[OUTLOOK]Who is the real evil to be feared?When my high school daughter asked “Dad, are the Americans in the Iraq war the bad people?” I was taken aback. I could not say anything when it was clearly stated that war was bad and peace good. I did not know how to explain to her the complexity of international order.
The numerous anti-war protests around the world underscore the idea that peace is good and war is evil. In these protests, the United States has become the representation of evil. Is that all there is to it? Historically speaking, Ameri-cans have been promoters of peace. Their aversion to colonialization by Europe led them to adopt the Monroe Doctrine, which promoted isolation. While imperialism raged, the United States was the only country among the big powers not to covet other territories. The Spanish-American War is one of the very few exceptions.
After World War I, President Wilson tried to build the League of Nations with other peace-loving nations. But it failed due to the opposition of the U.S. Senate and disagreement among the big powers. After World War II, the United States led the establishment of the United Nations to maintain peace through international cooperation.
There are two views in international politics. One is the realist view that international society is composed of sovereign states that can only be contained by force. The other is the idealist view that a supra sovereign power, not unlike a police force, should be formed to maintain international order. Whereas the realists claim that peace can only be achieved through the balance of power among nations, the idealists claim that international law and public opinion can maintain peace. In the past, the United States had been an advocate of idealism and internationalism. The anti-war protests are based on the idea of idealism.
After World War II international politics became based on these two views. Under the United Nations’ promotion of internationalism, the United States and Soviet Union maintained peace through their bipolar balance of power. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the world order seemed to turn multi-polar, but so far only the United States is a superpower. The current international society is ordered not by the balance of power among superpowers but by a sole power, the United States. U.S. unilateralism comes from this situation.
Even the world’s greatest superpower with the largest defense budget in the world, larger than the budgets of the next nine countries combined, was not prepared for a terror attack. The war on Iraq began that way. The United States asked Europe for its participation. However, France and Germany thought differently. They wanted proof that Iraq was supporting terrorism. A key resolution was not presented to the UN Security Council. The United States veered from its idealism and internationalism to start a war along with the United Kingdom. The United States has returned to realism. The United States sees France and Germany’s refusal to endorse the war as a rejection of unilaterally imposed international order. In that sense, the anti-war demonstrations in France and Germany are in line with their national interests. The question is, can such international reality be simplified in terms of good and evil?
What about South Korea? We can hold demonstrations against the reality of children sacrificed in the war. However, anti-war demonstrations in Seoul are not going to change the international order of U.S. supremacy. A middle-sized power like South Korea has two choices. Humbling as it may be, we can join the U.S.-led order, or we can defy it. With its support for the war on Iraq, Korea has decided to join the United States and its order.
In addition, we have the North Korean nuclear program to deal with. Koreans’ anti-war demonstrations are a statement that the United States will attack North Korea after finishing off Iraq. Why would the United States attack the North? Washington is concerned that North Korea might develop nuclear weapons and support terrorist countries. The nuclear concern is also one we hold. My daughter, which do you think is the more evil country, the United States or North Korea? Why aren’t we talking about North Korea in anti-war demonstrations? What must we do in our interest? Let’s think about this rationally.
* The writer is chief editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Moon Chang-keuk