Rhetoric cannot win a war
The author is a deputy editor on social affairs.
British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was famous for his legendary wartime speeches, inspiring and uniting the nation to fight Nazi Germany during the Second World War. But strong will and rhetoric alone cannot guarantee victory.
In the film recreation of “The Darkest Hour,” taken after Churchill’s reference to the period between the Fall of France in May-June 1940 and the Axis Invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt coldly refused Churchill’s desperate plea for the U.S. Navy to lend 40 to 50 old warships, citing “American neutrality acts.” Instead, Roosevelt proposed to leave the planes the British had ordered from the United States near the Canadian border and have horses to drag them into Canada for the British to pick up. It took a lot of effort to bring Americans back to the European battlegrounds after their heavy losses from the First World War.
In “The Churchill Factor,” his 2014 biography of the revered statesman, Boris Johnson, current British Prime Minister, quoted Churchill: “No lover ever studied every whim of his mistress as I did of President Roosevelt.”
“We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills, we shall never surrender,” said Churchill in his famous speech at the House of Commons on June 4, 1940 shortly after the evacuation of British troops from Dunkirk. The speech did not just address his people, but also the United States: “Our Empire would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and liberation of the old.”
Johnson noted that the United States was eventually won over by Churchill’s shrewd maneuvering, personal charm and flattery. No British leader could have dared to draw the United States into the war and no others could have persisted with such passion, Johnson observed.
Chairing a cabinet meeting on July 4 when Japan has launched selective embargoes on three materials to Korea, President Moon Jae-in vowed that the country “will never give in to Japan.” He may have borrowed the determined tone from Churchill’s speeches. During a senior secretariat meeting in the Blue House the following day, he showed a questionable and misconstrued strategy in taking on Japan.
“The Japanese economy has the upper hand over ours in the size of the economy and domestic market. If we can achieve a peace economy [an integrated economy] through inter-Korean economic cooperation, we can easily prevail over Japan,” he said.
We could be in a big trouble if that’s the government’s strategy against a potential trade war with Japan. North Korea’s population is half of South Korea’s and the economy one 50th the size. All neighboring countries of the two Koreas are bigger in population and powerful. North Korea has been firing short-range missiles in protest of the regular South Korean military exercises with the United States.
Brave and committed soldiers, advanced weaponry and arms resources are essential to win a battle. Korean companies are the frontline soldiers in a trade war. But they are weakened by excessive anti-corporate sentiment and regulations. They need practical and sustainable incentives to go into a lengthy war.
Korea’s world-class nuclear reactor technology is a competitive weapon that will be wasted under the nuclear fuel phase-out policy. Energy is the fuel to the industry. It is wrong to hasten a reactor phase-out when efficacy in sourcing from renewables is yet to be proven. While decommissioning aged reactors, new reactors should be built to sustain supremacy in the technology.
The government last week vowed to create new courses on IT parts, materials and equipment, as well as nurture engineering majors in universities. The measures must not be sporadic. The controversy over the scrapping of autonomous-curriculum high schools underscored the discrepancy in education bureaucracy. Policies change under each new government.
Trade wars aren’t fought with Japan alone. Korea will fall behind if it does not have far-sighted visions to enhance national competitiveness and rationalize its system. Do we really have them?
JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 12, Page 27