From Reuters … President

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From Reuters

President George W. Bush would like to see a lengthy U.S. troop presence in Iraq like the one in South Korea to provide stability but not in a frontline combat role, the White House said on Wednesday.

The United States has had thousands of U.S. troops in South Korea to guard against a North Korean invasion for 50 years.

Democrats in control of the U.S. Congress have been pressing Bush to agree to a timetable for pulling troops from Iraq, an idea firmly opposed by the president.

White House spokesman Tony Snow said Bush would like to see a U.S. role in Iraq ultimately similar to that in South Korea.

“The Korean model is one in which the United States provides a security presence, but you’ve had the development of a successful democracy in South Korea over a period of years, and, therefore, the United States is there as a force of stability,” Snow told reporters.

It is hard not to take this as another example that the White House is seriously out of touch with both history and reality when it comes to Iraq.

Let’s run through a few differences. First, Korea is an ethnically and culturally homogenous state. Iraq, not a culturally or ethnically homogenous state. And needless to say, that has been a point of some real difficulty. Second, Korea a democracy? Well, yes, for about fifteen years. Without going into all the details, South Korea was a military dictatorship for most of the Cold War.

A deeper acquaintance with the last half century of Korean history would suggest that a) a fifty year occupation, b) lack of democracy and c) a hostile neighbor were deeply intertwined. Remove B or C and you probably don’t have A, certainly no A if you lose both B and C.

The more telling dissimilarity is the distinction between frontline troops and troops for stability. At least notionally (and largely this was true) US troops have been in South Korea to ward off an invasion from the North. US troops aren’t in Iraq to ward off any invasion. Invasion from who? Saudi Arabia? Syria?

No, US troops are in Iraq for domestic security, in so many words, to protect it from itself, or to ensure the continued existence of an elected, pro-US government. That tells you that the US military presence in Iraq will never be as relatively bloodless as the US military presence in Korea since it has no external threat it’s counterbalancing against. In a sense that the US deployment in Korea has never quite been, it is a sustained foreign military occupation.

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