Yankee Come Home

Corporal Henry D. Connell was just a boy of 17 when he died for the freedom and prosperity of a place he probably knew nothing about before his country sent him there. The world has forgotten the hill where he died in a Chinese attack on the night of November 2, 1950, along with the imprisoned country in which the hill can still be found. What was left of Henry Connell’s body remained there until 1994, when his bones, and those of several others, were disinterred and moved to an Army forensic laboratory, which needed a decade just to identify them.

No newspaper in the free and prosperous nation he died defending will carry the story that yesterday, Henry Connell’s remains were laid to rest beside the grave of his mother, in Springfield Massachusetts, the day before Mother’s day. Instead, the newspapers will be filled with violence and contempt heaped upon Americans who serve in Connell’s place to this day.

Ignoring a government appeal for restraint, about 2,000 militant students, shouting “Yankee go home,” clashed with riot police in a remote farming village on Sunday, opposing plans to expand a U.S. military base there. . . . In two days of fierce protests at the farm village, Daechuri, about a week ago, 200 activists and police were injured. Police detained over 500 protesters, of whom 16 were put under formal arrest. . . .

“Withdraw U.S. military forces. Pyeongtaek is our land,” protesters shouted as they kicked and punched riot police who formed human barriers to block their march.

Other protests at Seoul were larger:

Meanwhile, Saturday saw rallies of altogether 45,000 members of the coalition in Seoul. They gathered in places like Yongsan near the Defense Ministry and converged on downtown Gwanghwamun around 7 p.m., blocking roads leading to Jongno, before 2,000 of them moved on to Hongik University late at night.

I’m not unmindful of the fact that the groups organizing these protests are North Korean puppets who seek to provoke a reaction in America, as well as mobilize anti-American sentiment in Korea. Clausewitz once said that war was was merely an extension of politics. As long as a society remains democratic, the military and the political are inextricably intertwined. No military position is tenable for long without political support. The U.S. presence in Korea has clearly outlived its geopolitical purpose, at least as far as the United States is concerned. Neither the United States nor Korea has demonstrated either the will or the ability to make a political case for it.

It’s time to get our troops out of Korea — now, before U.S. taxpayers build new barracks, a PX, a hospital, and lodging at Camp Humphreys to replace the ones we’re abandoning now (also for political reasons). Let Korean soldiers protect Korea militarily, and let the announcement of a U.S. withdrawal shift the question from the U.S. presence to the cost of living without it.


  1. I have always been a little annoyed by how many non-Koreans (including from some quotes people like Donald Rumsfeld) condone Korean society’s attitude toward Yongsan by saying how “foreign” troops in someone’s capital would naturally cause anti-foreign troops sentiment.

    That is a truth, but it is a pitiful justification.

    It wipes out from consideration what those troops are there for.

    And if you (the generic “you”) are going to justify the use of Yongsan as a way to foment anti-USFK attitudes, then how can you stop from accepting as justifiable an attitude that says any foreign troops in a nation should be/would be oppossed by the people of that nation?


  2. At least we have something in common, we both want the US to leave Korea.

    However, I noticed something troubling. If that is truly your stand, why are you spending so much energy bad mouthing North Korea? Wouldn’t it be more productive for you to launch a campaign to pull the troops out than to blah about North Korea did this evil stuff, and did that evil stuff?

    It seems like you have your cross hairs on North Korea yet you want the US to leave. It would be more productive for you to realign your cross hairs to getting the troops out. Once the troops are out, you don’t have to worry about North Korea anymore.

    When you exaggerate about North Korean atrocities, you make everyone nervous. Even South Koreans upon listening to you may decide to let the US stay a little longer to neutralize the threat. That defeats your other goal which is to get US troops out. If you want US troops to get out fast from Korea, you should be focusing on the good things that are coming out of North Korea. That way you calm most people down, and when they are calm and not nervous, they’ll want US troops out themselves.

    Or are you really just teasing?


  3. “When you exaggerate about North Korean atrocities”

    How about when you downplay those atrocities or ignore them altogether?


  4. MF, please specify and offer some reliable evidence for your charge of exaggeration. And as always, I ecourage you to actually read the post.


  5. Mahatir-fan should be outed and banned. He could lose his job for the vile acts of stupidity and cyber-vandalism he commits everyday with his every comment.


  6. Joshua,
    the more I read, the more I’m inclined to believe that the US should pull out because the SK left really disgusts me, but I want to ask your response to some things that make me believe that the US should wait a little longer before I believe this is a good idea.
    Shouldn’t the US wait until SK elections to see if the world gets a more effective and cooperative SK government in dealing with NK nukes, among other things?
    If the US pulls out, won’t anti-Americanism still be propagated as much as it is now and even place the USA in the same camp as Japan as having colonial/imperialist aspirations toward Korean people?
    How do you think things would change on the peninsula if the US pulled out?
    Pretty involved questions, but I thought you would have sone ‘in a nutshell’ informed responses to them.


  7. Kevin, hope you don’t mind if I take a shot at the questions.

    The election will not change the essential dynamics in Korean society when it comes to anti-US attitudes.

    Roh’s election did not create or increase anti-US thought in general in the society. If anything, it caused a re-thinking.

    Before Roh, the process was one in which the society felt safe cultivating such thought for 2 reasons:
    1. They believed the US thought Korea was so crucial to its Asia policy, it would not leave even if Koreans demanded it.
    2. They counted on the Blue House to keep the allinace solid. Even the National Assembly came out playing the nationalism/anti-US card at times in the 50s, 60s, 70s, and so on, but it was all for domestic consumption with the idea the Blue House would reassure the Americans all was ok.

    Roh turned that on its ear by being stupid enough to believe the Koreans who voted him into office because of his anti-US credentials actually wanted him to push that agenda. That and Donald Rumsfeld saying the US was more than willing to take troops out post-9/11 has caused toned down anti-US activity and caused Roh’s approval to hit rock bottom.

    But, if he is replaced by a GNP type who cuts back on the Sunshine Policy and plays nice to the US in Korea, —- it will not alter the foundation of anti-US attitudes in Korean society – which are the norm – which are visible in higher education, the KTU and lower education these days, the media, elements of pop culture, and more.

    What I mean is — even if an anti-Roh wins the next election, all we will see is a return to the norm, and at least for me, as early as 1997, the norm was not good enough to warrant the US accepting the risks of staying in South Korea.

    And that leads me to answering the second question: the anti-US culture in Korea is just one factor in assessing the costs to benefits ratio of the US-SK military alliance.

    I’ve never said the US should pull out just because of the norm of anti-US thought in Korea.

    If the US pulls out, anti-US attitudes might be the same, worse, or better….

    but…..the US will not be drawn into a 2nd Korean ground war if it breaks out, US lives will not be put on the line for a nation that can defend itself and loves to dislike the soldiers standing that line, good US troops will be freed to handle situations in other parts of the world, large amounts of US tax payer money will be freed for other things, and so on.

    A France or Italy or Venezuela might be significantly anti-US like Korea, but we are not at risk in those nations anything remotely close to what we face and spend in South Korea….

    Last question — the biggest worry I’d have if the US pulled out woudl be that South Korean society would not put the tax money necessary into building an adequate deterent to the North, and the North would attack.

    But, since I am an American citizen, not South Korean, I can’t justify leaving our military in a very much harm’s way situation based on fear South Korea will not take steps necessary to defend itself when I know it can do so.

    If SK does adequately prepare for USFK removal and war is prevented, I don’t see significant negative outcomes.

    SK will still need the US consumer market and finance and basically goodwill. SK will still be a big player and member of the global systems along with the US.

    Well, to cut this part short, just look at the South Korea-Japan relationship. Korea has hated Japan much more than the US in Korea all these decades, but it still does business with it.


  8. usinkorea,
    Thanks for your comments.
    In looking at Korea as a proxy between the USA and China (perhaps a resurgent Russia), I know that if the USA left, the power vacuum would not just be filled by SK. Any attempt by Japan to fill even a little of this vacuum would fill every paper in Korea and China with headlines screaming of a resurgent militarist Japan seeking to invade again.
    China is going to be in much greater position to intimidate and influence its neighbors, in addition to NK, if the USA leaves. China’s military and ability to project power regionally is becoming much more capable/credible. This is only increasing with no end in sight yet, and I think people are very ignorant about the potential threat China poses.

    God only knows how the left would spin information if the USA vacated SK. I just don’t want to see an anti-American ultra-nationalist unified Korea emerging in China’s orbit because that would be a big loss for human rights and democracy in that region. China is now the top destination for SK exports and most see China as the more important relationship. It may also be a huge loss as a way to help contain China, which is only going to become more important over the years if it doesn’t reform politically.
    I think there’s just too great of a risk for the USA to vacate right now. The only way I could see USFK leaving as a good idea is if it would substantially improve the relations between the USA and SK by taking away their scapegoat of blaming USFK’s presence for problems, and once they have to deal with the real problems, they will have a healthier perspective, good will toward the USA, and a common cause in spreading human rights, democracy, and freedom in the world (which China feels highly threatened by).
    I guess I see elections as one of the few possibilities for SK policy toward NK to change in a way that is more effective in producing change in NK. The all carrot and no stick sunshine policy is what has produced the current impasse. It’s like a permissive wife that makes constant excuses and enables her belligerent alcoholic husband’s destructive and sick behavior, which is ruing things for everyone. I know I don’t need to tell you this. Similar to what you said, I think people erroneously believe that removing USFK will take away the scapegoat of the SK left. There are plenty of ways propagandists could spin USFK’s departure to even reinforce the USA as a scapegoat. I’m still on this fence leaning toward USFK staying because 25K troops is a small amount. Provisions for expanding USA force levels were made in the budget, and Iraq will likely see a significant draw down this year, so I don’t think being stretched thin is an issue.
    That’s my 2 cents. Thanks for responding, usinkorea.


  9. Everybody seems to think that leaving Korea is the same as leaving Japan and thus the whole region.

    I don’t understand why. They never explain it except occasionally the anti-USFJ groups will become bolder and more successful in pushing the US out.

    While it seems to me we have excellent reason to believe pulling out of Japan would cause Japan to hug even more closely to the US alliance, because it doesn’t want to face all its angry neighbors alone.

    Then there is the China argument as you laid out.

    I think it has two hypotheticals that are too unsure or too far fetched to warrant the risks and costs of staying in South Korea.

    1. China fullfilling its potential.

    It is far from a sure thing China is going to become the world power everybody keeps projecting for it based on economic growth.

    China is still a poor nation with a huge problem in the size of its population and land area. It will have to solve the problem of spreading the wealth around enough to prevent fracturing to pieces (as it has in the past) before it can challenge the US and world enough to warrant our getting into another highly costly Domino Theory foreign policy guideline that requires us to spend great amounts of our own resources in each possible friendly nation.

    2. That a potential-fullfilled China will get into a global/regional pissing contest with the US.

    To reach its potential, China will have to integrate more and more with the global systems. It will not be beneficial to it to turn around and attack those systems or the nations that make it up — including South Korea but
    definately not big players like the US.

    And I think the China Threat chances of coming about are at least equal to the chance that — to reach its potential — not only will China have to become more and more integrated in the global systems and thus play along with the rest of us -rather than against us- —it will have to reform its own society more along the norms of other advanced industrial societies.

    I think this is tied to point #1 — to reach its potential, it will have to spend money and energy on its own people, it will most likely have to spread the wealth around enough to keep enough people satisfied and working and involved in the society – not against it — and part of this will most likely see greater attention to human rights and democratic reforms.

    If it doesn’t do this, it could go a long way to impeding the fullfillment of the potential everyone sees for it.

    I think the question of China Power and what China will look like after it has the power to challenge the US —-

    is such a big enough question mark —

    it makes no sense to hedge our bets by maintaining such a costly alliance with South Korea.

    It would seem much more cost effective (beneficial) to the US to leave Korea now (erasing the chance we will get caught in a ground war once NK begins to implode) and then react to any long shot China threat as it rises to a point of concern.

    Besides —- and this is a huge beside —- Being in Japan will be a very nice strategic position from which we can watch and deal with any China Threat.

    That is what US strategic thinkers concluded early in the Cold War, before Truman put us back in Korea, and the Soviets were much more clearly a threat and a bigger threat immediately than what we have with China today.

    Another point from what you were saying….

    We have to consider what South Koreans dominate in a unified Korea will want.

    It seems to me more South Korean eyes are on China as the Great Asian Hope than on the US as the Great Friend Post-Unification….

    Meaning, I have serious doubts Koreans will allow USFK to remain post-unification. Serious doubts…

    South Korea can barely stomach the US enough when it is under great threat.

    The only thing keeping South Korea from kicking us out on our asses is the NK threat.

    Once that threat is removed with unification, what will keep the North Koreans raised for 50+ years to view us as evil incarnate and South Koreans who can barely stand us now from unloading all that pent up frustration on us to force us out?

    Maybe the costs of rebuilding NK will buy us a few years —- like it did in France with the Marshal Plan —

    but eventually, a Charles De Gualle will lead unified Korea into an ugly display as they kick out US troops just like France did.

    And what happens to our strategy to contain China by accepting risks in Korea then? We will have accepted great risks and spent a lot of money and material and manpower each year (for however long) just to see The Bigger Picture fold on us.

    No matter how I turn the US in Korea situation around….

    …I can’t add up enough benefits — real and hypothetical combined — to warrant the costs we can calculate accurately right now.