Friday, December 06, 2002

Dangerous, but Worth It-Via Airstip One, this Buchanan essay on North Korea, titled "A Dangerous Form of Altruism." Pat's general thesis on US foreign policy was: Manifest Destiny of the 1800s-Good; Wilsonian policy to help others without any direct benefit-Bad. He asks questions worth answering, even if it isn't in the way he'd want me to answer them. We have both selfish (protect trade lanes) and altruistic (expanding God's kingdom and expanding the Anglosphere) motives for foreign policy. Let's take a look at what he's proposing for East Asia and whether we should allow Korea and Japan to stew in their own natural juices.
Pyongyang has been caught producing enriched uranium. And as we seek to isolate North Korea, with her 11,000 artillery tubes a few miles from 37,000 U.S. troops, who stands by us? South Korea and Japan prefer appeasement. China refuses to condemn her ally. Whatever one may think of the ingratitude of South Korea and Japan, whom we have defended for half a century, they are acting in their national interests. Isolating North Korea until she shuts down all nuclear plants is, to them, not worth the risk of provoking a war with the armed, dangerous, and unpredictable regime of Kim Jong Il.
Japan doesn't have the military to do much in North Korea and appeasement of the North is an issue in play in the South; to say that they both prefer appeasement is a bit of a stretch. They're also playing a free-rider game, for with the US nuclear umbrella backing them up, they can play the good cops to a modest extent.
But this raises a question: Why is a nuclear weapon on a North Korean missile a greater threat to us than to Seoul or Tokyo? Why are we confronting Pyongyang alone? Why are we risking war? It is not our homeland that is threatened here.
It isn't, but we have the firepower to stare Pyongyang down. North Korea could win a war against the South and could be a significant threat to Japan if there were no US security backup. If we were to have a East Asian War, we would see a good chunk of the world's electronic industry taken out, as well as many other key industries. Hundreds of thousands of Koreans would be heading to the US to flee a radioactive peninsula if a second Korean War broke out without the US. With our backup, the North knows it can't win a war. It can inflict sufficient damage to make a South/US joint takeover more bother than it's worth, but it can't win. Containment worked with Russia, it might just work in North Korea. Pyongyang is making small steps towards modernization, setting up a free-trade zone. Containment and isolation is forcing it to rethink their command economy just as Gorby had to loosen things up enough to lose power.
South Korea, with twice the population of the North and thirty times her GDP, can defend herself. Japan is even more capable. Why then are we committed in perpetuity to risk war to defend both of these nations when neither is obligated to defend us?
Because we can do so cheaply; being protector of East Asia is easier than having South Korea and Japan armed to the teeth and possibly using that power in way we wouldn't like.
How do our security treaties with Japan and Korea strengthen our security? Now that the Soviet threat no longer exists, are not these “entangling alliances” a dangerous form of altruism? Would it not serve U.S. interests to inform Tokyo and Seoul that we intend to dissolve the old security treaties, remove our troops from their territory, and let them deal with Pyongyang as they deem best?
No, for that would invite a regional war in which the world economy (something else Pat doesn't like much) would be harmed, as well as damage the good spiritual work that is going on in Korea-it's on the verge of become a majority-Christian nation. If Pat is more willing to help in Europe based on Christian affinity, South Korea is worthy of being helped as well. 20,000 troops (IIRC) on the Korean DMZ is a cheap price to pay to keep South Korea and Japan lightly armed and focused on economics rather than armies.
South Korea and Japan could appease North Korea or build-up their forces, conventional or even nuclear, to contain her. While that might complicate life for Beijing, let the Chinese deal with it.
We'd all have to deal with the fallout, Pat, both figurative and (if it goes nuclear) literal. Economic disruption, refugees (we'll take 'em Pat, remember they're mostly Christians?) and environmental messes. If we stay there, they're not going to mess with the US directly.
America should disengage from her Asian alliances and let the nuclear powers there—China, Russia, India, Pakistan, North Korea—and the potential nuclear powers—Japan, South Korea, Taiwan—establish their own balance of power. For there is nothing in all of Asia worth a nuclear war or another Vietnam. Or is there?
We're more likely to stop a nuclear war with our present that without. Let to their own devices, a regional nuclear war could develop, one that one side or the other might be able to win. With the US in the picture, the North Koreans are assured destruction (just AD, not MAD; their arsenal isn't big enough for it to be mutual) ; with the US gone, they aren't. True, such a nuclear war doesn't threaten the US, but down the line, a North Korea that is used to getting tribute from Japan and South Korea could have longer-range ICMBs and start asking for food aid so as to keep Los Angeles from glowing. Yes, Pat there is stuff in Asia that worth being there for.
By playing Wyatt Earp to the world, throwing down every third-rate gun-slinger, we are one day going to get shot by a rogue state. When we do, Wyatt will turn in his badge. Let’s do it now.
We're more likely to be shot by a rogue state if we hand in our badge and encourage them to fight it out amongst themselves. Even if we're not shot at directly, the gun-slingers will trash the world village so badly that we wish we hadn't handed in our badge. Pat would like to head out into the sunset, saying "Well, look's like my job here is done." However, unlike Black Bart, the North Korea bullets can reach over the horizon, so our job's not quite done.

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