January 22, 2005


Pitching a U.S.-South Korean divorce
(RICHARD HALLORAN, 1/23/05, The Japan Times)

In a provocative new book, the authors propose that the United States and South Korea agree to an "amicable divorce" in which all American military forces would be withdrawn from the Korean Peninsula and the security treaty that has made South Korea and America allies for 50 years would be dissolved.

Ted Galen Carpenter and Doug Bandow, senior researchers at the Cato Institute in Washington, D.C., further assert in "The Korean Conundrum" that the troops pulled out of South Korea should be demobilized rather than retained in the service and posted elsewhere.

The book reflects two movements:

A spreading reaction in the U.S. to rising anti-Americanism in South Korea.

An expanding American belief that South Korea can defend itself against North Korea.

The Carpenter-Bandow book has begun to attract attention among those who influence U.S. policy toward Asia, notably a favorable review in "Foreign Affairs," the grandfather of American journals dedicated to foreign policy.

The troops are only a restraint on us at this point.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 22, 2005 9:04 PM

And the possibility that our work, to a certain degree is done, cos Kimmee's on the way out and they've told us they won't have nukes in the future.

Besides, the SorKs are saying they've created a bio-degradable plastic which costs the same as the current product and it doesn't need oil.

Posted by: Sandy P at January 22, 2005 9:45 PM

What's interesting is why do they want to demobilize those troops?

Not saying Rummy won't to save some money, but....

Posted by: Sandy P at January 22, 2005 9:46 PM

Cato is a libertarian think tank that's very non-interventionist. I suspect they want to demobolize the troops to make any foreign military action less likely. It's at least more honorable than trying to do it with a draft. On the other hand, at this point I'm all for pulling out of Korea.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at January 23, 2005 1:54 AM

The Cato Institute is probably even less relevant on foreign affairs than the IPS. We continue to have regional interests, and the biggest one is Japan. The tripwire force in Korea is a means of protecting those interests. The Cato idiots would have us believe that these interests do not exist.

Anti-Americanism in South Korea is on the wane again.

Posted by: Bart at January 23, 2005 10:08 AM

Japan isn't threatened by North Korea nor protected by our having troops in South Korea.

Posted by: oj at January 23, 2005 10:13 AM

A few years ago, the DPRK fired some missiles at Japan, one landing off each coast of Honshu. When that kind of action is combined with the public statements of the Norks, the threat is obvious.

I'll let the military decide how to react to the threat and where to put the troops. I certainly won't defer to a gaggle of isolationist imbeciles at the Cato Institute.

Posted by: Bart at January 23, 2005 12:16 PM

Let me add that, anthough we can and should pull back from a forward defense in Korea, we are going to have to stay there for the forseeable future. We don't really trust other people with our best, transformational gear. Therefore we must keep some high-tech assets in place, and enough conventional force to provide security for them.

Posted by: Lou Gots at January 23, 2005 1:30 PM

Why? The only high-tech gear that matters is cruise missiles.

Posted by: oj at January 23, 2005 1:34 PM

The Cato bunch haven't been right yet.

The maintenance of the troops in Korea is expensive and there is a significant section of the ROK electorate that opposes their presence. Therefore, there must be some countervailing reason for them to be there. Japan is one of our most important allies and the ROK is our 7th largest trading partner, I think.

Japan wants them there. The Pentagon wants them there. The ROK business and military establishment want them there. That should suffice as a justification. None of these are irrational actors.

IOW, given a choice between maintaining the current troop positioning and the recommendations of the Cato Institute, based on track record alone I'd pick the current policy.

Posted by: Bart at January 23, 2005 2:17 PM

It's called inertia.

Posted by: oj at January 23, 2005 2:22 PM

Does anybody have Kim Jong Ill in the Dead Pool?

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at January 23, 2005 5:00 PM

The carp pool.

Posted by: Dave W. at January 23, 2005 9:10 PM


A policy of 'If it ain't broke don't fix it' is not inertia, which would require us to ignore a broken policy. Inertia drives our relations with Europe not with East Asia.

Posted by: Bart at January 24, 2005 7:50 AM

It broke long ago. Only inertia keeps us pursuing a moronic path.

Posted by: oj at January 24, 2005 7:56 AM

North Korea is less of a threat than ever. Even the PRC, its nominal patron, sees it as a burden not an ally. South Korea is a modern nation with a First World economy and one of the 5 or 6 best military forces in the world. Japan is the 2d most important economy in the world and spends $60 billion/year on defense, and is totally on America's side in the WOT.

That's hardly a broken policy.

Posted by: Bart at January 25, 2005 4:26 PM

North Koreans are miserable.

Posted by: oj at January 25, 2005 5:08 PM

Not our fault. If they choose to live under a psychotic with funny hair who makes them eat boiled grass, that is their business. The historical reality is that Korea has a tradition of loony god-kings who make loopy demands of their population and Korea also is heavy into that 'Hermit Kingdom' thing.

Our responsibility is to keep the damage the Norks can cause to a minimum, while waiting for reality to penetrate their LoonyToon World. This we certainly have done.

The most likely short-term outcome is that the PRC will pay one of its agents provocateurs to send the Dear Leader to his ultimate reward. The cost of DPRK weirdness is too great for them. If the North fires a nuke at Seoul, Tokyo or Honolulu, the financial impact on the PRC is far greater than they can bear.

Posted by: Bart at January 26, 2005 8:13 PM

Not our fault, but our responsibilty.

Posted by: oj at January 26, 2005 8:23 PM