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Enemies, Both North and South
by Brian S. Wise
07 January 2003 

Ever wonder how allies become enemies so quickly? South Korea is offering a nice blueprint.

North Korea has given the recent difficulties some thought, and has decided that it’s all our fault. Tensions would ease considerably if, let’s say, the United States would agree to sign a non-aggression pact with North Korea, stating that no matter the degree of North Korean drama and nonsense to follow, America will stand its ground, scolding, but generally holding as pacifists. Why, if things did get out of control, North Korea shouldn’t be treated like just another enemy (regardless of its weapons capability) is a question thus far unanswered.

As a matter of policy, the United States doesn’t negotiate for an unstable peace these days; it hopes for peace and assumes it exists, but if things go bad, well, peace is implemented with force. To some it seems a foreign concept; reactionary, primitive, not of our times. But the beauty of the thing lies within its quiet truth: America doesn’t sign non-aggression pacts, but it has no problem standing by and watching its enemies sign documents of surrender. That North Korea may be choosing that path to surrender, again, is bothersome, but can be dealt with. Perhaps that sense of North Korea being dealt with has lent to this slight peacenikery.

Now add to the mess South Korea’s recent high-handed anti-Americanism, which we could dismiss as posturing if not for its rapidly coming in line with the North’s perpetual anti-Americanism. Apparently South Korea has no concept of not biting the hand that feeds it, the hand – not for nothing – that kept it from turning bright Red some years ago, and who has lent itself considerably in the name of its own success, militarily and otherwise. We are not unwise here in pointing to the 38,000 American soldiers that have sat ready at various points throughout the South (of particular note the demilitarized zone), all of whom have stood at the ready in the name of guaranteeing the South’s continued sovereignty. That sovereignty being important to not only the South’s military standing (another army we have trained), but it’s financial standing, as well … it’s economy grows at six percent annually, ours at two.

Were that the South’s economy functioned so well on its own. The United States chipped in $10 billion of the $60 billion International Monetary Fund bailout four years ago; a little time passed, things went very well, and with all favors being lent without notable reciprocation, it may be the case that the South believes it could have gotten there on its own, had they been left alone to do so, a falsehood. In a towering recession, we were a friend. With six percent growth, we are interlopers, the scourge of the world, and Americans are no longer welcome, thank you.

How tempted should we be to pull out of South Korea entirely? Emotionally, very much so: Sure, we’ll go, just leave our $10 billion on the nightstand and we’ll forget about the rest, writing it off as an acceptable price to keep Communism at bay. Militarily it makes less sense. No matter how well we have trained the South Korean army we shouldn’t feel free to leave the border open for possible invasion, and with Red China nearby, it’s strategically in our best interests to have an ally in the area, even if an unsteady one. (Japan is, of course, an ally, but is militarily impotent.) South Korea wasn’t just the side we defended; a presence there allows the United States to offer a somewhat stabilizing presence in the region. We stay, even if it’s against better ideological judgment.

This, for those of you who have recently asked about such things, is precisely how a country goes from being an ally one year to being an enemy the next (cf. Iraq): Support is lent in a battle where the common enemy is a greater threat than whatever disagreements you may have with your ally, but when all is said and done, the relevant fights having been won, our ally ends up being just another problem. We sense that complication coming from Roh Moo-hyun, and would be wise to consider him another enemy in training.

Nonetheless, we are compelled by certain interests greater than Roh’s babbling to stay there, standing far enough out of the way to pay proper respects to a democratically elected leader, but close enough to respond quickly if needed; kind of like a big brother. America shouldn’t be afraid to tell the truth: At this point, with the sentiments coming from the president-elect, South Korea cannot be trusted to know either what is in its best interests or who it should trust. So even though we’re looking at enemies of varying degrees in both the North and South, the overall hope should remain that a common understanding can be, yes, negotiated.

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