[OUTLOOK]A superpower’s responsibilityAmerican President George W. Bush is falling deeper into a moral trap as photographs of Iraqi prisoners of war, who were clearly tortured and humiliated by being forced to take off their clothes, are becoming available to the public.
Considering the circumstances, the moral responsibilities of America are undoubtedly heavy. After the end of the Cold War, America became the only superpower nation, whether it liked it or not, and along with that role came the responsibility of being a leader in world order and harmony. However, although America is a superpower nation militarily, it has a lot of problems politically.
The rest of the world can only hope that America, as the sole superpower in the world, will fulfill the role of leading our global society well. This is important because a stable world order has a lot to do with successful international leadership.
Looking at government relations, America has positive relations with all three of the most powerful Northeast Asian countries, China, Japan and Russia. This is a situation that has never been successfully developed or sustained in the past. America always maintained a balance between different powers in the past by staying at the center of it all, or taking the side of the weaker countries.
It was not possible, therefore, that all three powerful countries in Asia could have a positive relationship with the United States. The change of relations shows us that though America relied on a “balance of power” in the past, it now depends more on its own power.
However, we have seen that no matter how much intimidating military force the United States might have poured in, it failed to bring solutions to problems that it was faced with, but the problems seemed rather to grow even bigger and more complex.
Essentially, this is the dilemma that the United States is faced with in Iraq today. In spite of the fact that America learned well and hard during the Vietnam War that it cannot solve political problems with only military force, it is once again ignoring political logic and applying only military logic in Iraq.
Northeast Asia is fortunately enjoying peace at the moment. No gunshots can be heard and the only competition is a silent yet intense one for economic development.
In order for Northeast Asia to maintain this peace and stability, the superpower nation America must be able to show true “leadership.” However, if the people of nations all over the world see America as a one-sided country and one that only relies on military action to solve problems, America will not be able to show leadership, nor will it be able to take the lead in solving international problems.
America used to have the image of a virtuous, idealistic country with no desire for other nations’ land. The only problem in its diplomatic policy was thought to be that it was too idealistic.
However, not only has it recently taken unilateral actions on policy matters without consulting with traditional allies, but it has also brought about a lot of unnecessary misunderstanding and ill feelings through the use of harsh and violent expressions in its speech.
For example, although a “preemptive strike” is a strategy that can be used as a last resort based on the judgment of the flow of things, the U.S. Defense Department raised it as its official strategy, giving an impression that the United States was pro-war.
They say that international politics is power politics. There are expressions such as “fighting for power” and “ruling by power.” Such ideas can be considered valid, because fundamentally international politics is in fact decided by the relationship among the powerful countries.
However, it cannot be said that international politics is all about power. It is ultimately a matter run by people, and therefore cannot be considered without having the intentions and good will of people in mind.
In the end, morality is an issue that will always be a part of international politics. Actions that are morally incorrect cannot be supported by people, and will always lead to mistrust and resistance.
Right now, America is being put to the serious test of morality. If it fails in gaining back its moral integrity, not only America but world order will be affected and put in danger. This is because America is the one and only superpower nation, and power that has no morality can break down world order.
We can only pray that America will quickly regain its morality and idealism.
* The writer, a former ambassador to the United States, is a professor emeritus at Korea University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Kim Kyung-won