U.S. Military Presence

The nature of contemporary armed conflict has changed since the Cold War. A major concern of the 1990s was that peace-keeping duties overtax the already shrinking U. S. military force and detrimental to the ability of the American military to defend the nation, leading members of Congress to express reservations on U. S. military involvement in peacekeeping operations. Many have perceived these tasks as inefficient use of U. S. forces which would be better left to other nations.

They argue that the U. S. military should instead focus on acquiring high-intensity combat skills, while there are those who propose force size and structure adjustments to better accommodate these missions. The events of September 11, 2001 however brought new concerns and threats to the forefront and emphasized once again the value to U. S. national security of ensuring stability around the world. Congress has been divided in what, if any, adjustments should be made for the U. S.

to continue its peace-keeping and stability missions be it in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo, Rwanda or elsewhere on the planet, without straining the armed forces, and whether it would be a better option to augment civilian and international efforts and capabilities to take more of the responsibility. Northeast Asia and the Korean peninsula have been far from passive since the end of the Cold War and the split of the two Koreas. The present paper attempts to critically discuss the presence of the U. S.

military in supposedly post-conflict zones, particularly the case of South Korea. The ensuing policy proposal endeavors to present arguments and ideas aimed at making peace and stability in the region a more concrete reality. II. REVIEW OF RELATED LITERATURE The Defense Policy of the United States of America The defense policy of the United States of America has been changing rapidly since the end of the Cold War. Significant changes following the post-September 11 world order have been undertaken under the present administration of President George W. Bush.

Since 9/11, the US has engaged in two major wars (Afghanistan and Iraq), deploying troops all over the world as its military is now located in around 130 countries performing a variety of duties, from combat operations to peacekeeping and training with foreign militaries (Murphy, 2003). In response to the American-led war on terrorism, President Bush’s 2003 budget proposal asked Congress for $379 billion for defense aimed at “keeping the Republic” through achieving these goals: (1) Maintaining the sovereignty, political freedom, and independence of the United States, with its values, institutions, and territory intact.

(2) Protecting the lives and personal safety of Americans, both at home and abroad. (3) Promoting the well–being and prosperity of the nation and its people. Achieving these three basic goals of defense entails the United States taking on a leadership role in maintaining a world in which: Critical regions are stable, at peace, and free from domination by hostile powers; the global economy and free trade are growing; democratic norms and respect for human rights are widely accepted; the spread of nuclear, biological, and chemical (NBC) and other potentially destabilizing weapons technologies is minimized.

The Defense Department bases its long-range planning on the “Imperative of Engagement,” which assumes the need for the U. S. to continue maintaining a world-class military force capable of engaging in combat anywhere in the world for the next 15 – 20 years. For some time now since the end of the Second World War, the U. S. has been the only nation in the world capable of effective large-scale military operations outside its borders. This unique ability to act as the “world’s super cop” resulting in a number of alliances that, while maintaining peace and stability in key regions of the world, require the almost constant presence of the U.

S. military in overseas bases abroad. The U. S. maintains a proactive international peacekeeping strategy designed by the Department of Defense to work in tandem with diplomatic and economic efforts of other government agencies. Over 200,000 U. S. troops, mainly stationed in South Korea, Germany and Japan, are currently deployed abroad, an almost 50% reduction the Cold War era, when U. S. troop levels reached the 450,000 mark. U. S. forces stationed abroad are intended to prevent and put down any acts of aggression, violations of human rights, and maintain visibility as a stabilizing presence in the region.

45,000 U. S. troops on average are deployed abroad in both combat and peacekeeping missions focused mainly in the Balkans, the Persian Gulf and Taiwan Straits (DOD, 2001). Under current Defense Department policy, the U. S. Military maintains readiness to fight two ‘major regional wars’ simultaneously in vastly separated regions of the world. Pentagon planners also strive for the capability to win such regional wars in as little half the seven months devoted to the Gulf War, in addition to readiness to combat in contingency and peacekeeping roles.

The 2001 defense budget allocates over $100 billion for research, development and procurement of even more advanced weapons systems, though critics of the present U. S. defense policy argue that existing weapons systems are more than adequate to deal with potential threats for at least the next 15 years. In response to such criticisms, Chapter 5 of the Defense Department’s Annual Report to Congress for 2000 states that: “As potential regional aggressors expand their technological capabilities and modify their doctrine, they will pose more lethal threats to military operations.

The proliferation of modern defense technologies means that U. S. forces must maintain a substantial advantage over potential adversaries to ensure quick and decisive victory with minimum casualties. U. S. forces simultaneously must be prepared to operate in the face of asymmetric threats, such as the use of nuclear, biological, and chemical (NBC) weapons, terrorism, and information warfare. ” The Forging of U. S. -South Korea Relations

When Japan lost control of Korea at the end of World War II, the United States and the Soviet Union split the peninsula into two territories pending promised national elections, which never took place. When Moscow and Washington failed to agree on a way forward, the United Nations in 1948 declared the Republic of Korea (ROK), with its capital in Seoul, as the only legitimate government on the peninsula, which the Soviets rejected.

In 1950, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) invaded, forcing the U. S. to head the UN and aid South Korea. In 1953 a cease-fire froze the front line at roughly the thirty-eighth parallel. The U. S. and South Korea signed the Mutual Security Agreement in 1958, agreeing to defend each other against outside aggression. Subsequently they formed the Combined Forces Command (CFC) based in Seoul and headed by a U. S. general in 1978.