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MAY 3, 2012 6:44PM

Ideals & Self-Interest of the American Presence in Korea

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 For MEB. Hanguobeideren shi hen keychi. Hanguoderen Bu shi hen keychi, Ohio xiang dao Pynongyang qu. Hanguonanderen shi hen haode meigoude pengyou. Hen haode pengyou bu xihuan pengyou zheng.

There are good reasons for the presence of 28,500 members of the American Armed Forces in the Republic of Korea, if history is helpful to understand the mix of ideals and self-interest that generated and now sustain that presence.

Korea was unknown to most Americans other than as a legendary "Hermit Kingdom" until 1950, although Theodore Roosevelt won a Nobel Prize by mediating an end to the 1904-05 Russo-Japanese War, a war that was really over power over the Korean Pennisula.

The division of Korea into the current geographic situation was done on a globe in the Pentagon in 1945 by two staff colonels.

This was not because of any animus towards the Koreans, but because the total driving force behind American policy in 1945 when that was done was to defeat Japan at all costs and in as short a time as possible, and with minimum loss of American life.

This was what drove Roosevelt's decision to encourage Russia to enter the Pacific War and definititely cut off more than two million Japanese soldiers occupying much of China, who otherwise might have been able to make their way back to the Main Islands in Japan across the very narrow Straits of Tsushima which divide Japan and the Korean Peninsula.

That's where the Suns Admiral Togo put Ivan on the bottom of the ocean in 1905: Tsushima.

Note, Japan always cares about what happens in Korea, as does Russia, as of course do the Chinese.

As to our longstanding if at first small interests in the Korean Peninsula, in fact, in 1876, there was an American expedition to Korea not unlike Perry to Japan.

This expedition was a mixture of ideals and self-interest as to religion and trade, and curiously enough was one which secured an early alliance between Korea and America, if mainly fictive in character.

This was because the revolution in East Asian politics unleashed by the British in China during the Opium War (1839-1842) and Perry's excursion to Japan (1853-54) made it clear eventually even in the Hermit Kingdom that total isolation was a recipe for China, Japan, or Russia to push around Koreans. That remains the case now as to what would happen should we just "bug out" of the Republic of Korea, unless they became a nuclear armed state.

Since the Republic of Korea has lent America $300 billion in terms of Treasury holdings, and has massive direct investments in the United States, presumably it could arrange for a fire sale of that portfolio for some nuclear material, and assemble at least simple gun barrel Hiroshima style devices for one way fighter aircraft missions to take out Pyongyang if the North Koreans start nuking the South, as they make pretty darn good cars, cell phones, and televisions, even as they employ not a small number of Americans here in factories built here out of a sense of self-interest, as to the tie between the Republic of Korea and the United States.

The Republic of Korea is not a nuclear armed state because it trusted the United States to place its nuclear deterrent protection in our hands, like other potentially nuclear armed states in Western Europe.

If you ever fail on that commitment, see what follows with Ivan. Israel won't be safe either if that commitment were to fail, as it would then face off with Ivan by its lonesome too. Israel has a lot of nukes, but Ivan has more, and more people too, as to engaging in a competition of pain.

In North Korean politics, as to the actors in play on the Korean Peninsula still being Russia, China, and Japan absent an American presence, such as is known in the open literature, which because of the closed character of the Democratic is the same thing as the intelligence community more or less, this is known as the "foreign winds."

There is a pro-Russian party in North Korea, and a pro-Japanese party, and a pro-Chinese party, if the latter is more important.

In the event of breaking that tie, it's not as if the Republic of Korea wouldn't have the resources to do something. It would also create a high probability of Great Power confrontations too, with potentially dangerous use of nuclear deterrence threats to support diplomatic objectives, especially because the complexity of the interactions is intrinsically very difficult to calculate, even with computers, like the "three body problem" in physics, unresolved intrinsically, save for dependence on assumptions which especially in politics may or may not in fact be correct.

As to why we are still there in Korea fifty nine years after the end of the fourth major war since 1894 at least involving the Korean Peninsula, a nuclear armed Republic of Korea would complicate further Assured Destruction relationships across the international system, since South Korean nuclear weapons, ceteris paribus, would induce very overt Japanese efforts in that regard, feeding back into Russian and Chinese nuclear weapons efforts, which in turn of course also affect us here, and other places as well, such as India.

The only reason South Korea doesn't have nuclear weapons now is because we saw that dynamic, and tried to maintain a stable balance of power in East Asia by extending nuclear deterrence protection to them.

That seemed safer than the alternatives for the reasons outlined above as to having China, Russia, and North Korea as nuclear armed states being jouned by a nuclear armed South Korea, and an overtly nuclear armed Japan, and probably a nuclear armed Taiwan, and then possibly a nuclear armed Vietnam, and maybe even Burma-Myanmar, and maybe even Indonesia, especially since there is some slight resentment remaining from the last Great War in the Pacific between say Japan and China, if they work together a lot too.

As to the history of our engagement, when the United States took up positions south of the 38 parallel in the wake of WWII as a temporary division of influnece between the victors of WWII in East Asia, the Soviet Union as in Eastern Europe brought in its proxy in Kim Il Sung, who had fought the Japanese with Russian assistance in China primarily, if also residing in the USSR a lot too, like where his son the recently departed Dear Leader Kim Jong Il was probably born.

There was no American intent to divide the Peninsula permanently, although as in Eastern Europe, there was no desire to hand over millions of people to the rule of disciples of Josef Stalin.

Do you think Stalin was a humanitarian, as to that being a good thing or a bad thing?

In 1950, the United States withdrew its force from Korea, and also stated per Acheson's speech in Tokyo that Korea wasn't part of the core interests of America in East Asia as to military defense, if that was something of a misstatement as to foreign interpretation, since in the event of a Great Power war, we were focused on defending Japan first and using nuclear weapons all over the place on advancing "hordes" of Russian and Chinese communists, including in Korea. That's because Korea is the logical place where Russian, Chinese, and Japanese rivalries play out.

Thus in 1950, Stalin armed Kim Il Sung to the teeth, and proceeded to encourage Kim Il Sung to attack the now Republic of Korea, which he did on June 25, 1950 with zero warning.

Having achieved strategic surprise, he drove Korean forces rapidly out of the capital, and deep into the Southwest, where because of Truman's decision to assist the Koreans, this meant that American forces collided with the Korean People's Army around the port city of Busan-Pusan.

Several thousand Americans died there in Busan-Pusan Perimeter, well before MacArthur's brilliant move to turn North Korean positions at Inchon.

In a war characterized by multiple twists of fate, MacArthur then almost succeeded in deleting the North Korean state, and reunifying the Korean Peninsula.

Unfortunately, he tragically underestimated the need to take seriously Chinese warnings via Indian intermediaries, plus ca change as to really paying attention to China, of intervention, thus resulting in the longest retreat in American history, if one of the bravest ones too.

If you look at the meaning of Korea in Chinese, Han gou: Han "country," like America, Mei gou, is middle country, and of course England is Ying gou, english country. Zhonghuohua bu hen nan shou, xiaode hen nan kan.

Chosun Reservoir remains a badge of honor to the Marine Corps as to its traditions; would we ever want to let that down should there ever be another Korean War?

You also wouldn't really want to have another Korean War if you could avoid it on reasonable terms, as to ideals and self-interest, because more than likely, there'd be a whole lot of dead people, for sure Koreans, probably Americans, and if China comes in, a lot of Chinese too, like the last time; maybe even Ivan loses Vladivostok?

As to the aftermath of that last Korean War, in which more than 50,000 Americans died, so that Koreans wouldn't all have to live under a lunatic tyrant, South Korea was absolutely devastated.

Seoul had been conquered a total of four times, burned to the ground by the end, as had Pyongyang to be fair by the end of the war.

Two social systems then performed a "natural experiment" and grew into what they are today.

North of the DMZ there is no democracy, if there are concentration camps, and a state with nuclear weapons and artillery around Seoul that could do a lot of damage, if not managed properly as to being engaged and destroyed on a time urgent basis, something, however, that we're good at.

Should you really have to move a city of millions of people because of someone acting like an armed robber? Is that not a recipe for endless extortion, like now as to nukes for food?

South of the DMZ as to the results of this natural experiment, there is  since 1988 a democracy, and even the entire time more freedom, and a democracy that if some don't like the level of corporate power of the Chaebols, similar to the Japanese Keiretsu system, or the system in Germany historically speaking as well as to bank shareholding in industrial firm, it's still a pretty free place as to how free human beings can live without anarchy.

The ROK is still capitalism and democracy, and still manages to avoid mass starvation, and still manages to provide a level of individual welfare and personal liberty in the Republic of Korea that is first world, unlike the Socialists run amok in the North.

Which would you like to emmigrate too, as to the ideals our presence in Korea has served?

Which country would you chose as to where more than one third of the population is Christian, or where such a thing is a crime, and a family is worshipped almost as idols, as to the ideals served by our presence in the Republic of Korea over the years compared to any realistic alternatives under the historical circumstances?

Which country sent 300,000 soldiers to combat in Vietnam to fight for our side?

Which country sent troops to Iraq, to Afghanistan, bought Treasuries freely, invested in our economy?

Which country pays $700 million to us directly to offset the expense of our presence there, and provides massive in-kind assistance as wel?

Which country is as good an ally as we have, even taking a like to baseball as in Japan?

The Republic of Korea is the answer to all those questions, as to ideals and self-interests in our presence on the Korean Peninsula.

If you will not unleash Ohio, if and only if need be, to defend the Republic of Korea, you will never do it, and that will be understood, and you will be dead anyway: live free or die.







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I spent a little more than 13 months on the DMZ back when. Could not have said it better myself. Could not have said some of it at all because--although reasonably well informed historically--I did not know it.

Acheson's speech for example. I cannot believe that I did not know that. That seems to me to be a clear blunder in hind sight.
Donny, I espy by the length and depth of your essay here a bit of an unhealthy obsession with the two Koreas. As I said before, for the time being, until the Israel/Iran contretemps resolves itself, US policy toward NORK will be...APPEASEMENT! Do you comprende seignor? Appease NORK, but in a gradual fashion, playing for time, stringing the DUMB bastards along, because it makes no difference for the next year, and then, IF it is necessary, play hardball with them. Their economy is non existent, they are going nowhere. What is there to fear?
Comparisons between Korea and Israel are stretching it a bit, and you rambled. However, I learned one or two things from your extended essay. r
Thank you for your service Brassawe. Acheson was asked something like "What are the core East Asian Security commitments of America in Asia, and he was trying to avoid Taiwan really, since the civil war had just ended, and the war plan was all about Japan.He didn't really mean to say we wouldn't defend Korea in that contingency of a North only invasion.
I don't think it stretches things at all, because the structure of the engagements is actually very similar Old Lefty, and remember that if you want to strike at American power indirectly, Israel is a good target, and, see the Syrian reactor and the Yinhe affair with China-Iran to see that point. Plus, the dynamics are heavily influenced by the fact that Israel chose not to accept extended American deterrence for that part of its security, which makes things different in the Middle East.
AC, you assume the North will never move first. They have made an ultimatum style demand the President Lee step down. That could be a bluff, but they have killed South Korean leadership targets before, as in Rangoon and in the attack on the Blue House, and if they do that, and you don't respond, you could see more North Korean brinksmanship. China sent 800 jeeps to the North; not for food, but armored warfare, to pressure us, in return for how we pressure them, although that is dangerous, because the North can make moves on its own. That's why they have proliferated nuclear designs, material, and reactors, plus missiles, and that test could be interpreted differently if you observed certain things.
There was zero rambling either, as that's a complicated subject, that's all. In the end, one of the reasons the North won't go South is because of Ohio class submarines, if people like to play around with the idea that maybe we wouldn't really do that. Of course, if people thought we definitely wouldn't us the Ohio class, then we'd better speak Russian and Chinese, if we don't want to start that per se.
It's 28,500 soldiers. Taiwan and South Korea are linked, because if China wants to take Taiwan, they want us busy in Korea.
I'm impressed--a Korean intro!
That's Chinese in Pinyin. I know some Korean, if I would need to know a lot more to be real useful in that language.