Is It Time To Leave The Korean Peninsula?



In the light (or radiation) of North Korea’s recent nuclear test, Doug Bandow, Senior Fellow at Cato, thinks the time has come for the US to disengage from the Koreas.

Ultimately, though, it should be evident that Kim & Co. really aren’t Washington’s problem. The North directs much of its ire at the United States, but America is a target only because Washington is intimately involved in the Korean Peninsula.  Absent an alliance with South Korea and U.S. forces on station, North Korea would care as much about America as about Europe.

Washington should step back from the Korean imbroglio. The U.S. commitment was forged during the Cold War and was necessary to prevent the Republic of Korea from being swallowed by a North backed by Mao’s China and Stalin’s Soviet Union. That world is long gone. Neither China nor Russia would back the North in war, and South Korea far outranges the North on most measures of national power. With twice the population and 40 times the GDP, the South could build a military of whatever size is necessary to deter Pyongyang. Maintaining 28,500 Americans on the peninsula makes no sense for the United States.

I have to say that I disagree with this assessment, although I do have my biases. My girlfriend is Korean, I have traveled there twice in two years, and while I can’t carry on a conversation I have more than a passing knowledge of the Korean language. It is my favorite place I have ever visited; the culture, energy, and national identity are all admirable. I cannot imagine South Korea could have become the nation it is without US military support, and the thought of us leaving them to the whims of their insane doppelgangers to the north does not sit well with me.

I’d like to hear your thoughts on this, since my capacity for objectivity is limited.

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3 Responses to Is It Time To Leave The Korean Peninsula?

  1. ronarruejo says:


    I really would’ve liked to just answer the subject question with that, but I’d like to concur with the previous comment. I think it is truly ridiculous when we spend so much on defense when we should be funding other more “job-creating” sectors like the investment in early education (which gives a return, by some estimates, of at least $7 for every $1). Additionally, we always think we’re invading the right countries (e.g. iraq) or overthrowing a regime (e.g. Iran) and it always comes back to bite us – Iraq costed so much in terms of money and life & Iran’s democratically elected leader was deposed for an even worse leader/dictator.

  2. Barneysday says:

    Our military budget is larger than the next 17 largest countries, combined. We can no longer afford to be the policemen, the military presence for the world. We need to reduce our presence or get out of Japan, Korea, South America and Europe. If you follow history, the downfall of Rome came at the hands of an extended military presence in the known world, to the point where their support ended up financially ruining the country.

    South Korea can more than stand on its own.

    • Those are all excellent points. I think its important for the Pentagon to ensure we’re deployed in a manner than reflects actual defense concerns instead of in a way that was set up to fight the Soviets in 1972.

      Particularly in the case of Europe, they need to take a much bigger role in their own defense.

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