Friday, April 08, 2005

High Stakes in Peninsular Gambling

Go to Gar's pokerman analysis of the high-stakes gambling going on between South Korea and the United States over military issues. Here's a sampler:

"The US spends billions of dollars annually on S. Korean defense and Congress is now starting to ask why? Lt Gen Campbell is merely stating the USFK (still) has a plan to defend Korea, but it costs $60M more than the Koreans are willing to pay this year. The money has to come from somewhere. When he says support and construction costs will be cut first, you have to wonder about the U.S. long-term commitment, and why is Korea balking at paying for her own security? The U.S. is not going to operate/fight with one hand tied behind it's back. Perhaps it would be cheaper if Korea went it alone?

The Korean government called the U.S.'s raise and promptly re-raised by declaring there would be no more negotiations on cost sharing, while almost simultaneously announcing they would seek China/ROK military ties on par with ROK/Japan ties. Whew boy. This is getting better than the celebrity poker games on cable TV; most of them don't really know what they're doing either."

It's interesting to see game theory applied in this way, though Gar appears to have more appreciation of the nonrational factors motivating players than do game theorists who calculate based on the assumption of purely rational actors. Nationalist emotions drive people to do things not clearly in their own rational interest (such as cutting off one of your own fingers).

The political maneuvering is fascinating to watch, but unnerving, too, for Americans like me who live and work in Korea -- especially for those of us who are married to Koreans, and particularly for those of us who have children. The haunting spector of anti-Americanism is ever present . . .

As for the game itself, Korea may seem to have a weak hand, but this is on the assumption that it is bluffing and hoping that the United States will make concessions. If President Roh's remarks about Korea's role as a balancer/stabilizer are merely tactical, then Korea is bluffing. But if -- as has been strongly implied -- the shift is strategic, then Korea is not bluffing.

This means that although Americans might think that Korea is holding a two, it's actually holding an ace that it is willing to play: an alliance with China.

I think that this would be a long-term mistake for Korea to make, but Koreans might not see it that way.

Let me make myself clear. I'm a friend of Korea (for whatever my friendship might be worth), and I'm not against China. I'm also critical of Japan for not being more honest with itself about its history and for maintaining official claims to Dokdo. But I'm not anti-Japanese.

In my view, Korea, Japan, the United States, and Russia ought to maintain good relations with China. Good relations, however, do not have to translate into an alliance with China. Korea might gain some short-term advantage over Japan by an alliance with China, but in the long run, Korea would benefit more by continuing an alliance with the United States. Ideally, even an alliance between Korea and Japan would be in the interests of both, but that looks increasingly remote.

I've said this before, but it's a truism of political science that bears repeating: A small country in the shadow of a nearby great power had better seek a more distant ally with even greater power. Why? Because the distant ally won't have any territorial ambitions, but the neighboring power might. Better safe than sorry.

So, think carefully, Korea.


At 3:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think after watching the signs both SK and the US have shifted strategic thinking. It isn't terribly surprising even though it suprises. Back in the early 1990s, the US congress was seriously ready to contemplate a shift. This is the first time since Nixon, however, that the nuts and bolts have come flying off. When the nuts and bolts start loosening, it is important. Whatever Roh and Donald Rumsfeld might say, when the US decides to do away with reserve stockpiles, push for the base consolidation plan to actually start moving, and begins removing 1/3rd of USFK, I think we have clearly entered a new era. Heck, even the US not seeming to put up much of a fight in letting Korea cut its part of the budget when it has been pressing it for years to get closer to the percentage Japan pays is significant. And I think Roh's people are finally putting SK policy where the people's minds have been for some time. The average Korean believes China will (soon) replace the US as "the #1 superpower) and they have some vague sense that this must be better for Korea than what they got with the US. (See Kim Dae Jung's ringing endorsement of the US-SK alliance today as something, damn it, SK just has to accept "fatalistically")....

I believe Roh plans to shift government policy away from the US and try to get into the middle by moving closer to China. I don't like the way he is doing it -- because from what little I've read, even the increase in SK's defense budget isn't going in the right places. Roh is doing this mostly by distancing SK from the US without moving policy toward building up Korea's defense forces anywhere near what it needs.

So, I too having lived in Korea, met many nice friends, and still having family there --- worry.

But, I ultimately can't bring myself to wish USFK would stay in Korea and face the NK threat -- with NK so close to collapse all the time --- given the cost/benefit analysis of accepting such risks...

SK can defend itself. I just hope to God they start moving toward doing it for real if USFK is truly heading out...

At 4:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, on a "it's a small world" note, after looking at your side bar, I thought I'd mention I did my undergraduate panel research project on an analysis of Pearl and Coleridge's Kubla Khan in the context of medieval dream poetry.

At 6:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Jeff,

Looks like you have blogging down to a science now - the blog looks good!
Wow - 23rd floor - I can't even imagine that, with my fear of heights. Should be a hoot during thunderstorms :)


At 8:23 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, usinkorea, for the remarks. I think that your point about the reserve stockpiles is correct. The U.S. is cutting down its military presence here here in Korea. This makes sense in terms of America's overall strategy of moving to smaller, more mobile forces and relying more upon high-tech weaponry. But this is a separate issue from maintaining (or not maintaining) the alliance. A continued U.S.-R.O.K. alliance would be in the interest of both countries, and more so in South Korea's national interest than in America's, it seems to me. But current trends seem to be moving Korea away from the U.S.

As for dream poetry, thanks for the remark. I haven't done much work on it, but I may someday since I have to talk about it in my classes. Any suggestion on the best text to read about medieval dream poetry?

At 8:32 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Nomad, thanks for the encouragement. Once I got into blogging, I was able to build up my sidebar quickly because I had kept a record of websites located during my researches and class preparations over the past couple of years. I still have a number of other websites to link to as soon as I have time.

Ah, thunderstorms . . . sigh . . . . I haven't experienced a good electrical storm since I left the Ozarks many moons ago. I recall one or two mild thunderstorms in Germany. I lived on the 7th floor of a dorm in Tuebingen, and a storm hit one time that had the Germans all excited. Ho-hum. As Kid No. 1 in "Kids Next Door" might say:

"It was okay. A safe performance."

I wasn't much impressed. The Germans didn't know what a real storm was.

I've never been afraid of heights. Now, depths, that's something to fear. I've never felt comfortable over deep water, but I guess that it doesn't bother you. I look forward to more fish stories . . .

At 10:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I found hard copy of the old paper, but not the bibliography.

This book got panned by one scholar who reviewed it, but it was a good enough foundation I used in the paper and it had a lot of references I tracked back.

Stephen Russell. The English Dream Vision. One of the best sections in the book for my understanding was his analysis of St. Augustine's commentary on visions and dreams which I would imagine you read online somewhere.

I need to find the bibliography which is probably only on CD somewhere for two sources I only have the authors for right now -- a quick googe didn't locate them ---

Ann Watts and Theodore Bogdamos were two people who looked at the dream vision in the context of medieval religion. Bogdamos' book was particularly helpful to me --- but it was a tough book to get. I got it on interlibrary loan when i was working in a library, and it took a long time before a library that had it sent it. I think it was printed in India. In particular, he explained the medieval imagery's effort to capture the "eschatological expectations" mixed with dread and longing in the Christian tradition especially from Revelations --- the idea that a Christian would be both thrilled at the immediate prospects of heaven but horrified at the carnage as the chaff was seperated from the wheat when the end of time came ---- After reading Bogdamos' book, it was a lot easier to approach medieval vision poetry which seems so alien in today's world.

I'm going to the college library tomorrow, and I'll jump on MLA and try to track down the titles for these two works. From these three, you could track back a lot of material.

A book I used a good bit on the Romantic period was M.H. Abrams' Natural Supernatuarlism. It's on the Romantics, but it is much more into looking back than forward. It places the romantic movement in the tradition of the middle ages (which is where the term "romantic" came from to describe them) and religion -- which seems to be something post-modern scholars avoid plague ---- at least that is my general memory from when I was doing the research.

In fact, I had a rough time with my panel until I gave them a first rough draft of the paper. Just saying I was going to compare Pearl with Kubla Khan was too much for them, because it was so different from anything done with Kubla before. But the more I dug, the more I thought I was on the right track.

At 10:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, no wonder I couldn't find this book. I spelled the guy's blooming name wrong in the paper. I am sure this is the book, however. It was the most helpful to me in approaching the imagery of medieval poetry. (My period of focus was the early Romantics and then their influence on modern poetry).

Theodore Bogdanos. Pearl: Image of the Ineffable: A Study in Medieval Poetic Symbolism. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1983. Theodore Bogdanos, 1985.

At 10:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You can get the book on used for $7 plus shipping. I just bought a copy because it was one of the books from my time as an English major (so long ago) that I remember liking much.

At 10:11 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, I'll look into getting this book . . . if my wife lets me.


Post a Comment

<< Home