IG’s Peace Blog

Peace and its many aspects

Some thoughts about the Korean crisis

As everybody in the world knows there has been an exchange of fire between North and South Korea.  I wanted to make a few observations about this, without, hopefully pointing political fingers at either side.  This admittedly, is not easy, but I think the situation is, apart from “who is wrong”, quite instructive for the general question of peace.

As you might know, there was never any official end to the Korean war; just a cease fire.  Thus, the underlying issues were never resolved and conflict persisted, even if in a “Cold War” mode.  The constant threat of the “other” was used (by both sides for many years) as a justification for all sorts of governmental  centralization, militarization, arms expenditures, etc… If you are at all informed about the situation you know that this led to serious privation and alienation as the North found itself more and more isolated in the Post Cold War era.  The South has become an economic superpower and the contrast between the two “sides” is often used as an example of the superiority of one system over the other.  While I don’t want to take a position on this, it should be noted that the South Koreans, the Japanese and the Taiwanese were all given privileged access to U.S. markets during the Cold War period.  This helped, to say the least.

My main point is that while the conflict persisted, the alienation and difficulty of communication grew.  There have been some signs of improvement in relations between the North and the South, and one could even argue that some sort of German style reunification is over the long run, more or less inevitable.  However, right now we can see that such a long standing set of tensions is, to say the least, potentially very dangerous (nuclear  weapons are, after all, involved).

So, I expect it will be a test  case for Global Governance in the early 21st century.  We know that global institutions (formal and informal) for managing (more than really resolving, alas) conflict exist (the U.N. Security Council, the “good offices” of various countries, etc…) and now we will see if they are  up to the task of doing something constructive about this situation.  Personally, I am somewhat surprised (positively) that more crises like this have not emerged in recent years, and I think we should see this as a sign that peace is, at least,  not as far away as it used to be.

So, let’s see what the Security Council can do–though the fact that this concerns a major ally of one of the Council’s permanent members may limit its options.  Still, this has served to focus the world’s attention on a conflict that probably should have been resolved a long time ago, but which is still very much  around to “haunt” us.  There is a lesson here if anybody is in learning “mode”.

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November 24, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , ,

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