In its recent call for the U.S. government to continue serving as the world’s policeman (an editorial that I criticized here), the Washington Post trotted out an old example of U.S. foreign intervention to bolster its case: South Korea. Of course, it shouldn’t surprise us that the Post would go that far back to support its support of foreign interventionism.
As everyone knows, more recent examples of foreign intervention, such as Iraq, Afghanistan, and Vietnam haven’t done very well, leaving a trail a death, destruction, misery, corruption, torture, impoverishment, and dictatorship in their wake.
Actually, however, on close examination the South Korea example isn’t such a big interventionist winner itself. The Post states:
South Korea, once a war-torn impoverished dictatorship is now a democracy and one of the world’s largest and most dynamic economies. Millions of Americans carry Samsung smartphones. None of this would have happened without the – admittedly expensive, undoubtedly risky — long-term military presence on the Korean peninsula.
The Post doesn’t explain what it means by “expensive,” but presumably it’s talking about money. If money were the only cost involved in achieving economic prosperity in South Korea, one might be tempted to consider the terms of the exchange, depending, of course, on how much money was involved and whether the exchange was voluntary.
Unfortunately, such is not the case with respect to Korea.
A good friend and supporter of The Future of Freedom Foundation recently passed away. He was a veteran of the Korean War. After Korea’s civil war broke out in 1950, the U.S. government commanded Raymond to report for “duty“ in the U.S. military. That is, they didn’t give him a choice. They didn’t ask him if he was interested in volunteering to fight in Korea’s civil war. Instead, U.S. officials simply forced him to leave his regular life, trained him to kill, and then sent him to fight on behalf of South Korea.
One of the supreme ironies about the situation is that at the same time they were forcing Raymond into the military to “serve” in Korea, they were saying that U.S. forces were fighting in Korea for “freedom.”
President Truman declined to secure the consent of Congress to wage war in Korea, notwithstanding the fact that the Constitution expressly requires a congressional declaration of war before the president can wage war. Instead, Truman, embracing the idea that the U.S. government should serve as the world’s policeman, announced that this wasn’t a real war but rather just a “police action.” So, he decided that all he needed was permission from the United Nations, not the elected representatives of the American people, including Raymond’s own congressman, to send U.S. military forces into Korea to “police” that part of the world.
Shortly before Raymond was to return home, he volunteered for a combat mission. While he was sitting in a foxhole, an enemy artillery shell hit near his position. The blast left him permanently paralyzed from the waist down, along with a host of injuries that left him with never-ending medical problems, chronic depression, and a ruined life, much of which was lived in VA hospitals. The amazing part was that he lived until his 80s.
Would South Korea have been manufacturing Samsung smartphones today had Raymond and other U.S. soldiers not been sent to Korea? Perhaps not. Certainly, South Vietnam, which also faced a civil war with North Vietnam, isn’t manufacturing Samsung Smartphones today. Despite the deaths of some 58,000 American men, North Vietnam won that civil war. Today, while Vietnam is unified under a socialist-communist regime, the U.S. government has established good relationships with the regime. It is entirely possible that the same thing would have happened in Korea.
It should be pointed out that when the U.S. government was conscripting American men to be sent to fight, kill, and die in Korea, it wasn’t saying that it was so that South Korea could become a democratic and economically prosperous nation. Instead, at that time U.S. officials were saying that the justification was that the communists were coming to get us. If the United States didn’t intervene as a global policeman in Korea and Vietnam, U.S. officials said, the dominoes would start to fall and America would end up under communist rule.
Of course, the lie was exposed when the Vietnam War was lost and the dominoes didn’t fall.
If Raymond had been asked whether he would be willing to trade a healthy and normal life for the opportunity for Americans to later buy Samsung smartphones, I am 100 percent certain what his answer would have been—that no, he never would have been willing to make that trade. My hunch is that 99 percent of other Americans would say the same thing, including the 33,686 Americans who were killed in the Korean War. Indeed, my hunch is that the members of the editorial board of the Washington Post would say the same thing about their own lives but that they’d be more than willing to trade the lives of other Americans in exchange for the opportunity to buy Samsung smartphones.
Forcing American citizens to kill and die for the sake of Samsung smartphones just goes to show how morally bankrupt the national-security state apparatus and its interventionist philosophy have always been and continue to be.
Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.
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