Friday, November 18, 2005

Too clever by a third

Tit for tat?

Not saying. Just asking.

Although I love the simplicity of a two-line post, I probably shouldn't leave it at that, especially if people get the impression that I do think this is tit for tat (Washington cuts its forces in Korea by a third, so Seoul cuts its forces in Iraq by a third), which I don't.

So far, I have no reason to think that. First, the troop reduction has been talked about for quite some time and it has come at a time when the US itself is talking about troop reductions in Iraq.

Second, the main reason for the ROK troops to be there is the humanitarian mission, and the medics and engineers will remain in Iraq, at the same levels. There had been talk that since the troops are there to support the medics and engineers, a lowering of tension in the Kurdish region would mean that the troops would not be needed.

Third, the National Assembly is extending the troop deployment for another year. A commitment that apparently is not lost on the Bush administration.

I know that some American critics of the Roh administration say that the Zaytun deployment is just for show and that the Rohsters are too scared to actually have them go outside their compound and do anything, but the symbolism itself is still important. I'm no fan of Roh, but I think it speaks volumes that he tried to find some way to send troops to show that he supports a continuing ROK-US alliance.

It is reasonable that he may fear the political repurcussions of ROK soldiers coming home in body bags due to a war that is highly unpopular at home and that is now seen as having been seriously botched by the same people who too quickly jumped at the chance to fight. But at least he was willing to stick his political neck out for the sake of showing that he is on board with a strong Seoul-Washington alliance.

It would have been hella easier to simply say to Bush, oh so politely, that sending troops at this time would not be feasible. After all, that's what a lot of other US "allies" did.

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