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"Seoul Food"

Stephen Walt is a member of the "Realism" school of international affairs. His comments at FP.com and elsewhere generally pursue the idea that the United States should understand its own national interests and pursue those rather than idealistic or ideological ones. Thus, he is not a pacifist, but neither is he a gung-ho "go to war" advocate. Human rights advocates may quarrel with his definition of national interest, but his sober and restrained outlook always provides a refreshing dash of cold water. Here he is on the Korean fracas: "Seoul Food for Thought.""The North Korea situation is another one of those cases where U.S. interests, though not zero, are a lot smaller than those of our local allies. North Korea does matters to us, but it matters a lot more to South Korea, Japan, and, of course, China. The typical U.S. instinct in such situations is to assume it is Washington's job to deal with the challenge and to get its local allies to go along with whatever response we have in mind."...."Given Asia's growing strategic importance and the value of local allies there, the United States cannot appear indifferent to the problems that North Korea poses. But it is equally important that Washington get its Asian allies to step up and do their fair share too, instead of free-riding on American protection. It's a tricky line to walk: We need to do enough to assure them that we have their back, but not so much to convince them that Uncle Sam will take care of everything.... [E]xaggerated dependence on U.S. protection enables states like South Korea and Japan to remain aloof from each other, instead of working to resolve their own differences and cooperating to address shared regional security concerns." Rest Here.Wishful thinking? Sober advice?

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About the Author

Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, a former editor of Commonweal, writes frequently in these pages and blogs at dotCommonweal.