Ricochet is the best place on the internet to discuss the issues of the day, either through commenting on posts or writing your own for our active and dynamic community in a fully moderated environment. In addition, the Ricochet Audio Network offers over 50 original podcasts with new episodes released every day.
North Korea’s attack on South Korea this Thanksgiving week caused me, as a Korean immigrant, to be grateful for the United States’ lonely defense of the West during the Cold War. In 1950, President Harry Truman immediately sent troops in response to a Chinese-sanctioned invasion of the South by the North. Intervention in Korea did not just advance American interests in the short term. It also benefited human welfare in Korea and throughout Asia. South Korea, a small agrarian nation with a population of 21 million in 1955, today has a population of 48 million and is the thirteenth largest economy in the world with a GNP of $888 billion (nominal GNP in 1962 was only $2.3 billion). North Korea’s population, by contrast, has stagnated for the decade at around 21-22 million, with annual economic growth of less than half of one percent; its economy is barely functional with a GNP of no more than $40 billion (which ranks it at the very bottom in the world), and its society is governed by the most extreme communist dictatorship left on earth.
The Vietnam war, too, took its toll on the lives and treasury of the United States, and arguably destroyed two presidencies, but the effects of American withdrawal may have been even steeper—millions of Vietnamese were killed, sent to concentration camps, or fled as boat people. Wars in both Korea and Vietnam sent important signals to the Soviet Union and China that the United States would continue to resist communist expansion forcefully. While Korea was a stalemate, and Vietnam a defeat, communism did not spread in Asia and America’s defense allowed nations such as Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, at first, and now others like Indonesia and Maylasia to rise out of poverty. This all may have served the interests of the United States, but it should not be forgotten that the United States sent its men and women to fight and die on foreign lands so that people they never knew might live a more prosperous, peaceful life.