[VIEWPOINT]Troops in Iraq are a sign of maturityThe government has decided to extend the deployment of the Zaytun troops in Iraq, although the number of soldiers will be reduced according to changes in the situation there. Nevertheless, the decision is still being continuously debated. The logic behind the opposition to the extended deployment of the Zaytun troops in Iraq can be summed up in the following three points.
First, the war in Iraq is a reflection of the unilateralism and the lack of ethics of the United States, so there is no reason for South Korea to participate. Second is the assertion that as the instability in Iraq increases and even the United States considers bringing its troops back home, there is no reason for South Korea to keep troops in Iraq, which have already accomplished their intended mission. Third, those who oppose the extended deployment of our troops emphasize that Korean troops’ deployment in the land of the Kurds could damage our relations with other Arab countries.
I do not want to start a debate on the differences in individual values and world views. However, if there are any gross errors or confusion about the theories behind peoples’ opposition to the extension of our troops’ stay in Iraq, it is necessary to put it right. Above all, the decision to dispatch the Zaytun troops to Iraq was made at the request of the United States and followed negotiations between Korea and the United States.
However, it is also necessary to understand that means that South Korea is participating in the effort to reconstruct Iraq, together with other members of international society.
The Zaytun troops are not simply participating in the “Iraq War.” The decision to dispatch the Zaytun troops to Iraq was a reflection of the spirit of the United Nations Security Council resolution-1546.
Also, considering the unstable public security and poor economic conditions of the place, the accomplishments of the Zaytun troops should not be underestimated.
The assertion that even the United States and the United Kingdom, the two countries that keep the largest numbers of troops in Iraq, have considered bringing their troops back home is a typical jump or distortion in logic.
The United States is reviewing its entire dispatch policy in the face of the mid-term elections, but that does not mean that it will immediately pull its troops out.
The United Kingdom has announced that it is considering partial withdrawal of its troops, but it is expected that the British government will keep a certain level of troops in Iraq.
When it comes to the theory that our relations with other Arab countries will deteriorate as a result of the extended deployment of our troops in a Kurdish area, I get confused because I can’t understand how the idealistic international views of those who proclaim the war in Iraq to be a “wrong war” can suddenly change into such a cold and harsh calculation. I must also add that considering Muslims to be so simple and narrow-minded is indeed an insult to them.
Let’s look at the problem from a more honest point of view.
If the dispatch of troops to Iraq was not made at the request of the United States from the beginning, would there still be the heated debates we now see? I sincerely hope the recent debate is not a reflection of the anti-U.S. position that seems to have taken root, like a chronic obsession, among a certain group in our society.
Korea has grown up to be a country with enough economic power and status to give it international standing. The Korea-U.S. alliance must have been the most important factor when the government considered dispatching troops to Iraq. But the dispatch has more meaning in it than simply complying with the request of an ally. Through the deployment and dispatch of the Zaytun troops, Korea has shown international society that it has become big enough to meet their requests.
We have also shown the United States our mature diplomatic skills, because we achieved our goal of deciding the location and the size of the area in which our troops would be deployed.
What the United States and other countries want right now is to see a responsible member of the international society and a trustworthy ally that abides by the goal of achieving the stabilization of Iraq until the end ― more than a country with a large number of troops stationed in Iraq.
How long will we go on belittling and torturing ourselves by being obsessed with the illusive perception of self-reliance?
We should not commit the mistake of losing the cause and our national interest at the same time, by chanting repeatedly, “Withdraw the troops” without considering the consequences.
*The writer is a research fellow in charge of the Defense Issues Task Force team at the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Cha Du-hyeogn