Sunday, September 14, 2014

Ave, Joshua!

Joshua Stanton, blogging at One Free Korea, writes:

(My own belief is that U.S. Forces Korea is overdue to evolve into a command that provides air, naval, logistical, and intelligence support, as one part of a multilateral regional alliance. I’ve believed since I was a soldier in Korea that keeping U.S. ground forces there is a relic of 1960s doctrine. It puts tens of thousands of American soldiers and their families at excessive risk from a North Korean attack. American taxpayers carry too much of the burden of South Korea’s defense, and South Korea’s reliance on Uncle Sugar’s security blanket had created a false sense of security. South Korea will never be a self-confident and independent nation without greater self-sufficiency in its own defense. To achieve that, it should end its subsidies to North Korea, stop cutting its defense budget, improve its missile defenses, and build a big enough Army reserve component to stabilize North Korea if the regime collapses.

The US role in South Korea's defense should definitely be reduced. I've long advocated for the removal of our troops, who serve no practical purpose on the peninsula, and who are often objects of resentment, both justified and unjustified. South Korea has both the money and the might to stand on its own, but it may still be too steeped in a self-righteous victim mentality to take the mature step of accepting full responsibility for its own defense. As I've noted before, American force projection is such that we can be anywhere in the world within twenty-four hours; the need for bases in foreign countries is slowly but steadily disappearing, and this is particularly true in Korea. There's no doubt that, should a shooting war break out on the peninsula, America would be immediately by South Korea's side. But in the meantime, there's really no need for a "tripwire" force to guarantee American involvement.

Read the rest of Joshua's interesting post, which focuses on influence-peddling.



John said...

Oddly enough, the situation in Iraq deteriorated once we pulled our ground forces out. And the buildup for the first Iraq war took far longer than 24 hours. The logistics involve much more the ferrying troops, much of that still relies on ships.

I don't disagree that the ROKs could do much more in their own self-defense. But I see our troops stationed here as more of a regional deterrent. With China becoming increasingly more aggressive, our retreat from Korea would send exactly the wrong message. I'm quite certain the Philippines would appreciate having the U.S. Navy at Subic to deter some of China's saber rattling.

Kevin Kim said...


You may have a point regarding the Pax Americana, but I think Iraq is a very different animal from Korea, which kind of strains the analogy. American troops aren't being picked off by snipers and IEDs in Korea, and the people of this region generally aren't given to the level of barbarism seen in the Middle East.

Would a postwar power vacuum in East Asia lead to the sort of chaos we see in the Middle East? It's an interesting question to ponder. Probably yes, but if the decade after World War 2 is any indication, such a vacuum wouldn't automatically be filled by terrorists and other unprincipled parties. East Asians have a rage for social order not found in the Middle East; any vacuum would likely be filled by a powerful, charismatic leader, and society would organize itself accordingly.