SoKo's Strange-but-Predictable Double Standard

From South Korea, B.R. Myers sends an interesting New York Times op-ed detailing the South Koreans' almost blase attitude about North Korea's apparent responsibility for the deadly March attack on an SK naval ship. This is the paragraph that stuck out for me:

This urge to give the North Koreans the benefit of the doubt is in marked contrast to the public fury that erupted after the killings of two South Korean schoolgirls by an American military vehicle in 2002; it was widely claimed that the Yankees murdered them callously. During the street protests against American beef imports in the wake of a mad cow disease scare in 2008, posters of a child-poisoning Uncle Sam were all the rage. It is illuminating to compare those two anti-American frenzies with the small and geriatric protests against Pyongyang that have taken place in Seoul in recent weeks.

Where Myers chalks this up to a mix of Korean nationalism and prudent restraint, I would suggest another fundamental factor at play: When you still have 28,500 U.S. troops in a country more than a half-century after their original reason for being there, the local population will tend to take less responsibility for its own safety, and tend to take external threats less seriously, while exaggerating the nefariousness of its foreign protector. South Korea is more than rich enough to provide for its own defense, at which time you might see an altogether different set of attitudes.

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  • Inkblots||

    Mr. Welch, are you suggesting that it might not be good policy for the US to borrow money at interest to pay for the defense of a people that doesn't want us in their nation in the first place? I can't even imagine how someone could think that.

  • ||

    South Korea is more than rich enough to provide for its own defense

    What difference does that make? American exceptionalism requires us to be there.

  • John McCain||

    This!

  • ||

    It is an interesting aspect of human nature that "benefits" from a wealthy patron often result in the utter contempt of the recipient for the so called benefactor.

    Of course, I imagine most South Koreans' would say that America reaps more benefit from this arrangement than South Korea. Whether we do or not, maybe 50 some years after the Korean war we should reassess our need to have American solders everywhere, as the Markist-leninist onslaught seems to have abated.

  • ||

    Do you not accept as fact that there are those who benefit from this spectacular misallocation of resources? Rent seeking defense contractors?

  • ||

    It is an interesting aspect of human nature that "benefits" from a wealthy patron often result in the utter contempt of the recipient for the so called benefactor.

    I think that comes from our innate desire for independence.

    as the Markist-leninist onslaught abroad seems to have abated.

    FTFY

  • DJF||

    One of the reason why South Korea is rich enough to pay for its own defense is that they are only paying 2.6% GDP on defense while the US is paying 4.1% GDP.

    They get to use the money saved to build up their industry while the US gets stuck with the bill.

  • ||

    Yup. Time to bring all our troops home from South Korea and Europe.

    I'm on the fence on Okinawa - not sure how much of a forward naval base it is. Giving up Subic Bay was, in my opinion, a mistake - this libertarian has no problem with a Navy that can protect our commerce everywhere on the globe, and you need forward naval bases to do that.

  • ||

    "Yup. Time to bring all our troops home from South Korea and Europe."

    Especially if North Korea is such a counter-weight to Taiwan. We'd have a lot more room to play with if China didn't have North Korea to hang over our heads.

    Pardon the language, but that's the first rule if you want to get out of a clusterfuck--let go of whatever you're hangin' onto.

  • ||

    R C, its bankrupting us. Quite apart from the anarcho angle, don't you agree that the maintenance of a global naval presence is contributing to our financial ruin?

  • Hugh Akston||

    ...and the rest of Asia, Turkey, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand, South America, etc.

  • ||

    The navy proper does not have much on Okinawa, just the jarheads. The main navy base is in Japan proper.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Forces_Japan

  • ||

    I've known a few South Koreans, and it seems to be a common impression there that the United States keeps Korea divided to suit its own interests...

    Regardless of whether that's true, like Welch said, why wouldn't that be a common assumption? Your country is divided against itself, and there's a superpower manning the dividing line...

    And our presence isn't even an artifact of the Cold War--it's an artifact of World War II.

    Also, the impression I got was that they'd just as soon attack the North were it not for the United States...

    In other words, it's isn't that they'd be inclined to peaceful coexistence with the North, and that people think the hostility between the North and South would disappear if the US went away--the impression they gave me was that if the US would just get out of the way, they could finish it and it would be done.

    Small sample, Koreans I've known, but they seemed to think what they were saying were fairly common opinions. Take it for what it's worth.

  • pmains||

    Invade the North? And what is their plan for when China pushes back and takes the entire peninsula again?

  • ||

    Well, perhaps the South Koreans know that the Chinese government would not want to risk having its population incinerated. Do not the South Koreans possess nukes?

  • ||

    They are not a declared nuclear power. But it may be like the wink-wink-nudge-nudge situation in Israel.

  • dfd||

    No, SK does not have nukes, not even wink-wink nukes. That's the whole point of the discussion above - they don't have to spend much money on their defense because we do it for them. I don't doubt that had the US left 50 years ago they'd have them by now, but there's been no need.

  • ||

    I wasn't saying what they should or shouldn't do--I was saying that was my impression of what these Koreans thought. ...and they didn't seem to think their opinions were unusual.

    Regardless, I think there's something to the notion that if the People of South Korea do something that provokes a Chinese invasion, then that's still a South Korean issue...

    They're not children, and we're not their parents.

  • pmains||

    I wonder if this isn't the Mohammed effect at play. If you insult the North Koreans, crazy midget Elvis threatens nuclear annihilation. If you insult the US, we're likely to whimper and self-flagellate.

  • Dello||

    "It is illuminating to compare those two anti-American frenzies with the small and geriatric protests against Pyongyang that have taken place in Seoul in recent weeks."

    Well, there is that whole we-aren't-likely-to-nuke-them angle...

  • ||

    What do we possible gain by being there? I mean We as a whole country, not we as in some of us may get defense contracts at the expense of our neighbors.

  • ||

    R C, its bankrupting us. Quite apart from the anarcho angle, don't you agree that the maintenance of a global naval presence is contributing to our financial ruin?

    No, I don't. What's bankrupting us is, first and foremost, the Entitlement State, followed closely by the Deficit State and the Regulatory State. Cut those down to size, and we can easily afford robust armed forces.

    I'm sure the Navy could be trimmed some, as could the Air Force, but its really the Army that's way too big right now, IMO. The Navy, at least, has a legitimate role in a minarchist state (and what is in many ways the modern analogue of the Navy, the Air Force).

    Plus, it takes generations to build a truly functional Navy and Air Force. An Army, not so much.

    The last bit of the military budget I would really take a meat axe to is the Navy.

  • ||

    We all have our lil bits of Big Gov't we want to keep, though, don't we?

    Personally, i'd cut everything except our mega-sized science projects. To think, America could alredy have years of data to analyze by now had we not cancelled the Superconducting Super Collider. And really, is there a better use of national dollars than to show-up Europe?

    "Lrn2Science CERN. Noobs. Luv America."

  • ||

    Yeah, let's shut down the one thing our government is good at in favor of the thing they suck most at. I'm with RC that the Navy and Air Force would be legit and last to go. Scientific research should be private dollars all the way and dereg that mother so companies can improve lives without being stifled by the behemoth.

  • ||

    Scientific research should be private dollars all the way

    Good point. If there was no gov't teet to feed from, the science would find the money to make the fun stuff happen.

    I'm not sure if the Navy is included in my "cut everything" portion. Who else is gonna make kick-ass railguns? Plus my buddy is in the Navy. How could he tell me about cool radar hardware without the Navy? His day at work is like a mm-wavelength-wet-dream for me.

  • cynical||

    Considered purely in terms of national defense, the Navy is the most important component. As it stands, we don't have much need to be concerned about our land borders militarily. As long as we can control the oceans around the US, we can stay fairly secure.

  • ||

    Controlling the airspace over those waters is good too. But yeah....boots on the ground? The only uses we have for those are pretty distant from "national defense".

  • ||

    oh, and include a couple higgs bosons in the envelope with that note.

  • Jersey Patriot||

    What's bankrupting us is, first and foremost, the Entitlement State, followed closely by the Deficit State and the Regulatory State. Cut those down to size, and we can easily afford robust armed forces.

    Money is fungible. What is spent on the massive military machine is just as deficit-creating as what is spent on paying for grandma's meds. And paying for grandma's meds is a lot less likely to kill brown people.

  • ||

    If Grandma (who may be brown) is taking FDA approved meds or can't take a med because the FDA is playing hookie while she suffers, well...

  • ||

    I think his point is that there's actually something of a limit to the demand for military spending. Where as demand for entitlements has no bounds whatsoever.

  • DJF||

    But the Navy has also has helped to get the US into wars. Spanish American, WW2, Vietnam. Other wars had much to do with the sea, War of 1812, WW1,

  • DRM||

    Um, South Korea is providing its own defense. The 655,000 active-duty Republic of Korea personnel dwarf the 28,500 Americans.

  • ||

    The 655,000 active-duty Republic of Korea personnel dwarf the 28,500 Americans.

    Unintentional Short-Joke FTW.

  • ||

    errr, reading comprehension fail.

  • DJF||

    Good so we can remove those 28,000 and send them back to the USA since all they are doing is acting as a tripwire to get the US involved in a war which will require many more then 28,000. Get rid of the trip wire and we can get rid of the entire supply set up (ships, planes, bases) to funnel more troops and materials to South Korea

  • ||

    Money is fungible. What is spent on the massive military machine is just as deficit-creating as what is spent on paying for grandma's meds.

    True, but trivially so, because it draws no distinction between legitimate and illegitimate
    activities of the State.

    To my mind, expenditures that are overreaching/illegitimate/unconstitutional all get charged to the deficit. Any deficit left over can be allocated amongst the legimitate state activities.

    And paying for grandma's meds is a lot less likely to kill brown people.

    Hand-waving. Let's start by figuring out what our government is really here for, shall we?

  • johnl||

    The headline led me to hope for an article on Stephanie Sokolinski.

  • ||

    I'm with RC that the Navy and Air Force would be legit and last to go.

    I like to amuse myself thinking about cutting everything but the submarines. We leave them out there, cruising unobserved, patiently waiting for somebody to piss us off.

    In fact, submarine-launched cruise missile strikes on Pyongyang would be an excellent excellent unveiling of our "Doomsday Machine" program.

  • ||

    In fact, submarine-launched cruise missile strikes on Pyongyang

    Why not? Can they prove it was us? I mean, who cares if they shell-the-shit out of Seoul in retaliation?

  • Tman||

    I have some friends who have served on the DMZ in Korea, and all of them to the have said the same thing- our military presence is for show and nothing more. We don't have a force capable of stopping any full sized act of aggression from the North. The North has dug hundreds of caves under the DMZ that are set up for invasion, and they have thousands of artillery cannons loaded and pointed within striking distance of 7 million people in Seoul.

    Whether they are there or not is irrelevant from a military standpoint. But symbolically they do show the North where we stand. I'm not sure they still need to be there, but as long as the South Korean government still wants us there, we'll be there.

  • DJF||

    I don’t care what the South Koreans want. They are a sovereign country and they are responsible for their own defense. South Korea has twice the population and twenty times the GDP of North Korea. Its time they took care of themselves.

  • ||

    If you hvae spent any time in SoKo, one thing you notice VERY quickly is how insular and inward-looking the population is. They didn't get the nickname 'the hermit kingdom' by accident. One reason for the double-standard (not the only one by any means) is that the Norks, no matter how crazy they may be, are KOREANS, and we are the NOT_KOREANS, hence the bad guys. This phenomenon is certainly present in the rest of the world, but it is stronger in Asia, and strongest in Korea, though the Japanese give them a run for their money. The level of casual racism (and I don't mean 'I disagree with Obama', I mean outright racism that would make Archie Bunker ashamed) you run into in Korea is absolutely astonishing, and the vitrol is targeted at pretty much anyone without epicantal folds.

    I too believe that we shouldn't be wasting our resources providing a tripwire for South Korea (and thats what they are...simply hostages to guarantee American involvement in the event of a war), but to pretend that this is the primary reason for the awful behavior of most of the people there towards Americans is delusional.

  • ||

    is that the Norks, no matter how crazy they may be, are KOREANS, and we are the NOT_KOREANS, hence the bad guys.

    Damn you, Boolean Logic, damn you to hell!

  • ||

    On a side note, am I the only one who wishes he could bust out a NOT operator on the realworld on a daily basis?

  • qwerty||

    The South Koreans are like the ungrateful niece that insults his uncle who is paying her college tuition. The Cold War is over. Let's pull out and let them fend for themselves.

    PS: Let's use 10% of the savings to field the world's best short track speed skating team, as a way of saying, "You're welcome."

  • ||

    My wife is Korean and I just moved back to the States from Korea. Her father fought in Viet Nam and her family is very pro America. Other I have met not so much.

    Almost every poster here is correct about what Koreans think because they do not have a uniformed opinion on the US it's a mixed bag.

  • ||

    My opinions are ALWAYS uniformed. With very fancy epaulets.

  • ||

    Some of my opinions are pretty uninformed too, but even I know you don't pick a fight with a Muay Thai guy.

  • ||

    South Korea is more than rich enough to provide for its own defense

    Good point, and agreed. The original US troop presence was needed when SK was a developing country, and when China and the USSR were still communist powers.

    Today, it doesn't make a lot of sense.

  • Eric||

    To take the other side for a moment. The way I understand it the Korean war never ended we signed a cease fire but not a peace accord.
    Of course they are more timid with north Korea. The worst America would do is leave. The worst North Korea could do involves a mushroom cloud. I admit that it is annoying but I would be more cautious with North Korea as well.

  • Pope Jimbo||

    Why the SoKo hate? Why not start with closing bases in Germany? After all it isn't like they are doing much anymore and Germany doesn't have a rouge state just across its border.

    I also think that the hatred of stationed troops is something that is universal. Anyone who has been stationed at a local base in the States can tell you that the locals hate the troops as much as the SoKo's hate our troops.

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