Why Do American Taxpayers Subsidize South Korea's Defense?

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Milblogger “GI Korea” of ROK Drop does a yeoman’s job in exposing just one aspect of the folly of Empire — Korea Continues to Delay Cost Sharing Deal. He makes the startling observation that “South Korea pays far less per year in USFK upkeep fees then what they send to North Korea every year,” or, in other words, “the South Korean government pays more to the regime sworn to destroy the nation and less to the nation committed to defend it.”

(Of course, this should not seem strange to Americans, as back in 1999, “the DPRK st[ood] as the number one recipient of our nation’s assistance in East Asia,” according to this Press Release. In A Foreign Policy of Freedom, Congressman Ron Paul pointed out that the United States government often supports both sides in any given conflict.)

Whatever justification the alliance ever had is now gone, as Doug Bandow, Libertarian Party nominee Bob Barr‘s issues coordinator, recently pointed out in Strengthening the US-South Korea Alliance: For What? An excerpt:

[T]he circumstances in which the alliance was originally created have disappeared. The mutual defense treaty was a means to protect South Korea and allow it to become self-sufficient. American policy succeeded. Preserving the alliance today turns the means into an end, with the U.S. empire-builders attempting to generate new justifications for a security commitment which has fulfilled its ends.

(“She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all,” said John Quincy Adams of America. “She is the champion and vindicator only of her own.”)

“GI Korea” also reports that “the [current] money South Korea pays primarily goes to pay Korean workers.” That is, the money they do pay stays in the Korean economy, not that if it were to go directly into the Military Industrial Complex would much of it trickle down to the average American.

Of course, the money saved by Koreans by having their defense subsidized by the United States is used by a government that has practiced export-driven Corporatism since the 1960s. To make matters worse, as Chalmers Johnson points our on page 68 of The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic, “From the moment we turned Japan and South Korea into political satellites in the late 1940s, the United States has paid off client regimes, either directly or through rigged trade, to keep them docile and loyal” [emphasis mine]. This “rigged trade” is nothing but the “mercantilism in disguise” Jeffrey Tucker describes in Free Trade versus Free-trade Agreements. If the American worker need be sacrificed in order to maintain global Military Keynesianism, so be it say our leaders.

Ivan Eland put it best in Ungrateful Allies when he noted that “the formal empires of old were not cost-effective, according to classical economists,” and that the “informal U.S. Empire that defends other countries abroad using alliances, military bases, the permanent stationing of U.S. troops on foreign soil, and profligate military interventions is even more cost-ineffective.” Here’s more from Mr. Eland:

South Korea is not the only wealthy U.S. ally to reap the rewards of a U.S. security guarantee, while not fully opening its market to the United States. Japan and most of the European NATO allies also do the same. The foolish U.S. policy of continuing to subsidize the defense of these now rich countries — all economic competitors of the United States — allows them to reduce the drag that added defense expenditures would impose on their economies. Meanwhile, the U.S. economy has to bear the costs of defending the world.

Back to “GI Korea,” who concludes that " as long as the political will in Washington remains the way it is the USFK gravy train will continue to roll at the expense of the welfare of US soldiers forced to serve a year in Korea separated from their families while also living in sub-standard living conditions [emphasis mine]. Obviously few people in Seoul or Washington care about that." Bill Kauffman, for one, cares; in George Bush, the Anti-Family President, he observed that “the first casualty of the militarized U.S. state is the family.”

Leaving aside the illegality and immorality of the un-American Empire, everything above is indicative of its sheer idiocy, and points to why it should be scrapped as soon as possible, if it is not too late. We can start dismantling the Empire by leaving Korea. As Patrick J. Buchanan, in More Troops — or Less Empire, put it a few years back, “If the 60 million Koreans, North and South, were raptured up to heaven, how would America be imperiled?”

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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