What, precisely, is the US military for, and what, precisely, can it do? In practical terms, how powerful is it? On paper, it is formidable, huge, with carrier battle groups, advanced technology, remarkable submarines, satellites, and so on. What does this translate to?
Military power does not exist independently, but only in relation to specific circumstances. Comparing technical specifications of the T-14 to those of the M1A2, or Su-34 to F-15, or numbers of this to numbers of that, is an interesting intellectual exercise. It means little without reference to specific circumstances.
For example, America is vastly superior militarily to North Korea in every category of arms–but the North has nuclear bombs. It can’t deliver them to the US, but probably can to Seoul. Even without nuclear weapons, it has a large army and large numbers of artillery tubes within range of Seoul. It has an unpredictable government. As Gordon Liddy said, if your responses to provocation are wildly out of proportion to those provocations, and unpredictable, nobody will provoke you.
An American attack by air on the North, the only attack possible short of a preemptive nuclear strike, would offer a high probability of a peninsular war, the devastation of Seoul, paralysis of an important trading partner–think Samsung–and an uncertain final outcome. The United States hasn’t the means of getting troops to Korea rapidly in any numbers, and the domestic political results of lots of GIs killed by a serious enemy would be politically grave. The probable cost far exceeds any possible benefit. In practical terms, Washington’s military superiority means nothing with regard to North Korea. Pyongyang knows it.
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