Former CIA director James "World War IV" Woolsey and retired Lt. Gen.-turned-FOX News military analyst Thomas McInerney have a piece in the Wall Street Journal today about North Korea. The basic thrust is that if we can't get China to pressure Kim Jong Il out of office, we should go and do that "regime change" thing there.
It is not reasonable to limit the use of force to a surgical strike destroying Yongbyon. Although the facility would need to be destroyed, the possible existence of another plutonium reprocessing plant or of uranium-enrichment facilities, or of plutonium hidden elsewhere, makes it infeasible to limit the use of force to such a single objective. Moreover, military action against North Korea must protect South Korea from certain attack (particularly from artillery just north of the DMZ that can reach Seoul). In short, we must be prepared to win a war, not execute a strike.McInerney is a retired Air Force general, so the reliance on "massive air power" isn't surprising and might even be right. But the astounding, amazing, "what the hell are they smoking?" line is this: these weapons can be tailored to incinerate the WMD and minimize radiation leakage. Excuse me? We're not talking about biological or chemical weapons here. Incinerate plutonium all you want, it's still radioactive!
U.S. and South Korean forces have spent nearly half a century preparing to fight and win such a war. We should not be intimidated by North Korea's much-discussed artillery. Around half of North Korea's 11,000-plus artillery pieces, some of them in caves, are in position to fire on Seoul. But all are vulnerable to stealth and precision weapons -- e.g., caves can be sealed by accurate munitions.
Massive air power is the key to being able both to destroy Yongbyon and to protect South Korea from attack by missile or artillery. There is a significant number of hardened air bases available in South Korea and the South Koreans have an excellent air force of approximately 550 modern tactical aircraft. The U.S. should begin planning immediately to deploy the Patriot tactical ballistic missile defense system plus Aegis ships to South Korea and Japan, and also to reinforce our tactical air forces by moving in several air wings and aircraft carrier battle groups, together with the all-important surveillance aircraft and drones.
The goal of the planning should be to be prepared on short notice both to destroy the nuclear capabilities at Yongbyon and other key North Korean facilities and to protect South Korea against attack by destroying North Korean artillery and missile sites. Our stealth aircraft, equipped with precision bombs, and cruise missiles will be crucial -- these weapons can be tailored to incinerate the WMD and minimize radiation leakage.
Marine forces deployed off both coasts of North Korea could put both Pyongyang and Wonson at risk of rapid seizure, particularly given the fact that most of North Korea's armed forces are situated along the DMZ. With over 20 of the Army's 33 combat brigades now committed it would be necessary to call up additional Reserve and National Guard units. However, the U.S. forces that would have the greatest immediate effect are Expeditionary Air Forces and Carrier Battle Groups, most of which have now been removed from the Iraqi theater.Of course, there's nothing there about what would happen after the glorious triumph, but after watching the performances in Afghanistan and Iraq, that shouldn't come as much of a surprise.
The South Korean Army is well equipped to handle a counteroffensive into North Korea with help from perhaps two additional U.S. Army divisions, together with the above-mentioned Marine Expeditionary Force and dominant air power. We judge that the U.S. and South Korea could defeat North Korea decisively in 30 to 60 days with such a strategy. Importantly, there is "no doubt on the outcome" as the chairman of the JCS, Gen. Meyers, said at his reconfirmation hearing on July 26 to the Senate.What was it Santayana said? Something about "those who do not learn from history...?" This wonderful plan -- with "no doubt on the outcome" -- seems to assume that China would happily sit by and watch North Korea be overrun by the US and South Korea. Compared to that, the assumptions made by the right wingers about our little desert adventure in Iraq seem charmingly naive.