Storm clouds on the horizon – They say the first step is the hardest to take, and I suppose in many ways it is true. The first step for me—my first journal entry—actually took months, from the time I first picked up my foot and began designing this page to the time I put that foot down again and Liminality went online. Seeing the site online was certainly rewarding, but in the process of getting it online there were days when I was frustrated beyond belief with the whole thing. So, in that sense, yes, the first step was certainly the hardest.
But if I think of that first step as my first journal entry, and not the whole designing and building process, I don’t think I can say that the first step was the hardest. By the time I got to the point where I was ready to launch the site, I was leaking enthusiasm out of every pore in my body, and taking that first step was the easiest and most natural thing I could have done.
Here I sit, though, pounding out what must now be take fifteen of step two. I suppose it’s just a case of bad timing, really. It’s not that I don’t have anything to write about—I have plenty of things I could write about. It’s just that I can’t bring myself to talk about any of it without feeling guilty for neglecting what’s on my mind. But when it comes right down to it, I just really don’t feel like talking about war—in Iraq or elsewhere.
At first, I was going to do a witty and clever deconstruction of President Bush’s address on Tuesday morning (Monday evening in the States), but it just wasn’t working. It felt too forced, too contrived, too fake. I wanted my thoughts to be polished, but my thoughts didn’t want to be polished. The fact of the matter is I’m a jumble of emotions right now, a roiling stew of anger, fear, disgust, sorrow... and maybe just a little hope. I wanted to put a good face on things and make it seem like I’m cool and collected, like I have everything together. Well, I don’t have everything together. So if what follows ends up being somewhat chaotic, it’s only because that’s what’s going on inside me right now.
I don’t think I would consider myself a pacifist, but given the choice I would take peace over war any day. In other words, I believe in peace, but I don’t believe in peace at any cost. I believe that something needs to be done about Iraq, but I do not believe this is the way it should be done. If there is such a thing, this may be the right war at the wrong time.
I’ve heard a lot of people in Korea blast the U.S. because they believe the war in Iraq is all about oil. I don’t believe it is all about oil—I know it is all about oil. In fact, the ultimate reason that the coalition is going into Iraq is the same reason that nations like France and Germany tried to stonewall them: money. Nations act solely out of self-interest—there is no such thing as altruism in international relations. A nation may be able to do something that appears altruistic while still pursuing national interests, but the primary motivation is always national interests. This is demonstrated by the fact that Bush is willing to go ahead with a war that is immensely unpopular and is feeding the flames of anti-American sentiment around the world—he obviously feels that the perceived benefits outweigh the disadvantages.
(Update: In retrospect, I realize that I may have glossed over many aspects of the situation and simplified even more in my haste to get to the heart of what I wanted to talk about. It was incorrect for me to say that the war in Iraq is all about oil. Oil is indeed a primary factor, but there are certainly others that I didn’t take the time to discuss.)
OK, that’s my theory of international relations in a nutshell. No matter what I may think about the current situation in Iraq, though, I have to admit my mind is elsewhere at the moment. I’m already looking into the future, past this conflict, to the ultimate confrontation between the United States and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (a.k.a. North Korea). Having realized quite some time ago that war with Iraq was unavoidable, I began to worry about what this meant for the North Korean situation. Yes, I know, there’s a war going on—but it’s hard not to think about something so close to home.
There are three sides to the North Korean situation, and so far none of those three sides sees eye to eye with either of the other two. North Korea is convinced that the U.S. is out to get them (not sure what could’ve given them that impression...), and their term for South Korea is “primary enemy” (jujeok). They are classic paranoids—it’s them against the world. South Korea, on the other hand, has been following a “Sunshine Policy” toward North Korea since Kim Dae-jung, the previous president. And the current president, No Mu-hyeon (in deference to the Korean government, and at the request of Korea.net, I would like to note that the official spelling of the president’s name is “Roh Moo-hyun”), has repeatedly said that war with North Korea must be avoided “at all costs.” And then there is the United States, who has already made friends with North Korea by allowing them to join the Axis of Evil club, and who consistently ignores the suggestions of their “ally,” South Korea.
War on the Korean peninsula would be a disaster. Seoul is only a stone’s throw from Pyeongyang, and there would be no containing hostilities to North Korea. It would be the second Korean War (or the end of the first, depending on which way you look at it), and it would be a mess. This has been the situation for the past fifty years, but with the added variable of nuclear weapons, things just get worse. Considering the alternatives, No’s defiant stance on North Korea becomes understandable. War must be avoided on the Korean peninsula. There has to be a better way.
Although I can’t really see what that better way might be right now, there are some encouraging signs that would seem to indicate war is not likely. Basically, war on the Korean peninsula would have extremely negative consequences for all three parties mentioned above. The primary goal of the North Korean leadership is to keep the North Korean leadership in power, so they will most likely try to avoid a war that would put them in danger. South Korea obviously doesn’t want to see war, because a North Korean attack on the nearest U.S. forces would mean an attack on Seoul, and, as I mentioned above, there would be no keeping the war within safe, designated boundaries. War just doesn’t work like that.
The United States would also most likely try to avoid war, partly for what they might lose, but most importantly because they have nothing to gain. What does North Korea have that the United States wants? Don’t fool yourself into thinking that the United States would feel compelled to act against North Korea in its role as “world policeman.” The United States is a policeman who only cracks down when he knows he’ll get to confiscate the stash (just as any other nation would do in the same situation).
The United States would gain nothing from a war in North Korea, but they do stand to lose something. Aside from the fact that a war means loss of life (which should be enough, but unfortunately isn’t), North Korea’s defeat would inevitably lead to the reunification of the two Koreas, and that is something that the United States does not want. Why? Well, for one, with the threat of North Korea gone, the U.S. military presence in Korea would lose its primary justification. On top of that (and perhaps more importantly), a unified Korea would have the combined technical and military knowledge of both Koreas—in other words, a unified Korea would most likely have nuclear capability. The only reason that South Korea doesn’t have nuclear capability today is that the United States has held them back, but all that would change with reunification. The truth of the matter is that a divided Korea is in the best interests of the United States.
That being said, this doesn’t mean that we’re safe. If this were a war game or computer simulation, war would not be considered as a viable option. This is not a simulation, though, this is real life, and in real life the most logical course of action is not always the one that is taken. North Korea is engaged in a dangerous game of nuclear brinkmanship, and things could easily get out of hand. The United States may be in Iraq for money, but there is another motivator even more powerful than money—the survival instinct. If the United States feels truly threatened by North Korea, all bets are off and everything I just said becomes moot.
What we need right now is calmness and clarity on all sides. Nobody wants war, but if we aren’t careful that is exactly where we will find ourselves. Let us pray that reason prevails in the current world situation, and that reason will continue to prevail. May God bless our leaders and give them wisdom.