[VIEWPOINT]Hawks, doves and coexistence

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[VIEWPOINT]Hawks, doves and coexistence

The most successful animal life form on earth is the insect, and the most prolific of any life form is the plant. Vegetation, in its total mass, far outstrips the total mass of all animal life. And there is a connection between those two prolific life forms that accounts for their success. They have learned the wisdom of coexistence.

Many plants need insects to transport their pollen and the plants repay the favor by providing food for the insects. Instead of always hunting and preying on each other, these two groups have savored success through cooperation.

People tend to think that nature is only about the weak being the prey of the strong in a food chain. Yet the two mightiest groups of life forms have prospered not through indiscriminate competition but through coexistence.

This holds a lesson for us humans. If we were to talk about competition in our lives, the presidential election would be as good an example as sports. I congratulate President-elect Roh Moo-hyun for having won that enormous competition. But Mr. Roh faces a bumpy road ahead of him, having won the support of less than half the voters.

It is quite clear in this biologist's eyes that the only way Mr. Roh can succeed is to lead a political campaign of coexistence, embracing the other half of the population that lost in the fight for numbers but still has formidable weight to throw around.

I know Mr. Roh has an uncanny talent for reading the minds of the public. On the surface, he might seem recklessly hostile toward the media, but he has always listened to the criticism of column writers like myself and has even personally sent e-mail in answer to some of my columns. Mr. Roh won this election because he read the minds of the public better than his opponents.

Having a finger on the public pulse is wonderful for winning elections, but that alone is not enough for Mr. Roh's new job of governing the country. The minds of the public must not only be read but then reflected in the policies that make clear differences in the daily lives of the people.

If Mr. Roh cannot come up with those policies, he might start to find the weight of the other half of the electorate too heavy to bear.

The Roh Moo-hyun I have observed is also a genius at games. In an election that resembled a computer game with all its twists and turns, Mr. Roh gambled boldly at every turn, surviving by the skin of his teeth at every stage to get to the next level.

I have not seen the statistics myself, but it is said that a large number of the votes for Mr. Roh came from the "game generation," persons in their early 20s. His impromptu and spontaneous decisions seem to have appealed to the mentality of the game generation but evoked great nervousness from the older, nongaming generations. Tension among generations is not only about the differences in biological age.

In order to make his way wisely through this thicket of expectations and concern mixed together, Mr. Roh must appoint his subordinates fairly from far and wide. A politics of coexistence means a politics of checks and balances. Its outcome depends on how capable a staff you have surrounded yourself with. Mr. Roh should now play a calmer game with the help of cool-thinking aides. The "hawk versus dove" game, the most basic among all game theories, is recommended. U.S. President Bush's administration always decides its policies after a debate between the hard-liners and the moderates. Alan Greenspan, the chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve, holds the responsibility for practically the entire world economy. He is also said to make his final decisions after observing the debates between the hawkish and the dovish of his aides.

In his campaign, Mr. Roh said he believed that distribution of wealth was a more important issue than economic growth. We often lump the heads of government agencies in charge of economic matters together and call them the "economic team." But there are no such "teams" in the fields of welfare, environment, culture, education and research.

For a long time, I have called for a more checked and balanced government by, for example, appointing a "welfare-environment" deputy prime minister to counteract the "environment-development" deputy prime minister.

If the government can be divided into hawks and doves centered around these two deputy prime ministers standing on the same level, then a merger of government agencies could become possible to a certain extent. Transcending partisan conflict and overcoming the gap between the arguments for development and those for conservation, Mr. Roh should assemble a circle of aides that can represent true national integration.

The cabinet meetings would become a little louder. But that could be better for Mr. Roh, who is said to know the importance of conversation and enjoys debates.

* The writer is a professor of biology at Seoul National University.

by Choe Jae-chun

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