[VIEWPOINT]Use America to our advantage

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[VIEWPOINT]Use America to our advantage

The European press is full of criticism of the unilateralism of U.S. President George W. Bush’s administration in the past couple of weeks while the world was preparing for the New Year. The French newspaper Le Monde, the United Kingdom’s The Financial Times and other newspapers published, one after another, articles that criticized the C.I.A.’s temporary prison camps around Europe and the inhumane treatment of terrorist suspects held at the prison camp in Guantanamo, Cuba.
Yet on the other side of the Atlantic, the Bush administration maintains the belief that a world order centered around one power, the United States, should be created. Rather than making an effort to persuade countries that are against the idea, the United States maintains the position that it will make selective alliances with countries that actively support it and wage a war against terror with these allies. The Bush administration believes the same as the American neo-conservative scholar and political commentator, Robert Kagan, who wrote, “European countries are under an illusion that the whole world has changed into a paradise without war, just like western Europe.”.
It is true that there is an “arrogance of power arising from the overconfidence in military power,” as was noted by Senator J. William Fulbright during the Vietnam War, in the unilateralism of the Bush administration. More thoughtful people in the United States, including Professor Joseph Nye of Harvard University, advise that not only military power but also dignity and charm that can win the respect and goodwill of other countries is necessary for successful foreign policy. However, the Bush team is full of missionary zeal that aggressively spreading democracy is not only good for the national benefit of the United States, but also for long term world peace and for residents of countries who are suffering from oppression under rogue governments.
Actually, not all previous U.S. administrations pursued a one-sided foreign policy as the Bush administration does now. And there is a possibility that the new U.S. administration, that will be in power three years from now, will carry out a policy that is at least more moderate than that of the Bush administration. However, the reality is that the governments of the world that have to handle world affairs together with the Bush administration now cannot jump on the bandwagon of anti-Americanism. Whether it is an anti-American or pro-American sentiment, the governments tune their U.S. policies according to cool-headed judgment based on their own national interests.
France, Russia and China decided early on, in the mid-nineties, that checking U.S. unilateralism is to the benefit of their own national interests. These three countries that possess nuclear weapons have ruled that the world order is not in an era of a one-pole system centering on the United States, but in a multi-polar system that includes their own countries. However, the “pitiable” reality, that these three countries cannot be compared to the United States in terms of economic and military power, nor combat projection capability, does not give support to their declared diplomatic doctrine. Still, these countries have made it clear that on issues like the Middle East problem, Northeast Asian affairs, including the six-party talks, and various UN negotiations, they will not support the unilateralism of the United States.
In contrast, the governments of Poland, the Czech Republic and other mid-European countries are gradually taking a pro-American position despite growing public opinion against the United States. They believe that the United States is the partner they can trust most in order to cope with Russian hegemony that could revive at any time and to restrain the power of unified Germany.
It is interesting to see that the United Kingdom and Japan maintain, at least at a government level, the position of closely supporting the United States. From the position of the United States too, these two island superpowers are partners with which America has to cooperate to keep the balance of power needed to cope with changes in Europe and Asia. The United Kingdom, in particular, has continued to play the role of diplomatic adviser to the United States that it voluntarily took in World War II. It refrains from openly criticizing the United States and continues the role of a quiet adviser, smoothing over the rough diplomacy of the United States that sometimes places too much confidence in its military power.
Here in South Korea, we are in a situation where U.S. support is essential for keeping restraints on North Korea. Therefore, it is realistically difficult for us to join the multi-polar group. It rather seems to be a time for us to remember that it was the United States that helped German unification by defying the restraints of the United Kingdom and France in the process of unification, and have the wisdom of using the United States to our advantage.

*The writer is a lecturer of political science and international relations at the University of Aberdeen in the United Kingdom. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.


by Kim Seung-young

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