Monday, May 5, 2014

Korea Should Go Nuclear

Henry Temple, an eighteenth century British statesman, was once purported to have said, “We have no permanent allies, we have no permanent enemies, we only have permanent interests.”

About two centuries later, that sentiment was echoed by Henry Kissinger who said “America has no permanent friends or enemies, only interests.”

I feel like as though there should be a "Game of Thrones" reference here.
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Despite all the rhetoric about special relationships, blood alliances, or teeth and lips, both men’s cold and calculating realpolitik is the true manual that dictates nation states’ foreign policy. With the exception of dyed-in-the-wool neo-conservatives (and not just the American variety) or those who have no hope of ever being elected into high office, most people are loathe to champion such a(n) amoral/realistic approach to foreign policy.

Nations, of course, have varying goals such as military supremacy, economic development, environmental preservation, goodwill, peace, etc. However, if Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs can be used as an analogy, not all of a nation’s goals have the same level of priority. Before some of the loftier goals can be considered, every nation state must first secure one goal above all else – survival. And it is this basic need that causes the shifting sands of alliances.

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No person in the world can survive without using one’s mind – a process of thought. From this simplest necessity to the highest philosophical abstractions, everything comes from that one attribute – the reasoning mind. The same applies to nation states and it stands to reason that overly relying on any particular (impermanent) alliance for one’s national survival is counterproductive in the long run.

Such is the position that Korea finds itself with its alliance with the United States.

Of course, this is not to say that the United States has not shown its commitment to the US-ROK alliance. Over 36,000 American military servicemen died and over 92,000 were wounded during the Korean War (yes, yes, the Korean War is technically not over yet). Additionally, according to a report in the Nautilus Institute, the United States spends about US$42 billion per year to defend Korea. Although it was recently agreed upon between Seoul and Washington DC to increase Korea’s share of the defense costs, Korea’s share is still relatively quite small.

(The original link to the Nautilus Institute appears to have been deleted. The link I am providing to is another blog called “One Free Korea,” which linked to the original article that appears to have since been deleted. As such, I am in no way sure about the accuracy of the data.)

And this doesn’t even count the annual Foal Eagle military exercises that the United States and Republic of Korea militaries have been engaging in since 1997. Furthermore, though it cannot be measured yet, when President Obama’s “Asia Pivot” moves beyond its initial stages long after he leaves office (assuming that the US can still afford this pivot despite cutting defense spending and its need to reassess its commitments to NATO due to an increasingly belligerent Russia), it is possible that the amount of raw capital that the United States will invest in Korea’s defense will multiply even further.

The number of lives and the amount of treasure that the United States has given up for its alliance with Korea is a matter of historical record. It has been and still is the most steadfast (and powerful) ally that Korea has ever had. That is not in question. What is in question is whether or not this alliance will still be as close as it has been in the future.

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Treaties are the bedrock of international affairs. It is the closest thing to a sacred document that requires nations to remain true to their words. Lately, however, treaties seem to be more a matter of convenience than anything else. Case in point is the Budapest Memorandum that was signed in 1994 between the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Russian Federation. Among other things, this document gave security assurances against threats to Ukraine’s territorial integrity on the condition that Ukraine got rid of its nuclear stockpile. At the time, Ukraine had the third largest nuclear stockpile in the world.

With the recent annexation of the Crimean peninsula by the Russian Federation, and the conflict between the Ukrainian government and the pro-Russian rebels as well as the erosion of even Ukraine’s police force, I think it is safe to say that the Budapest Memorandum has been scrapped.

Though President Obama and European leaders have warned of sanctions against Russia, it is highly doubtful that sanctions would even work. President Obama has also repeated on numerous occasions that he would not utilize military options to force Russian forces out of Ukraine or the Crimean peninsula.

The fact is that the United States needs Russia’s assistance to rein in Iran’s nuclear program. Many European nations require Russian oil. Russia has significantly modernized its military. Furthermore, the question as to whether Crimea is part of Ukraine or part of Russia will have little enduring impact on US national security or its strategic interests.

They all point to two undeniable points:

  • The United States is not as powerful as people think it is, especially when it has to consider confronting the Russian military instead of untrained militants in Afghanistan.
  • The United States will not sacrifice its interests to protect the territorial integrity of a country that, either way, poses little to no impact to its interests.
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If not publicly, Korean politicians must at least be privately asking if the United States might throw Korea under the bus if something happens here. Though it will most likely not happen in the immediate future, when the People’s Republic of China’s military has caught up with the United States Pacific Fleet in about twenty to thirty years, when it might no longer be willing to allow foreign fighters flying in and out of its Air Defense Zone, which happens to include Ieodo as well as the Senkaku Islands, what then? If, in a hypothetical scenario, the North Korean regime collapses and China deploys its military to the former Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to “indefinitely maintain stability and order,” what then? Article 3 of the Republic of Korea Constitution states that the territory of the Republic of Korea shall consist of the Korean peninsula and its adjacent islands. Would the United States honor the Mutual Defense Treaty that it signed with Korea in 1953?

We don’t even have to consider a hypothetical Chinese military threat. If the North Korean regime sunk another Korean naval vessel or shelled one of Korea’s islands again, would the United States think that using aircraft and artillery to strike back at the criminal regime was “disproportionately aggressive?” Does that imply that the United States will not aid Korea if it decided to retaliate against a North Korean attack if the United States thinks that Korea’s response was “disproportionately aggressive,” a statement that could mean just about anything? If so, is the Mutual Defense Treaty even worth the paper that it was written on?

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If Korea is attacked again by North Korean forces or if China decides to occupy North Korea, and the United States either urges “restraint” and/or declines to respond, then what exactly is the point of having American military bases in Korea? The United States certainly wants to hold on to its bases in both Korea and Japan in order to remain as a Pacific power but in the long term, just what does Korea gain? If all that Korea gains is the territorial integrity of South Korea proper while its adjacent islands and the northern half of the peninsula are fair game for all other powers, then Korea might need to reexamine the treaty.

President Obama’s recent Asia visit was about reassuring the United States’ key East Asian allies. His trip to Japan was to “reaffirm” America’s support for Japan over China. In Korea, it was about standing “shoulder to shoulder” against North Korea. But can the United States be trusted to keep its word? After all, the United States has shown that it is not willing to militarily challenge Russia over Crimea or Georgia and it has expressed concern over China’s increased military budget.

No one can blame the United States for the positions that it has taken. Like any sovereign nation state, the United States has always sought and will always seek to champion its own selfish national interests. It cannot be expected to altruistically sacrifice the lives of its citizens and its treasury to protect Korea or any other country in the globe. Although it is certainly within the United States’ national rights to interpret any treaty where it is a signatory to maximize its own benefits, as far as Korea is concerned (or at least as far as it ought to be concerned) the United States’ less than heroic response to the Crimean crisis has not exactly inspired much confidence.

It wasn't exactly a "Battle Hymn of the Republic" moment
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Although the United States will never explicitly state that it wants its two closest Asian allies to be its bulwark against a rising China, that is most likely one of the worst kept secrets in the world. With Korea gaining only the very minimum of its geopolitical goals from its alliance with the United States and likely having to be figuratively and literally caught in the middle of a new Cold War with China on one side and the United States and Japan on the other, Korea might have more to lose than gain.

While Korea needs to cultivate its relations with China to ensure continued economic growth (as China is now Korea’s largest trading partner), it also needs to maintain its alliance with the United States to maintain its security needs. However, this balancing game cannot last indefinitely. Korea needs to pick a side. However, although people have traditionally framed Korea’s choices as being between China or the United States, many have neglected to point out that there is a third choice – Korea chooses itself.

Koreans need to consider the possibility of having to emulate Switzerland by declaring armed neutrality. This means that if Korea declared armed neutrality, it would make no military alliance with any country in the world; but it would defend itself from foreign attacks and still reserve the right to pursue an active foreign policy. In order for Korea to be an armed neutral nation, however, as it will no longer have the protection of the United States’ nuclear umbrella, it would need to do three things.

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Although this would find Korea in violation of its civilian nuclear agreements with the United States, which inhibits any other non-nuclear countries’ ability to weaponize their nuclear power plants that deal with American nuclear power plants, Korea could begin to engage France or India or Israel for its nuclear needs.

Although it is possible that a disgruntled United States might wish to proceed to place economic sanctions on Korea for developing nuclear weapons after it officially declares itself as a nuclear-armed neutral power, it will most likely not pursue a sanctions regime that is too harsh lest Korea becomes a nuclear-armed neutral power that tends to tilt towards China.

After all, even if the United States is forced to withdraw from Korea, it will most likely not withdraw from Japan and will still want to maintain its role as a Pacific power to counter China. Furthermore, even if the United States does decide to pursue an aggressive sanctions regime, it would not be too effective as a neutral Korea (and in the long-term a reunified neutral Korea) would be an economic dynamo for northern China and thus permanently end Chinas nightmare of millions of North Korean refugees swarming into China or it having to perpetually keep the North Korean economy afloat. Although China will be extremely unhappy about Ieodo, and it will likely be a source of friction, or perhaps even a limited conflict between China and Korea, as long as Korea is a nuclear-armed neutral power that can guarantee that North Korea’s problems do not become China’s problems, China might very well look the other way.

“We have no permanent allies, we have no permanent enemies, we only have permanent interests.”

Korea’s permanent interest is its survival and prosperity; and no other foreign power can or ever will guarantee it for Korea. It is time that Koreans begun to think outside the box.

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  1. I admit I'm not well informed concerning this subject. However, I do think I have read on occasion that the Korean military lacks a few other key ingredients in maintaining their military capabilities like intelligence. One thing you didn't address in your proposal is how Korea would pay for their new heightened military capabilities. You say the U.S. spends around 42 billion a year in Korea. Wouldn't Koreans at least expect to need half that much to implement a nuclear program and strengthen their other capabilities. How would a proposal for increased defense spending be received by the Korean people?

    1. Hi, TT. As I am not a weapons expert, I do not know how much it would cost for the Korean government to implement a nuclear program. However, given Korea's economic strength, and seeing that poorer countries such as North Korea and Pakistan can run their own nuclear programs, I do not think it would be that unaffordable for the Korean government.

      Korea would need to invest more in their military than it has thus far, however. That much is certain. The Korean government has already purchased various military hardware such as British radars, hi-tech spy planes, and Predator and Global Hawk drones. It is also purported to be developing "suicide drones" as well.

      In order to pay for its own defense, the Korean government would need to cut other government services to increase military spending or it would need to implement higher taxes or use the resources that it has to invest more in next generation warfare such as robotics so that it can maintain its fighting capability without having to spend too much money (technology is cheaper in the long run than labor costs). Whatever option the Korean government chooses, it will not be without opposition and general dissatisfaction.

      However, I am of the opinion that it is a bitter pill that the Korean people have to swallow. We have been protected by American forces for so long that generations of Koreans have gotten accustomed to the idea of partially outsourcing our own country's defense to a foreign nation. It is a disgrace.

      And if the majority of Korean people refuse to pay more for our own country's defense, then one has to question whether Korea is worth defending at all.

  2. Sometimes John you're more of a dreamer than I am. We just have different kinds of dreams....your's are a little scary Dr. Strangelove but just as big....I dream of a peaceful, just dream of nuclear deterrence. I think both of us are going to be waiting awhile for them to be realized. Yours is a bit more realistic even if it is ambitious.

    1. Don't get me wrong, TT. I, too, am quite fond of John Lennon's "Imagine."

      That being said, though I seldom ever quote Democratic politicians (not that I quote Republican politicians that much more), I believe it was President Kennedy who said, "It is an unfortunate fact that we can secure peace only by preparing for war."

  3. While I respect your thoughts and opinions on Korea, as you are living there, I am struggling with your seemingly brazen pronouncements about what is and isn't going on in Ukraine, as you are not living there, are not from there, and I'm guessing aren't fully aware of the situation (do you speak either Russian or Ukrainian, for starters? What are your news sources? Are they English and/or provided by countries largely reliant on American goodwill (fwiw, see this very article you yourself wrote)).

    I'm not trying to start a debate, but you seem like an intelligent enough individual that I shouldn't have to. I'll merely request you look more into the situation with an eye towards what really went on to start the 'revolution' and who really chose what, who acted democratically vs undemocratically, and who is currently forcing 'nationalism' by forcibly and fraudulently (and threateningly) removing the leaders they themselves elected -- and replacing them with other oligarchs of their choosing.

    Mostly I'm just requesting you not make such comparisons lightly. Budapest really had little to do with what's going on with Ukraine right now (unless you consider that the Orange Revolution was funded by the US purely to get at the nukes in Ukraine while saying they're supporting freedom; I doubt you can argue that wasn't a neutering maneuver regardless of intentions).

    It was, after all, going back even further than the Orange Revolution, the US that funded organisations like and including Svoboda, the US that pushed for the putsch after an agreement was signed and witnessed by two EU members... etc.

    I'm not anti-US (though I am anti-hegemony and lately...), but I'm struggling to see you argue so strongly anti-Russian when, from my perspective, Putin's been maybe the only level-headed leader involved.

    I won't tell you what or how to think. I merely ask you to dig and do some research and consider reconsidering your opinions on the matter.

    Best wishes.

    1. Hello. Judging from your writing style, I assume that you are "Not John Galt." I will admit that you made a very excellent point there about Curtis having made the ultimate choice for others, which I had not thought about. You have given me pause to think about that.

      As for what is going on in Ukraine, no, I do not speak Ukrainian or Russian. But you will notice that I did not portray the conflict between those two countries as being "democracy vs. dictatorship" and I did not talk about the origins of the conflict or who behaved morally or otherwise precisely because I know so little about what has been going on there.

      But I mentioned the Budapest Memorandum because it was the international agreement that stipulated that Ukraine's territorial integrity would be defended provided that it gave up its nuclear weapons, which the Ukrainian government chose to do in 1994. It got rid of all of its nuclear weapons by 1996, which occurred before the Orange Revolution.

      Foreign powers have been involved in Ukraine's domestic politics, before, of course. But if I am not mistaken, this is the first time that Ukraine's territory had been directly threatened by a foreign power since the Budapest Memorandum.

      As for President Putin, people could argue that he has been level-headed. However, that does not change the fact that the man is a thug. Of course, I am not suggesting that other leaders are any less thuggish.

      By the way, I hope you return. I do enjoy a good discussion and I can admit when I am wrong. It has been a delight to read your comments.

    2. "But I mentioned the Budapest Memorandum because it was the international agreement that stipulated that Ukraine's territorial integrity would be defended provided that it gave up its nuclear weapons."

      A question for you: was Ukraine's territorial integrity violated by the US for providing financial support to militant (and historically provably so) neo-Nazis? I can provide links to the history of the factions that the Western media is trying to portray as 'nationalists' (mostly non-biased, I hope, but I can't guarantee; I'm sure I'm blind to some of my own biases) -- but you don't need my assistance; you might want to look into NGOs like USAID and the like, though, to get some idea.

      My advice: read up on the recent scandal revolving around USAID attempting to do metrics and manipulate the public in Cuba to revolt; Cuba's a merry-go-round of this, of course, but there's a very long list of countries "aided" by the US in this manner), as well as look into the situations in every country that's had its politicians elected by a puppet leadership (often repeatedly).


    3. (cont'd)
      You speak a lot about soft power, and I think you may be underestimating the actual damage that such extraterritorial actions cau
      se. Most of it is psychology. People aren't happy, and feeding that unhappiness by providing a fake "out" doesn't fix the problem
      , but it DOES greatly destabilise a region. When a region is destabilised, its people cannot unite, and when its people cannot unite, it is ripe for plucking.

      The US has a lot to gain by the unrest in Ukraine. That's why the Western media is portraying the majorly right-wing groups so favourably (nb they paid the non-right-wingers at Maidan -- and students got about 3x as much as average workers, but in all cases it was easily a very good day's wage in Hryvnia).

      Am I sure that things are deliberately being portrayed this way? It's complicated, and your own recent post on Korea's bias is actually quite relevant.

      Understand that the US is biasing its people the same way that it biased the Ukrainian people: psychology. I won't go into the whole bla bla bla about 'needing enemies' (although this is very much the case, and nothing gets under a country's skin more than pushing up against its borders. How would you expect Russia to react to a US-backed coup that ultimately wants to, through a chain of events, put a Western-indebted Ukraine right up against Russia?

      The funny thing is, Russia is basically pushing back lightly, relatively, to the US's propaganda.

      What's not being reported in the Western media, among other things, includes violent beat-downs of the people who don't agree with this newfound "freedom", then setting them on fire to cover up how they died. What's not reported on in the Western media is exactly the history of the groups that the US funded (or really that the US funded them at all). Just two things of hundreds, or thousands. It's difficult to fault you for not knowing about this because I'd be surprised if you did.

      It's a mistake to believe that RUSSIA is doing anything, though.

      The reason I pointed out that Russia wasn't violating the Budapest agreement is because, quite simply, it isn't. Unless you believe a people not only don't have a right to have their elected leaders stay in office until the next democratic election, but they also don't have a right to protest and have a different democratic sort of vote to take a different path. Note that these voters are all Ukrainian.

      The gap between what's reported in the English and (many) Asian medias and what's reported in more critical countries is rather vast. While there's obviously going to be distortion on both sides, the Western media has gotten by with innuendo while the other media have provided salient proof of various misactions that have all, somehow, even though Ukraine has been "top" in Google News for months now in many (or most) Western and English-speaking localities, as well as many non-English as a primary language countries. Part of the problem with the net is that the bubble becomes more narrowing. A newspaper once might have produced debate. The net mutes it by creating a false consensus and brands anybody that disagrees a heretic, a radical, anti-nationalistic, or worse: a terrorist.


    4. (cont'd)

      It's not enough to have freedom of speech; having it be considered was a large part of the entire point of the desire for it -- and that's totally lost now, I believe, for anybody who dissents -- as well as vastly distorted out of proportion by (this amuses me) stooges accusing the dissenting side of being, well, stooges (or crazy, or 'No True American', or any of a number of other things), regardless of which side they're on. It's all a distraction and an illusion. I hope you know that's not my intention.

      I could comment more but I feel like this response is already too long, and perhaps too argumentative. I do favour a debate-like atmosphere and it's been called out as 'rude' more than once, but it's not meant maliciously, and you seem game; I hope I didn't misjudge. :)

      And yes, that was me. My goal usually, FWIW, isn't so much to make you change your mind; my goal is almost always to encourage people to do end-runs around their own neural pathways and see things from different perspectives. That said, in this case, I do feel I am particularly right, so I do hope you research things a bit more. While can be occasionally propagandistic it's more of a subtle propaganda than Western propaganda is. It can generally lead you to better search terms; Google translate is probably a good (if not great) way to take a leap from there.

      I'd also encourage you to read this article [ ] on Putin; I'm not saying Putin is perfect (no politician is, was, or can be -- and most are generally worse than 'Everyman'), but I do find it troubling that he's mostly minding his business, comparatively speaking, and getting punished for... what exactly? Not telling Ukrainians to stop being angry about what was done? To stop wanting their own form of rule (to say the vast majority did NOT want the government ousted is a gross understatement)?

      Can you really argue that Putin had no right to offer about 5 times as much aid to Ukraine plus cheap gas prices?

      Why do you believe that northwestern Ukraine didn't just try to split off from the rest of the country if it was that miserable? The US (see also: NATO) has a strong history of supporting separatists (see: Kosovo); were the northwestern Ukrainians who were paid to have their beliefs encouraged 'wholists'/'holists' and if so, who declared them such?

      Back to the allegory of the train: Who's really being allowed to make decisions for whom, here, and why?

      Back to your article on the Pope: Who has the right to say what is good (especially for everyone -- but I won't get away from the topic beyond that)?

      "And what is good, Phaedrus, and what is not good?" -- but we have every need to constantly ask ourselves this (contrary to what the rest of the Pirsig quote goes on about).

      [Sorry this was so long. I lost track of how long it was until I'd written it all, and I don't really do email. :)]

    5. You did not misjudge. I am enjoying this tremendously.

      Now I am by no means defending American involvement in Ukraine or Kosovo or wherever else. However, I am making a legal distinction between "territorial integrity" and "political interference."

      Both Russia and the US are replaying, in a limited fashion, the Cold War. Now the nationalists/neo-nazis that were funded by the US government, regardless of their label, are hardly the sort of people that we want to associate with. As for Russia's "not telling Ukrainians to stop being angry about what was done or to stop wanting their own form of rule," I think you're giving Putin far too much of the benefit of the doubt. The US wants Ukraine to be part of NATO (in the long term) and Russia wants Ukraine to remain in its traditional sphere of influence.

      Regardless of the intent of both countries, however, what is at issue is the legal definition of "territorial integrity." The secondary damages caused by extraterritorial actions may be real but it cannot stand in court. As far as the letter of the law is concerned, the US did not violate the Budapest Memorandum, whereas Russia did.

      In regards to the Pope, everyone has the right to say what is good for everyone. But no one has the right to actually take action on that thought. At the end of the day, each individual has to think for him/herself, and decide what is good for him/herself. The Pope can believe whatever he wants. But if he uses his religious/political clout to force change, he should be opposed (which he has not done thus far). All he has done is participate in a war of ideas. That is certainly permissible. But I disagree with him wholeheartedly.

    6. Ah, but the *Ukrainians* chose, therefore the integrity stands, doesn't it? Did the Inuits cease to be Inuits when Alaska was bought? Most of Crimea was ethnic Russians and Tatars, most of whom had Russian as a primarily language (and many of whom aren't even entirely fluent in Ukrainian). Crimea was historically Russian, and had a Russian military base.

      I've been wondering how Cuba can be such an 'enemy' but permit Guantanamo, for some time now, btw. I'd be curious as to your thoughts on this subject, since I believe it touches a bit on the same matter (territoriality, bases on foreign soil, what's permissible where and by whom, and perhaps to some degree a certain amount of one-sided hypocrisy).

    7. I think the quotes that surround "Ukrainians" is misplaced and should be placed around "chose." Though it is a fact that most of the people in Crimea are ethnic Russians and Tatars, it does not also change the fact that thousands of heavily armed Russian troops were present in Crimea to oversee the referendum.

      As for Cuba, America's base there goes back to the Spanish-American war. After the war, America took control of Cuba from Spain and when the the Cuban-American treaty was signed, it was stipulated that Cuba would gain its independence but America got to keep a naval base in Guantanamo. Treaties are sacred, even or perhaps especially among enemies. Also, what measures could the Cubans realistically take against the might of the US Armed Forces anyway?

  4. Sorry. That was somewhat disjointed and had a number of grammatical errors and at least one non-finished sentence, all of which will torment me unless I acknowledge it. For instance, re: Google News; "that have all, somehow, [...] even though Ukraine"; that [...] should read 'have gone unreported, under-reported, or misreported', or some variation thereof.

    I don't usually post at such length, to anybody, and I admittedly could have spent more time editing this, but I got lazy and/or tired and/or irritated by blogger giving me a hard time with my (overly long) reply. I do apologise (generally, if someone's worth replying to, I believe it's worth replying to conscientiously, and in this I believe I failed to some degree).

    1. You are a gentleman and a scholar (assuming that you are a man; lady if you are a woman). And you did not need to apologize.

  5. One last (apologetic) comment: I'm curious if you have any thoughts as to why this may be happening now? I've been wondering if some of this backlash isn't partially due to Russia beginning to look a bit too heroic for Western politicos' tastes (a successful, albeit somewhat odd, Olympics and Special Olympics, contributing somewhat, but a much larger part: succeeding at creating agreements with any country with whom the US failed that it doesn't consider one of its "close friends", offering asylum to Edward Snowden (without getting something in return, necessarily, other than the offer of asylum), and in general seeming more adult.

    As a thought experiment, I offer this: If this had happened in, say, Quebec, funded by, say, the Chinese, how might the US have responded? If this had happened in the US, how might the US have responded? If this had happened in the US, how might Canada have responded (this last one might be a trick question)? If this had happened in Canada, how might Canada have responded? How might Canadians respond to being told 'no English in our country anymore, only French'? Texas seems too fiery of a comparison, but one might want to consider all of these questions with regards to pushing at the southern borders, as well.

    1. I honestly do not know why it is happening now.

      Things have been building up, to be sure. There was Georgia in 2008 and Putin might have felt emboldened by the West's tepid response. It could be due to Russia's domestic politics. The economy is shaky, oil revenues are not enough for the economic programs that Putin wants to develop; so it could be a way to divert the people's attention. Perhaps it's personal? One of the many things asserted about Putin is that he wants to revive the Soviet Union; if not the communist aspect of it, at least the empire aspect of it.

      In any case, I only have speculations. As for your thought experiment, that requires far too many variables to taken into consideration, and even then only an educated guess can be made, I think.

    2. What I find interesting, here, is that you chose to interpret my "why this may be happening now" question as "what emboldened Russia/Putin" and not, given the context of the rest of my argument(s), "what emboldened the US to attack Russia/Putin so boldly in the press" and "what encouraged Nuland to act so baldfaced in encouraging the coup participants, even going to the outsized (and politically astoundingly obvious) action of handing out (I shit you not) bread rolls to the people at Maidan before the final putsch" and "isn't it convenient that just as things are running out of steam in other areas of the world, a new, old enemy can sure come in handy"... among other things.

      Incidentally, in thinking a bit more about Snowpiercer, I'm not entirely certain that [the character] Mason's entire point wasn't to satirise Rand herself; the signature hairstyle, the heavily assured style, and the strongly set jaw suggest a certain mockery [compare: (Swinton as Mason) to (an older Rand)]; it'd be hard to argue that she mightn't be a fascistic rendering of a Randian in-extremis, in a certain light. I'm wondering if maybe the entire movie is a joke being played upon the viewer, attempting to make the opposite point that everybody thinks it is trying to make?

      But that's neither here nor there. I do need to get going, for now. It's been an enjoyable couple of hours, and I thank you for the gentlemanly discussion -- hopefully TBC.

    3. Ah, why did the US choose to do attack Putin in the press? THAT is a good question. And I have no good answers. In politics, it is always a good idea to follow the money trail. That's where the answer usually tends to lie. Unfortunately, I do not know where it is.

      I did wonder about the looks. But I felt that Mason's character was such a polar opposite of what Rand's philosophy was that it must have been a coincidence.

      And I have found it enjoyable, too. I, too, hope that we can talk again. It is also nearly midnight in Korea and I have to get some sleep if I am to wake up on time to go to work in the morning. Until next time.

  6. The 43 billion $ was not direct cost of US Forces Korea which is much smaller; but includes an attributed fraction of the cost of US forces in Pacific Command that are committed to swing to Korea if war breaks out; plus a small fraction of space-intelligence assets (economically speaking, most of these would be paid for even if the Korean Peninsula did not exist, so the charge to the "Korean account" for the Pentagon is not large in this dimension. Also, to the extent that military assets of USFK would be redeployed back to US rather than dismantled if USFK were not stationed in Korea, and would cost more than they do while stationed in Korea, keeping them in Korea is a good deal for the US. And, to the extent that in the future, these become available for regional contingencies outside of Korea, the "Korea" Pentagon account can be debited still further.

    1. I had no idea. Thank you for the information.