The Marmot's Hole Blogger
6/17/2003
 
Let US Troops Stay? No thanks, Dong-A

The Dong-A ran a rather bizarre editorial ("Let US troops stay") that deserves the Marmot's attention, even if it's for a brief period. Bang Hyung-nam, the editorial writer responsible for the piece, seems to be under the impression that American troops are in this country in order to funnel cash into local communities. Writes Bang;

...U.S. troops stationed in Germany and those stationed in Korea are emerging as core parts of Washington`s overseas force realignment strategy. As 37,000 troops here have played a role of deterring a war in the Korean Peninsula, 70,000 stationed in Germany have served as a key force in U.S. military presence in Europe. Recently both Koreans and Germans got the nerve of Washington with anti-American demonstrations and anti-war campaign respectively. Then, are there similarities or differences in the way the two countries react to realignment plans?

Mayors from thirteen German cities visited Washington and met with U.S. officials and lawmakers. They lobbied not to close bases in their cities and reduce the least of forces. Mayor of Kaiserslautern [Marmot's Note: Don't they have a really good soccer team?] said at an interview with a German broadcaster, ˝If U.S. troops leave the city, it will lead to some $1 billion losses in revenue.˝ Given the figure, they must have lobbied hard in Washington, stressing the need for U.S. presence. The German mayors said at the end of their visit that they expected reductions, if any, would be small in scale. They are seeking to protect their interests against the reduction plan, taking an economic approach to the issue. Then, why can`t we plead not to remove the troops?

There are community leaders organizations in those areas U.S. troops stationed. They are design to discuss issues related to U.S. presence. It seems, however, that they are not organized strongly enough to lobby to the U.S. government. Seeing the presence of U.S. troops only from military perspectives is short-sighted. U.S. troops in Korea spent $750 million last year alone on personnel and procurement. Even taking $480 million covered by the Korean government into consideration, the figure still reaches $270 million. Financial benefits that accrue from the presence of U.S. troops, indeed, are real and substantial. Do we really have to stick to street demonstrations against these benefits? Leaders of local governments must learn a lesson from the German mayors.

Look, the US military is not here in South Korea to pump money into local shops and bars - it's here to deter North Korean aggression, a mission that it no longer needs to perform given South Korea's current capabilities. Truth be told, I have no idea why American forces are in Germany, either - if Europeans feel so strongly about peace-keeping missions in the Balkans, let them keep troops in Tuzla. What I have to wonder is how the "community leaders" to which Bang refers could expect to persuade American leaders to continue to spend vast sums of the taxpayer's coin in order to keep their young men and women (and not so young men and women) in an environment where they are a) immediately in harm's way, b) despised by large (and increasingly vocal/violent) segments of the host population and c) forced to make due with substandard living arrangements when there isn't a pressing American interest to do so. Seriously, does Bang think that the USFK is some sort of social welfare program? American soldiers should not be placed in a dangerous (and thankless!) situation simply because it's good for Korean businesses. If I were military, I'd be offended by the very thought of it.
 
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