Conflict On The Korean Peninsula

North Korea and South Korea have traded artillery fire across the disputed Northern Limit Line (NLL) in the Yellow Sea to the west of the peninsula. According to South Korean news reports, North Korea fired as many as 200 artillery rounds which began landing on and around South Korean controlled Yeonpyeongdo Island, killing 2 and injuring at least 18 South Korean soldiers.

South Korea responded with about 80 shells of its own being fired toward North Korea, scrambling F-16s, and raising the military alert status to its highest level. The sustained shelling of the island by North Korea appears to be a deliberate escalation of tensions between the two countries.

This incident comes during South Korea’s annual military exercises which were scheduled to last nine days and involved as many as 70000 personnel from all branches of the South Korean military.

The two Koreas are still technically at war — the Korean War ended only with a truce –and last March, when North Korea reportedly sunk a South Korean naval vessel, killing 46 sailors, caused tensions to rise to the highest point in recent years. Seoul blamed the sinking of the warship on a North Korean torpedo, while Pyongyang has denied any responsibility for the incident.

The western maritime boundary has been a flash point between the two Koreas. The North does not recognize the border that was unilaterally drawn by the United Nations at the close of the 1950-53 Korean War.

The reasons for and the timing of North Korea’s firing on Yeonpyeongdo seem to contradict everything else under way concerning relations between the two countries. Talks were scheduled to take place beginning Thursday concerning North Korea’s nuclear program.

The BBC reported that President Barack Obama was awoken around 4 a.m. with news of the clash, and is phoning South Korean President Lee Myung-bak today. In a predawn statement, Washington, which has nearly 30,000 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea, condemned the attack and called on North Korea to “halt its belligerent action,” according to White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. He said the U.S. is “firmly committed” to South Korea’s defense and to the “maintenance of regional peace and stability.”

How long will it be before one of these incidents is taken too far and forces U.S. direct involvement into some sort of combat operations. It would take only a spark, or worse yet, a stupid mistake or misunderstanding for a war, never wanted, to break out.

The United States has a formal ‘‘mutual’’ defense treaty with South Korea, established during the initial decade of the cold war. When the security treaty went into effect in 1954, South Korea was a war-ravaged hulk that confronted not only a heavily armed North Korea, but a North Korea strongly backed by both Moscow and Beijing. Under those circumstances, it would have been virtually impossible for South Korea to provide for its own defense.

Those circumstances bear no resemblance to the situation in the 21st century. South Korea has a population twice that of the North and an economy 40 times as large as its Communist neighbor to the north. Additionally, Seoul has a U.S. commitment to come to her defense by air and sea in the event of a second Korean War.

The ROK is an economic powerhouse with the world’s 13th-largest economy, and South Korean firms are competitive in a host of high-tech industries. Meanwhile, North Korea is one of the world’s economic basket cases, and there have even been major episodes of famine in that pathetic country. Moscow and Beijing have major economic ties with the ROK and regard North Korea as an embarrassment. They have no interest whatever in backing another bid by Pyongyang to forcibly reunify the peninsula.

It is time to insist that South Korea manage its own security affairs. The United States has drawn down its military forces stationed in that country from approximately 37,000 to 27,000 over the past six years, but still at a cost of billions of dollars annually. Washington should implement a complete withdrawal within the next three years and terminate the misnamed mutual security treaty. That commitment was designed for an entirely different era. There is no need and very little benefit today for keeping American forces in South Korea. Indeed, it is more likely to invite an unwanted war.

ROTC and Military Recruiters Still Banned From College Campus

You may not be aware that the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) is absent from some of our nation’s most elite schools. The absence is primarily due to the opposition of several prominent universities, including Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Stanford and others, to the congressionally mandated “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy for gays or bisexuals serving in our military.

Despite a unanimous Supreme Court decision affirming the Solomon Amendment in Rumsfeld v FAIR in 2006, the Pentagon has been reluctant about pressing its right to recruit on college campuses.

A law barring federal funds to schools with anti-recruitment policies has been on the books since the late 1960s, but the Department of Defense (DoD) routinely used a provision in the law allowing the Secretary of Defense to exempt noncompliant schools.

New York Representative Gerald B. Solomon pushed through an amendment which eliminated the DoD’s waiver power from the law and required the Secretary of Defense to report noncompliant schools every six months.

It should be noted in full disclosure that the Pentagon strongly opposed the Solomon Amendment and, as it turns out, did not need to use the “waiver power” if it chose not to have the law enforced. The law’s language is worded so that the DoD could simply not inquire whether the universities were compliant or not. It is just another form of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

In a previous article, I stated that I did not have an issue with gays serving in the military when I was serving myself and do not believe that gays or bisexuals should be denied the right to serve nor should they be forced out of the service of our country for their life styles alone.

That being said, I believe it is dangerous for the Pentagon to decide whether the law of the land will be enforced or not. By adopting its own version of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” for schools not in compliance with current law, it is inviting and encouraging a growing gap between military members and American elites. Furthermore, one could argue that if the military should be allowed to disregard this law, what is to say which other laws they could “choose” not to obey.

Threat to Right to Work

On October 1st, California Congressman Brad Sherman introduced legislation to eliminate state Right to Work laws all across America (H.R. 6384).

Currently, there are 22 states in the U.S. that have laws where workers who are employed at companies that are unionized have a choice whether or not to join or pay the union. These states are known as Right-to-Work (RTW) states and are shown in red below. On the other hand, in the 28 Non-Right-to-Work (non-RTW) states (also called forced-dues states), it is legal for a union to negotiate a “union (income) security clause” that requires all workers covered by the union to pay the union does or ‘agency fees’ as a condition of employment.

Until the Taft-Hartley Amendments amending the National Labor Relations Act in 1947, private-sector workers in all 50 states could be required to pay dues to a union or, if not, be fired from their jobs. The ability of states to have Right-to-Work laws is contained in a single paragraph within the National Labor Relations Act (Section 14 [b]), which states:

(b) [Agreements requiring union membership in violation of State law] Nothing in this Act [subchapter] shall be construed as authorizing the execution or application of agreements requiring membership in a labor organization as a condition of employment in any State or Territory in which such execution or application is prohibited by State or Territorial law.

Briefly, what “right to work” means is this. Employees in every state of the US have the right to organize a union. If they do so, two different conditions exist, depending on whether they are in a “right to work” state or a non-right to work state. In a non-RTW state an employee, in order to hold their job, must belong to the union if that job is covered by the union contract. They have no choice.

If someone was hired in a union plant in Chicago (Illinois being a non-RTW state) for a job and the company wanted to keep them after their probationary period, the new employee would have to become a union member. Otherwise the company would have to fire them. If that had been in Georgia, a RTW state, they would have had the choice to become a member of the union. Regardless of their choice however, they would have kept their job. So it is a matter of freedom of choice for the employee. Some places they have that individual freedom, other places they do not.

As a result of this one section being inserted into the 1947 amendments, states (through their legislatures) could determine whether or not to be a Right-to-Work state, or a forced-dues state.

Therefore, the removal of this one section would make all 50 states forced-dues states, giving unions the ability to have workers fired for not paying union dues or fees.

Although Congressman Sherman first introduced this legislation in 2008, it had little chance of succeeding. However, with the mid-term elections fast approaching and with poll numbers dwindling, several Congressional Democrats are jumping behind a variety of causes to bolster their bases. In this case, that consists of pandering to the AFL-CIO and other unions. There is also the danger of having H.R. 6384, which currently has 17 cosponsors, being one of the bills rammed through Congress in a lame duck session thereby voting to end Right-to-Work states.

While I’m sure that Congressman Sherman somehow has the best interests of the people in his district in mind with this legislation, I do not feel comfortable with a Congressman from California trying to dictate what other states should do. Each of the Right to Work state legislatures could pass their own legislation to force the people of their own state to join unions if they desired…and if the people wanted it done! That would be the method more in line with the U.S. Constitution.

Congressman Sherman, who represents the 27th Congressional District in California, a non right-to-work state, says that it is unfair to California to have to compete with RTW states for jobs. He says it is costing California because companies are moving away and taking jobs with them. Therefore another option, would be to make all states Right to Work. That would level the playing field for all states, potentially lowering the cost for businesses and giving employees a free choice to belong to a union or not.