America Can Cut Defense Spending And Still Beat Tiny, Impoverished North Korea In A War

My colleague Ben Armbruster takes note of the Washington Post editorial page’s odd contention that we can’t afford to reduce defense spending because we might want to go to war with North Korea:

[R]eaching Mr. Obama’s goal would probably require cuts in the size of the Army and Marines beyond the reduction of more than 40,000 troops already proposed by Mr. Gates. Defense analyst Michael O’Hanlon of the Brookings Institution thinks it could require the elimination of more command structures and another round of base closures. What will then happen if the United States is forced into more conflicts like those of the past decade — if it must intervene to prevent Iran’s acquisition of a nuclear weapon or respond to aggression by North Korea, for example?

The implication here that the United States was “forced” into invading Iraq is, I think, the big tell here. We might choose to attack Iran over WMD disputes, but nothing could possibly force us to do this, nor would bombing Iran prevent it from building a nuclear weapon. As for North Korea, consider that our current defense budget is over twenty times as large as the entirety of the DPRK’s economic output:

North Korea is one of the poorest countries on earth. Even if the US defense budget were to fall to $0, our allies in the Republic of Korea could easily defeat the DPRK. And even if we reduced defense spending substantially we would still retain ample ability to contribute to the ROK’s defense.