In response to provocations and threats from North Korea on Seoul and Washington, the U.S. and South Korean governments signed an agreement laying out contingency plans and responses against North Korea. According to the New York Times, the agreement is "South Korean-led, U.S.-supported" and would allow both governments to "immediately and decisively" strike North Korea.
While cloaked in the language of "defense" and "partnership," this agreement — and U.S. foreign policy in the Korean Peninsula in general — adds even more fire to a dangerous tripwire, further fuels tension, and sets the stage for a disastrous military conflict or outright war.
The justification for the new agreement has been Pyongyang's breaking of the 1953 ceasefire. They have undoubtedly shown some aggression, and their rhetoric and threats, backed up with nuclear weapons, should not be taken lightly.
As Doug Bandow notes in The American Spectator, Pyongyang has broken the armistice seven times in the last 60 years without leading to a war. North Korea is an isolated, starving country, with no allies, and armed forces that are laughable next to anyone else in the region, let alone the U.S. military. Kim Jong-un's apocalyptic rhetoric appears to be mostly for domestic consumption, the cries of a dying regime.
But if one were to listen to American policy officials, the Nazi Panzer divisions are mobilizing and are ready to storm San Diego. Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter was recently rushed to Seoul to console their government. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced an extra $1 billion to add 14 missile interceptors in Alaska. Mainstream news outlets urge us to "assume the worst" and that it's "only a matter of time" before North Korea, "the most dangerous regime in the world," starts a war.
So why the hysteria?
For one, the Pentagon and national security establishment have quite the habit of inflating threats, fear-mongering, aggression, and bellicosity. But the U.S.-South Korea agreement, and the panic over North Korea, most likely has a lot to do with President Obama's "Asia pivot."
While receiving very little discussion in the U.S. media, President Obama's "pivot" has been militarizing Asia even further by deploying nearly half of the Navy's ship to the Pacific, beefing up Marines in Australia, and saber-rattling off of the Chinese coast. This is supposed to be "Asia's NATO."
In the Korean Peninsula, the Obama administration has done about everything one government can do short of war. Last year, the U.S. drew up another round of sanctions against North Korea, with UN Ambassador Susan Rice vowing that these sanctions "will bite and bite hard" despite the extraordinary amount of evidence suggesting that sanctions don't work.
Besides the aforementioned $1 billion missile build-up, last month the U.S. and South Korea held a three day naval exercise that involved American warships armed with Tomahawk cruise missiles and even a nuclear-armed submarine. This month they are set to run another military exercise, this time with nuclear-capable B-52 bombers.
One can only imagine the response of the U.S. government if a foreign government was running war games with nuclear weapons and threatening Washington in the Gulf of Mexico.
In the event of any hostilities, skirmishes, or even an accidental exchange, the U.S. is vowing and equipping itself and South Korea to a possible war against a nuclear-armed state. But the Cold War is over, and South Korea is more than capable of defending itself.
The U.S. has spent countless billions since 1953 meddling in the Korean peninsula, setting dangerous tripwires in an area that is frankly none of our business. While Americans may have no clue that U.S. intervention actually goes back to 1871, the Koreans sure do, and since then the U.S. has rarely left the region alone.
Rather than threats, sanctions, and dangerous, tax-guzzling war games off the Korean peninsula, the U.S. should try a little basketball diplomacy instead. It is truly astonishing that despite the Obama Administration predicting doomsday over "sequester cuts" and that we would be left "defenseless," they have no problem increasing the size and scope of U.S. military power around the globe.
This just proves that no matter how disastrous to the fiscal state of America is, the empire will likely be the last thing to go.