Iraq ≠ South Korea

Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Illustrating his long-term intentions regarding the U.S. presence in Iraq, President Bush called yesterday for a U.S. occupation similar to that in South Korea. While he merely intended to convey the idea that the United States will be engaged there for a very long time, his choice of analogies gives me a headache. ...

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601564_070531_panmunjom_05.jpg

Chung Sung-Jun/Getty

Illustrating his long-term intentions regarding the U.S. presence in Iraq, President Bush called yesterday for a U.S. occupation similar to that in South Korea. While he merely intended to convey the idea that the United States will be engaged there for a very long time, his choice of analogies gives me a headache.

The two occupations are completely different. In Korea, U.S. forces safeguard a clearly defined demilitarized zone, where their purpose is to deter a North Korean invasion. In Iraq, the occupation is not even close to being that straightforward. The front lines are everywhere, and even the Green Zone is becoming dangerous. There's no real threat of invasion, but there's also no single entity with whom the United States can negotiate. Also worth noting: There never was a Korean insurgency.

Chung Sung-Jun/Getty

Illustrating his long-term intentions regarding the U.S. presence in Iraq, President Bush called yesterday for a U.S. occupation similar to that in South Korea. While he merely intended to convey the idea that the United States will be engaged there for a very long time, his choice of analogies gives me a headache.

The two occupations are completely different. In Korea, U.S. forces safeguard a clearly defined demilitarized zone, where their purpose is to deter a North Korean invasion. In Iraq, the occupation is not even close to being that straightforward. The front lines are everywhere, and even the Green Zone is becoming dangerous. There’s no real threat of invasion, but there’s also no single entity with whom the United States can negotiate. Also worth noting: There never was a Korean insurgency.

Even U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates exhibited similar delusions about the nature of this conflict earlier this month, when he said

It’s important to defend this country on the extremists’ 10-yard line and not on our 10-yard line.

American football is about equally crude an analogy as the Korean peninsula. Once again, a U.S. official sees the conflict in terms of old-fashioned interstate war, in which the enemy must be confronted abroad, lest we be forced to battle him at home. Sorry, Bob, it’s not that simple. Keeping up the fight in Iraq isn’t likely to stop any potential terrorists—by all accounts, it’s creating more of them.

Sam duPont is a Master's candidate at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School and focused his capstone research on transitional democracies and elections in fragile states.

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