[OUTLOOK]Lots to consider on Iraq troopsThe United States has asked Korea to send additional troops to Iraq, and the Blue House has not made any official response yet. Politicians are wary of making any comments on the issue because they are already engaged in skirmishes preceding legislative elections early next year. If the issue is handled wrongly, the government will find itself in a very difficult position to make a decision; the noise of both protest and support rallies in front of City Hall will become louder. The government must take the initiative and act swiftly, after reading accurately the domestic and international political significance of sending more troops.
The primary point of consideration in discussing the issue should be the international significance of the United States’ request for additional troops. Despite an easy military victory in Iraq, the Bush administration has asked 14 countries, including Korea, to send in additional troops. Critics within and outside of the United States say that the United States has already started to sink in the slough of a second Vietnam in Iraq. But liberals who had called for a more humble multilateralism in the future to replace what they called the arrogant unilateralism of the United States think that the Bush administration has finally accepted that advice.
But the neoconservatives who form the intellectual basis of the Bush administration believe that while the removal of Saddam Hussein might have been possible with a “multilateral unilateralism,” the ongoing rebuilding of Iraq will have to be conducted using “unilateral multilateralism” in order to minimize the military and economic costs before the U.S. presidential election in November 2004.
In his address to Americans on the second anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks, President George W. Bush made clear the objectives of the rebuilding of Iraq: first, to get rid of terrorists; second, to acquire the support of other countries for a free Iraq and third, to help the Iraqis assume responsibility for their protection and future.
The Bush administration fought the first war in Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein, but it is fighting a second war in the rebuilding of Iraq. This second war is becoming more of a political war and less of a military one. The United States is preparing a new world order with the issue of rebuilding of Iraq in the center. It will readjust its political, military, economic, intellectual and cultural relations with all other countries in the world based on their level of cooperation, hesitance or lack of cooperation in this second war against terrorism. On the other side, cooperating countries would be pursuing a comprehensive set of national interests, including national security and the economy.
The next factor is international participation in the rebuilding process of Iraq. The removal of Saddam Hussein was multilateral in name but unilateral in essence. The rebuilding of Iraq is taking on a slightly different form. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, busy organizing an additional multinational force led by the United States and supported by a new United Nations resolution, again encountered contrary opinions in a recent discussion with French foreign minister Dominique de Villepin, who had been the most vociferous in opposing the war in Iraq from the start. The two disagreed on the schedule for establishing an independent Iraqi government and on the role of the UN Security Council. But unlike the last period of tensions before the Iraq war, there seems to be some hope of closing the rift between the United States and France. Therefore, we should keep in mind the possibility of widely-based international participation in deciding whether to send our troops to Iraq.
Another point of consideration is the domestic politics of Iraq. Iraq was liberated from thirty years of Saddam Hussein’s tyranny, and the recovery process has only just begun. The interim government formed under the leadership of the United States is the first step in rebuilding Iraq. There is a long road ahead. The more trial and error Iraq goes through, the more Iraqis will resent the United States. But with so much uncertainty, the one certain truth is that no one wants Saddam Hussein’s regime back. So the Bush administration emphasizes that the U.S. troops and multinational troops stationed in Iraq are not occupation forces, but liberation forces. It is unlikely that Iraq will become a second Vietnam because it experienced Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship.
Finally, the most important factor in sending additional troops to Iraq is our domestic politics. The dispatch of combat troops is an issue to be treated extremely carefully because of the possibility of casualties. We must pursue our overall national interest while securing our troops’ safety to the maximum extent. A discussion that fails to address both international and domestic issues could even be more harmful than none.
The administration and the National Assembly must assume their respective roles at once.
* The writer is a professor of international relations at Seoul National University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Ha Young-sun