Thursday, January 9, 2003

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THE MERITS OF THREATENING TO WITHDRAW FROM THE KOREAN PENINSULA: Josh Marshall grudgingly admits the logic of conservatives threatening a pullout of U.S. troops from South Korea, but thinks that it's too clever by half:

"Are these tough-guy tactics? Sort of. Is there are certain logic to it? Yes. But you can get so caught up in the details that you lose track of the larger ridiculousness of the whole discussion: the Koreans south of the DMZ are OUR ALLIES! We're actually in a serious crisis with the North Koreans and the hawks are too busy trying to go mano a mano with the folks who are supposed to be our friends."

Two points in response:

1) Aren't we being good allies if we oblige the wishes of South Koreans? If there are South Korean protests against U.S. forces being there, then it's only polite to consider the question. My guess is that a majority of South Koreans still want a U.S. presence, but aren't being vocal about it. Certainly having a public debate about the issue might lead to greater pro-U.S. mobilization. It might also publicize one source of irritation in the relationship, which is the interpersonal frictions between American G.I.'s and their Korean neighbors (click here for an academic treatment of this problem].

It's also worth pointing out that withdrawals have happened elsewhere without the alliance fraying. The U.S. pulled out of Subic Bay and Clark Air Force base in the Philippines, and it would be safe to say we maintain warm bilateral relations with Manila.

2) We're trying to make a point to China and Russia as well. And that point is, quit buckpassing. As I said before, China and Russia can exercise greater influence over North Korea than the U.S. Why haven't they? Because they're buckpassing, which is a technical term for freeloading. Why should they invest resources in defusing a situation when they're convinced that the hegemon will pony up? This is also why China likes the U.S. keeping its troops in South Korea. Those troops act as a big security blanket for Seoul and Tokyo, and the last thing China wants is for either of those countries to be untethered from the U.S. security embrace. Beijing gets hives at the prospect of either a nuclear Japan or a reunified and nuclear Korea on its doorstep. It prefers the status quo, which depends on the U.S. staying involved in the region. Any threat of withdrawal would have the salutory effect of forcing Moscow and Beijing to act responsibly.

posted by Dan on 01.09.03 at 02:07 PM