NEW YORK, SPECIAL TO THE J (AP) Lately South Koreans’ view of the United States has improved as the Obama-Clinton contest showed the possibility of ending the Bush-Republican Iraq war and halting the destruction of American democracy. Now, South Koreans are rebelling against President Lee Myung Bak, accusing him of lifting the import ban on American beef and kowtowing to lame-duck President George W. Bush.
Ostensibly they reject American beef as “unsafe due to Bush’s relaxed quality checks.” In reality, South Koreans have seized on American beef to express pent-up anger over 60 years of American “occupation.” Long gone is South Korea’s gratitude toward Truman’s America, which liberated it from Imperial Japan’s brutal occupation and later rescued it from North Korean and Chinese invaders.
Like South Korea, Japan is also experiencing the sting of public rejection of Bush’s manipulation of Japan’s domestic and foreign policies. Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda of the perennially ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has seen his public support fall sharply.
In July 2007, the opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) captured the Diet’s Upper House by riding public frustration over the U.S.-dictated mismanagement of the economy as well as U.S.-dictated support of the Iraq occupation.
Like their South Korean counterparts, the Japanese realize that Bush invaded Iraq unilaterally for oil and military bases by lying to Americans and the world about the actual threats posed by Saddam Hussein and his support of al-Qaida terrorists responsible for the 9/11 attacks.
Understandably, South Koreans and Japanese are alarmed by presumptive Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain’s pledge to continue Bush’s failed domestic and foreign policies. They are particularly alarmed by Bush-McCain distortions of how the post-World War II U.S. occupation democratized West Germany, Japan and South Korea. Both Bush and McCain incorrectly cite them as the latest of their ever-shifting excuses for the Iraq occupation.
Initially, in America and the world, the U.S. occupation of West Germany, Japan and South Korea enjoyed tremendous moral and legal legitimacy. The U.S. did not invade them with the premeditative intent to promote America’s economic and military interests. The military threats of Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany were real, and aggression was carried out against the U.S. first.
More important, the occupied peoples of Japan, South Korea and West Germany overwhelmingly embraced the moral and legal legitimacy of the U.S.-led occupation. There was no popular or fanatic terror uprising against occupying forces.
Moreover, the democratic forces of West Germany and Japan wholeheartedly supported the benign democratic reforms under the U.S. occupation, which were carefully patterned after New Deal successes of the Roosevelt-Truman administrations. Unlike today, post-World War II America had ample economic and technological resources to spare. It poured an enormous amount of personnel, economic and military assistance into well-planned and executed democratic nation-building in West Germany, Japan and South Korea.
Unlike Bush-McCain’s America, which has been destroying the bedrock of American democracy, Roosevelt- Truman’s America offered an unquestioned guiding example of democracy. Unlike Iraq under the current U.S. occupation, Japan, West Germany and South Korea did not suffer from internecine religious, regional, ethnic and tribal conflicts.
Finally, the defeated Japan and West Germany, and the liberated South Korea, were lucky enough to be poor in natural resources and thus of little economic interest to big American and British corporations. Unlike occupied Iraq, they were spared the meddling of greedy carpetbaggers into occupation policies.
Not only did Bush invade Iraq under false pretenses, but he also miscalculated the negative impacts of the occupation on the world economy. At Bush’s inauguration in January 2001, crude oil was $27 a barrel and the dollar was strong against the euro and Japanese yen. Today, crude oil has passed $135 a barrel and has strengthened the political influence of oil-rich Russia, Venezuela and Iran, and wreaked havoc on the national security and economies of the U.S., Europe, Japan and South Korea.
Soaring crude oil prices reflect vicious interactions of greedy commodity speculators’ Iraq war premiums, America’s budget and trade deficits, and the weakened dollar. They are aggravated by the exploding costs of the Iraq war and failings of the economy including the subprime mortgage fiasco and disappearing middle class.
Demagogues try to hide colossal errors behind grossly distorted historical analogies. Generals and politicians who start misguided wars insist on continuing them to deny the errors. An old Chinese saying has it that war and peace are too important to be left to generals.
War and peace are too important to be left to a former junior officer like McCain, who seems wrongly obsessed with America’s defeat in the Vietnam War and is ignorant of America’s true historical lessons.
Yoshi Tsurumi is professor of international business, Baruch College, the City University of New York.
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.