If one thing is clear it is that we’d want to keep the Korean Peninsula calm while we’re concentrating much of our military might in Arabia. (When the US military makes contingency plans for fighting two regional wars simultaneously — a key point of US war-fighting doctrine through the 1990s — one of the notional locales is usually in Arabia, the other in North Korea or Taiwan.) In order to keep things calm on the Korean Peninsula we’d want above all else to keep our relations with our primary ally, South Korea (ROK), as cordial and as tightly-coordinated as possible. Yet relations between the US and South Korea have been going down hill since March 2001. And in the last couple months they’ve been in free-fall. (For the first time ever, prominent South Korean politicians are openly questioning the US-ROK alliance.)
So how exactly did we find ourselves in a virtual crisis in our relations with South Korea at just the time we’re in a very un-virtual crisis in our relations with the North? That’s an especially good question considering that it was logical to assume that the NKs would act up at about the time we were getting ourselves pinned down in Iraq. Was this the plan? Or was someone not paying attention? And how exactly is the near-crisis in our relations with the South Koreans the fault of Bill Clinton?
The Washington Post seems willing to give the administration the benefit of the doubt on all this. But for those of us who aren’t inclined to carry the administration’s water, what are we supposed to think?