[TODAY]Stay the course on our troopsFyodor Dostoevsky, the author of “The Brothers Karamazov,” said through one of his characters in that book that if God did not exist, everything would be permissible. Seeing American soldiers torture Iraqi prisoners of war and Arab terrorists cut off the head of a U.S. civilian and post the video on the Internet, I am as chilled as if Dostoevsky’s epigram had come true.
Should we indeed send Korean troops to that scene of madness where nihilists, who lost God, are going crazy? This is our dilemma. The argument that we should reconsider the troop dispatch is understandable.
The negligence of post-war sensibilities caused the United States to lose its moral justification for invading Iraq, and terrorists’ strengthened attacks left no place safe in Iraq.
What criteria should we apply to the discussion on troop deployment?
The current situation in Iraq is the most important. If the Iraqi situation worsens and prospects for a transfer of power are hidden in the mist; if Iraq sinks deeper into internal war and confusion, an additional deployment of foreign troops would be like pouring water into a leaky bucket.
But the reality of Iraq is different. Despite the shock and indignation of world opinion about the torture of Iraqi prisoners of war and the decapitation of American civilians, the regime change in Iraq is still on course.
The timetable calls for a temporary constitution, adopted last March, the transfer of power to a provisional government by the end of June, general elections by the end of this year, establishment of an official government with a parliament to be convened at the beginning of the next year, enactment of a permanent constitution by October 2005 and more general elections once again by the end of the next year under the rules of the permanent constitution.
The United States made two large concessions on the procedures to transfer power. One was to entrust to the United Nations the organization of the provisional government, which is to take over sovereignty in June. The other was that as the Shiite Muslims requested, it agreed to allow the adoption of a permanent constitution by the parliament to be formed after the general elections, at the end of this year. Entrusting the organization of the temporary government to a special envoy from the U.N. secretary general was a basic change in its policy, paving the way for expanding the role of the world body.
The change in U. S. policy toward Iraqi guerrillas was a drastic one, and the news made people doubt what they heard.
Although they had confronted each other at gunpoint until the previous day, U.S. forces helped form the Paluja Brigade by providing cash, radio equipment and military uniforms for Sunni guerrillas in Paluja. The U.S. forces planned to appease the militia in Najaf, Kupa, Karballa, Mosul in the same way. Although the defense minister, Ali Allawi ― who hopes to establish Iraqi combined forces of 80,000 soldiers by May ― resists this plan vigorously, the minister, appointed by the occupation forces, won’t be able to oppose the decision by the United States.
The Iraqi situation is not as grave as opponents of the deployment claim it to be. Of course, non-Iraqi terrorists, affiliated with Al Qaeda and infiltrated into Iraq, will not sit back and watch the smooth transfer of power.
This is the biggest variable. But the Iraqi public longs to see early normalization of the situation, a smooth transfer of power and the withdrawal of U.S. forces. The end of June will be a critical period. There is still room for the construction support of the Korean army to be of substantial help to Iraqis.
In reconsidering the troop deployment, consideration of Korea-U.S. relations is no less important than that of the Iraqi situation.
If Korea jumps on the bandwagon of criticizing the United States and repeals its plan to dispatch troops now, when the United States has been driven into a corner in the international community, the basis of bilateral relations will be greatly hurt. If we send our troops in July, Korea will have already missed the critical point.
Some lawmakers suggest giving money instead of dispatching troops. But we need to learn a lesson from the failure of Japan, which underwrote $13 billion of war costs instead of dispatching troops in the Gulf War of 1991, only to rouse America’s antipathy.
Opponents of troop deployment overlap with those who assert equal and self-reliant diplomacy with the United States. But if we want to have closer relations with China, we should avoid resistance from the United States and the tension in Korea-U.S. relations that could come from the cancellation of the troop deployment. This is a paradox we should examine closely.
Taking a positive look at the Iraq situation and reconsidering the deployment issue, the government should pursue its plan to send troops.
Since the Kim Dae-jung administration, Korea-U.S relations have become tense, and they should not be made worse.
* The writer is a senior columnist of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Young-hie