South Korea's Defense Ministry is taking steps to reduce its reliance on the power of the US military by constructing a more robust national security apparatus allowing Seoul to "quickly switch to an offensive posture in case North Korea stages a provocation that crosses the line or attacks the capital region," President Moon Jae-in said Monday.
Military planners have begun drafting a plan that would allow South Korean commanders to mobilize assets and occupy Pyongyang in a matter of weeks without the help of additional US personnel, Chosun Ilbo, a South Korean daily, reports.
Moon pressed defense officials to "further improve the military's mobility, landing abilities and air defense capabilities," during a Monday briefing, the right-leaning newspaper notes. South Korean officials have reportedly whittled the plan down to a offensive led by parachuting troops pouring into the capital of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) from the sky and US Marines already stationed in South Korea "to quickly bring down the North Korean regime," a military official told the Chosun Ilbo.
"The ultimate aim is to keep any war as brief as possible," the paper says. US aircraft carriers, likely the USS Ronald Reagan Nimitz-class supercarrier stationed in Japan as a forward presence, fifth-generation F-35s and the Republic of Korea Marine Corps, would comprise the central components of the plan to seize Pyongyang before the arrival of US reinforcements. The crew of roughly 28,000 US service members deployed to US Forces Korea would be called on as well.
While the new plan emphasizes expediency, some of the top minds in the US military have warned that promises of quick victory often feature elements of hubris. Writing from Fort Benning, Georgia, in 2013 now-National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster observed that even the mention of a clean, decisive plan for military victory exemplifies a failure to learn from history.
"Our record of learning from previous history is poor," McMaster began. "One reason is that we apply history simplistically, or ignore it altogether, as a result of wishful thinking that makes the future appear easier and fundamentally different from the past."
Before and after September 11, 2001, "many accepted the conceit that lightning victories could be achieved by small numbers of technologically sophisticated American forces capable of launching precision strikes against enemy targets from safe distances," the commander noted.
Instead, McMaster argued in a New York Times column dubbed "The Pipe Dream of Easy War," that any plan cannot brush over the brute reality that "war is uncertain ... What we can afford least is to define the problem of future war as we would like it to be, and by doing so introduce into our defense vulnerabilities based on self-delusion."