Thursday, October 12, 2006

previous entry | main | next entry | TrackBack (0)

Robert D. Kaplan's exaggeration of the day

Korea may be the most dismal place in the world for U.S. troops to be deployed—worse, in some ways, than Iraq.

Robert D. Kaplan, "When North Korea Falls," The Atlantic Monthly, June 2006.

UPDATE: Just to clear up any confusion, Kaplan is talking about being deployed in South Korea.

posted by Dan on 10.12.06 at 10:41 PM


I really respect your blog Daniel, but I can't quite figure out how you think US troops in North Korea is going to be any easier than Iraq, the terrain is infinitely worse, the NK army far more prepared, the tactics so much better understood & the global economic effect far worse if the South Korean economy is shredded.

posted by: Nigel on 10.12.06 at 10:41 PM [permalink]

Kaplan is talking about South Korea.

posted by: Daniel Nexon on 10.12.06 at 10:41 PM [permalink]

Something tells me that Kaplan could use a less-biased sample. Maybe he should go to Iraq (outside the green zone) and Afghanistan and see if our troops there would rather be in South Korea.

posted by: Michael Plouffe on 10.12.06 at 10:41 PM [permalink]

No way. There are no headlines or homecoming parades for being in South Korea, so I suppose that's worse than being in Iraq.

Other than that, the South Korean cities, women, beautiful countryside, and culture in general (not to mention lack of IEDs) make it a quite enjoyable place to be stationed.

Far better than Jacksonville, NC, anyway.

posted by: bp on 10.12.06 at 10:41 PM [permalink]

Kaplan would find bedlam and anarchy in a wheat field in Kansas. I'm surprised he hasn't yet advocated militarizing child care centers as a pre-emptive strategy in the war on [fill in the blanks].

posted by: Pierre Tristam on 10.12.06 at 10:41 PM [permalink]

Coming from a writer who has been to Djibouti, that is indeed a bizarre statement.

posted by: Randy Paul on 10.12.06 at 10:41 PM [permalink]

I have heard from US servicemen that South Korea is one of the more unpopular places to be stationed, and that European bases are usually preferred. However, compared to Iraq, I'm sure they'd prefer to party in Itaewon than worry about roadside bombs in Iraq.

posted by: Mingi on 10.12.06 at 10:41 PM [permalink]

Been to both places. Iraq is a war zone, so Kaplan is smoking crack (again).

ROK isn't a great duty place for soldiers -- not so bad, perhaps, for Air Force types -- because you spend a lot of time in the field on exercises, and the field can be pretty cold in Korea. Now the guys on the DMZ did have it fairly rough (the "Mad Monks of the DMZ") because they were on a heightened state of alert. But they didn't get mortared or rocketed at night, so Bob's your uncle.

Still, it's a short tour, so there's always light at the end of the tunnel, and once you've been you don't really have to go back (unlike Iraq). And some guys really love it -- a counter-intelligence buddy of mine would spend his entire career there if he could. If you're stationed in or around Seoul, it can be a bit of a drag because you're not free to leave base and go into the city all the time, especially during protest season.

Still, there really are some beautiful places in South Korea, especially the beaches on the northeast coast (of ROK) near the DMZ.

posted by: Hemlock for Gadflies on 10.12.06 at 10:41 PM [permalink]

Kaplan and Kristol desperately need to be deployed to Anbar Province wearing clown suits and handing out ballons.

For our own countries sake if nothing else.

posted by: Babar on 10.12.06 at 10:41 PM [permalink]

Kaplan's point was you have the same workload as a grunt serving in Iraq, but the chickenshit protocol as well, and without the respect... maybe it was an over-the-top choice of words - when I was in the service I would have preferred Korea to Thule, Greenland - but I don't think it was so outlandish it deserved special notice on this blog.

posted by: wayne on 10.12.06 at 10:41 PM [permalink]

Well, if Dan had not Dowdified the quote maybe some would have actually read the article. Since Dan couldn't bother himself to do you the favor I will:

This helps explain why Korea may be the most dismal place in the world for U.S. troops to be deployed—worse, in some ways, than Iraq.

What is "this"?

Given that North Korea’s army of 1.2 million soldiers has been increasingly deployed toward the South Korean border, the Korean peninsula looms as potentially the next American military nightmare. In 1980, 40 percent of North Korean combat forces were deployed south of Pyongyang near the DMZ; by 2003, more than 70 percent were. As the saying goes among American soldiers, “There is no peacetime in the ROK.” (ROK, pronounced “rock,” is militaryspeak for the Republic of Korea.) One has merely to observe the Patriot missile batteries, the reinforced concrete hangars, and the blast barriers at the U.S. Air Force bases at Osan and Kunsan, south of Seoul—which are as heavily fortified as any bases in Iraq—to be aware of this. A marine in Okinawa told me, “North Korea is not some third-rate, Middle Eastern conventional army. These brainwashed Asians—as he crudely put it—“will stand and fight.” American soldiers in Korea refer to the fighting on the peninsula between 1950 and 1953 as “the first Korean War.” The implicit assumption is that there will be a second.

But I'm guessing Dan was desparate for an exaggeration so no offense meant I'm sure.

posted by: dan's conscience on 10.12.06 at 10:41 PM [permalink]

Kaplan obviously didn't sample the country music singing Itaewon whores.

posted by: sammyjr on 10.12.06 at 10:41 PM [permalink]

Dan's conscience misses the point entirely. Kaplan just plain exaggerated for literary effect. I was a private soldier. Saluting and shining your boots just isn't that big a drain on the morale pool, though I know Kaplan would love to perpetuate that grizzled, no-chickenshit, Sgt. Rock / Nick Fury and his Howling Commandoes bullshit.

And you don't have the same workload in the ROK as you have in Eye-rack. Even the most onerous exercise is only a few weeks long -- Iraq is ten months of almost daily patrolling for those whose job requires it.

And, of course, apart from the occasional accident, you don't really have to worry about getting killed every day in the ROK.

Then again, there IS Itaewon....

posted by: Hemlock for Gadflies on 10.12.06 at 10:41 PM [permalink]

Post a Comment:


Email Address:



Remember your info?