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Neutralizing North Korea

In the July/August cover story, Mark Bowden examined the United States’ choices for dealing with “The Worst Problem on Earth”—a nuclear-armed North Korea. He laid out four options: a full-scale military strike, a limited strike, removal of Kim Jong Un from power, and “acceptance.”

Mark Bowden’s thoughtful article presents four equally ill-fated postures the U.S. might adopt toward North Korea, but fails to consider a fifth possibility: removing the thorn.

The Kim dynasty has justified its insane military escalation by convincing the people of North Korea that the U.S. is determined to invade. And we provide all the evidence he requires: For decades, the U.S. has supplied the bulk of non-Korean United Nations forces on the peninsula. About 30,000 U.S. soldiers, sailors, and airmen are on constant alert; we garrison countless anti-aircraft batteries; we operate massive Air Force bases just dozens of miles from the border. In short, we validate the “looming threat” that Kim Jong Un warns his people about.

When the Korean War broke out, in 1950, South Korea was an impoverished nation reeling from the ravages of World War II. Sixty-seven years later, South Korea boasts a thriving economy and can easily afford a robust military. Yet U.S. taxpayers still bankroll 60 percent of the cost of the Pentagon’s 1950 scenario: thousands of steely-eyed GIs poised to repel the relentless horde of bayonet-wielding North Koreans swarming across the DMZ. But as Bowden chillingly describes, the reality of renewed aggression would be vastly different.

The U.S. military would have us believe that our troops are essential to preventing Kim from invading. But to Kim, our very presence on the peninsula represents the tip of a spear pointed directly at him.

So if our presence in South Korea is the thorn in North Korea’s side, let’s pull it out. Let South Korea man the trenches. The looming threat would no longer exist. Then we should encourage North Korea to curtail its (no longer necessary) weapons program and open a dialogue with its neighbor to the south.

We would still respect our UN obligation, but from a distance—making it clear that our response to aggression against South Korea would be immediate, nuclear, and final.

Continuing to invest American blood and treasure in a never-ending stalemate is not in our national

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