[TODAY]War in Iraq: mixed consequences

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[TODAY]War in Iraq: mixed consequences

If a father starts a historical achievement and his son finishes it, what a proud and happy father-son team they would be. The wheel of fortune now seems to roll in favor of U.S. President George W. Bush and his father and predecessor in the Oval Office to become such a pair.

George Bush succeeded in driving Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait during the Gulf War, but he couldn't drive him out of office, and thus failed to "liberate" Iraq from an authoritarian regime. Getting rid of Saddam Hussein has been one of the highest priorities on the list of U.S. foreign policy objectives for the past 10 years.

Now George W. Bush seems determined to invade Iraq. Walter Russell Mead, in a visit to Seoul on Monday, spoke of a "second Gulf War." The senior fellow at the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations talked of the possibility of 200,000 U.S. soldiers being dispatched this summer.

Mr. Mead is not the only one talking about a pending war in the Gulf. The media in the United States also seem to expect such a possibility.

Until now, the biggest obstacle Mr. Bush might have had in calling for a war on Iraq was the opposition of other Arab nations and allies in Europe. U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney visited 12 Mideast countries last week to ask for cooperation in case of war against Iraq, but encountered strong opposition.

But Mr. Mead thinks the opposition of Arab and European nations will not stop the United States from going to war against Iraq if necessary.

The Bush administration has a plan to turn international opinion around, and that is to propose a new UN Security Council resolution on Iraq, perhaps demanding that it allow weapons inspectors to return. In the Security Council, China and Russia could be expected to abstain on such a resolution. The biggest problem, he thinks, would be France, but he believes that eventually the French would not veto it.

So perhaps the focus of attention now is not whether the United States will attack Iraq but when the "second Gulf War" will start. When will it end? What is the ultimate goal for the United States in the war and what impact would it have on the international society and economy?

Of course, the ultimate goal for the United States would be to topple Saddam Hussein. The United States might consider mobilizing Kurds, long the victims of oppression by the Iraqi leader, in its cause. It must, however, also consider what impact a politically mobilized Kurdish population might have after the war on Turkey, a U.S. ally.

Iran is another factor to keep in mind. The United States must form a common front with the Shia Muslims, or at least acquire their tacit support.

Another big worry after the war would be the question of a leader to replace Saddam Hussein. But the success of the interim government in Afghanistan gives some reason to believe that, with international support for the rebuilding of Iraq's economy, any new leader could fare well in Saddam's place.

But a war against Iraq could turn out more complicated than that. A United States attack on Iraq could very well bring about an anti-American surge in some, or many, countries where pro-American governments could be toppled to be replaced by radical regimes. Even Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan are not entirely safe from radical movements seeking to overthrow the present regimes. That would indeed be a disaster for the United States.

What impact would a U.S. war against Iraq have on Korea? Two things come to mind.

First, war in Iraq could mean skyrocketing prices for oil. This could have a very negative influence on the Korean economy and other economies that have barely gotten back on the path to recovery. Oil prices were about $30 per barrel last September. They fell to $16.65 per barrel last November, only to rebound and stay at a level of $24 per barrel as the situation in Palestine worsened and talk of a U.S. attack on Iraq increased.

The current price is well over the average oil price of $18.50 estimated for this year by the International Monetary Fund. The Financial Times reported Tuesday that Alan Blinder, a Princeton University economist, warned of a halt to growth in the international economy should oil prices go up to $40 or $50 per barrel during a war against Iraq.

The second effect the war could have on Korea is the psychological impact of such an attack on North Korea. Should the United States attack Iraq, a fellow "axis of evil" country with North Korea, it could make North Korea more careful in its dealings with the United States.

That could mean no more brinkmanship from North Korea. Korea has both reason to dread and welcome a "second Gulf War."


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The writer is a senior columnist of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Kim Young-hie

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