Daniel L. Davis
Can the United States win a conflict with North Korea no matter what? Yes. Does it mean it would be costless? Absolutely not.
Earlier this month, Senator Lindsey Graham said that if the United States goes to war against North Korea, it would be, “an all-out war against the regime; there is no surgical strike option.” It would be bloody, he conceded, “but don’t ever lose sight of how this war ends… we win it.” Yet is that a safe assumption? Seventeen years of laser-focus on counterinsurgency (COIN) fights and small-scale special operations have left the United States dangerously unprepared for major conventional combat.
If the cost in terms of blood, treasure and international consequences were irrelevant, then it is a certainty that if the United States chose to, it could wipe out North Korea. The price of a war, however, is far from irrelevant. If Washington chose to launch a preventive war to remove North Korea’s nuclear capability and it turned into an all-out regime-changing battle, it is far from certain the United States could win the war at a price the nation could afford.
There is a gravely misplaced belief among most in Washington’s foreign policy elite that combat experience is combat experience; that because U.S. service personnel have had almost two decades of experience fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, that the experience is transferable to any type of combat.