[GLOBAL EYE]Troop deployment’s positive impactWASHINGTON ― The Bush administration earnestly wishes Korea would decide to deploy additional troops to Iraq. It is even more anxious because of the constant criticisms that the war was wrong from the beginning. The more countries that join the stabilization and reconstruction of post-war Iraq, the less President George W. Bush’s embarrassment or trouble will be.
Moreover, South Korea has well-trained troops. Above all, South Korea is a country that entered into an alliance with the United States. The United States thinks the alliance means helping an ally when it is needed. This is the rough background to its request to South Korea for additional troops.
In any case, the Bush administration is in a sad fix. If a UN resolution to broaden the international role in Iraq is approved quickly, the United States will be able to avoid criticism from the international community. And it will be able to promote the additional dispatch of foreign troops and the post-war restoration.
But the administration has had difficulty gaining support from the UN because it originally took no interest in seeking a wider role for the organization. That is why it is turning for help to South Korea, one of the few remaining allies. For one reason or another, the United States needs us now.
These could be sufficient reasons for our acceding to the U.S. request. But we have changed a lot. We fail to consider not only our past, when the alliance contributed to our national security and economy, but also its impact on our future. Instead, we listen to Germany or France, which are uncomfortable with the unilateralism of the United States. In addition, our democracy has matured to the point of considering the impact that sending troops to Iraq may have on April’s legislative elections. Also, we have formed the habit of holding mass demonstrations when we disagree. As a result, despite the fact that handling the matter is up to the president, it is difficult to decide.
In this situation, the following approach might suggest a way out.
First of all, Korea’s situation is different from that of Germany or France. These countries can confront Mr. Bush because they have no imminent threat to their national security. They can protect themselves without the assurance of the United States. They can also put the brake on U.S. arrogance in alliance with surrounding countries.
But we are in a different situation. There is no country that will side with us. The alliance is not something we can throw away when burdensome, but entails risk-taking and responsibility. If it is true that we owe the United States in all aspects of our security and economy, then this alone is enough reason for us to return what we owe when we can.
Furthermore, even those in the United States who opposed the Iraq war welcome Korea’s additional deployment. Whe-ther Mr. Bush is re-elected in November next year or the Democratic Party assumes power, “saving the United States” by its ally, Korea, will be accepted thankfully.
By contrast, if we refuse to dispatch troops for domestic political reasons, the meaning of the alliance will actually disappear. We have to ask ourselves if we are ready to assume the consequences.
Since we are eager to enhance our international status, our participation in the stabilization and restoration of Iraq would be a natural choice. Isn’t it our national strategy to broaden our concerns and interests in the outside world while talking about becoming the hub of Northeast Asia?
Moreover, we cannot be free from the repercussions of the Arab situation after the war in Iraq, in addition to the international cause called the “war on terror.” Unlike the arrogant and unpopular American forces, our military, which became accustomed to living together with others in Vietnam in the past and in East Timor and Afghanistan more recently, can leave a favorable impression with the Arab countries. At least, Korea is known for its competitiveness in creating success from the ruin of war.
Lastly, we should closely inquire into the contradiction that North Korea, which awakens us to the need for the alliance by advocating nuclear deterrence, criticizes our troop deployment to Iraq as pro-American submission and anti-national behavior. We should ask who poses more of a threat to our security at this point.
* The writer is an editorial writer and director of JoongAng Ilbo Unification Research Institute.
by Kil Jeong-woo