General Robert Neller, Commandant of the United States Marine Corps, did not mince words when addressing deployed Marines over the holidays when it comes to the challenges facing America’s national security apparatus in the coming year.  Chief among these concerns, (which include threats ranging from small extremist groups to burgeoning super power China) is the only nation Neller sees as having both the “capability and intent” to take violent action: North Korea.

Ever been to Korea? Korea sucks,” he told the Marines. “The people are wonderful; the country is tough.”

Neller wants his Marines to know, in no uncertain terms, that while victory in a war with North Korea would be forthcoming, the fighting would undoubtedly be brutal and tragic… Or to put it in Neller’s words, it would resemble a popular HBO drama.

It would be ‘Game of Thrones’-like,” he said. “And a lot of people would get hurt. I might be wrong, but it’s a very complicated issue.”

One of the biggest threats posed to America and its allies in a war with North Korea, Neller cautioned, are the artillery and rocket assets Kim Jong Un’s regime maintains near the border.  If war were to break out, those hidden and fortified weapons platforms would undoubtedly target South Korea’s capital city of Seoul, placing millions of civilians in the line of fire.

The Greater Seoul area is home to about 30 million people,” he said. “So when we hear people say we’ve got to go up there with Kim Jong-un and whip his ass, how would you do that without Seoul, Korea, coming under fire of hundreds and hundreds of artillery pieces?”

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That isn’t the only challenge Marines would face during open war on the Korean Peninsula.  The environment itself would be a factor, Neller explained, reminding Marines of the legendary battle at the Chosin Reservoir, where U.S. forces comprised primarily of Marines were encircled by a massive enemy force in harsh winter conditions.  The U.S. forces were eventually able to fight their way out, subjecting the Chinese military to significant losses.

According to Neller, harsh winters compounded with hot, humid summers and difficult terrain would make a war with North Korea particularly challenging.

It’s mountainous. Hot in the summer, cold in the winter. There’s hills, narrow passes, very difficult,” Neller said. “We have to think about how we fight.”

Neller concluded his remarks by warning Marines that, despite all the planning and preparation going into the possibility for conflict with North Korea, no plan survives enemy contact.

There’s a lot of wargaming going on about Korea and how the fight might go,” he said. “I’ll say the fight never goes the way you think it’s going to go; it always goes a different way. Which is why you can’t be fixed in your mind. Part of our mental preparation as leaders, you have to read and study and think. [We need] a force that’s mentally, physically agile enough to respond to the change.”

“So, I mean, would we eventually come out on top? I think we would. The North Koreans, we have certain capabilities that they don’t have,” Neller said. “But it would be epic.”

 

Image courtesy of the U.S. Marine Corps