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news & opinion with no titillating non-news from the major non-news channels.


I am: progressive, not a wild-eyed Progressive; liberal, but shun liberals and Liberals; conservative, but some Conservatives worry me; absolutely NOT a libertarian. I am: an idealist, but no utopian; a pragmatist, but no Machiavellian. I am a realist who dreams.


I welcome all opinions.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

A Different Model for Iraq:
   Forget Vietnam. Korea's a better parallel

Robert Killebrew, "a retired Army infantry colonel who writes and speaks frequently on defense and national security issues", applies the example of Korea, not Vietnam, to Iraq, in an April 9 Washington Post article.

To many in 1953, South Korea was an unlikely winner of the savage civil war that had ranged up and down the Korean peninsula for three years. More than a million South Koreans died, and the survivors were reduced to aimless crowds of refugees.


Both countries endured a long prewar period of oppression that retarded their political maturation ... Both newly hatched governments had, and are having, to master new arts of politics, build an army and all the infrastructure of modern governance under fire and face protracted campaigns against implacable foes. There were those in the West in 1953 who doubted that Asians brought into the modern world only recently could master democracy and free-market economies. A half-century later, we hear echoes of this regarding Middle Eastern people.


The essential ingredient, of course, has been American steadfastness. ... More than 54,000 U.S. troops died in Korea from 1950 to 1953, and millions more have since served alongside South Korean soldiers guarding the icy demilitarized zone.


Because Americans are famously impatient, we sometimes fail to give ourselves credit for the stick-to-itiveness that it takes to do great things. But in hindsight, all of our greatest accomplishments have taken more time than we realized at the start.


In the case of the Korean War, which had its share of blunders, U.S. public opinion mirrored that on today's Iraq by supporting the war initially, drawing the line after three years of warfare but then supporting the protection of South Korea for 50 years,


Though the fighting forces [in Iraq] did all they were told to do, the American invasion was incompletely planned and incompetently directed. Just as in the Korean War, initial success was followed by unforeseen setbacks. ... After three years, the U.S. strategy for Iraq is beginning to emerge, much as our final objectives in Korea emerged slowly, and only after Chinese intervention made the original aims impractical.

Both wars became, or have become, vital to American interests, bearing out the Duke of Wellington's comment that "great nations do not have small wars." Truman immediately saw the North Korean invasion of South Korea as a sinister attempt by Joseph Stalin to turn the West's flank, ... There was some grumbling about the compromise that stopped the fighting, but its terms permitted the rise of an independent and ultimately democratic Asian country that would be a vital ally of the United States.


Lost in the dither over missing weapons of mass destruction and terrorist links is the recognition of the chance to midwife the birth of a reasonably democratic and secular nation embedded in the Middle East.

In fact, there is no other good option for the United States. An Iraq in anarchy would destabilize this vital region, put control of the world's oil supplies within reach of radical Islamists and possibly involve the United States in a wider war under less advantageous circumstances. Few would have thought in the summer of 1950, or even after the armistice in 1953, that American troops would still be on the Korean peninsula in 2006, and it is doubtful that any American president or presidential candidate would have campaigned on that plank in 1952 or 1956. Likewise, no candidate seeking national office will say, this year or next, that U.S. troops will be needed in some capacity to support the Iraqi government in 2010, 2020 or beyond. But that is likely the price that must be paid for Iraq to survive as a modern state.


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