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The Pains of Withdrawal: Carter and Korea, 1976-1980

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Brown, Aaron. “The Pains of Withdrawal: Carter and Korea, 1976-1980.” (Under the direction of Dr. Nancy Mitchell.)

This thesis focuses on President Jimmy Carter’s attempt to withdraw American forces from the Korean peninsula. During his presidency (1976-1980), Carter tried unsuccessfully to remove all US ground forces from South Korea. His policy was met with almost immediate resistance from the US Armed Forces in South Korea, Congress, and South Korean leaders. Japanese leaders were ambivalent but highly cautious about such a drastic change on the peninsula.

Using documents from the Jimmy Carter Library, documents from the Digital National Security Archive, various newspapers, interviews, and documents from online archives, I have sought the answers to some fundamental questions. Why did Carter decide to pursue such a controversial objective? Why did it not succeed? Could it have succeeded? Though it is impossible to know exactly what Carter was thinking, I examine some crucial evidence in order to further explain why withdrawal was so difficult and why Carter may have been so attached to the policy. The paper also sheds light on the nature of civil-military relations following the Vietnam War, and the difficulties of withdrawing from occupied territories.

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