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Tuesday, May 18, 2004



I've been trying to get some discussion going on this to see if or where I'm off base but with little luck.

At what point does downsizing USFK become a joke? At what point does it damage their capability to perform their mission?

As I understand it, there mission is and has been to fight an orderly withdrawal south to blunt the spear of a NK invasion, then when augmented by more US air power and ground troops rushed in, kick the shit out of NK.

We are not south of the Han yet. So we are not in counter-punch positions hitting here and there at the NK invasion is possible.

Just on the face of it now, it seems obvious to me if you remove 4,000 mainline fighting forces from SK, you HAVE TO weaken USFK.

That doesn't mean the combined US-SK forces are not adequate to meet any NK threat as the plans stand. But it is illogical to say taking out troops doesn't weaken USFK's capability...

My concern, however, is how small is too small for USFK to fullfill its current mission (orderly fall back)??????

As much as I want all US troops out of Korea, I don't want a repeat of the Korean War ---- where initial troops were nothing more than cannon fodder slaughtered as the North advanced.

Yes. USFK has long been a tripwire, but they were not a token force. They had the punch to do the job asigned (I think). But at some number of troop level, they will become a true token force....

What is that number?

Paul H.

In purely military terms I think the answer to your question is that even a very minimal level is acceptable, if you take it as a given that the current structure of the military alliance will be maintained. Your question has probably been the subject of debate in the intel and operations staffs of all levels of US military command, from individual battalions in Korea all the way up to the Joint Staff in the Pentagon; we now see a tentative answer, but this question can't be debated in isolation from the overall worldwide posture of the US defense establishment.

Assuming an outbreak of war and no use of nuclear weapons by either side -- the key question is the ability of the North Koreans to mount a sustained offensive, in the same way as they did in June-July-August 1950 (which brought them within a hair's breadth of achieving their objective).

My take on this? (No expert, never been to Korea, but am retired US Army infantry and have taken a long-time interest in the subject)

The NorKs almost certainly can't. Even if their morale and fanaticism is at the same level it was then, I just don't think they could be assured of needed/comparable levels of logistical support from their former "allies" (Russia and China). Russia and Mainland China have changed so much since 1950 that it is not even conceivable to me that these powers would find it in their strategic interest to support such an attack with fuel, ammunition, spare parts for vehicles, etc.

Also South Korea's armed forces are infinitely stronger now than what they had then. Review the order of battle for South Korean forces in June 1950, and compare it to now, to see for yourself (I haven't, but I'm confident the contrast will be enormous).

Say only a single US brigade with three combat battalions (2 infantry, 1 armor) were left "in country". The fact that US divisional, corps, and army level command and logistics structures exist "in place", ready to go into action immediately to receive outside reinforcement, is an enormous asset. Outside reinforcements can be relatively quickly received and integrated into a defensive and then counteroffensive posture. Remember, in June and July of 1950 no support structure existed ashore, and US forces had to be thrown into the battle totally dependent on what they could bring with them. They had only very weak and disorganized South Korean ground forces to fight alongside with.

Finally, conventional air power, from both USAF and USN assets, using precision munitions, is so much more powerful now than then that NorK formations attacking in the open would be devastated. Recall how hard they were hit by the much less powerful US air assets available in the summer of 1950.

The key question remains the political will of the South Koreans, particularly the younger generation, to fight. This seems to me to be rapidly changing and I'm even beginning to wonder if there are large numbers of South Koreans who might decide to take up arms on NorK's behalf!

My own political view (independent of purely military analysis) is that we can no longer afford to garrison relatively strong and stable allies anymore, compared to the mortal threat we face in the Mideast. Given the current SecDef's absolute refusal to build up the number of available Army divisions, and his backing in this by the President, my opinion is that we need to begin withdrawing the 2nd ID completely while we still have the voluntary ability to choose to do so.

This will shock the South Koreans into either:

1) facing up to their own political dilemma, and perhaps deciding to build up their own ground strength as needed. This can be backed up by our continued alliance, which now would emphasize air and and naval support (of which we have "a-plenty", not currently needed in the mideast, and which can be based in-country or offshore). Or

2) accelerating towards neutrality and making some form of accomodation with the North, which seems to be the primary political concern of the younger generation. If they then chose to discard the US alliance so be it; the Korean peninsula is no strategic threat to the US. Maybe the North would even get rid of their nukes as part of some grand eventual gradual reunification scheme, funded by South Korean, Chinese, and Japanese aid to the North.

I think the ROK would be nuts to do this but hey it's their country. We aren't the Roman or British empires, in spite of the worldwide left's attempt to portray us as such. I don't think it's our destiny to keep "legions on the Han" for hundreds of years, in the same way the Romans kept legions on the Rhine.

Given the way the South Koreans now use us as a political punching bag (as symbolized by your current byplay in the comments section of Marmot's blog), it's time to bid them a cheerful goodbye and use our money and resources where we are currently threatened, either in the mideast or for homeland security.


giving to what i have seen in korea today, no south korean hates a North Korean. All the South Koreans want is peace. The south Koreans will fight to the end to protect this land. They will give their heart into it while their enemy is being forced to. No soldier is any good without heart. Yes, the NK's have a superior force. but they also lacking in supplies. From the intel I've heard they only have enough fuel to assult to seoul.and on average a NK soldier has fired once in their life. As long as the SK's can hold back the NK's using their superior marksmanship and dug in mountain sides long enough for superior artillery and aircraft to take effect, not to mention the NK's woould be fighting on unfamiliar terrain. I think that the SK's would even be able to Control the province with out our help...even though i know we would glandly give it to them

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