I sent Jim Henley a comment on his recent piece on What to Do About North Korea, and he was kind enough to mention me. But I did not have in mind only, or even primarily, military power. Rather, what will be needed when the state in North Korea implodes is "soft" power - money, know-how, organization. Yes, some ability to break heads will probably be useful. But that's just a small part of what "nation building" entails.
This is what I said:
Of course I agree with your prescription - pull out, ignore them, and be nice. However, I disagree somewhat with your analysis of what "we" might do if somehow we did come to conquer Korea.
We'd turn 'em over to the South Koreans. Yes, the North is a basket case and all that. But we have people right there, on the ground, who speak Korean, who look Korean, who are Korean - and who are, basically, on our side. Capitalism, democracy, etc. And they are, by world standards, rich enough to help significantly. The model here should be East Germany if it is anything.
The contrast to the situation in Iraq is worth mentioning in this context. Part of the reason we're losing there is that we have no Arabic nations that are friendly enough to help us. We only have some bought states, and hirelings are not friends.
Of course, I am not sanguine on the ability of any outsiders to conquer North Korea militarily. Rather, Kim Jong Il, who has near-zero legitimacy, will eventually lose his hold on the tiger. Then he will be overthrown, and change will come.