The other problem with staying in Iraq for 100 years like we’ve been in Korea for 60 by mattsteinglass
May 27, 2008, 4:06 pm
Filed under: Asia, Foreign Policy, Iraq, President | Tags: , ,

Ezra Klein returns to the theme of McCain excusing his “100 years” line by saying he wants US troops to remain there like they’ve remained in Korea. The seldom-noticed flaw in this argument is that Korean people don’t like the US because we’ve had troops there for 60 years (and supported an unpopular and intermittently brutal dictatorship for over 30). As Julia Sweig explains in her excellent 2006 book Friendly Fire: Losing Friends and Making Enemies in the Anti-American Century, up until the ’80s all Korean military forces were technically under the control of the US commander, meaning when military dictator Chun Doo Hwan massacred civilian protesters in 1980 the US was seen as responsible. We didn’t just own one broken vase; we owned the whole damn Pottery Barn outlet. The result:

In the 1980s, anti-American anger grew particularly fierce. In 1980, 1982, 1983, and 1985, US cultural and information centers were burned. In 1987, students protesting the death of a student in Korean police custody set fire to US government housing in Seoul; in 1989, Korean farmers and villagers stormed and looted barracks and destroyed virtually all the infrastructure at a US military base near Seoul. The Korean War generation’s reverence, “chinmi“, for the US protector was yielding to “banmi“, open hostility and resentment, and it extended from the Korean elite and military best skilled at manipulating American power to a much broader and younger array of the population.

By 2004, nearly 40 percent of Koreans polled found the US a greater security threat than North Korea or China. This isn’t a recipe for ending anti-American terrorism in Iraq; it’s a recipe for provoking it.

Finally, if you don’t understand how South Korean anti-Americanism is fueled by the US’s military presence, you must watch this movie immediately.


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[…] Matt concentrates on how terrible an analogy Korea is to Iraq, but that again misses the point. To reiterate, if Iraq is like Korea, then keeping our troops there for 60 years, as we have in Korea, would be a […]

Pingback by If keeping US troops in Iraq would be like keeping them in Korea, it’s a terrible idea « ACCUMULATING PERIPHERALS

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