Who Will Bend?
By: Lt. Col. Gordon Cucullu
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, July 09, 2004
'Success breeds success.' 'Reinforce success.' 'Try something. If it works,
repeat it.' These are words that guide us. Since these words and more
importantly the concept they promote are so deeply ingrained in our culture
-- and indeed in cultures around the world -- it is difficult to understand
why we seem to forget them in practical application.
Specifically, we seem unable to recall these lessons in international affairs
from one moment of crisis to the next. It has been fashionable for decades
to shake our heads in disgust and frustration at the historical picture of
British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain returning from negotiating
Czechoslovakia away to Hitler, standing on the airport tarmack waving a
paper and declaring that he had achieved 'peace in our times.' How foolish,
we say, how could he not have seen the obvious?
But here we are again going through the process as if we have learned
nothing. Al Qaeda terrorists kill innocent Spanish citizens in Madrid and
the populace quails in fear, votes in the appeasement party and tries to
seek safety behind the the terrorists' promise not to hit them again.
Until the terrorists are ready, that is. So those of us who see things
though a longer historical lens expect terror attacks in the UK, Italy, Iraq
and America before elections. Why not? It worked well enough in Spain to
merit a reprise. Why can't people understand?
Adding to their repertoire of horror, the terrorists have sunk to abysmal
depths in beheading innocent hostages. They pick the most savage, barbaric
method of killing that they can, making the death as cold and cruel as
possible with the sole intention of inflicting fear and intimidation. If it
works, if we fall into the appeasement trap, then we can expect to see it
over and over again.
The latest victim, a poor young man with big dreams and lots of ambition,
was a South Korean named Kim Sun Il. Kim was 33 years old, a Christian, and
Arabic language speaker. He had been hired to work in Iraq by a South Korean
firm that supplied materials to the US military there. He was shown in a
video kneeling before five masked terrorists. They had stripped Kim and put
him into one of the orange jumpsuits that seem to be the execution garment
the terrorists prefer for their victims. He begged for his life - which must
have thrilled them - while they postured around him, masked cowards, acting
tough and waving weapons. Then they cut the helpless man's head off.
The terrorists had threatened to murder Kim Sun Il unless the government of
South Korea bowed to their demands to remove all troops from Iraq and send no more.
With more backbone than a great many European countries, the Koreans have
remained steadfast. This was not a given. Among many military observers and
not a few civilians who are aware of their reputation, the South Korean
military are regarded as tough, skilled and stalwart. In years past one
could count on South Korea and its military to support American policy even
when -- in joining Carter's 1980 Moscow Olympic Games boycott, for example --
it seemed in contravention to its best interests. Nonetheless, South Korea
has typically stayed the course in rough diplomatic waters.
But the last two presidents, the beleaguered incumbent Roh Moo Hyun and his
predecessor Kim Dae Jung, drifted increasingly to the far left, embracing a
policy of appeasement. Considering that Roh won a narrow victory on an
anti-American platform, asking about the fortitude of South Korea these days
is a legitimate, if embarrassing, question.
However to its credit, the South Korean government has so far vowed to stand
fast against the terrorists. It is keeping its promise to supply 3,000
troops later in the summer (about half construction engineers, to the others
infantry protect them). In reaction, the usual suspects are out on the
streets noisily making their point against deployment: student organizers:
professional dissidents, and proponents of accommodation with the Communist
North Korean government.
Disturbingly, many of these people are part of President Roh's support base.
He is going to be under increasing pressure to give in to them. Roh -- whose
painful inexperience in governing at the national level still hampers him --
may decide to offer an olive branch to the dissidents. If so he could slide
the deployment date of the South Korean force further to the right. He could
also reduce the number of troops deployed. This would give him the dual
advantage of claiming to be supportive of the US and coalition effort while
telling his base that he is intentionally delaying. In his mind this move
might allow him to paint a 'best of both worlds' face on a difficult
But while Roh is stewing, don't expect North Korea to withhold comment. We
ought to expect it to issue a statement designed to divide the US and South
Korea, probably something on the order of a challenge to the independence of
South Korea. Accusing the South of being a lackey of the US gets a reaction
from some in the South, particularly the ultra-nationalistic parties or the
communist sympathizers. Meanwhile, North Korea drives a wedge between the US
and South Korea, while it continues to court terrorist groups that are
actual or potential customers of the North's illegal weapons and missile
What ought South Korean President Roh to do? The best thing that the
government of South Korea could do to defy the terrorists and demonstrate
free world solidarity would be to accelerate the deployment and increase the
number of troops. This is not what Roh will probably do, but he should be
encouraged to consider the move. Doing so would send a message of great
import to the terrorists and to those who oppose them that South Korean
recognizes the gravity of the threat and is stepping up to the challenge.
Strength in response to terror galvanizes the population and steels their
will; vacillation erodes it.
Regardless of the outcome, there is a sense of historical irony discussing
Iraq and South Korea at the same time. South Korea had its growing pains
too. It was liberated from brutal Japanese colonial rule in 1945, suffered
through a terrible war, and slogged through a long aftermath of economic and
social recovery. South Korea has become a role model for how a free market
democracy can evolve. But it was not long ago that conventional wisdom
deemed Korean people unable to handle democracy. 'These people have to have
a strong leader,' was both a rationale for accommodating dictators and an
excuse for not pressing harder for reform.
Despite the difficulties, South Korea has made the proper choices: it has
weathered severe economic storms and emerged stronger. It has passed through
the fire of coup d'etat and political controversy and now routinely selects
its own leaders. It is a country that affords basic human freedoms to its
populace even while under hysterical threats of nuclear destruction by an
authoritarian, oppressive neighbor.
South Korea has endured terrorist attacks in the past, such as the downing of
a commercial airliner in 1987 designed to thwart the 1988 Seoul Olympics and
a bomb detonation that barely missed the president and killed most of his
cabinet. But South Koreans, like most of the civilized world, are just
beginning to face the personalized brand of depravity served up by al Qaeda
murderers. The Koreans will need our understanding and assistance to weather
the trauma of vicious terrorist attacks such as the murder of Kim Sun Il. We
must set an example of moral courage and fortitude and help they stay the
Realistically all countries must accept the fact that all foreigners in Arab
countries are targets. The terrorists intend to break the US public and
allied will. The tactic is not so much an attack directed against an
individual for the sake of killing him, as it is a psychological warfare
attack directed against the morale of entire populations. Terrorists are
targeting the US in the midst of a heated election season along with any of
our coalition partners that they can intimidate. We must hold firm together,
refuse to negotiate, and collaborate to hunt down and kill these barbarians.
One final note: it is well past time that we called these murderers what
they are -- terrorists. I for one am sick and tired of the mealy-mouthed press
referring to them as 'militants,' 'insurgents,' or, thanks to Reuters,
'freedom fighters.' Euphemisms do not erase or diminish the horror of their
actions. Calling them the scum that they are is a good first step in
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