Sunday, April 17, 2011

Trump shoots his mouth off on Korea

Possible presidential candidate Donald Trump, fresh from cluelessly releasing the wrong document that would officially certify his birth while chiding President Obama for not being forthcoming about his own origins, the real estate developer turned media whore decided that birther b.s. was not enough to wrap up the Republican nomination and he went after some more red meat for some Tea Party conservatives: foreign "occupation" and free-trade pacts, specifically with South Korea.

From Reuters:
He singled out the recent trade pact with South Korea, signed after a military showdown with communist-ruled North Korea, saying it was a "joke" with insufficient benefits for the United States.

"We go over there, we protect them, we protect them with our ships ... Did anyone pay us for this? No! So, what is happening is mind-boggling."
As with so many things spewing from his mouth, the mercurial and diarrheal Trump doesn't let facts get in the way of a good rant, but one would hope voters are more grounded in reality. And for those voters, let's take a look at the facts, courtesy of PolitiFact:
First, we should note that the number of U.S. service members is dwarfed by the more than 500,000 South Korean service members on active duty, plus many more South Korean reserve troops.

"The South Koreans defend themselves," said Allan R. Millett, a historian and director of the Eisenhower Center for American Studies at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans. "We do the high-tech things so they can have more shooters."

But do they pay for the U.S. help?

Indeed, they do. South Korea has regularly signed agreements spelling out its "burden sharing" responsibility for U.S. troops. The current agreement, which was signed by representatives of the two governments in January 2009, covers the five-year period between 2009 and 2013.

The financial burden South Korea must shoulder, converted into dollars, is about $694 million. That amount will rise for each of the succeeding four years at an amount pegged to inflation. The prior agreement covered 2007 and 2008, with payments totaling $664 million and $678 million in 2007 and 2008, respectively.

The payments by South Korea fall into several sub-categories. Labor cost sharing, paid in cash, accounts for about 41 percent of the total. Logistics cost sharing, which is paid in kind, accounts for about 18 percent. And construction programs, which are a combination of cash and in-kind payments, account for the remaining 41 percent of the costs.

Trump’s statement that South Korea doesn’t "pay us" is a sweeping statement that suggests they get U.S. protection for free. But in fact, they are paying the U.S. hundreds of millions of dollars a year.
The idea of South Korea getting a free ride, when in fact almost all ROK males have to perform military service or a suitable substitute and Seoul spends a higher percentage of GDP than almost all the US's allies, is ludicrous. That Trump would uncritically regurgitate such claims for political points shows that he just simply doesn't have the intellect or the ethical standards to run the country. We need someone who actually understands how things work if we want to fix what's wrong. Throwing your feces, simian-like, at whatever bothers you at the moment, is not an effective plan.

Oh, and the Free Trade Agreement was not signed after the North Korean attacks but renegotiated. In fact, it was signed in 2007, when George W. Bush was president.

Let's also take note (as suggested elsewhere in the PolitiFact article) that the US military presence in South Korea (and Japan) is not just about preventing war on the Korean Peninsula but in Northeast Asia in general, which is clearly in the US's interests.

The Marmot (who is no fan of the US military presence in South Korea) also addressed this issue, even quoting one of his favorite America Firster pundits, John Derbyshire:
Once you start to have subversive thoughts like that, others come thick and fast. If we don’t need those thirty thousand troops in South Korea, then, hey, maybe we don’t need the 36,000 we’ve got stationed in Japan, either. It may even be — you might want to sit down for this one, it’s way out radical — it may even be we don’t need to keep 52,000 troops stationed in Germany, or the ten thousand in Italy, or the nine thousand in Britain. It’s real nice for those countries to have us protecting them, but how is it good for us?
Methinks simpletons like Derbyshire don't understand how deterrence works or why it's important. The highly successful Pax Americana, the greatest source of stability Northeast Asia has known in centuries, is still needed. And it would seem that Europe is uncharacteristically peaceful as well, thanks to the US-anchored NATO which calls for the US military presence.

Let me make it simple: The US military presence in Northeast Asia and Europe costs pennies on the dollar compared to how much it would cost the US in lives and treasure were a war to inevitably break out in our absence. A war there would likely suck us right back in (see: World War I, World War II, Korean War, etc.), but even if it miraculously didn't, we would still lose more treasure than it costs to station our troops there. Isolationism as a way to cut costs or save lives is a fantasy, and that's why you don't understand how it is good for us to have troops in places where we have lost tens or hundreds of thousands to put down an enemy that hasn't returned on our watch.

Now, don't get me wrong. I think South Korea (and Japan) can do more. I've long been an advocate of Seoul joining Washington on military ventures that mutually benefit both, particularly anti-piracy efforts off Africa and Southeast Asia (and Seoul is stepping up more and more in that regard). That is the solution if you think one side is benefiting more than it should, not grabbing up your marbles and walking off in a huff.

Back to Trump. I have never liked Donald Duckweed, not even when he was a Democrat. Setting aside his creepiness (he said he'd date Ivanka if she weren't his daughter... his hot daughter), I loathe people who make fortunes off of political connections and feeding other people's vices (e.g., Atlantic City) and I am old enough to remember the man's failed real estate ventures — and that alone makes me shudder at the possibility of this know-nothing trying to run the economy or foreign policy. It's clear from his TV shows that he is all flash and no substance, and that is no way to run the frickin' country.

Geez, if we want a "reality" TV show host to run the nation, let's go with Jeff Probst. I admit, I came up with the idea as a one-off, but on paper the guy would make a far better candidate, and I think the Democrats should drop Joe Boring and pick up Jeff as his running mate.

How Jeff Probst stacks up against The Donald:
  • More experience (in terms of seasons on television)
  • Fewer failed marriages
  • Does not make creepy comments about romantic/sexual relations with his hot daughter (who "has a very nice figure")
  • Obvious from reward challenges and immunity challenges that the guy understands the value of competition
  • From his interactions with contestants on Survivor™ it is clear that he is in touch with the average American (and, lately, former NFL stars, pin-up models, would-be actors, sports franchise cheerleaders, etc.)
  • More foreign experience (China, Africa, Panama, Nicaragua, Australian Outback, Marquesas Islands, Vanuatu, Gabon, Palau, Fiji, Brazil, Cook Islands, Samoa, etc.).
  • Calm temperament, even when faced with idiots
  • Better hair
  • Not a duckweed
So there's nothing left to say: Probst in '12!

UPDATE (April 27, 2011 HST): 
Trump wins! Obama forced to release long-form birth certificate, which is fake!!!

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