Sunday, June 04, 2017

23.10 - Only 36% could find North Korea on a map of Asia

Only 36% could find North Korea on a map of Asia

Here's something I found interesting.

Blank map
In an experiment led by Kyle Dropp of Morning Consult, nearly 1800 people were shown a blank map of Asia and asked to point out North Korea, focus of enough of our media attention of late that in surveys people have rated in our biggest threat, bigger than terrorism, bigger than anything.

People guessed over 20 different countries on that map. Only 36% got it right.

What with Americans' known shortcomings on knowledge of geography, that perhaps isn't too surprising. But I did find two things interesting in the results:

One was that respondents who could correctly identify North Korea tended to view diplomatic and nonmilitary strategies more favorably, and military strategies less favorably, than those who could not.

Every dot is a guess
The other was that the clearest difference between those who could and could not find North Korea was that those who could were much more likely to disagree with the proposition that the United States should do nothing about North Korea.

That is, those who could find North Korea were less likely to favor military actions but more likely to say "Well, we have to do something." That latter attitude also seems prototypically American.

As a Footnote to that, there is a law on the books in Washington State that prevents planning for a nuclear attack. It allows for evacuation plans for every disaster scenario - except a nuclear bomb.

There is a move in the state legislature to change that because, yes, North Korea. The claim is "If it has a probability of happening, prepare for it."

A better view
What's driving this sort of concern is statements like the one in that same article that, quoting:
Military experts say North Korea is about three years away from actually being able to hit the west coast with a nuke.
Now, at the top, that seems a bit far-fetched to me: Having an effective ICBM is more than having a big missile and stuffing a nuke in the top of it. You have to have a nuclear weapon compact enough to fit on the missile and still be reliable enough and have enough explosive force to make it worth the effort, a missile powerful enough to cover the distance even with the extra weight of the bomb, and one with a good enough guidance system to actually point it at a target.

But leave that aside. The thing is, personally, I can't help but wonder if "North Korean ICBMs" are going to prove to be like "Iranian nuclear weapons."

Recall that before the deal that was cut with Iran, all the experts, all the intelligence agencies, and Israel in particular, kept telling us that Iran one to three to five years from getting nuclear weapons. Israel had been making that prediction since 1992 - which would make Iranian nukes at least 20 years overdue.

About the time the Iran deal was made, I remarked that the old riddle "What is always coming but never arrives" now has two answers: the classic one of "tomorrow" and the new one of "Iranian nuclear weapons."

It will be interesting over the next few years to see if "North Korean ICBMs" will become a third answer.

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