Informal Institute for National Security Thinkers and Practitioners - News from the Associate Director, Security Studies Program
Friday, July 26, 2013
6 decades on, U.S. stuck in war role in Korea
So was this written in collaboration with the AP's Pyongyang bureau? Some of the statements in this seems like rhetoric of which Pyongyang would approve, and as an example the article about war is nicely juxtaposed with the photo of the "peaceful celebration" that implies a threat to no one. (As an aside, while I really do think it is important for foreign news organizations to try to report from north Korea I worry that the establishment of the aP's Pyongyang bureau may have compromised reporting even when done outside north Korea as in the case of the subtly pro-north Korean article).
But I do tire of the mythical OPCON transfer argument. The issue is how do we best organize the Alliance military forces to achieve our strategic objectives?
And as far as the US trying to wean the ROK from dependence on the US let's understand the genesis of the mythical OPCON Transfer. It resulted from a combination of the Secretary of Defense's frustration with anti-American sentiment during the progressive governments of the ROK and that same Secretary's desire to get US forces off the Peninsula since they were being wasted and could not be employed in OIF and OEF. It is really about reducing the US military commitment to the Alliance and this is what I think might now be spooking the ROK. It is made worse by the US fiscal situation and the impact on the defense budget and the ROK may also be concerned that the proposal for rotational forces will result in a reduced commitment because DoD may not be able to sustain the costs for rotation.
The ROK/US military alliance has evolved in six decades. The Combined Forces Command has developed to optimize the employment of the strengths of both nation's military forces while mitigating the weaknesses. Rather than splitting the proverbial Siamese twins we should consider the proposal for the next step in the evolution which was the recent proposal not to delay OPCON transfer but to establish a new Combined Theater Command that is commanded by a ROK General. Again, the first military consider is how to effectively organize the military forces. I would submit that a Combined Theater Command might also satisfy some of the domestic political considerations as well.
But the primary question that policymakers, strategists, and planners should be asking is whether this or that policy, strategy, campaign plan, organization, activity, action, etc contributes to directly or indirectly to the accomplishment of the strategic end state established by our two nation's Presidents in the 2009 Joint Vision Statement and reaffirmed in the May 2013 joint declaration which is of course the (peaceful) reunification of Korea. If the actions are not focused on and contributing to that then we should reconsider them. The dissolution of a combined warfighting command is one action the does not contribute to the end state.
North Korean children perform at the May Day stadium during the 'Arirang' mass games song-and-dance ensemble on the eve of the 60th anniversary of the Korean War armistice in Pyongyang, North Korea, Friday, July 26, 2013. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)
By The Associated Press
Published: Friday, July 26, 2013, 7:18 p.m.Updated 33 minutes ago
WASHINGTON — Sixty years after it finished fighting in Korea, the United States is struggling with two legacies that are reminders of the costs — political, military and human — that war can impose on the generations that follow.
The first is the leading role that America is committed to playing in defending South Korea should the 1950-53 Korean War reignite.
Washington has tried for years to wean its ally, Seoul, off its dependence on the U.S. military by setting a target date for switching from American to Korean control of the forces that would defend the country in the event the North attacked the South. That target date has slipped from 2012 to 2015 and, this past week, American officials said the Koreans are informally expressing interest in pushing it back further.
Bruce Bennett, a Korea expert at the RAND Corp., a federally funded think tank, says he believes the argument for giving Seoul wartime command of its own troops loses ground as North Korea's nuclear ambitions grow bolder. The North has tested nuclear devices and may be capable of mounting one on a ballistic missile — a worry not only for South Korea, Japan and others in the region but also for the United States.
“From the South Korean perspective — and I believe there is a lot of truth to their argument — having the U.S. in (the lead) is a strong deterrent of North Korea, and it means North Korea can't split the alliance,” he said.
The second is the seemingly endless challenge of accounting for U.S. servicemen who remain listed as missing in action.