[VIEWPOINT]No peace without a will to fightWashington has two faces now. Television screens are filled with scenes from the war in Iraq, but the streets are full of joy, with cherry blossoms in full bloom. Washingtonians were basking in the spring weather last weekend when a cherry blossom parade was held in central Washington. That was in stark contrast to the air raids, artillery fire, infantry clashes, deaths and flights from home that are being aired on television.
The White House is the wartime headquarters. Security has been tightened across the city and field trips to museums by students have been halted. But from the Korean perspective, it is difficult to say that security is tight, because we are used to seeing policemen in action during violent protests. In fact, security around the White House appears almost lax. The traffic on the narrow four-lane street in front of the White House is blocked, but there are still tourists taking pictures on the pedestrian walk right next to it.
An interesting incident attracted my attention. A middle-aged French tourist told an American that he hoped America would quickly win the war. “That’s the true opinion of President Chirac,” the Frenchman said. The American responded, laughing, “That sounds like a crafty strategy on Chirac’s part.” The American promised the Frenchman he would again call French toast by its original name instead of “freedom toast.”
The tension on the war front and the peace in the rear ― there is a stark difference between the lives of civilians in the winning country and the losing country. Can the liveliness in Washington be a reflection of its confidence that the destruction of Saddam Hussein’s regime is near? Or is it because of President Bush’s leadership? Or is it indicative of patriotism?
A scholar from the Congressional Research Service who accompanied me around Washington said, “An optimistic view of the war is widespread. The comparatively small number of casualties, thanks to precision bombs, weakened the anti-war sentiment. The public opinion is skewed toward one side.”
Americans tend to unite against a foe that threatens their values and ideology. America’s ability to fight was boosted by this patriotism and a justification that pitted good ― America ― versus evil ― Saddam.
Since the war broke out, opinion polls have continued to show that 70 percent or more of the American people support the war. Most Americans agree with the idea of getting rid of weapons of mass destruction and liberating Iraq by removing Saddam Hussein.
The war in Iraq also changed strategic concepts. A new strategy with a focus on the enemy headquarters rather than front-line forces was proven to be successful. As of April 8, 94 Americans had died and 155 had been wounded. In other words, one in 1,200 American troops ― there are about 300,000 U.S. soldiers participating in the war ― either died or were wounded. That is a big decrease from the number of casualties during the Vietnam War 30 years ago. At that time, one out of 16 U.S. soldiers died or was wounded. (58,000 died and 150,000 were wounded.)
The area around the Lincoln Memorial where we traveled next was solemn. We talked to a tourist in his 40s. “The Civil War was a war within this country, but most Americans believe the resolve toward that war was not much different from the war in Iraq,” he said.
President Lincoln decided on a war to attain peace. He believed that preventing the division of the union was the best form of peace he could get. Some opposed the war and there were pressures for a compromise, but Mr. Lincoln refused both, saying such a peace would have been dishonorable. His conviction was that a true peace could be attained only through an unconditional surrender from the South. The Iraq war has brought civilian casualties and suffering, but the argument for liberating Iraq is to overthrow the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, eradicate torture, oppression and hunger in Iraq and bring about a true peace.
Peace is a product of conviction and strategy. How can we peacefully resolve the North Korean nuclear crisis? President Roh said that by sending troops to Iraq, South Korea could have more of a say in resolving the nuclear crisis. In other words, he is intent on receiving what President Bush would owe him by sending troops to Iraq now. How then would he prevent North Korea from miscalculating? We cannot attain peace by opposing war and crying out for peace alone. The divisions within our society and complications in our leadership circles nurture North Korea’s ambitions for acquiring nuclear weapons and increases the chance of a miscalculation.
Peace is possible when the will and ability to fight exist. President Roh wanted to make himself known in America by imitating President Lincoln. Does he understand the relationship between war and peace that President Lincoln defined?
* The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo, currently on a research project at Georgetown University in Washington D.C.
by Park Bo-gyun