2002 draws to a close, the prospects for peace seem bleak in the world's
troubled Middle East region. Afghanistan remains in chaos, despite the
ouster of the Taliban regime by American forces. Israel and the occupied
West Bank territories suffer terrible incidents of violence almost daily,
forcing the cancellation of Christmas celebrations in Bethlehem. Although
the administration has not yet ordered a full-scale military mobilization
into Iraq, war hawks in the Pentagon and Defense department assure us
that such an attack is imminent.
in the midst of this Middle East turmoil, an unsettling new threat has
arisen in North Korea. The authoritarian Kim Jong-il regime recently
announced that it would move forward with a nuclear weapons program,
poisoning its already hostile diplomatic relationship with Washington.
The Koreans allegedly opened seals on thousands of irradiated fuel rods,
and removed UN monitoring cameras at a nuclear reactor that was earlier
shut down by treaty. Some military observers believe the North Koreans
can produce four or five nuclear weapons in the next six months.
Secretary Rumsfeld quickly responded to the North Koreans by declaring
that the United States can fight simultaneous wars with Iraq and North
Korea if necessary. But can we be certain this is true, especially after
the demoralizing reductions in our military strength during the Clinton
years? Does this mean we will stretch our military forces even thinner,
to fight three or five or ten conflicts, if necessary to play world
policeman in the new American empire?
of the North Korean threat is evidenced by strong reactions from France,
Britain, Japan, Russia, and even China. In fact, a recent poll showed
that an overwhelming number of Americans view North Korea as more of
a threat than Iraq.
that after 50 years of Korean occupation by American troops, our citizens
feel more threatened by that nation than ever. Thousands of Americans
lost their lives in the Korean war, and thousands more have risked their
lives serving in the desolate DMZ that separates North and South Korea.
Yet all we can show for half a century of military and political entanglement
in Korea is today's heightened nuclear tensions. Even the South Koreans,
whose very lives our soldiers protect, have grown weary of American
demonization of the North, showing a desire for more openness and negotiations
between the two countries. In fact, the recently elected South Korean
president won votes by displaying some anti-American sentiment.
a horrific fifteen years in Vietnam, we removed our troops completely
from the region. Today, our nation enjoys friendly diplomatic and trade
relations with that country, and we've been able to heal some of the
pain experienced by both our GIs and the Vietnamese people. Somehow,
we seem unable to apply the same lesson to Korea.
news is that public support for an invasion of Iraq has diminished,
and the situation in Korea will only raise more questions about the
wisdom of a second Gulf war. If the argument for invading Iraq is based
on the threat it poses to American national security, a much stronger
argument can be made for invading North Korea. Many
Americans now believe Saddam Hussein can be neutralized without sending
U.S troops into Baghdad. With tens of thousands of young American soldiers
already active in Afghanistan, and hundreds of thousands ready to deploy
in Iraq, the possibility of a third conflict in Korea may be too much
for even the loudest pro-war voices in Washington to sell to the American