In his book, Tripwire: Korea and U.S. Foreign Policy in a Changed World, Doug Bandow presents a comprehensive review of the history of U.S. military involvement in South Korea and argues that it is time to recognize that South Korea is capable of defending itself and to bring American troops home.
Bandow contends that military activism abroad may have been justified at one time to contain the hegemonic threat posed by the Soviet Union and its clients. However, with the Cold War behind us, there is no longer any need for U.S. tripwires around the world. Such a tripwire is especially inappropriate on the Korean peninsula. "In 1953 the ROK was a wreck—impoverished, war ravaged, and ruled by an unloved autocrat whose belligerence had helped plunge his country into a disastrous war. Without an American security guarantee, South Korea would not have long survived. But four-plus decades later, the South is prosperous and democratic while its adversary is ruled by an autocrat who lacks both charisma and international friends. North Korea talks of avoiding absorption by Seoul, not of conquest."
Washington's military commitment to South Korea has outlived its usefulness. While South Koreans undoubtedly appreciate the protection, there is no compelling reason for the forward deployment of U.S. troops and the corresponding risk to American lives. South Koreans "will probably still want the United States to be prepared to fight to the last American for them," Bandow writes, "but their wishes should not matter. Washington should risk the lives and wealth of its citizens only when something fundamental is at stake for their own political community. U.S. soldiers' lives are not gambit pawns to be sacrificed in some global chess game."
In the book's final chapter, "A New Foreign Policy for a Changed World," Bandow eloquently makes the case that it is time to return to the American tradition of individual liberty at home and nonintervention abroad.