Wednesday, October 2, 2013
Gun Shy in Seoul Sixty years later, South Korea still isn't ready to take full control of its own defense.
To be blunt Mr. Lubold's analysis is ignorant and insulting to the Koreans in terms of the OPCON transfer. This is not about the ROK military not being ready to take full control of its own defense. This is about whether the combined war fighting command should be dissolved. Unfortunately for the mythical OPCON transfer to occur it requires the dissolution of the ROK/US Combined Forces Command (CFC) and the establishment of separate national war fighting commands.
The Korean military is rightly concerned (not gun shy) about two things: First is the loss of unity of command (and thus unity of effort) when the ROK/US Combined Forces Command is dissolved. Second, is the concern that dissolution of CFC will be the next step in the reduction of the US military commitment to the Alliance (and this is exacerbated by the move to a rotational presence). In actuality the ROK military is self confident enough to take a more long term strategic view of the situation and willingly accept the criticism and derision of those like Mr. Lubold in order to ensure the strength of the Alliance to ensure that the ROK and US military capabilities are organized in a way that can most effective deter defend, and fight, and win and serves the interests of both the ROK and US. The ROK leaders know the importance of unity of command.
The other piece to this that I have not described for quite some time is the importance of the ROK/US Military Committee which was actually meeting this week in Seoul. This is who the Commander of the ROK/US CFC answers to and from whom he receives his strategic and operational guidance. The Military Committee is made up of senior military officers from the ROK and US. And it is because of this Military Committee that the ROK actually in effect does exercise co-equal "OPCON" over both its forces and the US forces as the US does the same over its forces and the ROK forces. This is also why if the ROK/US CFC were to be commanded by a ROK General with a US Deputy that US forces would still not be placed under foreign control because that ROK General would still answer to the Military Committee that includes senior US officers.
Lastly, we should remember how this so-called OPCON transfer got started and grew legs. This is a result of the perception of rising anti-American sentiment during the Kim Dae-jung and then Roh Moo-hyun administration combined with President Roh's political rhetoric about ROK control of military forces. Second, this is a result of the disdain the Bush administration had for the Roh administration combined with the desire of Rumsfeld to get US forces off the Peninsula (where they were being "wasted," in his words) so that they could be put in the fight in the war on terrorism (read Iraq). After the Roh administration was elected Rumsfeld, with no prior coordination with the US command in Korea, informed Roh's emissaries in January 2003 that he would move US forces out of Yongsan in Seoul and that he wanted to allow the ROK military to be responsible for the defense. This is what started the chain of events and has brought us to this point. But none of these plans or decisions were based on a strategic analysis of what the ROK and US militaries need to and can do, the best way to do it in terms of achieving both ROK and US strategic objectives in regards to the north Korean threat, and the outcome of either war or regime collapse. These decisions were not just political but emotional and not based on sound strategic planning and logic.
But after only one command briefing in Seoul Mr. Lubold should not be expected to understand. But I am sure he is enjoying his trip to Asia traveling with the SECDEF.
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