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Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Compare and Contrast: Ukraine and South Korea

Ukraine (fourth largest troop contingent in Iraq): Parliament last week voted by 257-0 for the withdrawal of the country's contingent of 1650 troops in Iraq and outgoing president Kuchma has now ordered plans to be drawn up for the pull-out. Ah yes, you say, but surely Kuchma is the nasty anti-democratic, anti-American guy who helped fix the recent elections. Well yes but... president-elect Yushchenko, helped into office by the US, also made it an election pledge to withdraw troops from Iraq.

South Korea (third largest troop contingent in Iraq): The National Assembly voted to extend the mission of Korea's 3600 troops in Iraq on December 31, just two hours before their official mission expired. President Roh Moo-hyun has a somewhat shaky relationship with Bush and is reviled by the Neocons in Washington as an 'appeaser' of North Korea and someone they would like to have 'regime-changed' almost as much as Kim Jong-il. Eg:
For all intents and purposes, South Korea is now a runaway ally: a country bordering a state committed to its destruction, and yet governed increasingly in accordance with graduate-school "peace studies" desiderata--while at the same time relying on forward-positioned American troops and a security treaty with Washington to guarantee its safety. It is not too much to describe this utterly unnatural and unviable situation as our "second crisis" on the Korean peninsula.
So we have one country in which a pro-US president is promising to withdraw troops from Iraq and another where a supposedly anti-US president is promising exactly the opposite.

Roh Moo-hyun has always been quite candid about his reasons for supporting Bush's war, saying that he needed to maintain good relations with the US, largely so that Bush wouldn't sabotage his attempts at rapprochement with North Korea. (This brings to mind for some reason that old school teacher classic - "If Billy told you to jump off a cliff would you do it?") Of course the Bush administration seems to have done everything it can to sabotage South Korea's 'sunshine policy' toward North Korea and it is impossible to see what Roh has gained.

One other thing should be added: Ukraine and South Korea have something else very important in common - in both countries there has been overwhelming public opposition to sending troops to Iraq.


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