From Strategic Culture
The Korean crisis is a powerful lens on American barbarism, past and present. Despite Washington's self-righteousness and pretensions of virtue, the modern history of Korea is an especially powerful lesson that destroys the American national mythology.
Listening to President Trump's conceited rhetoric about wiping out North Korea has an eerie resonance with the rhetoric of President Truman. Truman launched into the Korean War more than six decades ago with same arrogant, mythical presumptions of American virtue and self-ordained right to use overwhelming military force.
For reasons of political self-preservation, Washington must live in denial of historical reality. US leaders out of necessity have to construct an alternative, fictional narrative for their nation's conduct. Because if historical reality were acknowledged, the rulers in Washington, and the whole edifice of presumed American greatness, would implode from the endemic moral corruption.
The Korean War (1950-53) has been described as the most barbaric war since the Second World War. Up to four million people were killed in a three-year period. The US air force dropped more tonnage of bombs on the country than was dropped during the whole of its Pacific War against Japan.
Despite this massive and barbaric effort in Korea, the first war of the incipient Cold War turned out to be a source of potentially crippling shame for the US. This risk of shame to the American mythical self-image of virtue explains why the Korean War has become known as the "forgotten war." It would also explain why present and past US governments prefer to bury their responsibility to end the conflict on the Korean Peninsula.
Sixty-four years after the end of the Korean War, the United States continues to refuse to sign a peace treaty with the other main belligerent party -- North Korea. Indeed, the issue is not even publicly addressed by Washington, which shows how far removed political awareness of American responsibilities is.
Yet, the signing of such a peace treaty by the US is essential to establishing a viable framework to resolve the current and recurring security crisis on the Korean Peninsula.
The Korean War came to an end in July 1953 with the declaration of an armistice, or truce. The armistice was never formalized into a legally binding peace treaty, largely due to American intransigence not to do so. The absence of a peace treaty is almost unique in the history of modern warfare.
Technically, therefore, the Korean War is not over. It is simply on pause. So, when US military exercises are conducted with its South Korean ally -- several times every year -- the war drills are plausible grounds for North Korea to fear a resumption of large-scale hostilities.
As former US ambassador to South Korea, James Laney, has stated: "One of the things that have bedeviled all talks until now is the unresolved status of the Korean War. A peace treaty would provide a baseline for relationships, eliminating the question of the other's legitimacy and its right to exist."
The looming question is: why does the US government and its military leaders not sign a peace treaty with North Korea?
One reason is that the ongoing state of war on the Korean Peninsula provides the US with important strategic advantages -- too important for it to forfeit by concluding a peace treaty with North Korea. Lucrative weapons sales -- decade after decade -- for "protecting" allies in South Korea and Japan is a boon for the US military-industrial complex that drives its economy.
With the presence of 70,000 US troops in Japan and South Korea and the regular positioning of aircraft carriers, missile destroyers and nuclear-capable warplanes, the ongoing low-intensity conflict with North Korea gives the US a politically acceptable cover to project military power for economic influence in the vital, resource-rich region of Asia-Pacific.
The installation of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system and the Aegis anti-missile systems in South Korea and Japan -- allegedly to "protect from North Korean aggression" -- is also an important strategic gain for Washington to exert leverage over China and Russia. Indeed, this may be the main strategic objective.