David H. Hackworth
April 12, 1994


It's sheer madness to go on a war footing because the CIA suspects North Korea has the bomb. Even if they do, It would have to be delivered by freight train because of its size.

In a fight, if you don't size up the guy you're staring down, you could find yourself eating dirt. The same is true of war. Two thousand five hundred years ago, the Chinese general Sun Tzu wrote, "If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles." This principle was neglected in Vietnam and Somalia, and we ended up bloodied and on the deck.

Besides, North Korea is a regional problem. We should butt out and let Japan, China and the two Koreas work it out. But the eager-to-rush-in hawks are pushing for the military solution. Knowing little about North Koreans, they say that any peace moves will be "signs of weakness in our resolve," and we should militarily reinforce South Korea. The men from the North view such moves as war-like and say. "Do it and you'll make our day."

The North Korean Army's ground forces are almost twice the size of a U.S Army that's strung out around the world. In South Korea, there are only two U.S. tripwire brigades -- ,5,000 grunts -- and a half-million-man South Korean army dug in along the demilitarized zone (DMZ) in WWI-like trenches.

Many U.S. Army leaders with recent tours there say these positions don't make tactical sense and are a POW camp waiting to happen. Others say South Korean soldiers hate their abusive officers, and predict many will run -- as they did during Korean War I -- when the going gets tough.

The Northerners are fanatics who'll get a bang out of dying for their cause and leader. Based on my years fighting there and some damn good sources, I predict all one mil- lion plus of these brainwashed dudes will cut through the DMZ and be 50 miles south of Seoul before CNN has aired "The War in Korea" logo and theme song. Augmenting the main attack will be 100,000 special troops suited up in the South's uniforms, making the rear areas pure hell by zapping command posts, airfields and ports.

The North has almost twice the cannons and tanks as the South and the advantage of being able to mass forces and strike at any point of its choosing. The South has to defend everywhere, as it doesn't know where the main attack will come from.

North Korea's ill-trained pilots -- who fly about 10 hours a year -- and their Smithsonian-vintage flying machines are more of a danger to themselves than the good guys. They'll fight if they can get their crates in the sky, but according to my spies, our top guns will control the air over Korea before the war's a week old.

The terrain in Korea is not tank country. The razor backed mountains are an infantryman's nightmare: lung-buster steep and wooded, providing an enemy plenty of concealed routes from which to strike.

The weather is either Montana cold or Key West hot. The aircraft ceilings are low and fog covers the valley floors. These conditions, plus a gritty enemy air-defense system and deeply buried underground installations that the intelligence types don't yet have a fix on, make the use of tactical air power a long way from Desert Storm easy.

If the United States ratchets up the war, the North won't dumbly watch our buildup for six months as Iraq did. It'll come on like a tornado.

Tripwires get tripped. We should bring our ground forces home and tell North Korea if it crosses the DMZ it can expect to be hit by every combat aircraft and fighting ship in the U.S. arsenal.

Sun Tzu concluded, "If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle." It's time the hawks took a hard look at Kim I1 Sung's army and mind-set, and searched for a peaceful solution. They couldn't find a meaner enemy or harsher ground to fight upon.