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Articles

Donald Trump Wants South Korea to Pay Up for Defense Services

Published in Foreign Policy .

Say what you want about President Donald Trump, but he has opened up some interesting discussions on foreign policy.

On Wednesday, August 7, President Trump suggested South Korea pay America more for its defense costs. According to a tweet he made, Trump says that he is in talks with South Korean leadership to increase the $990 million that South Korea pays the U.S. for defense.

Bombastic demands aside, Trump is correct about this aspect of foreign relations. With hundreds of military bases abroad, the U.S. has become a de facto world policeman and effectively subsidizes other countries’ defense. In essence, America is expected to bail out other countries when hot conflicts emerge.

It’s even starker when discussing the case of South Korea — a modernized, first world country. With the resources it has at its disposal, South Korea is more than capable of funding its own military operations and defend itself against potential geopolitical threats like North Korea.

Trump correctly noted this in his tweet “South Korea is a very wealthy nation that now feels an obligation to contribute to the military defense provided by the United States of America.”

However, many interest groups in Washington D.C. enjoy the current status quo of military overreach. Since World War II, the American government has made sure to park troops all over the globe, which puts the country in an awkward position where it is obligated to respond to any potential military conflicts.

The founders were both correct about entangling alliances and military overreach. For those reasons, they advocated non-interventionism and kept standing armies small and limited their functions to actual national defense.  However, America has deviated from that vision of a humble foreign policy during the last century.

Instead, it has submitted to the whims of narrow interest groups such as the defense industry and so-called foreign policy “experts” in D.C. who have never seen a foreign excursion that they didn’t like.

Although not ideal, having other countries pony up more resources for defending them is a good conversation starter. A truly positive change would involve the U.S. completely withdrawing from countries such as South Korea and Japan.

Then, America can exclusively focus on defending its own borders. Nevertheless, the discussion must start somewhere. Hopefully, Trump stands his ground and starts demanding more from other American allies.

The U.S. should not be defending other countries for free.


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