Why Are We Still in Korea?

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This writer
was 11-years-old when the shocking news came on June 25, 1950, that
North Korean armies had crossed the DMZ.

days, Seoul had fallen. Routed U.S. and Republic of Korea troops
were retreating toward an enclave in the southeast corner of the
peninsula that came to be known as the Pusan perimeter.

In September
came Gen. MacArthur’s masterstroke: the Marine landing at Inchon
behind enemy lines, the cut-off and collapse of the North Korean
Army, recapture of Seoul and the march to the Yalu.

”Home by
Christmas!” we were all saying.

Then came
the mass intervention of a million “volunteers” of the People’s
Liberation Army that had, in October 1949, won the civil war against
our Nationalist Chinese allies. Suddenly, the U.S. Army and Marines
were in headlong retreat south. Seoul fell a second time.

There followed
a war of attrition, the firing of MacArthur, the repudiation of
Harry Truman and his “no-win war,” the election of Ike and, in June
1953, an armistice along the DMZ where the war began.

years after that armistice, a U.S. carrier task force is steaming
toward the Yellow Sea in a show of force after the North fired 80
shells into a South Korean village.

We will
stand by our Korean allies, says President Obama. And with our security
treaty and 28,000 U.S. troops in South Korea, many on the DMZ, we
can do no other. But why, 60 years after the first Korean War, should
Americans be the first to die in a second Korean War?

Unlike 1950,
South Korea is not an impoverished ex-colony of Japan. She is the
largest of all the “Asian tigers,” a nation with twice the population
and 40 times the economy of the North.

Seoul just
hosted the G-20. And there is no Maoist China or Stalinist Soviet
Union equipping Pyongyang’s armies. The planes, guns, tanks and
ships of the South are far superior in quality.

Why, then,
are we still in South Korea? Why is this quarrel our quarrel? Why
is this war, should it come, America’s war?

High among
the reasons we fought in Korea was Japan, then a nation rising from
the ashes after half its cities had been reduced to rubble. But,
for 50 years now, Japan has had the second largest economy and is
among the most advanced nations on earth.

Why cannot
Japan defend herself? Why does this remain our responsibility, 65
years after MacArthur took the surrender in Tokyo Bay?

The Soviet
Empire, against which we defended Japan, no longer exists, nor does
the Soviet Union. Russia holds the southern Kurils, taken as spoils
from World War II, but represents no threat. Indeed, Tokyo is helping
develop Russia’s resources in Siberia.

Why, when
the Cold War has been over for 20 years, do all these Cold War alliances
still exist?

Obama has
just returned from a Lisbon summit of NATO, an alliance formed in
1949 to defend Western Europe from Soviet tank armies on the other
side of the Iron Curtain that threatened to roll to the Channel.
Today, that Red Army no longer exists, the captive nations are free,
and Russia’s president was in Lisbon as an honored guest of NATO.

Yet we
still have tens of thousands of U.S. troops in the same bases they
were in when Gen. Eisenhower became supreme allied commander more
than 60 years ago.

Europe, our NATO allies are slashing defense to maintain social
safety nets. But Uncle Sam, he soldiers on.

We borrow
from Europe to defend Europe. We borrow from Japan and China to
defend Japan from China. We borrow from the Gulf Arabs to defend
the Gulf Arabs.

To broker
peace in Palestine, Obama began his presidency with a demand that
Israel halt all new construction of settlements in East Jerusalem
and the West Bank.

as his price for a one-time-only 90-day freeze on new construction
on the West Bank, but not East Jerusalem, “Bibi” Netanyahu is demanding
20 F-35 strike fighters, a U.S. commitment to a Security Council
veto of any Palestinian declaration of independence, and assurances
the U.S. will support a permanent Israeli presence on the Jordan
river. And the Israelis want it all in writing.

from a client state upon which we have lavished a hundred billion
dollars in military aid and defended diplomatically for decades.

How to
explain why America behaves as she does?

From 1941
to 1989, she played a great heroic role as defender of freedom,
sacrificing and serving mankind, a role of which we can be forever
proud. But having won that epochal struggle against the evil empire,
we found ourselves in a world for which we were unprepared. Now,
like an aging athlete, we keep trying to relive the glory days when
all the world looked with awe upon us.

We can’t
let go, because we don’t know what else to do. We live in yesterday
— and our rivals look to tomorrow.

26, 2010

J. Buchanan [send
him mail
] is co-founder and editor of The
American Conservative
. He is also the author of seven books,
including Where
the Right Went Wrong
, and A
Republic Not An Empire
. His latest book is Churchill,
Hitler, and the Unnecessary War
. See his

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