The Free State
"Man, in a word, has no nature. What he has is - history."

Sunday, September 12, 2004

North Korea and the United States : A non-issue

Why does this topic come up time and again in debates as if it were a major issue and important to American interests? North Korea, that relic of the Cold War, that Far Eastern Albania, backward, poor, unable to feed itself and squandering a quarter of its GDP on its military.

Kimmy wants nukes and might get them, that's a problem. But not for the US. The closest US state is thousands of miles away, so this not a threat like Cuba was a threat. And even if the Japanese or Chinese markets are important, American intervention is unnecessary for reasons I will state later.

Now, you might argue the US has a moral obligation to protect its partners and allies in the region. The US cannot stand idle and let a Bomb hang over Seoul. That's Cold War thought. Back in the 50s the US was the lone power of the free world in East Asia, propping up the corrupt regime of Syngman Rhee. And this, in the face of China, a relatively industrialised North Korea and the threat of the Soviet Union.

But this isn't the 50s. Japan is the #3 power, South Korea is a rich industrialised democracy and China is rising up as the new force majeure. The nations in the region which must deal with impoverished North Korea are perfectly able to do so on their own.


Money means a lot in the army, reflecting the amount training, guns, missiles and any other military equipment. This graph shows that North Korea simply cannot compete with its neighbors militarily, the 3 of them spend 22 times more on their militaries, there is no contest. The trio of S.Korea, Japan and China would have Air and Naval superiority and N.Korea's forces would have to face a 2 front war. The starving N.Koreans would greet their southern brothers with a mix joy, envy and a hint of resentment, just as the East Germans did towards the West Germans upon reunification. But there would be no active opposition or sense of an occupation.

Simply put, the powers in the region are capable of defeating North Korea, that regime detested abroud and at home would be squeezed between Korean and Chinese forces. America need not waste time here, its allies are capable of dealing with the problem, and have vital motivations to do so. America need only provide aid, and minor support, perhaps even participation in any eventual war, but not leadership. Americans must begin to realize that the US is no longer the only actor of the increasingly hard to define, free world. Half a century of Cold War pre-eminence and superpower status has clouded the minds of men today. That must change if America is to find a place for herself in today's world.


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