What If North Korea Collapsed?

Based on optimistic assumptions about how a collapse might occur, we estimate that 260,000–400,000 ground force personnel would be required to stabilize North Korea. This means that even in the relatively benign scenario that we describe, the requirements for stabilizing a collapsed North Korea would outpace the combined U.S. troop commitments to Iraq and Afghanistan. Managing a more demanding Korean collapse scenario would push these requirements higher or lengthen the duration of the operation, or possibly both.

That’s one of many relevant bits from this new and timely article by Bruce Bennett of RAND and Jennifer Lind of Dartmouth.  A gated version of the article is here.  An interview with Bennett and Lind is here.

UPDATE: Thanks to MIT Press, an ungated version of the article is here.  As is a related article by Lind and Daniel Byman on how the Kim regime maintains control.

[Hat tip to Holger Schmidt]

4 Responses to What If North Korea Collapsed?

  1. Steve December 21, 2011 at 6:42 pm #

    In such a scenario, wouldn’t we expect that the vast majority of stabilizing troops would be from South Korea?

    • Scott Monje December 21, 2011 at 10:13 pm #

      Or China?

  2. opit December 22, 2011 at 5:37 pm #

    Any thought of the U.S. taking over North Korea immediately runs into nasty facts which have surfaced in the past : South Korea is a U.S. creation which split the nation. Worse, the U.S. under MacArthur committed atrocities which the historical record tends to omit, including mass killing of civilians. A bombing campaign worse than World War II. http://curtis-lemay.tripod.com/index.htm killed 20% of population
    Even a friendlier analysis http://www.centennialofflight.gov/essay/Air_Power/LeMay/AP36.htm does not minimize his destructive capacity.
    For years the U.S. has demonized people who fear nuclear WMD and tried to press for nuclear disarmament through the Nuclear NonProliferation Treaty, which the U.S. and U.K. have used as a tool of fearmonering those without WMD as the ‘real danger’.
    It was China which drove the Western interlopers from North Korea before, not caring to have exposure to known military aggressors on their doorstep.
    Not much has changed – yet one could forecast Imperial meddling in the affairs of North Korea with some confidence at a time when the regime is weakest.
    The mind dead of the USA may think this is jolly. I expect Koreans are still ‘rather mistrustful.’

    • Walt December 24, 2011 at 3:12 am #

      You must actually be posting from inside North Korea if you think anyone is going to find that a convincing argument.