Debate Magazine

Is It Time To Leave The Korean Peninsula?

Posted on the 15 February 2013 by Reasoningpolitics @reasonpolitics


In the light (or radiation) of North Korea’s recent nuclear test, Doug Bandow, Senior Fellow at Cato, thinks the time has come for the US to disengage from the Koreas.

Ultimately, though, it should be evident that Kim & Co. really aren’t Washington’s problem. The North directs much of its ire at the United States, but America is a target only because Washington is intimately involved in the Korean Peninsula.  Absent an alliance with South Korea and U.S. forces on station, North Korea would care as much about America as about Europe.

Washington should step back from the Korean imbroglio. The U.S. commitment was forged during the Cold War and was necessary to prevent the Republic of Korea from being swallowed by a North backed by Mao’s China and Stalin’s Soviet Union. That world is long gone. Neither China nor Russia would back the North in war, and South Korea far outranges the North on most measures of national power. With twice the population and 40 times the GDP, the South could build a military of whatever size is necessary to deter Pyongyang. Maintaining 28,500 Americans on the peninsula makes no sense for the United States.

I have to say that I disagree with this assessment, although I do have my biases. My girlfriend is Korean, I have traveled there twice in two years, and while I can’t carry on a conversation I have more than a passing knowledge of the Korean language. It is my favorite place I have ever visited; the culture, energy, and national identity are all admirable. I cannot imagine South Korea could have become the nation it is without US military support, and the thought of us leaving them to the whims of their insane doppelgangers to the north does not sit well with me.

I’d like to hear your thoughts on this, since my capacity for objectivity is limited.

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