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Our Dangerous Foreign-Policy Freeloaders

During the late winter and early spring of 2013, yet another crisis involving North Korea occupied the attention of U.S. officials and much of the news media.  Not only did Pyongyang conduct a nuclear test, but the government of Kim Jong-un issued shrill threats against both South Korea and the United States.  South Korea’s new president, Park Geun-hye, paid an official visit to Washington in early May, where she and President Obama solemnly affirmed the solidarity of their countries in the face of Pyongyang’s saber-rattling.

Only a few critics in the United States bothered to ask why the United States was on the front lines of a quarrel halfway around the world involving two small states on the Korean Peninsula.  But in many ways, Washington’s “mutual” defense treaty with South Korea, ratified in 1954 shortly after the Korean War, is a textbook example of what has gone wrong with America’s security strategy.  Cato Institute senior fellow Doug Bandow notes that absent the alliance with South Korea, “Washington wouldn’t even notice the DPRK (North Korea).”  Bandow is correct when he concludes that the alliance “is a bad deal for America.”

But the commitment to defend South Korea is hardly the only arrangement warranting that description.  Since the end of World War II, the United States has acquired a breathtaking array of dubious security obligations. ...

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