August 21, 2004

Troop Redeployment Watch

Mark Kleiman writes:

Does anyone have a theory about how announcing a plan to reduce troop levels in South Korea, without getting any sort of promise in return from the North Koreans, is supposed to be a good idea? I'm not asking for anything definitive, just a hint about how this could possibly come out on the plus side.

OK, here's a hint or two...

How about this (subscription required)?

For any of you who haven't paid your dues over at the Economist...here's the money graf:

Yet the bulk of the drawdown on the [Korean] peninsula will come from cutting support services that can just as easily be provided from elsewhere. The decision already taken to move American bases away from Seoul and the front line with North Korea, it is argued, will actually strengthen America's ability to help defend South Korea. So will the extra $11 billion already earmarked for military improvements there. Putting more heavy bombers on Guam, and possibly moving an aircraft-carrier battlegroup from the Atlantic to the Pacific, will enable America to respond swiftly and forcefully to any attack. All the same, the South Korean government has asked for a two-year delay in the withdrawal.

Kerry and bloggers can posture about the troop reduction in Korea to their heart's content. But Kim Jong Il well realizes that we aren't leaving with our tail between our legs so as to facilitate him rolling nukes off the assembly line.

Folks, the Cold War is over and keeping America's overseas forces clustered chiefly in Germany, Japan and South Korea is largely a legacy of the post-WWII settlement, the Cold War, and the Korean War.

History has chugged along, 9/11 happened, and having troops deployed nearer key trouble spots in places like the southeastern Balkans, Central Asia, and the Gulf are smart moves that need to be implemented.

Nor is NATO about to be torn asunder or said redeployments being undertaken solely in shortsighted vindictive fashion to punish Gerard and his ilk. The sprawling U.S. base at Ramstein isn't going anywere--there will still be tens of thousands of G.I.s milling about Germany.

But, of course, it's an election year. Hyperbole and posturing will often rule the day. How else to explain Kerry's take on the proposed troop reduction from S. Korea?

"Why are we unilaterally withdrawing 12,000 troops from the Korean Peninsula at the very time we are negotiating with North Korea a country that really has nuclear weapons? This is clearly the wrong signal to send at the wrong time," Mr. Kerry said.

Kerry seems to have concocted a new hybrid in his criticism of Bush--accusing him of being both guilty of appeasement (Kim Jong Il will be emboldened when we pull out the 12,500 odd troops) and unilateralism (no consultation with Seoul)! Not content to solely portray the cretinous Crawfordian as a unilateralist warmongerer--he's a unilateral appeaser to boot!

Except, as the Economist article quote above well explains, the restructurings of our force posture on the Korean peninsula can't be fairly construed as some form of appeasement. And except that we are coordinating the moves with the South Koreans--ie., they aren't unilateral.

So folks--keep your B.S. detector on full alert on this whole troop redeployment meme. Jim Hoagland helps on this score too:

Despite the Kerry campaign charges that the reductions will disrupt alliance management, the specific reductions come largely at the prompting of NATO members and the South Korean government, all eager to regain valuable real estate and freedom from environmentally destructive military maneuvers. The changes have been under discussion for nearly two years.

"This is one time we cannot say we have not been consulted," a German official told me last spring.

If Gerard's guys are happy--surely all is well, no?

Posted by Gregory at August 21, 2004 11:50 PM
Comments


Without a promise from North Korea??? It is diffcult to imagine anything more useless.

Posted by: Abdul Abulbul Amir at August 22, 2004 10:39 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

President Bush has no first-hand experience of combat. Members of his foreign policy team also lack such experience.

Mr. Kerry, on the other hand, served very bravely in combat situations, and is for this reason a more admirable human being than Mr. Bush.

However, wouldn't you rather have a White House run by a bunch of cowardly, hypocritical "chicken hawks", than a White House run by virtuous men who served in combat with distinction, and who, as a direct result of their horrifying experiences, are excessively averse to using violence when violence is appropriate?

For example, in the 1980's, Mr. Bush was a drunk, and a useless human being. But Mr. Kerry was calling for a nuclear freeze and for cuts in U.S. military spending -- and those pacifistic positions bother me much more than Mr. Bush's DWI violations.

When Mr. Kerry read from Johnny Get Your Gun on the Senate floor during the debate before the first Gulf War, Mr. Kerry knew exactly what he was talking about. Unlike many Senators, Mr. Kerry had first-hand experience of the terrible suffering described in that book. But was that speech the right message for Saddam Hussein?

Do you really want the better human being to win this election? Should the U.S. Presidency really be reserved for virtuous human beings?

I remember that in 1996 I thought that Bob Dole, who is a WWII combat, was a better human being than Bill Clinton. Yet I preferred Mr. Clinton's policies, so I voted for Bill Clinton -- and to this day, I believe I voted correctly.

Posted by: Arjun at August 23, 2004 04:24 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Arguably, one of the best guarantees of security, especially against a state like North Korea, would be the explicit statement that any North Korean incursion would be met with nuclear first-use, and that said use would not necessarily be limited to front-line forces.

Given Mr. Kerry's avowed dislike for nuclear weapons and weapons systems, one wonders whether he would be prepared to extend the US deterrent to such an extent? And would it have any credibility?

Posted by: Dean at August 23, 2004 07:06 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

There are three concerns with regards to North Korea's nuclear weapons. The first is that they will use it as a shield for an invasion of the South. But this is likely a losing proposition for them because South Korea's conventional forces are better armed and probably considerably more healthy and will be able to repel any assualt. North Korea probably doesn't even have enough fuel for an invasion. South Korea, backed up with American artillery and air support, will sucessfully defeat a North Korean invasion. And the US nuclear shield will guarantee against a scortched earth/nuclear blackmail attack on South Korea. A small number of American ground troops, when compared to South and North Korean troops, located in a highly vulnerable position are not going to successfully repel an invasion.

The second concern is that they will proliferate nuclear weapons technology. Having ground troops in North Korea does nothing for this issue. North Korea knows a ground invasion by American ground forces is not politically viable for the US due to high casualties. They know that having the ground troops on the DMZ actually makes the US more cautious.

The final concern is nuclear blackmail for financial aid against the US, Japan, So Korea or China. Ground troops in Korea does nothing for this issue either.

As for why Kerry shouldn't be president, Kerry is very much his father's son in worldview. Kerry is a State Department brat, and I've grown increasingly sceptical about whether States employees are really looking after the best interests of America.

Posted by: ATM at August 23, 2004 08:03 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Folks, the Cold War is over and keeping America's overseas forces clustered chiefly in Germany, Japan and South Korea is largely a legacy of the post-WWII settlement, the Cold War, and the Korean War.

Agreed. This could just as easily have been done in 2000, or 2001, or 2002, or 2005.

Why now? Maybe we need the troops in iraq, and this is part of freeing them up. Or maybe it's a re-election ploy.

Or maybe it has nothing to do with either issue and this is simply when it happened to be ready. If nobody had thought of it early enough to be ready until now, it would be silly to wait until November to do it just so we wouldn't think it was politicking.

Myself, I think it got attention because of the problem of freeing up troops for iraq, and that's why we're doing it now instead of any time before -- nobody bothered to challenge the status quo over the last 12 years or so. And it's getting presented as a political thing now. But still if everything happened to be ready now it wouldn't have made sense to put it off just to keep it from being political.

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