m a r k a n d e y a

Builders or Fighters?

Posted by Brian on March 20, 2007

There’s an interesting discussion going on around the Korean blogosphere about the value of the contributions made by Korean troops in Iraq. To kick it off, Andy at the Marmot’s Hole linked to a piece of online journalism that looks at the rapid development of Northern Iraq, of which the Korean Zaytun Unit is playing a part. Andy makes the point that the Korean troops are there to “aid development,” and they are doing a good job it. GI Korea responds by pointing out just how very little the Korean troops have actually done, saying that a good amount of the development that is going on would proceed as planned with or without a Korean troop presence in the area. Josh at One Free Korea chimes in as well.

I happen to agree with GI Korea’s take on the matter: Korea’s contribution to stability in Iraq has been minimal at best and their deployment there was motivated by political concerns rather than humanitarian or security issues. It was a quid pro quo agreement between America and South Korea, with SK tying a troop dispatch to Iraq with American concessions to North Korea. And this wasn’t the only case of a “coalition” “partner” receiving certain goodies in exchange for giving the Bush administration’s efforts a veneer of multi-lateralism as they pushed for an attack on Iraq. Korea may have the third largest contingent among the “coalition” “partners,” but they are still turtled up in a relatively peaceful part of the country and can’t even guard South Korean aid convoys. Nor can they patrol their own perimeter; the Kurdish Peshmerga do it for them! Meanwhile, the rest of the country continues to suffer from out-of-control violence and dozens of American soldiers are dying every month along the way.

As GI Korea said, if Korea wants to help in development then some sort of Peace Corp outfit can be put together with a much better skill set than the current soldiers have. As it is, they are doing the Iraqi people and themselves a disservice by having the men, training, and means to make a real difference in the security situation there but refusing to do so.

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