As the rhetoric continues to pick up around North Korea, the talk of military options, or worse the “military solution” increasingly appears to center around the conceit that there is some possibility for a limited war, or some other way that the US could make a quick attack on North Korea and fix everything militarily.
Experts, however, broadly agree that’s simply not the case. North Korea has spent the last 60+ years worrying about a US attack, and preparing to retaliate with everything that they have. This retaliation, even before factoring in North Korea’s nuclear program would destroy much of South Korea, and likely kill upwards of a million people.
That threat of massively destructive retaliation was always the ace up North Korea’s sleeve that kept them from getting attacked in the first place, sort of a mutually-assured destruction build around conventional arms and the fact that the huge, and economically important, city of Seoul is so close by.
The theory that the US could precisely take out North Korea’s small nuclear arsenal and resolve the situation, then, is clearly preposterous on its face, as North Korea’s retaliatory capabilities are substantial and were built long before the nuclear program.
While pretty much any preemptive attack necessarily will provoke retaliation, a US strike on North Korea’s nuclear sites would certainly provoke an even bigger one, as the North Korean government could only interpret it as the start of an American war of regime change.