Re: Will the realm make it?
Guys, I tend to try to read between the lines and supply missing information... but the problem is that my own perceptions are biased, my memory is faulty, and Martin has simply not given me all the information I need. I'll try to let you know when I'm guessing...
Regarding Balon Greyjoy's Rebellion against Robert.... Eddard indeed supplied troops (remember Jorah was knighted for being one of the very first over the walls of Pyke... after Thoros with his flaming sword). Early in the rebellion, Euron smashed the Lannister fleet. Later, Stannis (presumably with great help from the Redwynes and Tyrells) defeated the Iron Fleet, led by Victarion, in the decisive action at sea that opened the Iron Islands to an amphibious assault. I'd assume that Tywin Lannister, as Warden of the West, and Hoster Tully, as Balon's overlord, would have been the two men held responsible for Balon's good behavior.
So I think it's fair to say that Robert brought troops from many areas to deal with Balon. One reason for Robert to do this was to remind the Lords of Westeros whom they served. Another would be to bind them to him through the shedding of blood. And a third would be to allow them to share in the glory. Finally, the participating nobles would see firsthand what happens to traitors... thus spreading the news to every part of the realm.
But I don't think that the North could ever defeat and destroy the Iron Islands. The North would need a fleet capable of defeating the Ironborn upon the open sea and that in and of itself would save the Ironmen. The North does not possess harbors nor infrastructure to build a fleet on their west coast... nor do they have the shore defences to protect any ships being built. The North would have to build their fleet on their east coast, specifically at White Harbor. Then they'd have to sail the fleet around the southern tip of Westeros and back up to the Iron Islands. To resupply the fleet with provisions they'd need good alliances or trading agreements with the Storm Lords, the Free Cities, Dorne, Highgarden/Oldtown, and/or Casterly Rock/Lannisport. Furthermore, I do not believe that this northern fleet would be one-tenth as experienced at sea combat as the Ironborn. I'd assume this journey would end up like the voyage of the Russian Baltic Fleet in 1905.
Regarding Dorne's union with the rest of Westeros... I confess that I did forget that Dorne was only briefly conquered and that Dorne later joined Targaryen hegemony peacefully. Doh!!!
Rufio, thanks for pointing that out to me.
Daeron, the Young Dragon, conquered Dorne while still a teenager. He did so without the help of Balerion, Vhaegar and Meraxes (Aegon the Conqueror's orginal dragons). He only held Dorne for a year before the Dornish successfully rebelled. Forty years later, Daeron II, brought Dorne into the Targaryen kingdom through marriage. But as Doran tells Arianne in AFFC, Dorne is not strong enough to openly defy King's Landing. Sure, the Dornishmen are valiant and the the weather and terrain of Dorne are unkind to invaders, but Dorne does simply not have the manpower to hold off multiple attacks from a unified coalition of Lannister, Tyrell, Baratheon, and others.
So I assume that the Martells read the writing on the wall and saved Dorne a crushing defeat by personally allying themselves with the Targaryen monarchy.
It was only a hundred years from Daeron II to Joffrey, yet Dorne supplied a number of princesses to House Targaryen... most notably Doran's sister, Elia. This arrangement is so strong that Dorne sees themselves as permanent allies to House Targaryen.
That's just my two cents.