[TODAY]Stopping a new ‘dash North’George W. Bush has heard himself called a mocking nickname, “accidental president,” for the past four years.
The reason was that in the 2000 presidential election, he won the election thanks to the Supreme Court’s decision that he had 537 popular votes more than Al Gore in Florida while receiving 500,000 popular votes less than Mr. Gore in total. If the majority of the U.S. Supreme Court justices did not have a conservative propensity, the recounting of the ballots in Florida might have reversed the election results. But this time Mr. Bush earned enough votes, more than enough to pay off the debt of being the accidental president.
He gained 3.8 million popular votes more than John Kerry, and the voting rate of 60 percent was the highest turnout since 1968.
The triumphant feeling of Mr. Bush, who won the presidential election by a good margin, was revealed in his first press conference after the election. He said voters had given him political capital and that he would make good use of it.
On foreign affairs, he hinted that he had no intention of revising his unilateral diplomacy, which has been criticized for the past four years. In other words, Mr. Bush accepted the election results as full support from the American people for his three wars since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks ― the war on terrorism, the war in Afghanistan and the war in Iraq.
Two hot current issues await Mr. Bush and his new mandate. One is how he will cope with the deteriorating situation in Iraq with general elections scheduled for January of next year. The other is how he will handle the North Korean nuclear problem.
President Bush dashed into Fallujah, the center of resistance and terrorism by Sunnis.
A complete seizure of Fallujah is a matter of time. But there is no guarantee that a second and third Fallujah will not appear in northern Iraq and Kurd regions when Fallujah is subdued.
Perhaps all of Iraq may become another Fallujah and general elections may not be held next year. Believing in the power granted by his voters, Mr. Bush pushed to begin the attack on Fallujah.
The success or failure of the attack is significant, but we should not miss Mr. Bush’s message implicit in the attack. Backed by his people’s overwhelming support, President Bush seems confident of settling the confusion in Iraq without assistance from “Old Europe,” like France and Germany, which had expected him to be beaten in the election.
We are concerned over how the re-elected Mr. Bush’s confidence will be reflected in the North Korean nuclear negotiations.
With more leeway in politics, will President Bush become generous toward North Korea? Or, free from public opinion with no more presidential elections to contest, will he return to his hard-line stance toward the North?
The answer depends on the Bush administration as well as on North Korea’s attitude and the roles of South Korea and China.
North Korea waited for Mr. Bush to lose and Mr. Kerry to win the election while foiling a fourth round of six-way talks. The North may now be greatly upset.
North Korea is on the threshold of having nuclear weapons. The country may have an impulse to follow the example of Pakistan, whose regime security is guaranteed by possessing nuclear arms. Because North Korean leaders are no fools, they will not be unaware that their nuclear-holding is a sure invitation to a pre-emptive strike by the United States. In particular, if the North tries to export nuclear materials to terrorist groups or terror-supporting countries, the United States will take immediate military countermeasures. A misstep with North Korean nuclear arms would bring disaster. So, there is no time to lose.
President Roh Moo-hyun said that the nuclear problem is structurally stabilized. His remarks seem to reflect the reality that as long as North Korea knows the recklessness of brinkmanship diplomacy and the United States are being held back by Iraq, Mr. Bush cannot take hard-line measures.
But I am concerned about the conservative leanings of American society that were displayed in the presidential election. Particularly, the influence of Christian conservatives, who gave votes to Mr. Bush in large numbers, should not be underestimated.
They think a country like North Korea, that denies the existence of God, and a country like Iraq, that believes in a god other than their God, are objects of destruction, and may cheer for the attack on Fallujah.
The President Bush whom President Roh will meet in Santiago, Chile, next week is the triumphant Bush who has support from the conservative American society.
President Roh’s task is to maintain the framework of the multilateral negotiations by preventing Mr. Bush from “dashing into North Korea.”
* The writer is a senior columnist of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Young-hie