South Korea Update Strategy

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The U.S. Military Should Leave South Korea

North Korea is a regional problem. We have nothing to gain and risk much by remaining on the peninsula.
Kelly, 12/5

North Korea? Not Our Problem”: Jack Kelly, Pittsburg Post-Gazette,

12/5/2010: It is, as Yogi Berra might say, deja vu all over again on the Korean peninsula. On Nov. 23, North Korea fired artillery rockets at the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong, killing two South Korean marines and two civilians, and wounding 18 others. South Korean President Lee Myung-bak said Monday South Korea will "sternly retaliate" if there are any further provocations from the North. The North Korean artillery attack was a "provocative" show of force that "needs to be dealt with," said President Barack Obama.

This song has been sung before. On March 26, North Korea sank a South Korean frigate, killing 46. President Lee promised "resolute" measures then. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned the attack on the frigate, and declared it would not go "unanswered." But it did go unanswered. The North Koreans noted that, despite their stern words, all South Korea and the United States did following the attack on the frigate was to schedule the four days of naval exercises in the Yellow Sea which began Sunday. These are being held close enough to North Korea to give the appearance of a show of force, but not close enough actually to threaten the North Koreans. Well might the North Koreans think "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." The policy of bluster and retreat followed by South Korea and the United States for lo these many years may encourage the North Koreans to commit more daring provocations."It is worrisome, if not frightening, how far Pyongyang is now willing to go to achieve its foreign policy objectives," said Bruce Klingner of the Heritage Foundation.Why does North Korea behave as it does? Because it works. North Korea is an economic basket case, incapable of feeding itself on a subsistence level. Without massive foreign aid, the regime would fall.

Most of that aid comes from China. But since the Clinton administration, much of it has come from South Korea, Japan and the United States. We've attempted repeatedly to bribe the North Koreans into good behavior, and each time failed. The North Koreans never will agree to abandon their nuclear program, or modify their aggressive behavior, because if they did so, they would lose the leverage that makes it possible for them to extort foreign aid.

Some pundits describe the leaders of North Korea as "crazy." But what's crazy is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result. North Korea is a big problem. But it shouldn't be ours. When we intervened in Korea in 1950, we did so for two very good reasons. North Korea was then a part of an international Communist conspiracy aimed at world conquest. South Korea was incapable of defending herself.

Things have changed in 60 years. North Korea is the last truly Communist nation left standing. Its ambitions are limited mainly to self preservation. South Korea, which has more than twice the population of North Korea and more than 40 times the gross domestic product, is more than capable of defending herself. But, notes Doug Bandow of the CATO Institute, "so long as America offers a security guarantee, maintains a tripwire troop presence on the peninsula and promises to do whatever is necessary to protect [them], the South Koreans have little incentive to take over their own defense."

North Korea is now just a regional problem. We gain nothing and risk much by continuing to make it ours, when the reasons for doing so have disappeared into history.

The U.S. Military Should Leave South Korea

The United States should not continue to protect South Korea since it can protect itself. We have nothing to gain by remaining in the country.
Bandow, 11/29

Sixty Years Is Enough”: Doug Bandow, senior fellow Cato Institute- The American Spectator,

11/29/2010: In recent years South Korea has begun to develop regional ambitions. Seoul is creating a blue-water navy and deploying international peacekeeping troops. The Republic of Korea increasingly sees itself sitting alongside the world's most powerful nations. Unfortunately, the ROK government appears to have neglected its most important duty: defending its people. What is truly shocking is the ROK's continuing dependence on America. The Korean War ended in 1953. Since then the South has won the intra-Korea contest. The ROK raced past the North economically and now has upwards of 40 times the latter's GDP. South Korea has succeeded in hi-tech production, benefits from twice the population, and possesses global diplomatic clout. In fact, Seoul even has stolen away North Korea's allies, trading far more with China and Russia. In contrast to 1950, the latter two countries would not likely back Pyongyang in a fight. Yet the DPRK possesses a bigger military. Although the North's soldiers are ill-trained and its equipment is antiquated, the Kim government obviously still is capable of striking with deadly effect. Why hasn't the South put its resources to better military effect? Because it doesn't have to. So long as America offers a security guarantee, maintains a tripwire troop presence on the peninsula, and promises to do whatever is necessary to protect the ROK, the South Koreans have little incentive to take over their own defense. Granted, it's a bit humiliating to constantly beg Washington for aid: it would be a bit like the U.S. going hat-in-hand around the world asking for help to defend against Mexico. Still, better for Seoul to get the gullible Americans to pay its defense bill than to have to cover the cost itself. Making the ROK's behavior even more outrageous has been Seoul's attempt to buy off Pyongyang while relying on American military support. For nearly a decade the so-called "Sunshine Policy" emphasized aid to and investment in the North. Seoul even effectively bought a summit between the late President Kim Dae-jung and the North's Kim Jong-il. Although the Lee government has cut back on subsidies for the North, Seoul has not closed the Kaesong industrial park, an important source of hard currency for Pyongyang. Nothing changes even as North Korea kills the South's citizens. Should war break out, some of the weapons fired at U.S. soldiers would have been effectively paid for by America's allies in the South. North Korea's presumed nuclear capabilities add a more dangerous dimension to tensions on the peninsula, but America's troop presence only worsens the problem by conveniently giving the Kim regime 27,500 nuclear hostages within easy reach.

With Uncle Sam effectively bankrupt, Americans increasingly will have to debate how much they should spend on "defense." The answer should be: as much as is necessary for defense -- of America. But no more for the defense of prosperous and populous allies, such as South Korea.

Today the U.S. protects countries that are well able to protect themselves. The result is not just to further impoverish debt-burdened Americans. It also is to reduce American security. After all, the U.S. would be far more secure if its allies were militarily strong and self-assured. Yet Washington's security guarantees have turned friendly Asians and Europeans into a gaggle of helpless weaklings and wimps. U.S. allies espouse grandiose geopolitical ambitions but under-invest in defense -- and when conflict threatens, scamper to Washington wailing for relief. This behavior wouldn't matter much if evil had passed away. But as we see in the Korean peninsula, the lion has yet to lie down with the lamb. The era of perpetual peace is not yet here.  Unfortunately, Washington's military commitments may help deter conflict, but they insure American involvement if war breaks out. In Korea, for instance, only U.S. intervention could have prevented a North Korean victory in 1950. That is not the case in 2010. Americans no longer have anything at stake that warrants risking involvement in another conflict on the Korean peninsula. The time is long past when Washington could play Globocop. We should start by bringing home the troops from Korea.

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