Thursday, March 27, 2003

Freedom of speech is a double-edged sword. My freedom to say what I want gives me the ability to offend and criticise whoever, whereever, whenever and whatever I want. And vice versa, another person exercising such freedom has the ability to offend and criticise me. One thing this war seems to be doing is bringing out the ugly in people as they strive to express their views and vent their frustration because not everyone agrees with them. The peace protests are getting violent, the anti-peace protestors have delivered harsh viterpurations and are in some cases protesting agains the protestors. The reprecussions of this will be far-reaching. Just as the alliances of countries forged now based on who is for or against the war are beginning to map out a new landscape in global politics so too are domestic country divisions changing people's attitudes towards each other that will only breed mistrust, resentment and instability. If this goes too far, the freedom and way of life we are "fighting for" will be lost because of our own reactions to war rather than being in any way based on the war.

On a global setting, if this war does signify the proverbial final nail in the coffin for UN relevance as a forum to resolve inter-national disputes than the divisions we see now could be the outline for the formation of a new world order. The appearance of which, to me, is resembling the previously seen scenario of bloc alliances. Such blocs as we know were frequently at loggerheads and through this formation we were treated to "shock and awe" in the form of WWI and WWII. Though like the Baghdad "shock and awe" event it came across more as "shocking" with less awe. Perhaps my commentary goes too far and that it is way to early to know what will happen and to what extent UN has been damaged by the implementation of the"Bush Doctrine". But I just thought I'd apply my soothsayer skills to predict the return to a multi-polar world of alliance clusters.

Opinions about how North Korea is viewing the events in Iraq continue to be a hot point of speculation. My latest find is this article from Foreign Policy in Focus and this one. But, in the same way my speculation about the new world order is premature and simply one of a myriad of possible outcomes, so too are the predications and guesses about NK.

It seems that on top of being oveshadowed by the news on Iraq there is a lot of holding back on economic news, especially for Asia, as so many uncertainties from the war are undermining economic expectations and predicitons.

Monday, March 24, 2003

Its difficult for me to concentrate on anything other than the "War on Iraq". I remain strongly opposed but am inevitably drawn to follow events as much as possible.

Of course the war with Iraq is being closely monitored in terms of North Korea as well. UN is urging talks but I think at this stage both sides, that being US and NK are taking a wait and see policy. The outcome of the war is critical I believe for the future direction of dealing with NK. NK has come out though and claimed the act of agression against Iraq is a sign of their desire for world domination and have also cancelled talks with SK, which probably wouldn't have done much anyway. However, its better to be talking inanely than not talking at all.

Away from war, IMF has released the latest information about Korea's economic circumstances including the results of the Article IV consultations. Its a lot to read and I haven't fully gone through it. I did notice tha IMF put out a growth figure for 2003 at five and three-quartern percent against the newspaper this morning which said the finance ministry was expected just 5% growth. Consulations apparently doesn't mean consensus.

Friday, March 21, 2003

War has begun in Iraq. I maybe Australian but oppose this action. I think my stance of this should be clarifed for anyone reading this page.

After Bush came on air and gave the deadline which subsequently led to the invasion I logged onto an Australian discussion board to gain the "word on the street". I found that it is mostly in opposition to my own views. No matter, we are all entitled to our opinion. I also got listenting to Radio Australia and watching BBC.

From Slate I got this site which gives a number of sources to trace events.

In regards to the reprecussions this action will have on SK/NK I think its too early to tell. Many are predicting that NK might use to time to raise the stakes a notch but we'll see.

Monday, March 17, 2003

My visa has been successfully re-newed and I am now a legal alien for the next year. Hooray.

Saturday, March 15, 2003

The people who really care for humanity are not running the countries

After reading so much nauseating stuff about the US's push to garner support for the war on Iraq I began contemplating how little information we are getting about 'the other side of the story'. My concerns about the greater picture of the Iraq situation was further emphasised last night when my flatmate and I engaged in a debate on the power of mass media propoganda and its ability to push just one side of a story. This, using the full force of my formidible ability to procastinate from doing real work, led me to spend the greater part of this morning searching for sites other than mainstream US news to at least see what others were saying.

Now I do not necessarily agree with all the points. In fact, in some cases I heartily disagreed but I felt the issues raised and some facts given have assisted me in getting a clearer picture. Although at the end of my search for today, (as I really must do some work before the day is out) my conclusion is similar to my previously help assumption: none of these people should be governing any people, anywhere. They are liars, they are cheats, they are working in their own self-interest and depend on the ignorance of the masses to pursue their own agendas which all boils down to their aspirations for money and power. Not one of these "leaders" is concerned about people, human suffering, human rights, moral values, principles or 'doing the right thing'. I despair for the future.

So what did I read? Well I read alot and rather than give a commentary to accompany the links I am opting to simply list them down for people to peruse at their liesure. If you go through and read, you will notice how a comment in one article has led me to find the webpage of another site. For example, the Arab news cites Dick Cheney's involvement in the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs so I found their homepage (and discovered that John Bolton is also a member) and another article also about that issue. Other cases like this exist. I have also tried to get perspectives from Arab news and also a bit on the French stance.

The List:
Arab News - Colin Powell
Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs
Jewish Bulletin News
Human Events On-line
Arab News - Al-Quaeda and Iraq
Counterpunch - Israil, Iraq and US
Counterpunch - So you think you live in a Democracy?
Counterpunch - Oil War
Department of Defense - Strategic Assessment
e-Freedom News - France: Iraq has WMD
BBC - France's economic ties to Iraq

Well it was just a mornings worth of work and obviously nothing more than an amatuers search for information and hopefully greater knowledge to understand the world we live in and why. Frankly, after reading it, I lost my appetite, something that rarely happens to me.

Tuesday, March 11, 2003

Off Topic

The first point that I feel needs to be clarified is that it has not taken me this long to read "Shadows of the Empire". For some reason my blogger template has refused to recognise subsequent changes to my 'currently reading' section. I'm not comfortable with the thought that people out there are thinking that it is taking me a good month to read a 250-page Star Wars novel. I will continue to up-date my book notification but cannot guarantee when it will actually change.

But that issue aside, today I intended to read through the mass of information I located at the Nautilus Institute on North Korea and to blog my thoughts and opinions pertaining to said topic. However, I have only managed a rudimentary perusal of some of the information and don't feel confident enough to make a relevant comment.

Instead of reading all that information I have in fact spent most of today's internet session at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies and at the Whitehouse getting the latest on Iraq. I read the President Bush's speech to the National Press Conference and thought that perhaps if it weren't so sad it might have been funny. CSIS reporting on the phalanx of the weapons programs and Blix's reports were enlightening and highlighted some of the complex matters at hand which left me feeling more informed but still clueless.

I would proffer a more relevant opinion about the whole Iraq issue but I tend to think that both sides are big fat liars aiming to decieve me and that no answer exists on this issue as both sides are guilty of the things they charge each other and neither side possesses any moral ground upon which to win over public support. Its like two devils vying to be head honcho in hell. I also read a transcript that I can't relocate of Paul Wolfowitz, number two under Rummy at the Department of Defense, discussing the Iraq matter that was even more sad/funny and in fact could not be read through to the end as it became increasingly possible that the transcript was likely to induce a headache or worse. It was a blatent piece of horredously transparent propoganda where every sentence started with "the suffering of the those poor, desperate and oppressed Iraqi people is evidence that the great and omnipotent defender of freedom, the US, needs to ..." [not a direct quote but pretty bloody close]

The question of the day though came from a reporter during the Bush speech by the name of "Bob" who asked: "..millions of Americans can recall a time when leaders from both parties set this country on a mission of regime change in Vietnam. Fifty thousand Americans died. The regime is still there in Hanoi, and it hasn't harmed or threatened a single American in 30 years since the war ended. What can you say tonight, sir, to the sons and the daughters of the Americans who served in Vietnam to assure them that you will not lead this country down a similar path in Iraq?"

Friday, March 07, 2003

The loose nukes crisis

The conundrum over how US and its allies should be approaching the North Korean issue is turning into a very interesting academic debate. Brookings Institution North East Asian Policy Centre has some articles similarly suggesting the optimal stance US should take to get the diplomatic ball rolling. There seems to be a rising consensus among these writers that while multilateralism is the best way to handle the situation, direct US-NK talks will be essential to get things started. This also would help to overcome the reluctance of China and Russia to enter the fray by giving them a chance to observe and see some progress made through goodwill before joining in a more active capacity to ease tensions. But again, I think the step that needs to pre-empt direct talks or coincide with talks with US-SK relationship building through proactive measure to overcome conflicting policy stances toward the North. Multilateralism for US needs to start with South Korea.

A Stanford University diplomat-in-residence and councillor of the Atlantic Council of the United States have also entered the debate with an article in the Financial Times. FT has found the issue of NK important enough to set up an in-depth page. This is a great source of information on recent events including the annual US-SK joint military effort. This annual event is notorious for making NK antsy and this is probably not the best time to be antagonising them. On the other hand, now is definitely the time to be training for the possibility of attack. And as we are often assured, its defense oriented not offensive.

But of course the best source on US policy to NK should be US Department of State. However this provided perhaps the most inconclusive information about what the US is planning to do to deal with the loose nukes crisis in NK. Their talk is at the same level of the academic writers indicating the inchoate state of affairs in US policy to NK.

I made the mistake of reading Bolton's piece on the situation - I should know better. I never agree with what he says. I think that man has a poor understanding of the history of South, North development and the US's historical impact in this region. To say that US didn't create the North Korea problem is misleading. The US carved up the nation with USSR and allies at the end of WWII, it cemented the division of the nation through pursuit of its own selfish interests in the country and failed to seriously seek to unify the country. It exclusion of Korea from its security zone in Asia had a direct impact on North Korea's decision to attack the South and US has since continued to be an important player in Korea and Asia at large. The US stance, actions and words have rarely done anything to make relations with NK stronger. US may not have intentionally created this situation and directly it did not, but the actions and reactions of US in Korea have indeed played a role in the lead up to this crisis.

Tuesday, March 04, 2003

Poltiical tensions continue to mount in Korea. The latest act by the North was to track a US spy plane with its radar in a threatening way. However, it would seem that all the attention seeking will continue to fall on deaf ears as long as the opposing interested parties fail to reach consensus on how to deal with North Korea.

The rallies held in Seoul epitomise the schism that currently exists. And the problems are not just between Seoul and Washington but Washington and othe allies such as Beijing, Moscow and Tokyo. The article in Foregin Affairs outlines quite well events to date. However, in the recommendations I feel that the initial step of the two-stage plan is not well clarified. The issues and needs of each party is clearly addressed but it does not elaborate satsifactorily on how the allies would 'guarantee security' without a non-aggression pact. I'm sure there is a way but I felt the article skipped a beat by not divulging more on this idea. The rest seemed rather plausible on paper but highly unlikely in reality. Not least of which, it does get rid of the Agreed Framework but it is optimistic to think that in the passing years the countries have figured a better way out of the dilemma of giving North Korea energy without letting them build up weapons. Without overcoming the underlying dilemma the solution will never last.

And lastly, the Seoul Stories of the 6th Seoul Essay Contest can now be read on-line (including my essay). And if you like them as much as that, you can purchase a printed edition of all the essay available in the major bookstores around Seoul very cheaply.

Currently reading:

"Hell" by Yasutaka Tsutsui