My Photo

Korean Radio/TV

Blogs about that part of Asia that isn't Korea

« Funny | Main | KPR: "Outsiders" get the inside track for Seoul Mayor »

Monday, April 10, 2006



As seen partly over at Marmot's a disccusion on this issue is about as fruitful as a mixed group sitting down to chat about abortion.


I just want to add one thing here --- a side note that I've found interesting in discussions like this for years.

The poet Robert Lowell upset his family, which had some standing in the community, when he refused to serve in the 2nd World War.

In the letter he wrote to the draft board, he said that if his time had been in the early days of it, he would have gladly fought for his country to defend against totalitarianism, but at the time of writing, it was clear Germany and Japan were defeated. He said forcing a nation into accepting unconditional surrender was too degrading and the damage it took to do so too inhumane.

He likened what Germany and Japan were facing to --------- the Confederate states after the Civil War.

Fascism, Nazism, totalitarianism, colonialism, and slavery..........

There are still a minority of profs in the US who write books about how the United States did not need to drop the atomic bombs on Japan or invade it to win the war or even to force Germany into unconditional surrender with the carpet bombing ---- much like Cumings argued in his latest toilet paper book when he talked about the criminal use of napalm by US forces during the Korean War.

Think about what the world would be like today if the German government of WWII had been allowed to desolve and reconfigure itself under much less total surrender conditions?

What would Japan, East Asia, the world economy, be like today if Japan's government had been left pretty much intact under a "reasonable" surrender agreement?

Would the Japanese even be out of Korea by now?

I do not offer this as a justification or condemnation of Iraq War II.

I offer it as an example of how very intelligent, thoughtful people, can be so terribly wrong with the best of intentions.


Some key differences that seem glossed over:

1. In the free world, the US presence in Korea was generally supported. That's not the case for the US presence in Iraq. Even the few countries that have participated in some way are doing so half-heartedly at best.

2. More importantly, Koreans were far more accepting of a US presence (at least back in the 50's and 60's) than Iraqis are of the US. A sizable number of Iraqis (not a majority perhaps, but a significant number) just want the US out as soon as possible. This was not the case in Korea, Japan or Germany (well, now things might be different...)

3. In Korea, US involvement was clear and to most people unquestionable. Communism was a very real threat and there was no question that North Korea would invade again if the US no longer showed interest in protecting Korea.

The Iraq war was started on very questionable premises. It was sold to the American public on WMDs, not establishing a democracy. Yes, Hussein was awful in a lot of ways, but so are a dozen or so other brutal regimes in the world. Support for involvement in Iraq is already weak, and will get weaker without some quick improvements.

Finally, even if Iraq could be on the same road map as Korea, Japan or Germany, do we have the resources to see it through? Doesn't the growing deficit worry you at all? How much longer can get amassing a record debt before there are big consequences? Doesn't the possibility of civil war (which was not really a threat in Korea, Japan or Germany) make you question the wisdom of America's presence in Iraq?

In Vietnam, we were stuck in a war that we weren't winning but couldn't abandon without losing face. So year after year we just kept wasting money and lives on it, hoping someday things would get better. Perhaps Iraq is more like Vietnam than we'd like to admit.



You have some points but, while the righteousness of our cause in the Korean war is clear in hindsight to all but Bruce Cumings and his ilk, it was not so readily apparent in the 1940s and 50s. There were several small rebellions against the US occupation and the government we helped install before the war.

After the war, the US found itself in a stand off with a third of the Korean population as well as some elements of the rest of the country.

Neither was our involvement in the war itself that clear. The unpopularity of the war was the single biggest reason forcing Truman to drop his bid for reelection.

One of the objectives of the war was always to help establish a representative government in Iraq. It was not just added on after Saddam's WMDs were not found.

We lost 33,000 men in three years of fighting in Korea, a place of less strategic importance to the US than the Middle East.

You will not get any argument from me about the budget. Until the deficit is under control, I would like to see us redirecting funds from new weapons systems to paying for the current conflict. The resources are there, we just have to set priorities.

The comments to this entry are closed.