What’s Doug Bandow’s take on the Cheonan sinking? Like you needed to ask:
A military reprisal then could have triggered a full-scale war. Responding in kind this time also could spark a dangerous escalatory spiral with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
However, Seoul has spent the last decade attempting to pacify the DPRK, providing aid, allowing investment, and hosting summits. To do nothing would seem to be abject appeasement, undermining ROK credibility and encouraging the North to act even more recklessly in the future. If the word “firm” has any meaning, the South Korean government would have to do more than protest.
Still, the decision, though difficult, shouldn’t concern the U.S. The South has gone from an authoritarian economic wreck to a democratic economic powerhouse. With a vastly bigger and more sophisticated economy, larger population, and greater access to international markets and support than the North, Seoul long has been able to defend itself. Pyongyang retains a numerical military edge, but its weapons are old, troops are undertrained, and industrial base is shrinking.
Thus, the South should be able to decide on the action that best advances its security. However, Seoul long chose to emphasize economic development over military preparedness. As a result, the ROK remains dependent on America.
It gets better:
Some 27,000 U.S. personnel are stationed in the South. The U.S. retains formal command of all forces, American and South Korean, during a war. Seoul expects substantial U.S. air and naval support and ground reinforcement in the event of war.
Which means that ROK retaliation against the DPRK would draw the U.S. into any conflict. So Washington cannot help but pressure South Korean decision-makers to act in accord with American as well as ROK interests. In fact, that’s what happened in 1983, when the U.S. insisted that Seoul not retaliate militarily after the bombing attack on President Chun.
The current situation also means that the destiny of America is essentially controlled by the North’s Kim Jong-il. Ordering an attack on a South Korean ship could end up forcing Washington to go to war. Although the bilateral U.S.-South Korean defense treaty does not make American intervention automatic, it is unimaginable that an American administration would stand aside in a conflict.
This is a ludicrous position for both the U.S. and South Korea, six decades after Washington saved a far weaker ROK from a North Korean invasion in the midst of the Cold War. Neither country is well-served by Seoul’s continuing defense dependency on America.
Read the rest on your own.
(HT to the Western Confucian)