Blogs: The Skeptics

Can Trump Enact a Foreign Policy of Restraint?

Why America Should Not Be Asia's Globo-Cop

The Skeptics

There is no indication that Kim Jong-un is suicidal and contemplates a first strike on America—all of the ruling Kims appeared to want their virgins in this life, not the next, unlike Islamic jihadists. But the ability to hit U.S. military facilities throughout the Asia-Pacific and possibly devastate a few U.S. cities could—and certainly should—deter American involvement in any Korean conflict. No wonder James Clapper, Director of U.S. National Intelligence last month opined that the North Koreans view nukes as “their ticket to survival.”

Of course, some American officials refuse to acknowledge the obvious. Secretary Kerry, representing a country which in recent years dismantled (nuclear-free) Serbia, ousted the government of (nuclear-free) Afghanistan, invaded (nuclear-free) Iraq, and ousted the government of (nuclear-free, by negotiation) Libya, said the answer was “no” to the question whether Pyongyang needed nukes to defend itself. Unsurprisingly, Kim & Co. hold a different view.

Which is bad for America. Ending up on the target list of an unpredictable, untested, and headstrong dictator creates the possibility of nuclear war through mistake or inadvertence. Washington had few alternatives but to challenge the Soviet Union during the Cold War; in contrast, North Korea is a confrontation of choice, resulting from the costly determination of American policymakers to be essentially everywhere forever.

The latest Chicago Council on Global Affairs survey finds more public support for the U.S. military presence in the ROK than either Germany or Japan. Yet what justification is there for garrisoning the South?

As noted earlier, neither the existence of a global struggle with a hegemonic enemy nor the peninsula’s unique strategic importance. And the reason certainly is not the lack of powerful neighbors with an interest in maintaining regional stability. Analyst Khang Vu claimed that America must maintain its troops in Korea, as well as presumably everywhere else, forever, to maintain “credibility.” However, security guarantees should fit circumstances, not be treated as permanent even when the dependent party outgrows the need. Wasting resources and fighting unnecessary wars in the name of looking strong is both expensive and dangerous.

Other arguments are equally unconvincing. For instance, Vu makes a classic mercantilist argument stretching back to the imperialist European powers: use the military to enhance trade. This always was a highly costly practice, enriching a few merchants at public expense, yet Vu contends that Washington should act similarly to safeguard Asian trade.

Such commerce obviously is greatest interest to the Asian nations themselves. Despite the perennial Washington conceit that the only thing which saves the world from daily Armageddon is far-sighted American leadership, there is no evidence that the region would be at war absent America playing the role of globo-cop. Seven decades after the end of World War II the Asia-Pacific has recovered and its leading members should take over their own defense duties — deterring enemies and maintaining stability. After all, that’s what serious countries normally do, instead of expecting rich friends to constantly coddle them.

Moreover, the cost of risking war for profit grows as the North’s capabilities increase. Vu blithely asserts that “a damaged trading system in East Asia resulting from conflicts would cost America a higher price than that of maintaining its military presence.” But a war involving Korea would not prevent China, Japan, or most other Asian nations from continuing to do business with each other and America.

Moreover, the true expense for the United States includes creating additional military units to fulfill commitments, including the enormous back-up capability which would be called upon in any conflict, and maintaining this oversize armed forces year after year. That’s not worth the profits from business with a mid-sized trading partner such as Korea. And none of this would be worth war, especially with an emerging nuclear power. Just how much blood should be shed to safeguard business profits?

Another common claim is that the U.S. presence prevents a regional arms race. However, with the PRC both arming itself and following a more assertive foreign policy, a regional arms race is precisely what may be necessary to constrain Beijing’s potential ambitions. Just as China is seeking to deter America from intervening in regional conflicts, the PRC’s neighbors should make any Chinese aggression too costly to undertake. The claim that Americans should arm and prepare for war so the peoples directly at risk don’t have to is bizarre at best.

Of particular concern to some policymakers is the prospect of Washington’s allies building nuclear weapons in the absence of a U.S. willingness to go to nuclear war. The Obama administration recently reiterated its “ironclad and unwavering” commitment to “the U.S. nuclear umbrella.” Last month, according to Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, the two governments “discussed a number of ways that extended deterrence can be further strengthened.” While nonproliferation is a worthy end, it is not the highest good for U.S. policy. Protecting America is. And there is nothing at stake in the Korean peninsula that warrants Washington getting into a nuclear conflict of choice.

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Sorry, America: North Korea Isn't Giving Up Its Nuclear Weapons

The Skeptics

There is no indication that Kim Jong-un is suicidal and contemplates a first strike on America—all of the ruling Kims appeared to want their virgins in this life, not the next, unlike Islamic jihadists. But the ability to hit U.S. military facilities throughout the Asia-Pacific and possibly devastate a few U.S. cities could—and certainly should—deter American involvement in any Korean conflict. No wonder James Clapper, Director of U.S. National Intelligence last month opined that the North Koreans view nukes as “their ticket to survival.”

Of course, some American officials refuse to acknowledge the obvious. Secretary Kerry, representing a country which in recent years dismantled (nuclear-free) Serbia, ousted the government of (nuclear-free) Afghanistan, invaded (nuclear-free) Iraq, and ousted the government of (nuclear-free, by negotiation) Libya, said the answer was “no” to the question whether Pyongyang needed nukes to defend itself. Unsurprisingly, Kim & Co. hold a different view.

Which is bad for America. Ending up on the target list of an unpredictable, untested, and headstrong dictator creates the possibility of nuclear war through mistake or inadvertence. Washington had few alternatives but to challenge the Soviet Union during the Cold War; in contrast, North Korea is a confrontation of choice, resulting from the costly determination of American policymakers to be essentially everywhere forever.

The latest Chicago Council on Global Affairs survey finds more public support for the U.S. military presence in the ROK than either Germany or Japan. Yet what justification is there for garrisoning the South?

As noted earlier, neither the existence of a global struggle with a hegemonic enemy nor the peninsula’s unique strategic importance. And the reason certainly is not the lack of powerful neighbors with an interest in maintaining regional stability. Analyst Khang Vu claimed that America must maintain its troops in Korea, as well as presumably everywhere else, forever, to maintain “credibility.” However, security guarantees should fit circumstances, not be treated as permanent even when the dependent party outgrows the need. Wasting resources and fighting unnecessary wars in the name of looking strong is both expensive and dangerous.

Other arguments are equally unconvincing. For instance, Vu makes a classic mercantilist argument stretching back to the imperialist European powers: use the military to enhance trade. This always was a highly costly practice, enriching a few merchants at public expense, yet Vu contends that Washington should act similarly to safeguard Asian trade.

Such commerce obviously is greatest interest to the Asian nations themselves. Despite the perennial Washington conceit that the only thing which saves the world from daily Armageddon is far-sighted American leadership, there is no evidence that the region would be at war absent America playing the role of globo-cop. Seven decades after the end of World War II the Asia-Pacific has recovered and its leading members should take over their own defense duties — deterring enemies and maintaining stability. After all, that’s what serious countries normally do, instead of expecting rich friends to constantly coddle them.

Moreover, the cost of risking war for profit grows as the North’s capabilities increase. Vu blithely asserts that “a damaged trading system in East Asia resulting from conflicts would cost America a higher price than that of maintaining its military presence.” But a war involving Korea would not prevent China, Japan, or most other Asian nations from continuing to do business with each other and America.

Moreover, the true expense for the United States includes creating additional military units to fulfill commitments, including the enormous back-up capability which would be called upon in any conflict, and maintaining this oversize armed forces year after year. That’s not worth the profits from business with a mid-sized trading partner such as Korea. And none of this would be worth war, especially with an emerging nuclear power. Just how much blood should be shed to safeguard business profits?

Another common claim is that the U.S. presence prevents a regional arms race. However, with the PRC both arming itself and following a more assertive foreign policy, a regional arms race is precisely what may be necessary to constrain Beijing’s potential ambitions. Just as China is seeking to deter America from intervening in regional conflicts, the PRC’s neighbors should make any Chinese aggression too costly to undertake. The claim that Americans should arm and prepare for war so the peoples directly at risk don’t have to is bizarre at best.

Of particular concern to some policymakers is the prospect of Washington’s allies building nuclear weapons in the absence of a U.S. willingness to go to nuclear war. The Obama administration recently reiterated its “ironclad and unwavering” commitment to “the U.S. nuclear umbrella.” Last month, according to Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, the two governments “discussed a number of ways that extended deterrence can be further strengthened.” While nonproliferation is a worthy end, it is not the highest good for U.S. policy. Protecting America is. And there is nothing at stake in the Korean peninsula that warrants Washington getting into a nuclear conflict of choice.

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In Defense of James Comey

The Skeptics

There is no indication that Kim Jong-un is suicidal and contemplates a first strike on America—all of the ruling Kims appeared to want their virgins in this life, not the next, unlike Islamic jihadists. But the ability to hit U.S. military facilities throughout the Asia-Pacific and possibly devastate a few U.S. cities could—and certainly should—deter American involvement in any Korean conflict. No wonder James Clapper, Director of U.S. National Intelligence last month opined that the North Koreans view nukes as “their ticket to survival.”

Of course, some American officials refuse to acknowledge the obvious. Secretary Kerry, representing a country which in recent years dismantled (nuclear-free) Serbia, ousted the government of (nuclear-free) Afghanistan, invaded (nuclear-free) Iraq, and ousted the government of (nuclear-free, by negotiation) Libya, said the answer was “no” to the question whether Pyongyang needed nukes to defend itself. Unsurprisingly, Kim & Co. hold a different view.

Which is bad for America. Ending up on the target list of an unpredictable, untested, and headstrong dictator creates the possibility of nuclear war through mistake or inadvertence. Washington had few alternatives but to challenge the Soviet Union during the Cold War; in contrast, North Korea is a confrontation of choice, resulting from the costly determination of American policymakers to be essentially everywhere forever.

The latest Chicago Council on Global Affairs survey finds more public support for the U.S. military presence in the ROK than either Germany or Japan. Yet what justification is there for garrisoning the South?

As noted earlier, neither the existence of a global struggle with a hegemonic enemy nor the peninsula’s unique strategic importance. And the reason certainly is not the lack of powerful neighbors with an interest in maintaining regional stability. Analyst Khang Vu claimed that America must maintain its troops in Korea, as well as presumably everywhere else, forever, to maintain “credibility.” However, security guarantees should fit circumstances, not be treated as permanent even when the dependent party outgrows the need. Wasting resources and fighting unnecessary wars in the name of looking strong is both expensive and dangerous.

Other arguments are equally unconvincing. For instance, Vu makes a classic mercantilist argument stretching back to the imperialist European powers: use the military to enhance trade. This always was a highly costly practice, enriching a few merchants at public expense, yet Vu contends that Washington should act similarly to safeguard Asian trade.

Such commerce obviously is greatest interest to the Asian nations themselves. Despite the perennial Washington conceit that the only thing which saves the world from daily Armageddon is far-sighted American leadership, there is no evidence that the region would be at war absent America playing the role of globo-cop. Seven decades after the end of World War II the Asia-Pacific has recovered and its leading members should take over their own defense duties — deterring enemies and maintaining stability. After all, that’s what serious countries normally do, instead of expecting rich friends to constantly coddle them.

Moreover, the cost of risking war for profit grows as the North’s capabilities increase. Vu blithely asserts that “a damaged trading system in East Asia resulting from conflicts would cost America a higher price than that of maintaining its military presence.” But a war involving Korea would not prevent China, Japan, or most other Asian nations from continuing to do business with each other and America.

Moreover, the true expense for the United States includes creating additional military units to fulfill commitments, including the enormous back-up capability which would be called upon in any conflict, and maintaining this oversize armed forces year after year. That’s not worth the profits from business with a mid-sized trading partner such as Korea. And none of this would be worth war, especially with an emerging nuclear power. Just how much blood should be shed to safeguard business profits?

Another common claim is that the U.S. presence prevents a regional arms race. However, with the PRC both arming itself and following a more assertive foreign policy, a regional arms race is precisely what may be necessary to constrain Beijing’s potential ambitions. Just as China is seeking to deter America from intervening in regional conflicts, the PRC’s neighbors should make any Chinese aggression too costly to undertake. The claim that Americans should arm and prepare for war so the peoples directly at risk don’t have to is bizarre at best.

Of particular concern to some policymakers is the prospect of Washington’s allies building nuclear weapons in the absence of a U.S. willingness to go to nuclear war. The Obama administration recently reiterated its “ironclad and unwavering” commitment to “the U.S. nuclear umbrella.” Last month, according to Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, the two governments “discussed a number of ways that extended deterrence can be further strengthened.” While nonproliferation is a worthy end, it is not the highest good for U.S. policy. Protecting America is. And there is nothing at stake in the Korean peninsula that warrants Washington getting into a nuclear conflict of choice.

Pages

RIP Restraint? Foreign-Policy Insiders' Electoral Hopes

The Skeptics

There is no indication that Kim Jong-un is suicidal and contemplates a first strike on America—all of the ruling Kims appeared to want their virgins in this life, not the next, unlike Islamic jihadists. But the ability to hit U.S. military facilities throughout the Asia-Pacific and possibly devastate a few U.S. cities could—and certainly should—deter American involvement in any Korean conflict. No wonder James Clapper, Director of U.S. National Intelligence last month opined that the North Koreans view nukes as “their ticket to survival.”

Of course, some American officials refuse to acknowledge the obvious. Secretary Kerry, representing a country which in recent years dismantled (nuclear-free) Serbia, ousted the government of (nuclear-free) Afghanistan, invaded (nuclear-free) Iraq, and ousted the government of (nuclear-free, by negotiation) Libya, said the answer was “no” to the question whether Pyongyang needed nukes to defend itself. Unsurprisingly, Kim & Co. hold a different view.

Which is bad for America. Ending up on the target list of an unpredictable, untested, and headstrong dictator creates the possibility of nuclear war through mistake or inadvertence. Washington had few alternatives but to challenge the Soviet Union during the Cold War; in contrast, North Korea is a confrontation of choice, resulting from the costly determination of American policymakers to be essentially everywhere forever.

The latest Chicago Council on Global Affairs survey finds more public support for the U.S. military presence in the ROK than either Germany or Japan. Yet what justification is there for garrisoning the South?

As noted earlier, neither the existence of a global struggle with a hegemonic enemy nor the peninsula’s unique strategic importance. And the reason certainly is not the lack of powerful neighbors with an interest in maintaining regional stability. Analyst Khang Vu claimed that America must maintain its troops in Korea, as well as presumably everywhere else, forever, to maintain “credibility.” However, security guarantees should fit circumstances, not be treated as permanent even when the dependent party outgrows the need. Wasting resources and fighting unnecessary wars in the name of looking strong is both expensive and dangerous.

Other arguments are equally unconvincing. For instance, Vu makes a classic mercantilist argument stretching back to the imperialist European powers: use the military to enhance trade. This always was a highly costly practice, enriching a few merchants at public expense, yet Vu contends that Washington should act similarly to safeguard Asian trade.

Such commerce obviously is greatest interest to the Asian nations themselves. Despite the perennial Washington conceit that the only thing which saves the world from daily Armageddon is far-sighted American leadership, there is no evidence that the region would be at war absent America playing the role of globo-cop. Seven decades after the end of World War II the Asia-Pacific has recovered and its leading members should take over their own defense duties — deterring enemies and maintaining stability. After all, that’s what serious countries normally do, instead of expecting rich friends to constantly coddle them.

Moreover, the cost of risking war for profit grows as the North’s capabilities increase. Vu blithely asserts that “a damaged trading system in East Asia resulting from conflicts would cost America a higher price than that of maintaining its military presence.” But a war involving Korea would not prevent China, Japan, or most other Asian nations from continuing to do business with each other and America.

Moreover, the true expense for the United States includes creating additional military units to fulfill commitments, including the enormous back-up capability which would be called upon in any conflict, and maintaining this oversize armed forces year after year. That’s not worth the profits from business with a mid-sized trading partner such as Korea. And none of this would be worth war, especially with an emerging nuclear power. Just how much blood should be shed to safeguard business profits?

Another common claim is that the U.S. presence prevents a regional arms race. However, with the PRC both arming itself and following a more assertive foreign policy, a regional arms race is precisely what may be necessary to constrain Beijing’s potential ambitions. Just as China is seeking to deter America from intervening in regional conflicts, the PRC’s neighbors should make any Chinese aggression too costly to undertake. The claim that Americans should arm and prepare for war so the peoples directly at risk don’t have to is bizarre at best.

Of particular concern to some policymakers is the prospect of Washington’s allies building nuclear weapons in the absence of a U.S. willingness to go to nuclear war. The Obama administration recently reiterated its “ironclad and unwavering” commitment to “the U.S. nuclear umbrella.” Last month, according to Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, the two governments “discussed a number of ways that extended deterrence can be further strengthened.” While nonproliferation is a worthy end, it is not the highest good for U.S. policy. Protecting America is. And there is nothing at stake in the Korean peninsula that warrants Washington getting into a nuclear conflict of choice.

Pages

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