Unoccupied Territory

Seoul has a very large community of foreigners. One of the largest sub-groups of this community is US military personnel. It is often shocking, even disconcerting, to see a GI walking the streets of Seoul. This is especially true the farther one is away from the large garrison in the middle of the city.

Part of what is so striking about seeing soldiers walking about is the ambiguity of their purpose. Why should there be a United States military garrison in the capital of a foreign country? Not just a foreign country, but an ally. Of course, there is the perpetual threat of war with North Korea (to which the presence of American military is either a deterrent or provocation, depending on how one looks at it.) But the soldiers who come to Korea are not typically the sort who seek action, since a number of other posts are more likely to see any fighting. When my uncle joined the army, the Vietnam War was raging and every soldier who didn’t want to fight requested to be stationed in Europe working with computers. Knowing that so many people would make that request, and that nearly as many would be denied and sent to Vietnam as the default second option, my uncle requested to be a cook in Korea. It wasn’t a glamorous or exciting position, but it kept him from being on the front-line in a war-zone. In this regard, I see him as the paradigm for the American soldier in Korea; essentially, soldiers ought to be men of peace. As Machiavelli wrote, “In whom ought there to be a greater love of peace, than in him who can only be injured by war?”

Beer of the Week: Bia Ha Noi – Speaking of American military exploits in East Asia, this week’s beer is Vietnamese. This lager is rather sweet and malty, with a very limited hops flavor or aroma. It would make a fine beer for a session and did a wonderful job washing down spicy noodles.

Reading for the Week: The Preface to The Art of War by Niccolò Machiavelli – In his address to Lorenzo de Medici, Machiavelli first shows how different the modern soldier is from the modern citizen (a distinction that holds true even today,) and then explains the reasons why that ought not be so.

Question for the week: Machiavelli points out that a good soldier is exceptionally loyal, peace-loving and God-fearing. Since these traits are also desirable in citizens, shouldn’t all citizens be subjected to a military regime?


One Comment on “Unoccupied Territory”

  1. An indication that American military personnel may actually be peace loving: in the build up to the 2008 presidential election, active duty military personnel donated more money to (ardent anti-war candidate) Ron Paul’s campaign than any other.

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