Blogs: The Skeptics

Donald Trump Should Give Diplomacy with North Korea a Chance

America Has Too Many Military Bases

Secretary Mattis Should Stop Babying South Korea

The Skeptics

During the Cold War the Korean peninsula mattered, mostly as part of the larger Cold War struggle with the Soviet Union. However, the U.S.S.R. and Cold War are gone. So is the geopolitical relevance of Korea.

The ROK is a valuable trading partner. Former South Korean diplomat Chang Booseung, now at the Rand Corporation, justified U.S. defense subsidies for the South by citing “the $129 billion in annual trade” and resulting U.S. jobs. Of course, by Chang’s logic, the South should be helping to protect America to preserve all those jobs created in the South through its trade with the U.S.

Anyway, trade is no reason for Washington to pay for another nation’s defense. If so, America would be defending virtually every country on earth. It’s nice that U.S. companies benefit from commerce with the South, but the rest of Americans shouldn’t pay the price, human and financial, to secure those corporate profits. Instead, Seoul should invest its financial gains in its own defense.

A renewed Korean conflict would be a humanitarian tragedy as well, but that’s no reason to enhance the horror by involving American forces. Nations all over the world want to be rescued by the U.S. South Korea has joined the front rank of states and should take responsibility for preventing such an occurrence.

War also would be destabilizing to the region, but would not end Asian trade with America, as Chang suggested. Does he believe the PRC would turn inward, like the old Chinese Empire, recall its cargo ships, and close its borders? That the Japanese would collectively go into the fetal position and stop manufacturing goods? That all Australians would flee the coasts and dig bunkers in the Outback?

Anyway, adverse regional impact is a good reason for the Koreas’ neighbors to do more. Japan and South Korea need to work through their historical antagonisms, and would have more pressure to do so if they could not rely on Washington’s protection. China and Russia would have greater incentive to lean on the North if they could not count on America to police the peninsula.

One of Chang’s stranger contentions is that “if the United States were to sit out a war in Korea, any dominant actor arising out of such a conflict may contest U.S. supremacy in the Pacific as Japan did in the 1940s.” Really? If South Korea defeated North Korea, Seoul would take over the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere and attack China, Japan, and the Philippines? In the unlikely event of a North Korean victory, Pyongyang would swallow Manchuria and Southeast Asia?

Over the long-term China almost certainly will challenge U.S. dominance, but that seems inevitable, and has nothing to do with the Koreas. Wasting money defending allies that can protect themselves weakens the U.S. and will make it more difficult for Washington to confront future challenges. The PRC’s growth is another reason for the U.S. to husband its resources and expect its friends and allies to take over responsibility for their own security.

Chang contended that America’s garrison plays a “counter-proliferation role” as the “Kim Jong-un is working hard to put the U.S. mainland on his target list.” But Kim is doing so only because America is “over there,” so to speak. Washington is allied with the DPRK’s adversary, has surrounded the North with military forces, and constantly threatens Pyongyang with military action. Moreover, Washington routinely bombs, invades, and occupies other nations (think Serbia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya). Kim is evil, not stupid. No surprise, the North believes that it needs a nuclear deterrent against the U.S. Troops in the South exacerbate his insecurity and ensure that America will be a target if North Korea eventually creates an accurate ICBM.

Finally, Chang offered several entertaining “kitchen sink” arguments. There’s the alleged value of forward deployment for the U.S. to more easily get involved in a war that South Korea should be prepared to fight. And the permanent need for a nearly 30,000-member garrison in the South to grab nuclear weapons in the North if, at some unpredictable and unlikely future moment, the DPRK collapses and China doesn’t get there first. As well as South Korean involvement in Washington’s misbegotten invasion of Iraq. Such token participation, though welcome, doesn’t counterbalance a promise to go to nuclear war on Seoul’s behalf.

Finally, Chang doesn’t trust his own country: in his view the U.S. must restrain its ally from launching an aggressive war. Or, as Chang put it, “restraining South Korea’s disproportionate responses to provocations from the North.” Why should America be allied with a nation which might drag the U.S. into war? Actually, the best way to “restrain” Seoul would be to make clear that the ROK is on its own militarily, so if it starts a war, the U.S. won’t be coming to end it.

The U.S.-South Korea alliance was created more than 63 years ago. It has outlived its usefulness. Instead of reassuring a government in Seoul which almost certainly will be swept away in the coming months, Secretary Mattis should prepare the way for a renegotiation to turn the alliance into a looser but more equal cooperative military relationship. Instead of remaining a ward of America, South Korea should take on responsibilities commensurate with its capabilities.

Doug Bandow is a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute and a former Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan. He is the author of Tripwire: Korea and U.S. Foreign Policy in a Changed World and co-author of The Korean Conundrum: America’s Troubled Relations with North and South Korea.

Image Credit: Creative Commons/Flickr. 

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Is Stephen Miller Serving Trump Well?

The Skeptics

During the Cold War the Korean peninsula mattered, mostly as part of the larger Cold War struggle with the Soviet Union. However, the U.S.S.R. and Cold War are gone. So is the geopolitical relevance of Korea.

The ROK is a valuable trading partner. Former South Korean diplomat Chang Booseung, now at the Rand Corporation, justified U.S. defense subsidies for the South by citing “the $129 billion in annual trade” and resulting U.S. jobs. Of course, by Chang’s logic, the South should be helping to protect America to preserve all those jobs created in the South through its trade with the U.S.

Anyway, trade is no reason for Washington to pay for another nation’s defense. If so, America would be defending virtually every country on earth. It’s nice that U.S. companies benefit from commerce with the South, but the rest of Americans shouldn’t pay the price, human and financial, to secure those corporate profits. Instead, Seoul should invest its financial gains in its own defense.

A renewed Korean conflict would be a humanitarian tragedy as well, but that’s no reason to enhance the horror by involving American forces. Nations all over the world want to be rescued by the U.S. South Korea has joined the front rank of states and should take responsibility for preventing such an occurrence.

War also would be destabilizing to the region, but would not end Asian trade with America, as Chang suggested. Does he believe the PRC would turn inward, like the old Chinese Empire, recall its cargo ships, and close its borders? That the Japanese would collectively go into the fetal position and stop manufacturing goods? That all Australians would flee the coasts and dig bunkers in the Outback?

Anyway, adverse regional impact is a good reason for the Koreas’ neighbors to do more. Japan and South Korea need to work through their historical antagonisms, and would have more pressure to do so if they could not rely on Washington’s protection. China and Russia would have greater incentive to lean on the North if they could not count on America to police the peninsula.

One of Chang’s stranger contentions is that “if the United States were to sit out a war in Korea, any dominant actor arising out of such a conflict may contest U.S. supremacy in the Pacific as Japan did in the 1940s.” Really? If South Korea defeated North Korea, Seoul would take over the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere and attack China, Japan, and the Philippines? In the unlikely event of a North Korean victory, Pyongyang would swallow Manchuria and Southeast Asia?

Over the long-term China almost certainly will challenge U.S. dominance, but that seems inevitable, and has nothing to do with the Koreas. Wasting money defending allies that can protect themselves weakens the U.S. and will make it more difficult for Washington to confront future challenges. The PRC’s growth is another reason for the U.S. to husband its resources and expect its friends and allies to take over responsibility for their own security.

Chang contended that America’s garrison plays a “counter-proliferation role” as the “Kim Jong-un is working hard to put the U.S. mainland on his target list.” But Kim is doing so only because America is “over there,” so to speak. Washington is allied with the DPRK’s adversary, has surrounded the North with military forces, and constantly threatens Pyongyang with military action. Moreover, Washington routinely bombs, invades, and occupies other nations (think Serbia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya). Kim is evil, not stupid. No surprise, the North believes that it needs a nuclear deterrent against the U.S. Troops in the South exacerbate his insecurity and ensure that America will be a target if North Korea eventually creates an accurate ICBM.

Finally, Chang offered several entertaining “kitchen sink” arguments. There’s the alleged value of forward deployment for the U.S. to more easily get involved in a war that South Korea should be prepared to fight. And the permanent need for a nearly 30,000-member garrison in the South to grab nuclear weapons in the North if, at some unpredictable and unlikely future moment, the DPRK collapses and China doesn’t get there first. As well as South Korean involvement in Washington’s misbegotten invasion of Iraq. Such token participation, though welcome, doesn’t counterbalance a promise to go to nuclear war on Seoul’s behalf.

Finally, Chang doesn’t trust his own country: in his view the U.S. must restrain its ally from launching an aggressive war. Or, as Chang put it, “restraining South Korea’s disproportionate responses to provocations from the North.” Why should America be allied with a nation which might drag the U.S. into war? Actually, the best way to “restrain” Seoul would be to make clear that the ROK is on its own militarily, so if it starts a war, the U.S. won’t be coming to end it.

The U.S.-South Korea alliance was created more than 63 years ago. It has outlived its usefulness. Instead of reassuring a government in Seoul which almost certainly will be swept away in the coming months, Secretary Mattis should prepare the way for a renegotiation to turn the alliance into a looser but more equal cooperative military relationship. Instead of remaining a ward of America, South Korea should take on responsibilities commensurate with its capabilities.

Doug Bandow is a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute and a former Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan. He is the author of Tripwire: Korea and U.S. Foreign Policy in a Changed World and co-author of The Korean Conundrum: America’s Troubled Relations with North and South Korea.

Image Credit: Creative Commons/Flickr. 

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What Trump Has in Common with the Last German Emperor

The Skeptics

During the Cold War the Korean peninsula mattered, mostly as part of the larger Cold War struggle with the Soviet Union. However, the U.S.S.R. and Cold War are gone. So is the geopolitical relevance of Korea.

The ROK is a valuable trading partner. Former South Korean diplomat Chang Booseung, now at the Rand Corporation, justified U.S. defense subsidies for the South by citing “the $129 billion in annual trade” and resulting U.S. jobs. Of course, by Chang’s logic, the South should be helping to protect America to preserve all those jobs created in the South through its trade with the U.S.

Anyway, trade is no reason for Washington to pay for another nation’s defense. If so, America would be defending virtually every country on earth. It’s nice that U.S. companies benefit from commerce with the South, but the rest of Americans shouldn’t pay the price, human and financial, to secure those corporate profits. Instead, Seoul should invest its financial gains in its own defense.

A renewed Korean conflict would be a humanitarian tragedy as well, but that’s no reason to enhance the horror by involving American forces. Nations all over the world want to be rescued by the U.S. South Korea has joined the front rank of states and should take responsibility for preventing such an occurrence.

War also would be destabilizing to the region, but would not end Asian trade with America, as Chang suggested. Does he believe the PRC would turn inward, like the old Chinese Empire, recall its cargo ships, and close its borders? That the Japanese would collectively go into the fetal position and stop manufacturing goods? That all Australians would flee the coasts and dig bunkers in the Outback?

Anyway, adverse regional impact is a good reason for the Koreas’ neighbors to do more. Japan and South Korea need to work through their historical antagonisms, and would have more pressure to do so if they could not rely on Washington’s protection. China and Russia would have greater incentive to lean on the North if they could not count on America to police the peninsula.

One of Chang’s stranger contentions is that “if the United States were to sit out a war in Korea, any dominant actor arising out of such a conflict may contest U.S. supremacy in the Pacific as Japan did in the 1940s.” Really? If South Korea defeated North Korea, Seoul would take over the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere and attack China, Japan, and the Philippines? In the unlikely event of a North Korean victory, Pyongyang would swallow Manchuria and Southeast Asia?

Over the long-term China almost certainly will challenge U.S. dominance, but that seems inevitable, and has nothing to do with the Koreas. Wasting money defending allies that can protect themselves weakens the U.S. and will make it more difficult for Washington to confront future challenges. The PRC’s growth is another reason for the U.S. to husband its resources and expect its friends and allies to take over responsibility for their own security.

Chang contended that America’s garrison plays a “counter-proliferation role” as the “Kim Jong-un is working hard to put the U.S. mainland on his target list.” But Kim is doing so only because America is “over there,” so to speak. Washington is allied with the DPRK’s adversary, has surrounded the North with military forces, and constantly threatens Pyongyang with military action. Moreover, Washington routinely bombs, invades, and occupies other nations (think Serbia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya). Kim is evil, not stupid. No surprise, the North believes that it needs a nuclear deterrent against the U.S. Troops in the South exacerbate his insecurity and ensure that America will be a target if North Korea eventually creates an accurate ICBM.

Finally, Chang offered several entertaining “kitchen sink” arguments. There’s the alleged value of forward deployment for the U.S. to more easily get involved in a war that South Korea should be prepared to fight. And the permanent need for a nearly 30,000-member garrison in the South to grab nuclear weapons in the North if, at some unpredictable and unlikely future moment, the DPRK collapses and China doesn’t get there first. As well as South Korean involvement in Washington’s misbegotten invasion of Iraq. Such token participation, though welcome, doesn’t counterbalance a promise to go to nuclear war on Seoul’s behalf.

Finally, Chang doesn’t trust his own country: in his view the U.S. must restrain its ally from launching an aggressive war. Or, as Chang put it, “restraining South Korea’s disproportionate responses to provocations from the North.” Why should America be allied with a nation which might drag the U.S. into war? Actually, the best way to “restrain” Seoul would be to make clear that the ROK is on its own militarily, so if it starts a war, the U.S. won’t be coming to end it.

The U.S.-South Korea alliance was created more than 63 years ago. It has outlived its usefulness. Instead of reassuring a government in Seoul which almost certainly will be swept away in the coming months, Secretary Mattis should prepare the way for a renegotiation to turn the alliance into a looser but more equal cooperative military relationship. Instead of remaining a ward of America, South Korea should take on responsibilities commensurate with its capabilities.

Doug Bandow is a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute and a former Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan. He is the author of Tripwire: Korea and U.S. Foreign Policy in a Changed World and co-author of The Korean Conundrum: America’s Troubled Relations with North and South Korea.

Image Credit: Creative Commons/Flickr. 

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