Not Our War

Charles V. Peña
Our America Initiative Advisory Council Member of Defense and Foreign Policy

After North and South Korea exchanged artillery fire over the border, Kim Jong Un on said his country was in a “quasi-state of war” with South Korea and ordered his military to prepare for battle.  More than ever, the United States needs to remove its military presence from the Korean peninsula and let South Korea (as well as others in the region) defend itself and be a military counter-balance to North Korea.

I know I sound like a broken record, but ... U.S. national security is not at stake on the Korean peninsula.  That is, North Korea -- despite having nuclear weapons (an estimated 20 warheads) -- is not a direct threat to the U.S. homeland or American way of life.  Kim Jong Un may be unpredictable meglomaniac, but -- like his father before him -- can be deterred.  So even though North Korea has nukes, the vastly larger and superior U.S. nuclear arsenal is a powerful deterrent against any potential nuclear attack.  And, at least right now, North Korea does not have the long-range missile capability to reach the continental United States.  Even if their nukes could reach the U.S., the regime in Pyongyang would have to be suicidal to want to use them.  The nuclear imbalance is such that the United States could literally annihilate North Korea as a country but not vice-versa.  Kim Jong Un might be "crazy" but -- much like other so-called crazy leaders -- he has a strong sense of self-preservation (again, like his father before him).  Both Stalin and Mao were also considered crazy and both had nukes, yet they were deterred.

Moreover, South Korea can more than afford to pay for its own defense.  According to the World Bank, South Korea's gross domestic product (GDP) was $1.4 trillion (USD) in 2014, making it the 13th largest economy in the world.  By contrast, North Korea's GDP is estimated at $40 billion (USD) -- about on par with Syria, which is the 89th on the list.  In other words, South Korea's economy is some 35 times larger than the North's.  So there's no reason why the United States needs to subsidize South Korea's defense.

The last thing the United States needs is to get dragged into a war that has nothing to do with U.S. national security (we seem to do just fine initiating those on our own) to defend a country that can pay for its own defense.

 

 

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