It’s Time To End America’s Longest War

In the latest round of saber-rattling between the US and North Korean governments, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson laid down the well-worn line. “All options,” he said during a visit to South Korea, “are on the table.”

If he’s serious, here’s an option that never seems to get much discussion lately:

US president Donald Trump should send Tillerson to tell Yun Byung-se, his counterpart in Seoul, that the US is withdrawing its troops from the Korean peninsula by a specific date, and that after that date the US will cease to guarantee, or accept responsibility for, the South’s security.

If the Korean War was a person, it would be old enough to collect Social Security benefits. It began on June 25, 1950 when the armed forces of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (“North Korea”) invaded the Republic of Korea (“South Korea”).

Coming up on 67 years later, it continues. The two Korean regimes still consider themselves at war, the US government still keeps nearly 30,000 US troops deployed along the ironically named “Demilitarized Zone” separating the two countries, and the situation remains as tense and sporadically violent as ever since 1953 when a temporary ceasefire was signed.

Today, South Korea is twice as populous and 35 times as wealthy (in terms of Gross Domestic Product) as the North, boasting the 11th largest economy in the world (North Korea ranks 113th).

In what universe does it make sense for American taxpayers to continue picking up a substantial portion of the check for South Korea’s defense from its smaller, poorer, less industrially advanced neighbor?

Once upon a time, at least briefly, this was a Republican talking point. In 2004, president George W. Bush announced his intent to withdraw thousands of US troops from South Korea over several years.

He did so in a campaign speech in New Mexico — a state he lost in 2000 by fewer votes than Libertarian Harry Browne received, during a visit intended to prevent a similar performance by 2004 Libertarian candidate Michael Badnarik. For an ever so brief moment, Bush faked a peacenik end run around both Badnarik and Democratic candidate John Kerry on the subject of North and South Korea.

Of course, it was back to business as usual, and to North Korea as all-purpose bogeyman, once Bush managed to get reelected that November. But at least he was willing to broach the subject. Trump and Tillerson should do likewise — and then follow through.

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism. He lives and works in north central Florida. This article is reprinted with permission from William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism.

24 thoughts on “It’s Time To End America’s Longest War”

  1. Well done Thomas, for the first half at least and I’ll reserve judgment on the rest of the libertarian promotion for now.

    But when you point out the prosperity of S.Korea and made a comparison to N.Korea, it’s only fair to mention how US/Nato meddling has caused that end result.

    It’s no different than the way US meddling prevented Cub’a rise to prosperity to some degree, even though they excelled in blowing past the rest of the banana republics while suffering those cruel sanctions.

    I know that you know what has happened to N.Korea but don’t just take it that Americans know too. Their arrogance will lead them into believing that capitalism triumphed, while that isn’t an adequate explanation of what really happened

    And besides Thomas, it would be a compromise of your libertarian leanings to promote unhindered capitalism to that degree, when it’s too obvious that you’ve made it clear time and again that capitalism can’t work.

    I agree too, that capitalism of the sort you know of can’t work. I just know of a different sort of capitalism.

    But you asked: “In what universe does it make sense for American taxpayers to continue picking up a substantial portion of the check for South Korea’s defense from its smaller, poorer, less industrially advanced neighbor?”

    Well yes, the question can be asked in the sense of a rhetorical question. But of course you know the reason why it makes sense to your country! It just always seems to me that type of rhetorical question should also be answered.

    Anyway, I hope that’s a thorough addressing of this piece. You’re a breathe of fresh air with potential!

    1. “But when you point out the prosperity of S.Korea and made a comparison to N.Korea, it’s only fair to mention how US/Nato meddling has caused that end result.”

      ” US meddling prevented Cub’a rise to prosperity to some degree,”

      You are sorely ignorant of economic reality.

      Cuba and N. Korea are dirt poor because they are communist: they refused to allow their citizens to own property of their choice or to trade without permission from their political masters. It has nothing to do with foreigners. Its self inflicted. Its a result of the disease of economic intervention.

      The reason the poor in the developed countries live like kings compared to the poor in the socialist disasters of Haiti, Venezuela, Cuba, Africa, etc is because of private property and unfettered trade, in other words, because of capitalism.

      Capitalism- private property, thrift, mostly free trade, over the centuries is why the developed world has so much wealth. And why much of Africa and Latin America are dirt poor because of economic interference with their citizens.

      Marxism, statism, or social democracy- whatever you want to call the criminal gang of thieves; they just squander the wealth of the people to the benefit of the the small parasitic, political class and their patrons.

      1. Oh really Joe, you can’t sell that hogwash to me, I’m a Canadian and I know what’s what on Cuba for a start. US sanctions prevented Cuba from becoming a huge success, but didn’t stop them from becoming the biggest success story of all the banana republics. I can tell ya joe, I’ve been there several times and universal health care puts a different light on poverty!! Not to even have to mention state paid for education until you don’t want it anymore.

        That’s just the truth Joe. You should go there and check it out. I have, and I’ve also checked out the real abject poverty in the US where people die on the streets for lack of health care they can afford. Not to say that Americans don’t have the resources that would make them wealthy, which of course they do. Just that they are stupid and keep depending on capitalism to make them rich.

        Now that Cuba is just about out from under the US axe, thier health care won’t be lagging behind the US’s health care by one place, according to the WHO. They will likely exlipse US health care. And especially if Trump fu–s up Obama care as much as he’s trying to right now!

        That’s commies for ya Joe!

          1. Cuba’s health care is good, there’s no doubt about that. The reason why it’s statistically close to the US is because the WHO rates US healthcare down quite a few points because of no universal access. If not for that then the US could be right up there with France, which is ranked the world’s best.

            I don’t promote communism as the answer. I promote socially responsible capitalism which I consider evolves out of communism. I”m not sure if US capitalism can evolve the other way into socially responsible capitalism.

            It seems that Trump mostly promised that happening and then it’s now become apparent that the evolving is toward more irresponsible capitalism.

            Maybe reversing that trend now is going to call for revolution because of the grip Trump’s style of capitalism is going to have on government.

        1. The “lower classes” didn’t fare very well under American Capitalist management from the ‘liberation’ from Spain on false premises like the Maine blowing up, to the Revolution.

          There was a much bigger explosion 50 years later in Texas City that was pure ignorance on the part of the shipping company. It bears note that the U.S. government didn’t declare war on that corporation and all its affiliates.

          It’s more like the U.S corporations took Spanish port privileges. The Cubans have medical schools supported by their nationalized Oil and other industries. Also the PEMEX and the Venezuelan Nationalized Oil industries.

          It might be overkill to mention this, but Puerto Rico, also “liberated” from those bad ol’ Spaniards, has such huge debts that Congress has actually threatened austerity measures. Not like the Puerto Rican paisanos got any more wealth by being annexed by the U.S.

      2. Joe,
        Despite 50 years of a US led economic boycott Cuba has the highest literacy rate in the Western hemisphere and a lower infant mortality rate than the United States. Compare Cuba’s literacy rate of 99.8 % with the DOE’s estimate that 32 million Americans (about 10% of our population) can’t read. Experts consider infant mortality one of the most important benchmarks to indicate economic development as well as delivery of medical care to all members of society, rich or poor. That is because infant mortality reflects many factors including nutrition, universal access to routine and high tech specialized medical care, education, housing and overall social well being. According to the CIA Worldbook Cuba’s infant mortality rate is 4.63 per 100,000 births compared to 5.87 for the USA.
        Like Cuba, North Korea has universal literacy although North Korea’s infant mortality rate remains high, over 23 per 100,000 live births.
        In China the Communist Party elite has done very well for themselves. But under their leadership GDP per capita has gone from $329 in 1991 to over $6,800 in 2013. During the same 23 year period the US GDP per capita rose from
        $24,000 to $53,000.
        So it is hard to sustain the case that socialism is a failure, especially in delivering food, housing, health care and job security to the poorest people in their societies.

    2. “But when you point out the prosperity of S.Korea and made a comparison to N.Korea, it’s only fair to mention how US/Nato meddling has caused that end result.”

      Glad you noticed the omission. My first draft had something about that in it, but I was writing a 400-word column and that was part of what had to come out to make the 400-word cut.

      1. This article has promoted some very interesting discussion! Sorry that it went south to Cuba rather than east to N.Korea. But in any case, both discussions are good for this site.

  2. The Trump administration (or any administration) doesn’t have enough sense and isn’t brave enough (if at all) to follow this advice. If they tried Congress and the establishment media would cry. They’d probably say that it would shake the faith of all the countries who receive their security (or imperial aid) from the US. Besides the war profiteering there is the narcissistic image that they hold the US accountable to. American narcissus fell in love with his reflection in the lake called American exceptionalism and he intends to drown in it.

  3. Excellent excellent idea, SK is militarily able to defend itself. North Korea has every right to be nervous about the USA, We are extremely credible when suggesting we might attack. So pulling our troops from SK would reduce the tension on the peninsula as attack would be more difficult. Also frankly if Kim thinks an attack is imminent his best strategy is to attack preemptively which would not be good, although understandable

  4. The US can’t just pull out troops it needs to sign a peace treaty with North Korea and China because they are the parties which signed the Armistice agreement! South Korea is truly occupied by the US! as American forces are in command of the south Korean troops so technically Trump is Commander in Chief over the South Korean military not whoever the South Korean president is. It has been this way for 67 years and the entire time North Korea has wanted to negotiate a peace treaty but US has refused negotiating since Eisenhower left office!

      1. Indeed. We nor China nor North Korea actually declared war and the fledgling UN was technically in control of the “war”. It’s one of those words which stand on their heads. Like the army motto: If you can’t blind them with brilliance then baffle them with bulls..t.”

        Technically the Korean conflict wasn’t war which never started and never ended. Some have to go all the way to Egypt to swim in de Nile. Sets an ugly precedence too.

        The U.S. government can and does put troops in a large number of countries without once declaring war, they could pull out just as easily.

  5. Thomas:
    I agree with your main point that the US should end the Korean War (and World War II) by withdrawing from Korea and Japan. But the threat to South Korea’s security from unification on terms forced by a militarized North Korea backed by China is real. A six power peace treaty ending the Korean war, withdrawing US forces from east Asia, pledging nonaggression, denuclearizing the Korean peninsula and guaranteeing that any unification of Korea will be on the basis of negotiations between the North and the South is necessary to prevent a catastrophe if unification is forced. China and North Korea would be willing to make such guarantees in exchange for complete US withdrawal from Korea and Japan.

    1. Skywalker:

      I have no problem with the idea of a peace treaty. That would be great.

      But yes, the US COULD just say “screw you guys, we’re going home” and be done with it that way, too.

  6. The US could pull out of all countries where it currently has armed forces.

    It would be a good use of this space on this article to hear an argument against that statement. Is there an exception?

    I can only think of one country that the US should be sending troops to as peacekeepers and that would be Israel. And that would only be under the auspices of the UN.

  7. Korea?.. I thought were talking about the Seminole indians in Fla..
    Can’t we just surrender and be done with it?

  8. Ending US involvement there would mean losing those bases close enough to threaten China. They’ll never do it.

    It would mean the strong possibility of a Korean Wiedervereinigung, sans US Military bases and occupation.

    That would lead to an economically and geopolitically powerful Korea that could exercise greater autonomy from the “Western” establishments.

    Nice thought tho

    1. With the defeat of the New New Deal health care, which would mean more money in the pockets of the Trump Regime, there’s two really cool effects. 1) whenever I die, which nobody ever knows when such events occur, at least it won’t be in a cardboard shack in a corner of an abandoned warehouse, or simply not getting any necessary treatments and
      2) it’s going to prevent that much money from falling into the pockets of the war machine. AKA Wall Street. At least not directly.
      Like the sales of equipment to Korea. And Japan. And the entirety of NATO. If there’s a plausible method to pay themselves without having to do any services or provide any goods… oh, yeah. Me forgot. That’s the way it worked out anyway.

      That crap about the Marketplace where somebody like, say, ME, or my mother, a lot of people I know, even more who I’ll never meet, sure, if we had an extra 300 a month to blow on an “insurance” plan that will pay exactly nothing because the health issues are “Pre-existing” and somebody who makes minimum wage isn’t about to pay out that much of his own meager pay either.

      So yeah, single payer. Nationalize the oil industry too, we’ve been subsidizing them since the 1880s and beyond because the owners of the coal mines are the same ones who own the oil wells… And I say “own” in the comedic sarcasm way. It’s time they get their collective arse off the Corporate Welfare gravy train, get a real job. Maybe they can go into the Military, they’re the only ones who make any money off the wars anyway.

      1. That wasn’t off topic. The money going to health care won’t be going to the wars, and the war budget is too far overstretched to start any new projects nor maintain already in progress projects.

  9. When Trump made the issue of rich allies needing to defend themselves — and made it a centerpiece of his approach to alliances — most of intellectualizing crowd looked down their noses at such “weird sh#t”, as Bush Junior put it. It was as if he never said it, or that he never meant it. I have seen very few expressions of support for the position — but I see plenty of those saying the same thing later. Pretending still itnever came from Trump. Having been left high and dry to fend for himself, as the intelectual crowds intelectualizes, and no courage to be found anywhere.
    Paying attention to Trump pay off. He will go along with those that lean on him, but will find ways to accomplish what he wants, creating a ripple effect all around.
    Let us see what actually happens from the position of pragmatic US disentanglement — and then talk. Who cares about the princeling in North Korea, and what kind of system they have. None of our business. What IS our business is global security. Meaning that there are many countries in the region eager to psrticipate in crafting solutions. But for as long neocons are hell bent on being the task master, telling everyone what to do and how to do it — there will be no benefits coming to US, only loses. And every screw up is being redefines as a roaring success. But unlike Bush and his flirting with a sane foreign policy — Trump’s approach to international relation is coherent, and not anecdotal. Yet,, looking at who is taking shots at him, tells me plenty. Of those that talk good game, but being offered exactly what they appear to advocateb– they run from it like a vampire from sunshine. Which simply tells a tale of two camps that KNOW EXACTLY what they are about — and the rest either virtue signaling or plain confused.

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