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Chris Freind: It’s time to pull the troops out of South Korea |

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Times Columnist


So the North Koreans have declared a state of war against South Korea and, by extension, the United States. One Doc515b8970bd761495372278 question: Who cares?

Why are we so up in arms — literally — about this situation? And why should we be the least bit worried about some young punk’s bellicose rhetoric to attack the U.S., since more often than not, his missiles travel 6 feet before blowing up on the launchpad?

As a matter of fact, it’s a good thing North Korea’s boisterous 30-year-old leader, Kim Jong-un, has been making so much noise.

Maybe now, albeit decades late, America will do the common sense thing: Get the hell out of South Korea once and for all.

The Republic of South Korea is a strong, prosperous country with world-class industrial facilities and an educated work force.

It is eminently capable of defending itself. But it doesn’t have to since the United States foots that bill.

Why we continue funding such a boondoggle is anyone’s guess.

Yes, we fought a bitter war there, which ended in a stalemate in 1953. And yes, it made strategic sense to maintain a large military presence in South Korea during the raging Cold War.

But apparently no one in Congress or the Defense Department has yet realized the Cold War ended. Instead, they continue to act in archaic ways, married to outdated (and now completely one-sided) treaties. And it doesn’t take a genius to figure out who gets the short end of the stick. It’s Uncle Sam, who, despite an inability to pay his own bills, continues to fund military operations in and for other countries, with little or no return for American citizens.


1.) The American military is operating in at least 150 countries, with roughly 173,000 personnel stationed overseas. There are more than 70,000 troops in Europe (presumably in case the Warsaw Pact invades), and, at last count, 29,000 in Korea. Conveniently, the Defense Department won’t specify how many are actually there, so it is safe to assume the number is considerably greater.

It’s bad enough the majority of troops serve no military purpose, but they are spending their paychecks — American taxpayer money — in foreign countries. Could you imagine the economic boom here if even half those troops were stateside?

2.) There is something fundamentally wrong about America securing the borders of foreign countries while its own borders remain wide open. And it’s not just illegal aliens and drugs crossing unimpeded, but terrorists and, quite possibly, suitcase nuclear weapons. That’s inexcusable. “Charity” starts at home.

3.) The South Koreans don’t need us and don’t want us. Polls consistently show a majority of South Koreans want the American military out of their country. Great! Makes leaving that much easier.

4.) North Korea has the largest, though largely antiquated, artillery force on Earth. In a pre-emptive first strike, it can rain 100,000 artillery shells, per hour, on Seoul. While the North cannot conquer the South via invasion, it can wreak havoc. Should it choose to do so, there is nothing our troops can do to stop that. Nothing. Sure, air power and cruise missiles would eventually take their toll on the North (and stop an invasion), but the damage would be done.

Translation: It’s time to stop deploying American troops as symbolic gestures.

5.) American personnel in Korea are nuclear guinea pigs. Should the North lob a nuke across the border — certainly more plausible than them striking California — many Americans will die. Short of Special Forces sabotaging nuclear weapons before they can be launched, the military can do absolutely nothing to stop a nuclear attack. Why are we using troops as nuclear pawns and effectively giving Kim Jong-un 29,000 American nuclear hostages?

To be clear, we should not abandon our ally. But given that Korea’s geostrategic importance in today’s world is virtually zero, it’s time for America to stop the heavy lifting.

Had the U.S. cut the military-welfare cord, Korea would have increased its defense spending and military readiness, but that never happened. Predictably, America is now being drawn into another potentially bloody fight, as fighters, bombers and ships are being deployed to Korea and troops are on high-alert — a powderkeg where one mistake could set it afire.

While Hyundais are great, are we really willing to expend more American blood and treasure in another foreign land, especially when there is no need to be there in the first place?

Given America’s nuclear guarantee to protect South Korea, it’s time to do the right thing before it’s too late: Bring our boys home.

Chris Freind is an independent commentator who operates He can be reached at His column appears every Wednesday.