“When North Korea Falls,” by Robert Kaplan, Atlantic Monthly, October 2006, http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/prem/200610/kaplan-korea (see commentary on Coming Anarchy, DPRK Studies, Left Flank, and ruNK, full text at Marmot’s Hole).
When I led recitations for International Relations last year, I gave a brief lecture to my class
“You will care about your neighbors as long as you live by them
You will care about anyone else until they get bored.
Countries can’t move.
Countries will care about their neighbors forever.
Countries will care about other countries until they get bored.”
The concluding paragraphs are the most relevant
But South Korea also provides a lesson in what can be accomplished with patience and dogged persistence. The drive from the airport at Inchon to downtown Seoul goes through the heart of a former urban war zone. South Koreaâ€™s capital was taken and retaken four times in some of the most intense fighting of the Korean War. Korean men and women who lived through that time will always be grateful for what retired U.S. Army Colonel Robert Killebrew has called American â€œstick-to-itiveness,â€ without which we would have little hope of remaining a great power.
In the heart of Seoul lies Yongsan Garrison, a leafy, fortified Little America, guarded and surrounded by high walls. Inside these 630 acres, which closely resemble the Panama Canal Zone before the Americans gave it up, are 8,000 American military and diplomatic personnel in manicured suburban homes surrounded by neatly clipped hedges and backyard barbecue grills. I drove by a high school, baseball and football fields, a driving range, a hospital, a massive commissary, a bowling alley, and restaurants. U.S. Forces Korea and its attendant bureaucracies are located in redbrick buildings that the Americans inherited in 1945 from the Japanese occupiers. Korea is so substantial a military commitment for us that it merits its own, semiautonomous subcommand of PACOMâ€”just as Iraq, unofficially anyway, merits its own four-star subcommand of CENTCOM.
The United States hopes to complete a troop drawdown in South Korea in 2008. Having moved into Yongsan Garrison when Koreaâ€™s future seemed highly uncertain, American troops plan to give up this prime downtown real estate and relocate to Camp Humphreys, in Pyongtaek, thirty miles to the south. The number of ground troops will drop to 25,000, and will essentially comprise a skeleton of logistical support shops, which would be able to acquire muscles and tendons in the form of a large invasion force in the event of a war or a regime collapse that necessitated a military intervention.
Patience and dogged persistence are heroic attributes. But while military units can be expected to be heroic, one should not expect a home front to be forever so. And while in the fullness of time patience and dogged persistence can breed success, it is the kind of success that does not necessarily reward the victor but, rather, the player best able to take advantage of the new situation. It is far too early to tell who ultimately will benefit from a stable and prosperous Mesopotamia, if one should ever emerge. But in the case of Korea, it looks like it will be the Chinese.
We will not care about Korea forever. Pretending we will sets us up for a big mistake. Not only are Americans not imperialists (thank heaven!), we are far away.
North Korea’s neighbors will care about northern Korea forever. Beijing and Seoul will care about northern Korea forever.
So, should we build a future worth creating for northern Koreans by changing facts that will will build either a Chinese Korea or a Greater Korean Republic? How do we choose between a Zhongua Hanguo and a Daihan Minguk?
With news that North Korea has become a South Korean satellite, it looks like “Greater Korea” is already here. It’s in part a Stalinist dictatorship. It is going the wrong way.
America should support Chinese designs in North Korea, and the overthrow of the “Kim Family Regime” by a pro-Beijing government. It may be better than a Untied Nuclear Leftist Korea any day.