Saturday, November 19, 2005

ROK-US alliance "never better"? The devil's advocate says yes.

This post, in its current unrefined form, was originally a comment on another blog. I'm going to leave it up here until I finish putting it into good "post" form, but I thought it would be useful now.

[PHOTO: US President George W. Bush and ROK President Roh Moohyun shake hands after emerging from a lengthy discussion at a hotel room in Kyŏngju, the capital of Korea's ancient Shilla kingdom, which is near the host city of this year's APEC, Pusan. Roh nervously explained that the length of the meeting was because Roh tried to teach Bush how to read Han'gŭl, the Korean alphabet. Reporters did not inquire why the two had been wearing ties when they went in to the private meeting but were without neckties when they emerged. Nor were they asked why their faces were glowing.]

For a moment I'm going to give the right-wing leader of the United States and the leftist leader of South Korea the benefit of the doubt. I'm going to play devil's advocate and support the position that Presidents Roh and Bush are on the level with the "never better" remark (which is not the first time we've heard it).

Bush is a man who likes frankness, seeing it is a sign of trust in a relationship. And Roh has been frank about saying what he wants, arguably more than his predecessors, and a person like Bush might prefer that.

More importantly, Bush likes loyalty. And even though Korea's Zaytun troops may not be doing as much as they could, and they aren't really doing any fighting (it's the Kurd-controlled area, after all, which has mostly been out from under Saddam's thumb since 1991, thanks to Bush-41 and perhaps Clinton), the fact is they are there.

Roh bucked his own nation's massive opposition to this war to send not just a contingent, but the largest contingent after the British and the Americans. Especially after getting an earful from all sides in Korea when he forgot to mention them specifically as part of the coalition of the willing, Bush now has a better sense of the symbolism of this deployment, especially how this is a symbol that the ROK government values the ROK-US alliance.

For Roh, a person who his youth was part of the "Yankee go home" demonstrations, as president he knows why the ROK-US alliance is vital for ROK's security. The way a leftist would reconcile this is that the relationship should not be severed, but it should be made more equal. He talks about this from time to time, and lately he has been trying to make Korea more like a partner than an underling with no say. Plus, he's now got US troops mostly moving out of the capital (this gets underplayed as a major sore point, but foreign troops in the capital has long been a bone of contention for some people).

This in turn fits in with Bush's idea that US allies in East Asia (e.g., Japan, South Korea) play a bigger role in their security, so he would welcome some of Roh's moves.

It's not so far-fetched an idea. At the very least, isn't a frank discussion where grievances are aired so they can be resolved a better relationship than one where the weaker and more dependent party simply did whatever it was told to do for fear of losing security, thus allowing problems that would adversely affect both to fester (we're seeing the fruits of that policy today) until the blister bursts open?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Share your thoughts, but please be kind and respectful. My mom reads this blog.