Ground forces along the DMZ, largely South Korean, will be locked in a knife fight. The terrain is rugged, narrow and provides very little room to maneuver. The mobile battlefield we all witnessed in 1991 and 2003 in Iraq will not be possible amidst the rice paddies and mountains of Korea. Massive firepower would rein death on both sides. The confined nature of the terrain, and the North’s ability to infiltrate behind our lines, makes even hand-to-hand combat possible. If the ground fight had to roll north for a decisive resolution, we would need more soldiers — a lot more soldiers. We would be almost certainly be viewed as occupiers, not liberators, in the minds of the North Koreans. We would have to dig them out of their defenses and control their population, and that would take a lot more soldiers.
The “horror” would set in as thousands were killed or wounded. In some estimates, North Korea would inflict 20,000 casualties a day just in Seoul during for the first few days. The herculean effort to limit collateral damage witnessed in our Middle Eastern wars will be impossible to repeat. We will operate within the laws of armed conflict, but significant loss of innocent life would be unavoidable due to the locations North Korea chooses to base or hide its weapons.
We will use cluster weapons that spread bomblets over areas the size of football fields. We will return artillery fire wherever enemy batteries are firing. When optimum for military conditions, we will hit targets in the middle of urban areas; it would be impossible to prevent civilian casualties. To fight effectively, we will have to bomb command facilities in the heart of neighborhoods. We will destroy missiles on mobile launchers even if they are placed in sensitive areas. Our ground forces will pour fire into the enemy without an excessive regard for damage. And, yes, we will bomb targets more widely than in recent decades.
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Absent resupply from China — and who knows which way that would go — it’s doubtful North Korea has the logistical wherewithal to fight for more than a week or so. But it would be the most horrific week or so since the last war we fought in Korea.