[OUTLOOK]Finding responsible leadersOur Open Party’s determination to do away with old practices in politics and begin a new political era struck me as fresh and made me sympathetic. But the attitude of the party concerning the troop deployment to Iraq is quite disappointing. In short, it appears that irresponsible politics is cropping up here again. The ruling party swallows sweet fruits and spits out the bitter ones. It must be more disappointing to the people who expected new politics.
The problem here does not lie in the pros and cons of the troop dispatch to Iraq, but in the politicians’ decision-making process about things important to our national interest. It is disconcerting to see that the president’s decision ―which was reportedly not made without a lot of agonizing ― was being undermined by the ham-handed moves of the ruling party.
The decision on the Iraq troop deployment was a political determination that President Roh Moo-hyun made after considering the greater national interest even though it was different from his personal political beliefs. This attitude of the president is nothing to criticize. A politician sometimes has to subordinate his political beliefs to the national and public interest.
Politics is not a word play of academic discussion but a series of determinations to solve problems by balancing contradicting complicated interests in the real world. The personal beliefs of politicians should be respected, but they should be flexible enough to be given up for the greater national interest. Here lies the difference between a politician’s beliefs and a scholar’s beliefs. At present, the ruling party does not have a justifiable attitude toward the troop deployment. Of course, each representative may hold a political creed so firm that it is not negotiable. But the leadership of the party should make clear its party’s opinion about the issue.
If it decides to leave its position to the personal conviction of each lawmaker, the party would appear to be avoiding its responsibility as a ruling party. That decision would come from a shallow calculation that if something bad happens after the troop dispatch, the party would shuffle off its responsibility. If the party didn’t have sufficient discussions with the administration, what has it been doing before it threw a monkey wrench into the process at a late date? Why didn’t the party communicate more actively before the administration sent the bill to the National Assembly? The ruling party has more responsibility in this regard than the opposition.
The administration should be criticized too. If the deployment is truly inevitable for our national interest, why has it not been lobbying the ruling party, with whom it is supposed to be aligned, to support its policies? Does this mean that the consultations should start anew? If the ruling party had not made public its position on the issue without a good reason, that is enough to suggest that the government and the ruling party shared the same view from the beginning, or at least that they willfully collaborated to bring about the same result. This amounts to saying that the opposition party alone should be held responsible for the troop deployment.
When politicians talk about new politics, we expect them to be persons who have the courage to persuade voters to act for the genuine national interest, not those who just count votes. Narrow interests, widespread in our society, also have a lot to do with this near-sighted attitude of politicians. Up to now, politicians have enjoyed only privileges without shouldering responsibilities. From now on, they should adopt a broad-minded attitude of truly accepting their responsibilities willingly.
In particular, the political convictions of individual lawmakers and those of the leadership of the party are bound to be different at times. The leader of a responsible party should be deeply concerned about what is best for the national interest, going beyond his personal political beliefs.
The leader ― to whom we must entrust our future in the cold international reality ― should be someone who is willing to accept that responsibility.
* The writer is deputy director of the Institute for Far Eastern Studies at Kyungnam University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Yoon Dae-kyu