[EDITORIALS]Disputes threaten securityYesterday’s bombing at an Italian paramilitary base in Nasiriyah, Iraq, shows yet again that foreigners, even if they are there to help rebuild the country, are not immune to danger. Just as the security situation in Iraq continues to deteriorate, the debate within the government is getting more heated. The conflicting statements coming out of different government agencies are more than just the usual disagreements.
President Roh Moo-hyun has made no secret of his displeasure at reports that some 3,000 engineering and medical soldiers will be deployed, saying it is beyond his knowledge. But Deputy Foreign Minister Lee Soo-hyuck said he made the offer of sending 3,000 soldiers to the Americans. Either the president is not telling the truth or Mr. Lee, who was in Washington, acted without a mandate.
A senior Defense Ministry official said Tuesday, after a meeting headed by the president, that a consensus is forming in the government for sending a contingent whose main function is to police Iraq. But the Blue House spokesman denied the statement was true.
It is natural that the government is criticized for wavering on such an important issue. U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld expressed irritation when he spoke to foreign correspondents in Washington, saying the decision was Korea’s to make. Then a Foreign Ministry official spoke, in private, critically about the performance of officials negotiating with the Americans.
These disagreements cloud the most important issue in the entire deployment question ― national interest ― and must be resolved immediately. The government has made the decision to deploy more troops, so what should be done now is to let experts consider the situation in Iraq and decide how many and what kind of soldiers will go. There is no room for any more cat-fighting between different agencies and factions within the government. If it is the professional limitation of the National Security Council that is causing the problem, then the decision-making process and the people who operate it should be changed. Otherwise, it will be a serious threat to our national security.