This is an unpleasant topic to tackle, but given the recent arc of events it’s rather tough to avoid. The Secretary of Defense, General James “Mad Dog” Mattis, went before the House Appropriations Committee to give testimony recently and he was asked about the prospect of war with North Korea. It’s a subject we’ve touched on here before, but the General is in a rather unique position to understand the gravity of the situation and his unvarnished opinion was suitably grim while still maintaining a belief in American military supremacy. (Business Insider)

“I would suggest that we will win,” said Mattis of a possible war with North Korea. “It will be a war more serious in terms of human suffering than anything we’ve seen since 1953. It will involve the massive shelling of an ally’s capital, which is one of the most densely packed cities on earth,” Mattis said of Seoul, which boasts a metro area population of 25 million.

“It would be a war that fundamentally we don’t want,” said Mattis, but “we would win at great cost.”

Mattis explained that because the threat from North Korea looms so large, and a military confrontation would destroy so much, he, President Donald Trump, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have all made a peaceful solution a top priority.

A few weeks ago I delved into this subject myself after reading up on the opinions of a number of military analysts. Feel free to check my work, but it’s definitely not far off from what the SecDef is talking about. Also, it’s a lot better to hear it from a seasoned and battle-proven general than an ex-sailor who spent most of his time locked in a radar cabinet.

Still, Mattis seemed to be spot on when he went on to describe such a scenario as, “a serious, a catastrophic war,” particularly for our allies in South Korea and Japan. (The most likely targets of Kim’s wrath.) But would we win? Yes, according to Mattis, and I have to agree. Sooner or later we would destroy Kim and his military, but the cost would be horrific. Seoul would probably be mostly gone and tens of thousands of our own troops might perish as well. But yes… we could beat them.

But why should we have to? As the BI article correctly notes, China isn’t nearly as powerless as they claim to be when it comes to controlling North Korea. They are the country’s only real lifeline for many supplies, including food. If they began to squeeze off that pipe even a maniac as unpredictable as Kim Jong-un would almost have to come to the table. It might be some sort of fig leaf situation where he’d have to be allowed to spin it to his own people as a “victory” but it seems as if he’d give up his nukes if it looked like his own agents and allies inside the country were going to be in danger of starving.

I don’t know for sure that it would be effective, but I’d certainly rather see such an approach given a try before we launch the first missiles.