  in two.

Here are a couple of examples:

Note that the ships destroyed in the videos were far larger (destroyers, about 8000 tons displacement) than the Cheonon (a corvette, of only 1200 tons). You can imagine the havoc on board the Korean ship.

And yes, it came up in two pieces:

Even though the cause of the sinking should have been a foregone conclusion once the salvage of the ship had taken place (indeed, once divers had found the ship in two pieces, split as with a saw amidships), the South Koreans undertook a thorough forensic investigation. This investigation provided other evidence that showed conclusively that a North Korean torpedo was responsible.

The reaction in South Korea, and even in the US, has been, shall we say, pianissimo. Yes, Hillary Clinton condemned the attack, and claimed that it could not be “business as usual” on the Korean Peninsula. And the US and SoKO announced joint naval exercises. But the reaction was decidedly muted.

It was deafening, however, when compared to the Chinese and Russian response. As for the Russians:

Russia will not announce an official position on the sinking of the South Korean Navy corvette Cheonan, it emerged Tuesday. Moscow sent three torpedo and explosion experts to South Korea and analyzed findings of an international probe from May 31 to June 7 and was expected to announce its official position early this month.

A Foreign Ministry official said the Russian experts will eventually finish drawing up a report and submit it to the Russian government, but it seems Moscow “has no plan to make any announcement about it.”

“No plan to make any announcement.”  Isn’t that precious.

And why not?  Political cowardice, or opportunism of the “let’s you and him fight” variety:

There is speculation that Russia decided to delay the announcement while the U.S. and China are at odds over the sinking at the UN Security Council.

The UNSC has been unable to reach any conclusion because China is declining to point the finger of blame at North Korea. If Russia endorses the findings of the international probe that the Cheonan sank due to a torpedo attack from the North, Russia would have to join the U.S., the U.K., and Japan, which support South Korea’s position, against the North, a long-term ally.

If it remains noncommittal, Russia could face criticism that it is standing up for a rogue state, as China already does. Its best course of action may be to postpone any announcement until the UNSC takes action against the North.

In other words, let China and the US have at it, stalemating the UN Security Council.  Russia then doesn’t have to take a stand.  I mean, one can understand their solicitous regards for Kim Jung Il’s feelings.  He’s such a tender, sensitive thing.

The psychostate of North Korea is a Soviet and Chinese creation.  It is kept alive through Chinese, and to a far lesser degree, Russian sufferance and support. The refusal of China and Russia even to condemn the attack (the Chinese official media is virtually silent on the entire subject) speaks volumes on their worldviews.  Neither China nor Russia (with China being the most culpable) have played a constructive role in dealing with North Korea since the mid-1990s.  For a variety of reasons, none of them admirable, they have permitted the situation to metastasize to a point where the likely outcomes are terrible or worse.

The whole episode demonstrates, as if further demonstration was needed, the pathetic nature of the UN, and the delusional nature of anyone who truly believes that it can play a decisive role in resolving any serious international dispute.  If anything, it is an obstacle to such resolutions.

Admittedly, North Korea is a hard case because it is governed by crazies and has nukes. So won’t the world be so much more fun when Iran, already governed by crazies, gets nukes too.  A development also facilitated by Chinese and Russian “statecraft” and Western (including American) pusillanimity.

The Cheonon sinking, and the world’s reaction to it (if “reaction” is at all the right word), says a lot about the way things are. Supineness in the face of deliberate provocation–murder, in fact–only brings more chaos in its wake.  Yes, damning the torpedoes and pouring on the steam creates its own hazards, but they pale in comparison to not damning them, and leaving the initiative in the hands of the crazy, the malign, and the crazily malign.

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  1. Only China can pull North Korea’s strings. How can Russia go over the heads of South Korea, who themselves want nothing more but the status quo to be maintained? In fact, this is what everyone in the region wants.

    Comment by So? — July 10, 2010 @ 7:22 pm

  2. SWP is really going OVERBOARD with the YouTube embeds, no? 😉

    Anyway, NK to China is essentially what Israel is to the US (in terms of PR). Each wince when they overstep the boundaries of global public opinion but it is not in their ultimate interests to do anything serious about it.

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — July 10, 2010 @ 9:44 pm

  3. Always the critic, S/O. Or was that just an excuse to use a nautical pun? Hey, always trying to change things up.

    As is often the case, you advance an analogy that has some superficial plausibility, but which is fundamentally flawed, and hence misleads more than instructs.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — July 10, 2010 @ 9:52 pm

  4. Excuse to use a pun.

    I’m not the one who thought of the Israel-NK comparison, by the way – it was doing the rounds of the liberal blogosphere a month back.

    I don’t think it’s fundamentally flawed. While the legalities of what Israel did are murky, whereas NK is pretty clearly in the wrong, that is irrelevant – what matters is the public perception.

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — July 11, 2010 @ 1:07 am

  5. Israelis action was according to international law, you would know that if you at least for once tried to make opinion based on facts. But you actually declared long ago you are anti-American, which means anti-Israeli too, in principle…

    Two citations of San Remo Manual on International Law Applicable to Armed Conflicts at Sea:

    Article 67:
    “67. Merchant vessels flying the flag of neutral States may not be attacked unless they:

    (a) are believed on reasonable grounds to be carrying contraband or breaching a blockade, and after prior warning they intentionally and clearly refuse to stop, or intentionally and clearly resist visit, search or capture;

    (b) engage in belligerent acts on behalf of the enemy;

    (c) act as auxiliaries to the enemy s armed forces;

    (d) are incorporated into or assist the enemy s intelligence system;

    (e) sail under convoy of enemy warships or military aircraft; or

    (f) otherwise make an effective contribution to the enemy s military action, e.g., by carrying military materials, and it is not feasible for the attacking forces to first place passengers and crew in a place of safety. Unless circumstances do not permit, they are to be given a warning, so that they can re-route, off-load, or take other precautions.”

    Article 146:
    “146. Neutral merchant vessels are subject to capture outside neutral waters if they are engaged in any of the activities referred to in paragraph 67 or if it is determined as a result of visit and search or by other means, that they:

    (a) are carrying contraband;

    (b) are on a voyage especially undertaken with a view to the transport of individual passengers who are
    embodied in the armed forces of the enemy;

    (c) are operating directly under enemy control, orders, charter, employment or direction;

    (d) present irregular or fraudulent documents, lack necessary documents, or destroy, deface or conceal

    (e) are violating regulations established by a belligerent within the immediate area of naval operations; or

    (f) are breaching or attempting to breach a blockade.

    Capture of a neutral merchant vessel is exercised by taking such vessel as prize for adjudication.”

    I call your attention to paragraph a) of art. 67 and paragraph f) of art. 146. Israeli action was not murky as you state, but completely legal according to international law. “Humanitarian activists” tried to breach the blockade (which recognized nations have right to impose on any part of its own territory), they got warned by Israelis and offered another solution:

    It was “humanitarian activists” who refused to undergo standard procedure, who refused to obey international law and tried to breach the blockade. Activists had no right to prevent the boarding of their ship, yet they did exactly that and attacked the Shayetet 13 soldiers (who had paintball guns as primary weapons). Only after there were injuries on Israeli side, commander of the boarding unit gave order to use deadly force – secondary weapons soldiers had, pistols. Activists who put up a resistance are the only one responsible for deaths on board of the Mavi Marmara.

    Comment by deith — July 11, 2010 @ 10:02 am

  6. Err, sorry for being OT, SWP.

    Comment by deith — July 11, 2010 @ 10:07 am

  7. @S/O–I’d be more willing to cut you slack if you thought up the yes, fundamentally misleading, analogy by yourself rather than catching it on a trip through the fever swamps. It really depends on which “public” we’re speaking of, doesn’t it?

    @Deith–no problem. You may fire when ready, Gridley. (Obscure US Navy reference.) Saves me the ammunition 🙂

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — July 11, 2010 @ 12:10 pm

  8. @deith,

    Why don’t you also throw in the anti-Semitism card to make full house?

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — July 11, 2010 @ 2:36 pm

  9. SO wrote: “While the legalities of what Israel did are murky, whereas NK is pretty clearly in the wrong, that is irrelevant”

    Even if one accepts – just for argument’s sake – that what Israel did was “murky”, to do so is to acknowledge that what NK wasn’t just murky, it was downright murderously illegal.

    This is highly relevant to any comparison of the relationship between the USA and Israel with that between China and NK. It establishes that NK is a rogue state and Israel isn’t, and hence – there ain’t no valid comparison.

    Nitpick about the commentary in the first vid: it’s a warship, not a “battleship”. One is a generic ship of war, the other is a “line-of-battle ship”, a quite specific category the last example of which was built in 1946.

    Comment by Martin — July 11, 2010 @ 3:08 pm

  10. S/O:
    Well, considering “peace activists” you support recommended Israelis to “go back to Auschwitz”, you can be labeled that way. It shows what the whole action was about – not help for Gaza by pro-Gaza movement, but provocation against Israel to make it look bad in PR by those who despise Israel. Luckily, you are completely wrong and it is not the public perception that matters in the end.

    [Auschwitz is just after 2:00, another interesting is “don’t forget 9/11, guys” which is at the very end 5:40]

    Comment by deith — July 11, 2010 @ 6:13 pm

  11. That’s good deith, the entire trifecta: anti-American, anti-Israel, anti-Semite.

    Now comes the tricky part – you actually need to find evidence for that. I’ll give you a pointed – you can start off with my posts on the flotilla here and here.


    I’m speaking of the public as global opinion. Israel has a major PR problem in that department and flotilla has done absolutely nothing to help that. That is why the legal technicalities are largely irrelevant.

    Sorry, but please let me introduce you to extra-American reality. “Rogue state” has little currency outside the US and almost none whatsoever outside the West. As a matter of fact, according to global opinion polls (not my own or your or SWP’s opinions which all count for zilch), Israel is seen as much a pariah and danger to world peace as NK throughout Europe, Asia and the Muslim world.

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — July 11, 2010 @ 8:21 pm

  12. SO, you are one of those “useful idiots” who contribute to the danger the world now lives in.

    Comment by voroBey — July 12, 2010 @ 8:05 pm

  13. Indeed I am, voroBey – you’re onto me!

    I should be shot for anti-Western infiltration, anti-Western subversion, and the poisoning of all our precious bodily fluids.

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — July 12, 2010 @ 8:55 pm

  14. Anatoly Karlins FRIEND Castro also accused the United States of being behind the blowing up of a South Korean warship in order to be able to provoke hostilities with North Korea, saying only a sophisticated explosive imbedded in the hull of the ship could have done that damage.

    Come back to the headquarter dear Anatoly we miss your precious bodily fluids.

    Comment by Anna Chapman — July 13, 2010 @ 7:51 am

  15. It’s a pity voroBey doesn’t get great film references.

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — July 13, 2010 @ 2:38 pm

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