Korean Endgame: A Strategy for Reunification and U.S. Disengagement

By Selig S. Harrison | Go to book overview

Foreword

FOR MORE than a decade, scholars and analysts of U.S. foreign policy have labored under enormous handicaps. In many ways, the unexpected breakup of the Soviet Union complicated the basic work of understanding and explaining world affairs, making the task of prescribing policies even more difficult. There were numerous good reasons, for example, to be uncertain about the stability of both the regimes and policies of the formerly Communist states. One simply could not know what the nearterm future held for the so-called Commonwealth of Independent States or even for the Russian Federation itself. And, on the fringes among the far-flung allies of the old Communist bloc, the questions about the future were even more vexing.

One prominent example of the problem facing analysts is the involvement of the United States in Korea, a story that reflects many of the main currents of American foreign policy over the past fifty years. After the defeat of Japan in World War II, the United States found itself simultaneously engaged in several missions in Asia: large-scale humanitarian aid programs, reconstructing (or creating) civil and political institutions, and a nascent effort to create a firewall against the spread of communism. In Korea, these activities led to support for a relatively undemocratic regime, a long-term military presence, and, in 1950, a bitter and costly war against both the North Korean invaders of the south and the so-called Chinese volunteers. For good or ill, this has meant that all postwar U.S. governments have considered the relationship with Korea to be a vital national concern. Now that the success of a reform-minded political movement finally has removed one continuing cause for concern—the lack of true democracy in South Korea—U.S. policy has been focused appropriately on the dangers posed by the Stalinist regime in the North. Today, the threat posed by North Korea is especially worrisome because there is evidence that this poor but belligerent state has the potential to develop nuclear devices and a means to deliver them.

Although our understanding of these complex issues has increased as 2001 draws to a close, the recent terrorist attacks on America's homeland are a stinging reminder that those who confront these new global realities still have much to learn. Since the end of the cold war, The Century Foundation has been sponsoring a wide variety of studies on U.S. foreign policy, as well as several task forces on the need to increase the effectiveness

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