[FOUNTAIN]The evil a good war can causeWhen U.S. President George W. Bush visited South Korea, he said he was troubled by a regime that tolerates starvation, is closed and not transparent. He added that he was deeply concerned about the people of North Korea and stressed that his "axis of evil" remark did not refer to North Korean people but to the North Korean regime. A few days ago, he said again Washington would not allow countries that are closed, persecute their people and lack a history of civility to develop weapons of mass destruction.
Mr. Bush insists that the bad guys (the North Korean regime) who afflict the good guys (North Korean people) should be punished. That "humanitarian intervention" idea existed in ancient times. Ambrosius, a Roman jurist and clergyman in the fourth century, said that a man who does not help his friend under persecution is committing a violence just like the persecutor.
This idea also existed in the middle ages. Hugo Grotius (1583-1645), a Dutch jurist and scholar called the "father of international law," listed defense, recovery of property and punishment as the aims of "just wars." He asserted that wars for others, such as wars to save people of another country under tyranny, are also just.
But it is ambiguous what is just humanitarian intervention. Slobodan Milosevic, a former Yugoslav leader on trial for war crimes, insists the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's air attacks on Yugoslavia in 1999 violated international laws. Mr. Milosevic is accused of murder, persecution and the deportation of 800,000 Albanians in Kosovo.
Michael Walzer, a professor at Princeton University, says in his 1977 book, "Just and Unjust Wars: A Moral Argument with Historical Illustrations," that it was difficult for him to find a war that can be regarded as humanitarian intervention in his review of wars in history. He said there were a few wars in which humanitarian and other motives were mixed. The United States' military support to Cuba in 1898 and India's intervention in the independence war of Bangladesh in 1971 are such cases, Mr. Walzer said.
Although Mr. Bush says his remarks about North Korea are driven by humanitarian reasons, they have many other motives behind them. Of course, we cannot neglect Mr. Bush's comments: North Korea has a dismal human rights record. But if a "humanitarian" military intervention by the United States is realized, South Korea would suffer great damage. Humanitarian military intervention can be a disaster for humanity.
The writer is a deputy international news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Noh Jae-hyun