Tuesday, April 01, 2003

What does the Iraq war portend for North Korea?

Its still early days, perhaps earlier days in the war than we thought it might be, and so it remains to be seen how this war will shape the world in the aftermath. The only consensus at the moment seems to be that it will definitely play a big role in the future direction not only of US foreign policy but the make up of the world order. The current controversy about the war is size and force of the ground troops originally brought into Iraq. Some argue that there should have been more air raids in the prelude to ground force entry and some add that more ground forces should have originally stomped over the border into Iraq. The reason for not doing this is being advocated by Defense Secretary Rumsfeld as part of the new theory based on flexibility, agility and small manouverable forces. But then the question which springs to mind (not my slow mind though, which is why I read as much as possible. I believe there are many people out there way smarter than me and I should listen to them as much as possible before forming my own opinions) was why put lives at risk to prove an untried theory against a tried and trusted one? The answer given in the article is interesting. Maybe there are other thoughts out there, I haven't found them yet. But if what this article is saying is even remotely true than it gives rise to serious questions about NK.

We already know that Rumsfeld informed us of the US military's ability to wage war on two fronts if necessary. A comment many discarded as over-the-top and like many other Rumsfeld comments, just tactless and uncalled for. But given this article I'd like to think about things a bit more carefully. The following summising is based explicitly on the assumptions that a) the war is won relatively easily and with an acceptable level of casualities b) the reason to send less troops into Iraq is indeed the prelude to further acts of aggression on countries US doesn't like - including NK.

What good reasons does US have to attack NK:
After success in Iraq it can be supposed that US public support for Bush will increase and there will be a greater sense of security at home (whether justified or not). On the domestic front, this will lend support to erradicating the second country on the 'axis of evil' list NK. The perception of 'getting things done' will help to cover up any economic woes and may even boost the stock market as US seeks to rid the world of more 'uncertainty'. On the global front, after having gone against UN and moving into Iraq and proving the world's fears as groundless, US will at worst be tolerated to enter NK and at best may garner greater support after having shown its ability to succeed and its resolve to act regardless of world opinion.

What bad reasons does US have to attack NK:
The ultimate fact remains that there is high certainty that NK possesses nukes. This makes its situation very different to that of Iraq. It also cannot be ruled out that NK border both China and Russia and is very close to Japan. The major power concentration of this regions makes it a delicate situation (not meaning to down play the delicate geo-political setting of Iraq) and one which US will have to review carefully before embarking on any pre-emptive strikes. It is also well known that the last US force that tried to unify the peninsular was meet with by the formidable Chinese forces and driven back from whence they came. Though we may not expect a similar event Chinese and Russian gripes over Iraq will only be compounded if US tries anything proactive in Korea.

In conclusion, this flimsy analysis prompted by the reading of only one article leads me to conclude that domestic support for US action in Korea would be strong after a victory in Iraq but global sentiment would not be swayed and in fact may diminish with the extension of US military targets. Given this and based on the US disregard for UN in the lead up to this war, I guess if the article is correct in Rummy's long term vision for US military force capabilities and direction, then we should be scared....very scared.

On the other hand, there is perhaps hope that, from viewing the jingoistic US in action, the countries surrounding NK may seek to step up diplomatic efforts to avoid US forces landing on their neighbour's doorstep ready to drop bombs in the name of liberation. As I said, it remains early days.

Currently reading:

"Hell" by Yasutaka Tsutsui