Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Reasons Another War with North Korea Would be a Very Bad Idea, and Reasons Why it May Happen Anywise

with 35 comments

I know some on the pro war side think that a war with North Korea would be a “cakewalk,” just send in Clint Eastwood with a company of Marines and that would be that. This view isn’t supported by history or reality. Wars are rarely cakewalks, and they almost always have unintended consequences. And judging from how bitterly fought the first Korean war was, it’s a testament to the failure of our educational system that more people aren’t aware of that. In fact the USA suffered arguably its worst battle defeat ever in the Korean War, and arguably it’s the first war the USA ever fought that we didn’t win. Hardly a reason to fight it over again. In any event, here are five reasons a war with North Korea would be a bad idea:

1. North Korea is within artillery range of Seoul, the capitol of South Korea and one of the world’s great cities. And they’ve had fifty years to build bunkers for guns and stock them with shells. And while North Korea may not have the most modern weaponry, when it comes to firing shells at a city, it doesn’t matter. And did I mention that North Korea has the world’s largest artillery force? Sure, our high tech planes and artillery could knock them out eventually, but not before hundreds of thousands or millions of rounds of artillery had landed in South Korea. It would make the Hezbollah rocket attacks on Israel look like fireworks in comparison.

2. North Korea has one of the world’s largest armies, with about a million men in the field, including 90,000 special forces. And five million reservists just in case they need spares. Um, the US army has about 500,000 men, South Korea a few less. And while North Korea may not have the latest equipment, if history is any guide they are ferocious fighters and would be defending their very rugged and very defensible homeland. Just for kicks, the Taliban has maybe 25,000 fighters who are not nearly as well trained and equipped as North Korea’s soldiers.

3. North Korea has spent the last sixty years building bunkers, gun emplacements, and anti-aircraft emplacements. Pyongyang, North Korea’s capitol, is the most fortified city on the planet, and one of the most fortified cities in history. This isn’t something that can be dealt with using drone strikes.

4.  North Korea is all mountains and rugged terrain. Despite all the USA’s supposed technological goodies, there’s still a big advantage to defending in broken terrain. Again, blowing up a few houses with drones isn’t going to be a solution.

5.  North Korea has nuclear weapons. They also have chemical and maybe biological weapons.

The point here is that defeating North Korea in any sort of war isn’t going to be easy. Bombing them into submission won’t do the trick either, in the first war we bombed North Korea flat, almost literally. Didn’t make them surrender, and these days we can’t use the sorts of carpet bombing we used back then, so it’s hard to imagine bombing having much of an effect.

Despite these good reasons not to fight a war with North Korea, it occurs to me that not only are we looking for a distraction from the economy, at this point it’s looking like the American government will need a distraction from the oil spill in the Gulf, since it’s becoming clearer every day what a mind numbing catastrophe this is. So the Obama administration has every incentive to make both the situation with Korea and Iran look alarming as possible, which is exactly what they are doing. They are in a  similar but much more dangerous situation to the one that led Argentina to seize the Falkland Islands. IE the USA has motive to start a war as a distraction from domestic problems, but unlike in the Falklands, this could turn into a much larger war. Yeah, that would sure be a distraction. And sadly, our weird hybrid Obama administration seems to combine the worst Neocon attitudes about war being a solution to all problems with the historical Democrat belief that if one just escalates a war enough, victory is certain.

And as a final point, while it would seem insane that North Korea or Iran would start a war, if pressured enough they might just decide that a first strike is their best option. I suppose in future posts I will explore those unpleasant possibilities. Granted, it’s a good bet that the USA could “win” a war with both countries, what the USA couldn’t do is occupy either country. And if we tried to do so, we would have a mess on our hands that would make the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan look cheap in comparison. In fact a very good case can be made that many nations of the world are quietly doing their best to see to it that the USA does exactly what so many Empires in the past have done, bankrupt themselves with futile wars on their frontiers that have nothing really to do with the security and defence of their homeland. This is especially the case in Korea, where South Korea is perfectly capable of defending itself, and the USA should have pulled out after the collapse of the Soviet Union if not before.

Oh well, I’ll go look at the latest sabre rattling in the news and get more depressed. I’ve had a terrible head cold the past few days, so I apologize if this post is a little disjointed. This is just such a  critical and current and evolving situation I wanted to get something out there to stimulate thought if nothing else.

(The above image is a US army photo and thus Public Domain under US copyright law. It’s labelled ” … a machine-gun crew rests above a Korean village after assaulting a Chinese position.” I obtained it from this fine site: Korean War Photos. There’s also some wonderful colour photos of the war that just became available: One Man’s Korean War. I could have chosen a far more exciting and/or grisly photo, but I dunno, I just wanted to capture the idea that the people who fought in Korea were real people and it’s a real country.)


Written by unitedcats

May 27, 2010 at 8:13 am

Posted in Korea, Propaganda, War, World

35 Responses

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  1. It is depressing, I wanna get out of the here, but theres nowhere to go really



    May 27, 2010 at 9:10 am

  2. Dude, do you realized that the reason that we lost the war in the first place is because the Chinese started to help them out because they were losing and we had eventually had to pull our troops out because China is one of world’s strongest powers with a huge strong Army


    November 24, 2010 at 4:23 pm

    • Yes, the Chinese intervention was a pivotal event in the first war. And it could happen again in another. I’m not really sure what your point is, but thanks for dropping by. — Doug


      November 24, 2010 at 7:26 pm

    • it was a draw both sided withdrew because we had just gotten out of WW2 did we really need to start WW3 immediately afterwards….no

      Holy Crap

      January 20, 2011 at 8:39 pm

  3. the biggest issue if the US gets involved will be another senseless war effort fought by ground troops. More US soldiers will die for all the wrong reasons. Unless a war with North Korea is fought with the correct tools available, it will be another catastrophe like Irak and Afghanistan, Vietnam or previously Korea.
    None of these wars are (were) won by the US because of social and political correctness.

    To fight this war to win, the country needs to be pulverized. This can be achieved in 2 hours and all will be over and done.


    November 25, 2010 at 11:46 am

    • Um, we bombed North Korea flat in the Korean War, it didn’t diminish their desire to fight one bit. And we dropped more bombs in Vietnam than were dropped by all of the participants in all of World War Two. The idea that one can magically bomb one’s way to victory is a myth. Bombing destroys infrastructure, destroys motorized military forces, and raises enemy morale through the roof … but it doesn’t win wars. Plus North Korea has had fifty years to build bomb shelters, they wouldn’t even notice two hours of bombing. — Doug


      November 25, 2010 at 12:02 pm

      • you must have misunderstood the part where it says ” with the correct tools available”

        Is is really necessary to spell out the “unthinkable” ?
        If you want to win a war you can not fight a war of attrition like Vietnam or currently Afghanistan. You need to collectively destroy this country, military and civilians alike.
        This seems “unthinkable” with the present mindset of what is acceptable, however, unless this is changed, the US will never win any war. The tools are there, nothing short of using them will prevent defeat and massive numbers of US soldiers dying once again “for their country”.


        November 25, 2010 at 1:31 pm

    • its scary to think there are people out there who think like you. there is nothing just in wiping out an entire country civilians and all. n korea will get desperate because they are unsustainable, and when they do they will either collapse or attack. if they attack they will lose, and i would volunteer to help see that happen.

      Colligavit Nemo

      October 30, 2014 at 7:35 pm

  4. The US Army actually has about 900,000 f you include the National Guard which is just as battle ready as the regular Army because of their use in Iraq and Afghanistan. Then you have the Marine Corps which provides another 275,000. Our training is arguably much better, our gear is better, we have far more resources and our air strikes WOULD be useful. We can launch PGM’s from out of range of their anti-air assets. It would certainly be a vicious fight, especially if we used the idiotic tactic of trying to clear the cities room by room, but very winnable and it would go quite a bit better than the Korean war. Fighting in the jungles and mountains would be the hardest part but we’ve learned a lot about that from Afghanistan. The U.S. and North Korea were on similar tech levels at that time and the South Korean military was next to nothing. That’s no longer the case. At least we wouldn’t likely be dealing with suicide bombers running around in civilian clothes and human meat shields. I’m sick of that crap.

    Pvt. in B CO 2-162 Infantry
    OIF veteran


    November 25, 2010 at 2:49 pm

  5. Well, the nuclear option. Yes, we could hit North Korea with a few hundred nuclear warheads and eliminate both the regime and most of the people of North Korea. There are however major downsides to this approach, which is why the USA (or anyone else) hasn’t employed it. I’ll write a post on it though, so thanks for the suggestion.

    Yes, point given, the USA could no doubt shoot its way into Pyongyang and the rest of North Korea’s major cities. In fact we could no doubt shoot our way into Moscow and Peiping if we so chose to do so. I have no doubts about the firepower of the US military.

    However, as the past decade in Kabul and Baghdad has shown, just because you parked an army somewhere doesn’t guarantee victory. Napoleon in Moscow comes to mind, along with any number of other historical examples.

    In some problems the military solution doesn’t go anywhere, is too expensive, or creates worse problems. Merely the risk with war with China and Russia seems like a deal breaker in terms of a military solution to this problem. I hope we don’t find out, but if a war does develop, I certainly hope we can win it quickly and cleanly.



    November 25, 2010 at 7:23 pm

    • if you want peace there will be war. libyas a perfect example


      April 29, 2011 at 2:21 pm

  6. War is stupid, but often can’t be prevented.


    November 30, 2010 at 5:11 pm

  7. . . . it occurs to me that not only are we looking for a distraction from the economy, at this point it’s looking like the American government will need a distraction from the oil spill in the Gulf, since it’s becoming clearer every day what a mind numbing catastrophe this is. So the Obama administration has every incentive to make both the situation with Korea and Iran look alarming as possible, which is exactly what they are doing.

    The situation with Iran and the DPRK is alarming. There is technology transfer between the two in terms of missiles (at least), all aided indirectly by China. Blaming the current administration for the current reality in these countries is uninformed. You should read up on both countries more and what their leadership is like.

    I’m currently sitting within strike distance of North Korean artillery as I type and I’m sure as heaven not thinking about how America has made this situation worse, unless you count Truman not finishing the war from the start.

    R. Elgin

    December 19, 2010 at 9:52 am

  8. Anyway you look at it a war between north and south korea would without a doubt draw in the US and China.
    This means that nuclear weapons (ICBMs,SLBMs,etc.)would be used at some point. This would set off a chain of countries using their nukes (Russia,India,Pakistan,Israel,france, etc.)hence the chance of this thing going completly out of control and ending with a global nuclear exchange is a very very real. This is not science fiction, it is reality.


    December 19, 2010 at 4:11 pm

    • I seriously doubt that scenario would play out like that. All of the large countries have nuclear weapons as a deterrent only and would not use them first unless they were directly attacked first. Considering the amount of conventional weapons available, the major powers would rely on that instead.

      R. Elgin

      December 19, 2010 at 5:35 pm

  9. Well, I am coming to this party late.
    But, I bring this:
    1) The author of this article is a very good writer. I will be reading more from you. Tidy analysis, as informative as it is level-headed. Nicely done.
    2) I can never get over the idiot sycophants who think anyone ever really wins a war. Invariably, they are the poor, powerless losers who would be among the first to die, yet they are the first to pump their fists, the first to kill. And why? To make some banker fatter? To make some fascist squeal with Christmas glee? To make another people more desperate, so that future conflict is inevitable. We must all live in the world that these idiots are so ripe to wreck. Who benefits? Not a man. Who can call himself a man who cannot make, only take, not create and only destroy? Peace is not a prize, not a thing to be won. War is for empty-headed morons, tourists in life unwilling to take up the only worth-while mission – to make the world a better place, a place in which organized violence has no place. Morons, we should all die because we suffer these amoral morons to live with a voice in our hearts at all.


    December 24, 2010 at 5:39 am

  10. You people do all realize that north korea is still using predominantly cold war era weapons right?
    In other words our guns are about 10 times better and you know not considered relics.
    The only problem i see in north korea for us is the threat of nuclear weapons

    Holy Crap

    January 20, 2011 at 8:43 pm

    • what does a 10x better gun do, exactly?
      break more easily.
      cost more to repair.
      cost more to produce.

      and, worst of all, makes idiots think that a “war” is something that “they” can “win.”

      i don’t care if the shell that lands on my house is new yesterday or a hundred years old.
      they all kill the same.


      January 21, 2011 at 1:45 am

      • or weapons are better because its lighter than alot of other guns. the bullets are less expensive and so are the parts.


        April 29, 2011 at 2:19 pm

  11. and of course we are technologically way more advanced than stupid north korea


    April 29, 2011 at 2:20 pm

    • Um, we were way more technologically advanced than North Vietnam, Somalian warlords, and the Druze militia in Lebanon. And let’s think, what high technology did OBL use on 9/11? Box cutters. And then there’s the fact that it is costing us millions of dollars to kill ONE Taliban fighter with our “high technology.” —Doug


      April 29, 2011 at 9:05 pm

    • “stupid north korea…”

      the fact that such drivel stands as rationale is testament enough to the conceptual vacuum that is the United States of America.

      for that, i used to blame the psychopaths.

      but lately, confronted with such vicious ignorance,
      i am forced to recall that the USA is the ‘land of opportunity,’
      first and foremost the opportunity to educate your own self.

      for those without such opportunity, i still blame the psychopathic leaders who lie them and the rest of the world into wars for their own profit.

      for those with such opportunity, who fail to take advantage, i only blame them, alone, who choose to continue to be fooled.

      ignorance is a choice to remain an idiot in the face of an opportunity to become otherwise.

      this, obviously, is a choice that you, “eric,” have made.

      i hope that this is a mistake that you, “eric,” in the future, chose not to make.

      if you want to kill innocent people so badly,
      go, sign up, get your gun, and do it.
      graduate from murdering wannabe thug to actual murderer.
      be all you can be.


      April 30, 2011 at 12:08 am


  13. Plus you also need to remember, back in 2009, the North Koreans said they had no problems nuking THEMSELVES if any foreign military invades their lands. They would rather die than allow themselves to be controlled be another country. Especially a Western power. What does tell you??

    HN Christopher Costamagna
    Hospital Corpsman
    U.S. Nany

    Christopher Costamagna

    August 23, 2012 at 11:53 am

  14. Doug, I follow your blog, and enjoy it. But where do you get the United Cats stuff ?
    Are you trying to create a labor union for felines, or something ?
    I agree, war with the North Koreans will be bad, especially if it will involve drawing China in, if we start to win.
    I see no way China will sit back, and allow us to have a victory over it’s neighbor and ally.

    Chris Gerald Tucker

    August 23, 2012 at 6:45 pm

  15. I guess that means China would ultimately be knocked silly. It’s hard to move a huge army through a firestorm. No, China would simply be knocked off the rails within a couple days.


    February 13, 2013 at 11:21 pm

    • More than ten years in and we still can’t defeat a rag-tag insurgency in Afghanistan, but the US could knock China off its rails in a few days?


      February 14, 2013 at 8:42 am

  16. The answer of course to your question would be yes – humanly speaking, it would be a different war than Iraq etc. Taking on China would be an all our war. Vietnam would and could have been defeated within days had it be fought like the 2nd World War – that would be 1945. But you needn’t worry at all about this, for instance, like pulling out a gray hair at a time. It won’t go down like that –


    February 14, 2013 at 6:04 pm

    • The idea that we someone didn’t fight hard enough in Vietnam is a myth, pure and simple. The US dropped more bombs during the Vietnam War than were dropped by all of the participants in all of World War Two, and they were deadlier and more accurate bombs than were used in WW2. We lost Vietnam because it was an insanely stupid war where the enemy had numerous advantages. China is much larger than Vietnam, and has nuclear weapons capable of hitting the USA. You can’t possibly be serious about going to war with them, any victory would be Pyrrhic at best. —Doug


      February 14, 2013 at 11:03 pm

  17. I’m afraid that the Vietnam war was not fought with small nukes or big nukes. One vet and many more insisted that war could have been wrapped up in days. But whatever, yes, China has nukes. China would be destroyed & Russia would be destroyed. But ultimately of course, no one would win because of the fallout. Do I believe the US might be hit? Definitely so but that doesn’t take away from the fact that China’s population would be smaller than the polar caps and what population did remain would no longer be in need of a Barber. Yes, and I am quite serious that a war would be a victory then, for the present till the fallout came down on us.


    February 15, 2013 at 3:41 am

    • Yes, going nuclear would have won the war. And risking a nuclear war with Russia and China was a good idea? Millions of German WW1 veterans actually believed they lost WW1 due to a Jewish fifth column, myths always arise to explain why countries lost wars. In any event I’ve covered the reasons why we had no good options in Vietnam: We Could Have Won Vietnam. Thanks for commenting! Peace. —Doug


      February 15, 2013 at 7:04 am

  18. I know why don’t we invite them all over for cookies and milk, then afterwards sing around the campfire, look at the stars and have a good night sleep. Then when we all awake in the morning write them all a bad checks and then send them all back home with wonderful memories?


    March 5, 2013 at 8:29 pm

  19. I like your arguments but your rhetoric regarding war is slightly flawed, arguing that the US can’t win wars because of Vietnam and Iraq does not make since. Occupying a nation while fighting guerilla insurgents is impossible, destroying an army in a conventional war is what the US is best at. Look at the statistics for the gulf war, better weapons and training DO win wars, its a fact, doesn’t justify it of course


    March 12, 2013 at 2:21 pm

    • The last conventional war was World War Two. It’s not going to happen again, but by God if it does, our military is ready for it. This is why we keep losing, we’re using the wrong tool for the job.


      March 16, 2013 at 8:18 pm

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