Let’s engage in a thought experiment. Let’s assume that President Trump today ordered all U.S. troops in South Korea to immediately withdraw and come home, a position that I hold is the best and possibly only solution to the Korean crisis. After all, let’s not forget that the reason North Korea wants a nuclear capability is to deter or defend against one of the U.S. government’s storied regime-change operations (e.g., Iran, Guatemala, Cuba, Chile, Panama, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Libya, etc.). Virtually no one suggests that the reason North Korea wants a long-range nuclear capability is to enable it to start a war with the United States. It wants a nuclear capability for defensive, not offensive, purposes. Once U.S. troops are brought home, the incentive for North Korea to acquire a nuclear capability that would strike the United States plummets.
There are those who say that without the presence of tens of thousands of U.S. troops in South Korea, North Korea would initiate hostilities against South Korea in an attempt to reunite the country under communist rule. That could be true but it’s highly unlikely, given that North Korean officials know that South Korea is fully capable of defending itself, is economically vibrant, and most likely would win such a war. The probability is that without U.S. troops in Korea, the North Korea regime would just want to be left alone, content to focus on maintaining its dictatorial control over its own citizenry.
But let’s assume the worst. Let’s assume that U.S. troops come home and then North Korea attacks South Korea. At that point, let us say, South Korea asks the United States to return to Korea to help South Korea win the war. Let’s also assume that Congress refuses to declare war on North Korea and that President Trump decides not to send U.S. troops back into Korea to assist the South.
At that point, let us say, South Korea calls on every American from 18-70 years old to come to its assistance. South Korean officials announce that immediately upon arrival in South Korea, such American volunteers would become soldiers in the South Korean military and subject to being immediately sent anywhere in the conflict, including the front lines.
Given that scenario, how many Americans would volunteer to go?
Answer: Zero. Not one single American would go to South Korea, join the South Korean military, and be willing to give his life in the defense of South Korea.
That includes every single proponent of U.S. interventionism in Korea. You know who I’m talking about — the interventionist editorial and op-ed writers in the mainstream press, the interventionist talking heads on radio and television, and the deep thinkers in the interventionist think tanks, all of whom never cease telling us how “we” must remain in South Korea. Not one single one of them would be willing to go to South Korea and give his life in the defense against communist aggression from the North.
That also includes every single U.S. soldier, including all those generals and colonels in the Pentagon. If the U.S. government exited South Korea, none of them would be willing to resign from the U.S. military and go join up with the South Korean military to save the country from communism.
Oh, that’s not to say that interventionists, U.S. soldiers, and, for that matter, the rest of the American people wouldn’t sympathize with the South Koreans. Of course they would. They would lament the massive loss of life and the destruction of much of the country. But not one of them would be willing to give up his own life, occupation, and family life to help the South Koreans.
That’s because they place a higher value on their own situation than they do on helping the South Koreans. When interventionists say that “we” must remain in South Korea, what they mean by the pronoun “we” is U.S. troops, whose lives they place a lower value on compared to their own lives.
Mind you, I’m not being critical. I’m simply being observatory. In fact, as much as I would lament the massive death and destruction that would come with a resumption of the Korean civil war, like every other American the last thing I would be willing to do is go over there and give my life in a conflict that is none of my business.
Let us remind ourselves of the founding foreign policy of the United States, as enunciated in John Quincy Adams’ famous speech “In Search of Monsters to Destroy,” which he delivered to Congress on the Fourth of July, 1821. Adams said that Americans realize that there are lots of monsters in the world, including civil wars, revolutions, famines, wars between nations, and brutal tyrannies. While American certainly sympathize with people suffering such horrors, Adams poined out that the policy of the United States was that the U.S. government would never send troops abroad to save people in foreign lands by violently slaying their monsters with U.S. military force.
If not one single American would be willing to give his own life in the defense of South Korea, then why are there U.S. troops there today?