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Korean fiasco highlights U.S. foreign policy failures

4 min read

TAMPA, April 9, 2013 – It would be the stuff of a Peter Sellers satire if there weren’t for nuclear weapons and 26,000 American troops needlessly in harm’s way. A tiny dictatorship that has to cook the books even to call itself “third world” has the world’s “lone superpower” dancing on a string. It is a fitting tribute to 100 years of U.S. foreign policy failure.

When you invade and occupy a country, it almost always ends badly, as the British found out before the United States and Napoleon found out before them. Napoleon’s exploits in Spain are particularly instructive in understanding the U.S. government’s boondoggle in Iraq.

But it is only after you have got yourself stuck somewhere for 60 years that costly and tragic turns to ridiculous. Having unintentionally kept a multi-generational dictatorship in power by rallying its people around it, the U.S. finds itself outsmarted and outmaneuvered by a despot whose father might have suffered Il Duce’s fate if not for the continued presence of U.S. troops on North Korea’s border.

Make no mistake, North Korea poses no threat to South Korea or Japan, much less the United States. North Korea’s vaunted million man army is equipped with decades-old technology and it wouldn’t dare use a nuclear weapon, assuming it wasn’t too windy for it to launch one. Indeed, all of Kim Jong Un’s recent “muscle flexing” smacks of Andy Kauffman hyping up a match with a professional wrestler. Images of the dictator sitting at laughably retro computer work stations and inspecting clunky-looking, outdated weapons have exploded across the internet.

So, if the threat isn’t real, then why does the U.S. government have its shorts in a knot? To be fair, some amount of concern is warranted due to North Koreas nukes and the infinitesimal chance that they might use them. But that’s not what’s really at stake here and deep down the whole world knows it. What’s really at stake is the appearance of U.S. hegemony.

The United States has come to the end of all empires. It is war-weary and broke and Kim Jong knows it. He’s taunting the giant and daring it to throw a punch, knowing that he’d lose a real fight but that the giant is too tired to respond. Why? There could be a myriad of reasons. Maybe he wants to parley the confrontation into concessions from the U.S. and other western nations, like the lifting of sanctions, the removal of U.S. troops from Korea or non-interference with North Korea’s nuclear program. Maybe he wants to consolidate his own power within North Korea by standing up to “the enemy.”

Regardless of the reasons for his bizarre actions, the U.S. is forced to take him seriously. At a time when it should be working on a plan to gracefully withdraw from the Korean peninsula, it is now forced to continue to borrow money from China in order to keep troops there. In addition to the fiscal drain, this also keeps U.S. troops in needless danger. While all-out war is unlikely, even one American death is too many over this fiasco, not to mention the inevitable civilian casualties that will accompany even limited skirmishes.

The U.S. invaded Korea 60 years ago based upon a cockamamie theory called “the domino theory,” wherein if communist North Korea was allowed to take over South Korea, the other Asian nations would soon tumble “like dominoes” and communism would spread like a virus throughout the world. This theory was proven wrong in the very next war. When the U.S. pulled out of Viet Nam in defeat, the communists did indeed take over. A mere 12 years later, Viet Nam began instituting reforms to move towards a market economy. China has already gone there, with an arguably freer market in many ways than the U.S., although they are foolishly adopting much of the U.S.’s crony capitalism as well.

In fact, the only truly communist regimes left in the world are the two that the U.S. has perpetuated through nonstop provocation, both with troops on their borders and international sanctions.  Everywhere communism has been left to run its course it has literally starved itself to death. If they weren’t confronted with foreign aggression, Cubans and Koreans, respectively, would have followed the rest of the world decades ago.

For the moment, tensions are still high and it is unclear how this drama will end. Hopefully, it will be without bloodshed and another trillion dollar war tab run up by a government that never seems to learn from its mistakes. Perhaps China will step in and take the responsibility for this fiasco, as it has hinted it might. Who can blame them? You don’t want to see a government that already owes you a trillion dollars drop another trillion tilting at windmills.

At least we can rule out war with China anytime soon. They’d never lend us the money for that.

Libertarianism, anyone?

tom-mullen-head-400_s200x200Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America. He writes weekly columns on his blog and his weekly column in the Washington Times  has been featured on The Daily Caller, The Huffington Post, Daily Paul,, 321 Gold! and Peter Schiff’s Tom has been a guest on Fox’s Freedom Watch with Judge Andrew Napolitano, Adam Vs. the Man, Free Talk Live, and numerous other programs.