Joshua Stanton is the Don Holleder of the K-sphere. I admire his glibly fact-littered, gruff justifications for a nasty utopian neoconservative vision where attitude trumps any regard for the world, its reality or the safety of its inhabitants. I have a similar problem with Stanton’s galloping, punishing assaults into the tackles as I do with many Beltway wonks. Interest groups derail budget proposals; states stymie states.
Stanton conveniently starts at 1992 to launch his “long march to nowhere” leading to regime change. Missing is the wreckage of decades of errors and broken visions, from FDR’s trustee proposal, Dean Rusk’s 38th Parallel decision, George Kennan’s and Dean Acheson’s disagreements, Stalin’s support for Kim Il-sung, Americans shackling Lee Seung-man, and Douglas MacArthur’s maverick foreign policy. There’s a reason a failed North Korea exists – it has nothing to do with the resilience of the Korean people. And, it’s the same reason North Korea will continue to hobble along, grinding its people beneath the wheels of international ineptitude – its loathsome existence is an inconvenient reminder, that states compete for relative gains. The Korean peninsula is the battlefield that has embarassed every state that has sought to control it.
Instead of Stanton’s “contain, constrict, collapse” proposal, with its forced veneer of “do-it” optimism, I would suggest Robert Kelly’s reluctant defense build up of South Korea. It is the least bad option, and it has the virtue of not requirng any world leader to be competent, or for any two leaders to cooperate. It would also allow the United States to redefine its strategic role in the region. Finally, it’s good for American defense corporations. It does sacrifice South Korea – and South Korean voters have a right to refuse the honor – to a responsibility from which future generations deserve a reprieve. But, given the long catalog of error and busted dreams, pre-and-post 1992, hoping to succeed on the Korean peninsula is a Hail Mary pass that is destined to be a wounded duck.