America's Entangling East Asian Alliances

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Dr. Ron Paul
has called for American troops to be brought home not only from
Iraq, but also from Germany, Japan, and South Korea, where in all
countries they have been stationed for sixty years and counting.
The case for pulling our forces from Germany is so obvious that
it need not be discussed. But what about Japan and South Korea?
The author has resided in South Korea for ten years, and will demonstrate
why Dr. Paul is correct.

“What about
North Korea?” is the first rejoinder on the lips of those who maintain
that our continued presence is vital for Northeast Asian stability.
No one who reads past headlines believes that North Korea is poised
for world domination, and even if it were, it would have to seek
the approval of its “big brother” in China, who has the most to
lose from instability in the region. It is true that North Korea,
still bitter about the colonization that took place between 1910
and 1945, has occasionally launched a test missile in the direction
of Japan, with South Koreans, also bitter, silently cheering on.
However, there is no reason to believe that Japan, the world’s second
largest economy, could not quickly muster the capability to defend
itself, if its “self-defense” forces do not have that capability
already. What, then, about South Korea?

The North launched
an invasion of the South on June 25, 1950, but it would not do so
today. Kim Jong-il may well be evil, but he’s not a fool. The South
Korean government has been his country’s best ally during the past
ten years. Under the so-called “Sunshine Policy” of South Korean
Presidents Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun, the North Korean regime
has been propped up by aid and outright contributions from the South.
This aid feeds the military and keeps the economy from coming to
a standstill, preserving, for the time being, the Dear Leader from
a coup d’tat or from meeting the fate of Nicolae Ceauşescu.
Kim Jong-il is wise enough to know not to bite the hand that feeds
him and keeps him in power.

It could be
argued that Kim Jong-il might launch an invasion of the South in
order to cement his place in power, after which ruling over a reunified
Korea with all the South’s resources in his control. But he is no
moron, and realizes that there is no Soviet Bloc to support him
or even trade with him after such an invasion. An invasion would
simply make him the leader of a larger, war-devastated, and even
more isolated pariah state. Kim Jong-il has witnessed first-hand
the market successes of China and his children have been educated
abroad, in Switzerland. While he has a genius for brinkmanship,
he realizes that further isolation will only weaken his hold on
power, which is why he has been scurrying to further economic cooperation
with the South. And even if this North-South cooperation were but
a ruse, South Korea has the means to protect itself; its high-tech
juggernaut economy is the world’s twelfth largest and is forty times
larger than that of the North.

This fact is
not lost on the slight majority of South Koreans who support a continued
American presence. They realize that if they were to have to bear
full responsibility for the defense of their country, public funds
available for mercantilist subsidies of South Korean conglomerates
would dry up. In South Korea, government and business are in cahoots
to an extent that causes shock to any Anglo-Saxon observer. Eminent
domain on behalf of big business is a fact of life. Even brainy
conscripts under South Korea’s mandatory military service are often
sent to serve companies in the private sector. By subsidizing South
Korea’s defense and thereby freeing up South Korean public funds
for domestic corporate welfare of the type even Washington would
balk at, America is selling her own companies and their workers
down the river.

The Chinese
bogeyman is the last argument for maintaining an American presence
in Asia. Surely we should at least maintain the U.S.S. Japan as
a last line of defense against the threat of the looming Chinese
Century!

However, this
line of thinking ignores the fact that the Middle Kingdom is contained
as is perhaps no other major country on the planet. Moving counter-clockwise
from the north, we have Russia, the ‘stans of Central and South
Asia, India, several very large ASEAN countries, and finally the
Koreas and Japan. Among these countries are many of the world’s
most powerful countries in terms of diplomatic, economic, and military
strength, not to mention population. And if this geographic containment
were not enough, China’s demographic containment will not allow
it to become a world power any time soon.

One unintended
result of Beijing’s one-child policy is that China is one of the
world’s fastest aging societies. As a result of its rising standard
of living, the elderly, who will soon be the majority, will demand
an unprecedented amount of resources, which the Confucian Chinese
would deem unthinkable to deny their elders. This demographic time
bomb is only exacerbated by the prevalence of sex-selective abortion
resulting in an alarming surplus population of males. It is very
conceivable that fifty million young men with no possibility of
marriage or family could find a substitute in military glory, even
given the traditional Confucian disrespect toward things military.
This could conceivably pose a risk for international instability.
But it is inconceivable that China would target America for a land
and resource grab.

Finally, our
presence in Asia only serves to create a negative image of our country,
which for many Koreans and Japanese begins with the red-light districts
near US military bases. The culturally nearly-identical British
bemoaned the fact that the Americans were “overpaid, oversexed,
and over here.” What of the racially homogeneous, historically xenophobic,
and traditionally modest Japanese and Koreans? It is immaterial
whether or not it was American GI’s who brought modern prostitution
to Korea; most Koreans accept this as an article of faith and it
reflects poorly on our country. So do the violent crimes that inevitably
occur when tens of thousands of men are far from home in an alien
land.

We
are under no constitutional obligation to maintain these East Asian
alliances. In fact, doing so flies in the face of the Washingtonian
and Jeffersonian warnings against “foreign entanglements” and “entangling
alliances.” And we are under no moral obligation to bankrupt ourselves
retaining as protectorates two of the world’s richest countries,
Korea and Japan. It’s high time we heeded the wisdom of Dr. Ron
Paul and the founders by ending a military presence in East Asia
which ultimately only serves against our national interests.

October
17, 2007

An American
Catholic son-in-law of Korea, Joshua Snyder [send
him mail
] lives with his wife and two children in Pohang, where
he serves as an assistant visiting professor of English at a science
and technology university. He blogs at The
Western Confucian
.

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