Monday, June 04, 2007

Why Iraq Is Not A Divided Korea

Several allusions have been made in recent weeks by the Administration that a long-term outlook for the Iraqi occupation can be modeled on the country of Korea and its fifty-plus years of division. That this is being seriously stated as a path forward for a country torn three different ways by civil war is as far removed from reality as one can desire. From a White House press briefing:

MR. SNOW: Here is -- what the President means by that is that at some point you want to get to a situation in which the Iraqis have the capability to go ahead and handle the fundamental matters of security. You have the United States there in what has been described as an over-the-horizon support role so that if you need the ability to react quickly to major challenges or crises, you can be there, but the Iraqis are conducting the lion's share of the business -- as we have in South Korea, where for many years there have been American forces stationed there as a way of maintaining stability and assurance on the part of the South Korean people against a North Korean neighbor that is a menace.

In this particular case, what you want to be able to do -- and I'm now not trying to draw comparisons with any of the neighbors of Iraq, but instead, simply taking a look at the situation within Iraq proper. You get yourself into a position where you do have security in places like Baghdad and at the provincial level, and then you provide security as long as seems reasonable to the Iraqi people who are, after all, your hosts and the ones making the invitations.

Q For 50 years?

Q Now, the Korean model, you've got thousands of U.S. troops there for some 50 years. I mean, how is that comparison and vision in that --

MR. SNOW: Wendell just asked the same question. I don't think -- again, that's not strictly comparable because what you have is a North Korea that continues to be a threat, I mean as we've seen with the development of nuclear weapons. We're hoping that the Iraqis, in fact, are going to have the kind of security and stability they need so that what you're really dealing with is the internal security of Iraq, rather than trying to provide reassurance against an external foe.

How long will the United States be obligated to protect and occupy the capital in Iraq? For how long will the U.S. be responsible for the security and stability of Tikrit should that area erupt in violence in 2009 or 2010?

And not to be a partisan, are all of the Democratic candidates calling for a full withdrawal of troops from the theater or are they just for pulling back 2/3's of the forces and leaving behind a Korean-model of their own? As was noted by Ted Koppel on an opinion piece on NPR recently, Senator Clinton does not define how many American forces would be removed when she makes campaign statements to that effect, leaving Koppel to comment that all the candidates are going to feel the pressure to leave behind some force presence inside Iraqi borders.

It would appear that very few in Washington will support a complete withdrawal of armed American forces from the country on any time table that the public would desire. With a Democratic presidential thought process that mirrors what the Administration has fed the media lately, it may be that the United States will not bring the international community in, through the U.N. and border countries, to alleviate part of the strife and remove the occupation mindset from Iraq. Alas, the model of 50,000 or more soldiers and Marines cycling in and out of a foreign country may be too attractive for this President and future Presidents to resist.

And what a shame that would be. The first President, George Washington, was quite a sage when he said in his farewell address to his country:
In offering to you, my countrymen, these counsels of an old and affectionate friend, I dare not hope they will make the strong and lasting impression I could wish; ... if I may even flatter myself that they may be productive of some partial benefit, some occasional good; that they may now and then recur to moderate the fury of party spirit, to warn against the mischiefs of foreign intrigue, to guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism; this hope will be a full recompense for the solicitude for your welfare, by which they have been dictated.

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