honorary Hose Monster:
I would like to know about the HM's stance on a two front war on different sides of the world.
And then - as a hypothetical, say China got some balls and attacked the continental United States. What then?
First off, this is a great question. I had to think about this one for a while.
If you've been paying attention to Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld's news conferences talking about Iraq and North Korea and why the current Administration refuses to concede that North Korea constitutes a threat at or above the level of that of Iraq, then you know how fond he is of the term "capabilities." According to Rumsfeld, both Saddam Hussein and Kim Jong Il possess the capability to constitute a regional threat, but only Hussein currently has the intent to be a real threat.
I have no opinion on this theory yet. But I highlight it because I want to start my answer in the realm of capability.
I do believe that the United States has the capability to successfully wage war on two different fronts at different sides of the world. That we have the most powerful military on the planet (by quite a lot) is given; beyond manpower, the superior training and technology of the U.S. Armed Forces give the flag officers in Washington the means to diagram and execute two small theater wars. We should note that the Iraqi forces are at a reduced strength than 1991, but still a force. We should also note that North Korea boasts an army of over 1 million soldiers, with over 70% of those forces forward-deployed. This fighting force could overwhelm the 30,000 or so U.S. troops currently stationed in South Korea, but over time, the significant military advantages of the U.S. would likely overcome the North Korean forces. This would be a consideration the U.S. would need to consider, since even if Bush wanted to launch a pre-emptive strike, Seoul would almost certainly be destroyed in retaliation.
Two important things about these opinions. 1: These are my opinions, so feel free to disagree. 2: These are paper observations, and logic seems to suggest that in war, paper advantages and battle plans become meaningless as soon as the first strike launches.
The problem with a two-front war, in the current world environment, is the same as the problem of an advance into Iraq, notwithstanding anything else happening in the world. The citizens of the U.S. are not fully in support of the action.
For all the advantages the U.S. would enjoy over Iraq, and for all the rapidity with which Saddam could probably be dispatched, the greater threat to U.S. success rests in the home nation. This may sound silly, but I think the overwhelming backing on military action by the voters and the opposition party. Bush enjoyed such success in Afghanistan (and for the purposes of this post, we'll assume the operations in Afghanistan successful) because he rode the wave of outrage following the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks to a free meal ticket in the Middle East. Since then, passions have cooled and the president's meal ticket has been somewhat revoked. The same problem plagued the entire Vietnam campaign; certainly the military faced a host of other problems during the ten years of activity in Southeast Asia, but in the mid 60's Richard Nixon correctly identified domestic opposition to be the single greatest inhibitor of the war effort.
So that's the thing; for all the megalomania of Hussein, the indications that he has no intent of keeping his promises and the continual oppression of the Iraqi people, and for all the moral posturing we do in editorials and blog entires, I do not believe that the people of this country are behind a military operation in Iraq to the extent that maybe they should be for W to justify going Hussein to satisfy his vendetta against the man who managed to make his father look stupid. I think the same could be said for an operation against North Korea. Even with this problem, W could still probably prevail in Iraq if he launched tomorrow - the military brass have been planning this operation for too long and Iraq is too weak for the X factor of the people to make a difference great enough to tip the scales. I'm not so sure this is the case with North Korea. That situation is much more delicate for the U.S. military and the regional interests close to Pyongyang.
If something happened to scar our collective sense of country: another Pearl Harbor, September 11th or the like. If Kim Jong Il decided to decimate Seoul or Hussein carried out his threats to Israel, you would see the situation radically change. This happens and the United States suddenly finds a two-front war thrusted upon it, one that it would win through military advantages and the backing of a people who have learned to say "let's roll." It makes me ill to think that a terrorist strike of unimaginable horror or the nuclear or chemical destruction of millions of people would need to happen in order for the U.S. to really muster up its strength, but I do believe that. I just hope that circumstances work out to the contrary.
It's possible Zak. It's possibly successful. But under the current circumstances, one front is a big enough challenge, especially if that front is North Korea.
As to the second part of your question, the China hypothetical, here's my response: if you're afraid of that possibility, stay away from the West Coast. To try and briefly address that question with a real response: I think nuclear war begins. Our president sees things in terms too black and white to do anything else.
This is depressing me. I need to go talk to my toilet for a while. He'll make me feel better.