David Frum’s Diary on National Review Online

Tuesday, May 20th, 2003

Virginia Postrel’s site (Dynamist Blog) pointed me to David Frum’s Diary on National Review Online, where he translates Bush’s recent communiqué on Korea:

U.S. forces in Korea are today concentrated near the border between North and South Korea — the famous DMZ, demilitarized zone. There they are easy targets for North Korea’s masses of old-fashioned artillery. Because they are so vulnerable, US forces are in effect hostages. If for example the US were to hit North Korea’s nuclear plants, the lives of thousands of American soldiers would be put at risk.

I first heard this idea voiced by Pat Buchanan. His variation was that our troops are nothing more than a speedbump to an invading North Korean army. Their real purpose is to incite the American people to action by dying violently in a surprise attack — and that’s no way to use our brave men (and women) in uniform.

Frum offers another interesting perspective:

Which is why soft-liners like President Roh Moo-Hyun — who used to oppose the U.S. presence in South Korea — now wish to keep US troops shoved right up against the DMZ. They may say they want the troops to deter North Korea — but they know full well that the vulnerability of those troops in fact deters the United States from confronting North Korea.

For the decade since North Korea’s blackmail campaign began in 1993, those 40,000 US troops on the peninsula have stayed put, under the North’s guns. Now suddenly we learn that American forces will be redeploying in the south — out of reach of the North’s guns, but close enough to be used as a striking force if need be. South of the Han River, those forces cease to be hostages, and become again dangerous and deadly fighters. Bush’s drab communiqué is the first giant step toward regaining the ability to fight effectively in Northeast Asia. After ten years of chatter, we’re getting a decisive action, and in vivid, blunt Bush trademark style. Well done.

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