[OUTLOOK]Bush’s second speech hits markThere are almost no self-proclaimed intellectuals today that do not speak ill of U.S. President George W. Bush. Criticism against Mr. Bush became popular amongst intellectuals. Discussions abound on his recent second inaugural address. Wondering what was wrong with his speech, I read his inaugural address carefully. As far as I was concerned, it was a faultless speech. It deserved the name “speech of freedom.” William Safire, a columnist for the New York Times, also commented that Mr. Bush’s address could be counted among the most famous five speeches of the 20 inaugural addresses for second-term presidents in American history. If that is the case, why are opinions so divided? I think this is because of the conflict between the liberals and the conservatives. More specifically, it is because of the hatred that opponents of the war in Iraq have toward Mr. Bush. As a Korean saying goes, a hated daughter-in-law’s heels, even if they are pretty like smooth eggs, are bound to look ugly in the sight of her mother-in-law.
His theme was freedom: With the expansion of freedom, peace will come too. The security and freedom of the United States will be assured only when freedom is expanded all over the world. The United States will help those people who long for freedom. He said tyranny that oppresses freedom should be ended. Naming North Korea as one of the outposts of tyranny a few days earlier in her confirmation hearing in Congress, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also said that the United States would expand freedom through diplomacy. At this, liberal intellectuals say that however good freedom may be, trying to infuse the ideals of freedom into other countries from a superior position is unilateralism. This is why they say they dislike Mr. Bush. Is what they say right, indeed?
Our liberal intellectuals had a lopsided view when Ms. Rice addressed the issue of North Korea. Saying, “Is she aiming at the collapse of North Korea?” they criticized her for speaking for the neo-conservatives in the Bush administration. During the dictatorships of Syngman Rhee and Park Chung Hee, intellectuals and democratic activists of our country expressed complaints against the United States at every opportunity.
Why did students discontented with the U.S. government’s handling of the 1980 pro-democracy uprising in Gwangju set fire to the U.S. cultural center? They protested that the United States did not help us promote democracy and instead helped the dictators. What is, then, the matter with the United States taking interest in North Korea for the expansion of liberty and human rights? Wouldn’t North Korean residents be thankful to the United States? Compared to the Korean government that keeps silent about North Korean human rights conditions, which government is more moral? Why do these intellectuals say that the United States should intervene in dictatorships in South Korea, but then say that the country should not intervene in the dictatorship in North Korea? What a double standard this is!
American liberal intellectuals have something similar too. A few months before the former Soviet Union’s shoot-down of a civilian South Korean airliner in September 1983, former President Ronald Reagan defined the Soviet Union as an “evil empire.” Just as liberal intellectuals of today criticize Mr. Bush’s address, liberal intellectuals at that time in the United States and Europe criticized Mr. Reagan’s.
They harshly criticized his speech as “the most terrible address in U.S. history” and “a speech that saw all problems simply with black and white logic, deserving of his former acting career.” The “evil empire” collapsed only a few years later. What would those critics of his speech have thought to see the fall of the Soviet Union?
The United States’ foreign policy line has alternated between idealism and realism. When realism dominated, the country supported autocrats for its national interests and overlooked human rights infringements. But when the wave of idealism came ― as can be seen in former President Jimmy Carter’s human rights diplomacy ― democracy and human rights in the other countries became the main goal of U.S. foreign policy. Those who criticize Mr. Bush may do so because they think he is trying to realize his ideals coercively with the support of military force though he outwardly proclaims idealism. But Mr. Bush did not even mention military power. Ms. Rice also said she would achieve her goals through diplomacy. Our right attitude is to accept his speech as it is, rather than criticize in advance what may not happen at all. Are there any reasons that we should oppose him when he says he will realize the goals of human rights and freedom by economic and diplomatic means, not by military power?
When the “speech of freedom” becomes foreign policy, the Korean Peninsula will be subject to the policy. The problem is how we should cope with the policy by that time. We cannot argue against the United States when it says it will help in the democratization and liberalization of North Korea. We have no justification to oppose and neither should we do so. The reason why we want reunification is to make North Korea a democratic and free country like ours. Shouldn’t we be grateful that the United States is willing to pave the way for us?
We have only to emphasize that the method of reunification should be a peaceful one through economic and diplomatic cooperation, not military power. Therefore, we should not find fault with the “speech of freedom” but applaud it. To the United States, we should first suggest to seek a peaceful means of unification together.
* The writer is the chief editor of the editorial page of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Moon Chang-keuk