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