With the United States’ recent transition toward a more aggressive line of rhetoric directed at Kim Jong Un’s North Korean regime, there’s been a growing sense of concern within the United States about what a war with North Korea might actually look like. Here in the relative safety and comfort of the U.S., we’ve grown accustomed to seeing the type of warfare our nation has been engaged in for the past 16 years, but as American Secretary of Defense James Mattis pointed out, a war with North Korea would likely include “the worst kind of fighting in most people’s lifetimes.”
It is, of course, important to note that Mattis is also on record for having said that diplomacy has not yet failed in regard to North Korea, meaning war is far from a certainty, but if we were to go to war with North Korea… what might it look like?
As is the case with any properly managed war, the answer to that question depends entirely on the objectives and criteria the United States establishes for victory. Our goals could vary from using minimal strategic strikes to eliminate high-threat targets (like ICBM launchers), all the way to a complete removal of the Kim regime, and another American effort toward the quagmire that is nation-building.
Our objectives would likely be defined in a large part by the way the war broke out, and Kim’s behavior as it does. The U.S. objectives, and how Kim Jong-un manages the war from the North Korean side of the border, are both unknown quantities at this point, so for the sake of argument and analysis, I intend to use a premise that seems the most logical to me, and make deductive leaps based on that premise and my understanding of the United States military, and our relationships with allies and opponents in the Pacific.