Head over to War On the Rocks, where the editors generously took up my presumptuous self-invitation to respond to MAJ Christopher Lee’s argument that the U.S. should simply pull out of South Korea. (Lee, for some reason, thinks we can save a lot of money and maybe fix the Veteran’s Administration with it. That’s not how it works.)
Here’s an excerpt:
Perhaps we ought to think about the historical record before simply pulling out of Korea. Kim’s grandfather, Kim Il Sung approached Soviet leader Josef Stalin repeatedly after World War II to seek permission for an invasion of the South. Stalin, fearing a greater war, refused him, and later only relented when the eldest Kim pointed out that the Americans, by treaty, had finally quit the Peninsula in 1949 and returned home. This, for both Stalin and Kim, was an indication that an invasion would not provoke a U.S. response. This was a terrible miscalculation, and it was grounded in a U.S. troop withdrawal.
The North Koreans, particularly the old marshals of the Korean military for whom the Korean War is still a sacred memory, would no doubt love to see a replay of 1949, and would consider it a great victory. They would be able to gloat that they had achieved what even their big brothers in China had been unable to do for over 60 years: a Korea whose soil is completely untainted by American boots. Moreover, removing American troops from Korea will signal to the Chinese that we want no further U.S. presence in their region, and remove one more complication in any Chinese strategy of expansion or intimidation.
In sum, a pullout would raise North Korea’s stature, reduce China’s dwindling influence over its client, and leave Pyongyang – in its own eyes – a peer to Beijing, Seoul, and Tokyo. How is any of this a good idea?