Monday, August 25, 2003

Let the Games Begin

The Marmot provides great coverage of the fist-a-cuffs event for the Universiade. This unscheduled event has proven to be a big spectator event for the games giving them much more coverage I think than they usually get. I don't always agree with the Marmot but in this case I absolutely do.

Also on the games Cathartidae covers the issue of biased judging. I don't dispute the history of bias and poor sportsmanship of the Koreans but as yet I'm not sure I'm willing to concede that it is going on at the Universiade. The medals they have scored so far are for Taekwondo and Korea often does well at Taekwondo - even when they are not the judges. I think the scheduling of putting all Taekwondo events first was a way of giving the South Koreans a chance to be ahead in the medal tally before getting trounced in almost every other sport.

Removing the troops is not feasible just now
As the multi-lateral nuke talks get closer, Doug Bandow of the Cato Institute is extolling the benefits of pulling US troops out of South Korea. Mr Bandow has been pushing this line for quiet some time now, his book Tripwire was written in 1996. And the arguement he puts forward is stunningly rational, in my opinion. The US has no obligation to maintain security on the peninsular, the South are more than capable of taking care of themselves, and finally, if they left things might actually be more secure than with them here.

But unfortunately, when it comes to arguing the withdrawal of the troops at this particular moment in history, he does not address key issues which are (I think) not to be discounted. Firstly, is political reality. He touches on inertia and the fact that nobody wants to pull them out because they have been there for so long but I think this view neglects the sense of it being no good to pull out now when they tensions are newly heightened. In particular, if US pulled out now and left the region to take care of itself, the North would hail it a great triumph and the other countries would be less than pleased. Perhaps if the troops had left when things were in a bit of a lull it would have been more feasible.

The second is the matter of the power vacum. Bandow notes that South Korea could well take care of itself militarily, and this true. But the real matter is to the extent self-reliant South Korean military would or would not spark a negative reaction from neighbours such as China and more especially, Japan. Bandow even notes in his piece that, "Seoul also has unveiled plans for an ocean-going navy, one more obviously directed at Japan and China than North Korea". The risk, however real, remote, or fantasy, that US absence would induce South Korea to ratchet up its strength against its Japan or China and trigger an arms race (an issue that gets more space in his book than this article) would be greatly against US interests.

Doug Bandow gives a persuasive argument for removing US military forces from the Korea peninsula but the political and military reality does not allow for it, making the article seem out of touch or less than totally relevant in the given circumstances. They should have left a long long time ago...perhaps they shouldn't have even come in the first place.

Currently reading:

"Hell" by Yasutaka Tsutsui