Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Military command in S. Korea

In the tragic event of war, perhaps South Korean and U.S. ground forces could each take separate avenues of attack, avoiding each other and minimizing the danger of a confused command system. However, what would result if one country's forces wanted to move quickly on Pyongyang and the other did not? Who would decide what to do, quickly enough to ensure battlefield coordination and efficiency? Or what would happen if separate U.S. and South Korean armies converged on Pyongyang nearly simultaneously and risked creating a friendly-fire hazard due to their proximity with each other?

Even worse dilemmas could occur with the air campaign. Which military leader would decide how to allocate scarce air assets between strategic targets and tactical targets? Who would ensure control of the airspace so that U.S. and South Korea planes were not mistaking each other for the enemy, or accidentally firing at each other's ground forces? Such problems have occasionally arisen even in the recent international wars in Iraq despite the fact that U.S. commanders had overall control of the operations; they could be much worse if no one were in charge.

For these reasons, this new proposed policy strikes me as a mistake. Dividing commands sharing a common, constrained, small battlespace seems illogical. My own view is that the United States should retain operational military command of combined forces in wartime into the indefinite future, even as Seoul and Washington clarify that the alliance's military commander is subordinate to their combined political control. But if we are going to make the controversial decision to change command arrangements, we should work them out before committing to a new relationship. Otherwise, the United States and South Korea could face not only new dangers on the battlefield, but a weakening in the perceived strength of their alliance to onlookers in Pyongyang and a weakening of our most crucial commodity--strong deterrence against North Korea.

O'Hanlon is a senior fellow in foreign policy studies at the Brookings Institution. He is a visiting lecturer at Princeton University and a member of the International Institute for Strategic Studies and the Council on Foreign Relations.yomiuri

Hmmm I did not know that. If that is the case , and the US decided to hand over the command to Korea, US intention is clear.

In the event of war in Korea, the United States would likely deploy at least one-fourth of its main combat force structure to the theater. Since the total annual cost of U.S. military is now more than $400 billion (not counting expenses in Iraq), this would represent an equivalent value of more than $100 billion in annual expenditure, four to five times the effective contribution of South Korea. South Korea would deploy more personnel overall, but a U.S. contribution of some half million would itself be enormous.

In many ways, South Koreans get more out of this alliance than the United States does. Americans are sacrificing for an alliance that would defend not them, but their South Korean friends in a land thousands of kilometers from the United States. To be sure, the United States would not do this unless it were in our interest. But South Korea has an even more immediate and pressing interest in the goals of the alliance. If South Koreans expect a nod to their pride, Americans expect some measure of gratitude for their longstanding commitment to a distant land.

And this make the US intention clearer.

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