JOANNE MYERS: Good morning. I'm Joanne Myers, Director of Public Affairs Programs, and on behalf of the Carnegie Council I would like to thank you for taking the time out from your holiday schedule to join us this morning as we welcome Ambassador Young-jin Choi. He will be discussing terrorism, failed states, and enlightened national interest.
By now, it is almost a cliché to say that the 21st century is one that is very different from the past. In fact, much of what we have learned from the past doesn't apply to the unprecedented political and ethical challenges confronting mankind today. Where once world leaders worried about aggression from conquering states, today it is failing or failed states that elicit the most concern. And rightly so.
As an example, today about one in six of the world's population live in countries that are mired in civil war or at high risk of falling into such conflict. Although women, children, and other noncombatants in the war zones are the primary victims, the damage often extends to rich countries as well. We see this manifested by increasing flows of refugees, widespread famine, the proliferation of drug barons, outbreaks of disease, and the export of terrorism, all of which thrive and spread from regions of disorder, even if they appear to be isolated from the rest of the world.
The fallout from this new world disorder of the 21st century demonstrates that the problem of weak and failing states is far more serious than generally thought. Given the world as it exists, rather than the world of our dreams, the topic to be addressed this morning is: how can we meet these challenges and prevent catastrophes before they become insurmountable?
As our guest this morning has suggested, one way is with enlightened national interest. As a renowned expert on issues surrounding failed states, especially one in his own backyard, Ambassador Choi, with unparalleled expertise, is able to draw on his knowledge about what went wrong above the 38th Parallel and to use this experience to steer us in the right direction.
Wearing the hat of Deputy Executive Director of KEDO, also known as the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization, Ambassador Choi visited North Korea six times as he led the negotiations within KEDO. This involvement has served him well, giving him a particular clarity of judgment when it comes to facing problems with failed regimes.
As a member of the foreign service of the Republic of Korea for over forty years, Ambassador Choi has represented his country with distinction. In a quiet but forceful way, he has held a variety of roles relating to international affairs and organizations, always setting a standard that has been often emulated but never quite duplicated.
I would like to bring to your attention a few more of his recent positions, including Vice Foreign Minister of the Republic of Korea and Chancellor of the Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. During 1998 and 1999, Ambassador Choi was Assistant Secretary-General of Peacekeeping Operations at the United Nations. In that role, he oversaw the planning and support of seventeen peacekeeping missions, including those in Kosovo, East Timor, Sierra Leone, and the Congo, all of which I believe added to his deep understanding of the danger inherent in failed states.
Always a student, Ambassador Choi has maintained his interest in scholarship by pursuing independent study of the similarities and differences between East and West. In the spring of 2005, he was Diplomat Scholar in Residence at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.
At this time, it is my great pleasure to invite you to join me as we welcome Ambassador Choi to the Carnegie Council this morning.
YOUNG-JIN CHOI: Good morning. Thank you, Joanne, for your kind introduction. I also would like to thank you for coming so early in the morning to share time with me.
Christmas is only two weeks away, and the whole town is in a festive mood, but it is also meaningful to look around and try to find out what is happening in other parts of our global village and where we are heading in the 21st century.
Currently, we remain preoccupied with international terrorism, but this may only be a symptom of a wider and deeper problem, which is the advent of the failed states, with accompanying transnational problems that will preoccupy humankind in the 21st century. The transnational issues are a rather new phenomenon, so we don't pay too much attention. We still think of international relations in terms of traditional war and peace. But time is not on our side. Transnational issues will assert themselves as the main preoccupation for us in the 21st century. This is the theme, or the vision, I come to share with you this morning.
Let me start with a story. Seven years ago, I was working at the United Nations. I worked there as the Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations. At the time, we had a number of critical peacekeeping missions in Africa. The trouble was we didn't have enough troops. None of the developed countries committed troops in our African missions—no Western country, not a single one.
Naturally, what came to mind was that, barely a century ago, the same European countries competed with each other to send their troops en masse for colonization to every corner of Africa. So why this difference only in one century? There was what we call the scramble for Africa or the rush for Africa, but now no European country wanted to commit their troops in Africa. Why such a difference? When did it happen, why did it happen, and what are the consequences?
The reluctance of developed countries to send their troops into failed states happened because they see no profit in sending their troops. Before, the conquest of weak nations, or colonization, was beneficial to their nation, but now failed states do not yield profits for other countries. Since time immemorial, expansion through wars of conquest was the most profitable business for humankind. The conquerors were revered as heroes because they brought in wealth and glory to the nation. Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, Attila, Genghis Khan, Cortez, Napoleon, just to name a few of prominence, were the dominant figures who made history. They were conquerors. So war has been the most profitable business for human beings for many thousand years.
The spoils were great for the winner. They could take all the resources and enslave the people, the population. In the Roman Empire, they needed half-a-million slaves every year. In Athens, one-third of the population was slaves. So they needed war to enslave other people and take their resources.
The First World War was a paroxysm of this long tradition of war of conquest and expansion. The Second World War was an aberration, but was still a continuation of this tradition. But this long tradition of war and conquest changed dramatically during the 20th century. It seems that the Second World War was the turning point.
The Soviet Union, for example, had many satellite countries, but it could not exploit those countries the same way that other past empires did. The Soviet Union could not enslave those satellite countries' peoples and it could not take all the natural resources of those countries. Economically, it was even a minus for the Soviet Union because the Soviet Union was supposed to provide grain and oil to those satellite countries at a friendly price. So in the end, the Soviet Union had to free those countries.
You all remember the famous "Sinatra doctrine", "My Way," which means from now on each country has to go it alone. In other words, there will be no more wars of conquest and expansion or colonization.
The same with Vietnam. After reunification in 1975, continuing its century-old ambition to expand towards the Indochinese Peninsula, Vietnam invaded and occupied Cambodia. But it did not yield a profit for Vietnam. Quite the contrary. When the puppet regime in Phnom Pen was weak, Hanoi had to prop up the regime by means of financial assistance and political support. When there was a famine in Cambodia, Vietnam had to come and support the population with rice. So it was a proven minus. The occupation and colonization did not yield a profit. On the contrary, it was a burden to the occupying power, for the first time in history.
The weak nations used to be easy prey for strong nations, but beginning somewhere in the 20th century, they have become a burden for occupying nations. That is a dramatic, very critical change that we do not notice sufficiently.
So the question is: When did it happen, why has it happened, and what are the consequences of this dramatic change?
First, why did it happen?
- Perhaps the first reason is the spread of democracy. Immanuel Kant in his Perpetual Peace noted that monarchs enjoyed waging wars because they could monopolize all the profits. So war was very profitable for monarchs. But once democracy is installed, spoils have to be divided evenly to all the citizens, and so they become insignificant. And more than that, democracies will have difficulty justifying wars if they do not bring enough spoils. So democracy, in a way, is a powerful instrument to prevent war among democracies.
- The second reason may be the spread of a market economy, with the development of science and technology. This makes the spoils less attractive. The spoils traditionally consisted of slaves and natural resources. With a market economy and the advancement of science and technology, we do not need slaves and we have a lesser need for natural resources than before. So the spoils become less attractive.
- Thirdly, we have the development of ethics in international relations. The development of transportation and communication has shrunk the world into a global village. Everybody now knows what is happening in our global village. So you cannot enslave other people and you cannot take resources from other people with impunity. Now the world has become transparent and ethics have developed in international relations.
At first, it was thought that the first sailors in the Mediterranean were actually pirates. They plundered when they could. They traded only when they had to. So plundering and raiding came first, then trade came later. This may reflect human nature. Again, since time immemorial, whenever there was an occasion, we plundered, we raided, we subjugated other people, enslaved other people, took their resources. When we saw them prepared and no longer helpless, we traded.
Because of these new developments in the 20th century—the spread of democracy, the market economy, the development of science and technology, and ethics in international relations—raiding, plundering, has become either unnecessary or impossible to undertake. Instead, we engage in trade. Thus, it is not the military might but economic prowess which will determine the greatness of a nation. So we compete with trade, not with military means.
Of course, military might is still necessary, but not as a means of waging wars of conquest and expansion; rather as a means of deterrence. This is another dramatic change we are witnessing these days. Today no country thinks of invading another country to annex the territory or take the people. We have military preparedness as a deterrent, just in case. So that is another dramatic change.
This historic paradigm shift from raid to trade is an important matter to note because it will continue to be the most important paradigm shift in the 21st century. It is intriguing to note that this historic paradigm shift takes place when the world has become closed for the first time in history, as opposed to an open world with unknown territories to expand, to explore, to annex, to colonize. So we are living in a closed world for the first time. There is no unknown territory anymore. It has become a global village and we are living with the consequences.
So there will be probably no, or very few, wars of conquest and expansion. This is the good news.
But hardly anything is full of good news. There is always bad news accompanying it. If we follow the logic of the change of the 20th century, then we will have perpetual peace. There will be no wars among democracies, and we will engage in trade, we will live very peacefully and prosperously. But has the world turned out this way since the end of the Cold War? No. We have many more conflicts, disturbances, around the globe. Why?
When we engaged in trade, when we had the spread of democracy, a market economy, and ethics in international relations, we became at the same time interdependent. Trade means interdependence. So when we have the shift from raid to trade, when trade becomes the most important means for any nation in the world, problems arise with those nations which are out of this interdependent nexus.
Those countries once called themselves independent, but now that the world has become interdependent, those independent states become isolated, inherently unstable, and mostly poor, and they are weak nations. Those weak nations that were taken care of, in a way, before the 20th century by strong nations, either by annexation or colonization—now, because they do not yield a profit, the strong nations try to turn a blind eye to them. We even have a different name for them. Before we used to call them "weak nations." Now we call them "failed states."
We do not want to occupy or pay attention to what is happening to that country. "Failed states, that's your problem. The Frank Sinatra doctrine, 'My Way.' Do it yourself. I don't want to see what is happening in your country." So this change from easy prey to international burden is what we are witnessing in failed states—a really truly dramatic change.
The question arises now: Can we turn a blind eye to those failed states? The interdependence works both ways. It works between strong nations through means of trade, but also it works between strong and weak nations, the have's and have-not's. It works both ways. In other words, if we do not tend to them, they will come to us.
The failed states, if unattended, will become hotbeds of international terrorism, nuclear proliferation, environmental degradation, communicable diseases, and overpopulation—all the transnational problems. And those problems do not recognize borders. They will come to us in the end. We cannot turn a blind eye to those failed states for our own interests, not for theirs.
Not the traditional war and peace problem, but these transnational issues will become our major concern in the future, the 21st century.
So the question is how to deal with them. Are we prepared to deal with newly emerging transnational issues?
If you remember the headlines of newspapers for the last two decades, there is hardly any mention about traditional war and peace problems. No major wars broke out among nations. But the headlines are filled with transnational problems: failed states, international terrorism, and proliferation of nuclear weapons. So transnational issues will preoccupy human beings for the foreseeable future and we have to find a way to deal with them in the 21st century.
In dealing with the transnational issues, there is one thing that is absolutely clear. That is, no nation, however powerful, can win the war against international terrorism alone; no nation, however determined, can prevent nuclear proliferation alone; no nation, however advanced scientifically, can avert the outbreak of communicable diseases alone; and no nation, however isolated geographically, can prevent the global warming alone or other environmental degradation. So we have to work together. We are bound to work together. There is no other way out.
The problem is we do not take into account this dramatically changed new international order or the environment of the 21st century. In the current situation, how nations deal with those important traditional issues is really discouraging. We are divided through the fault-line of have's and have-not's—in a way, the North/South divide. This divide is the self-defeating dynamic of all the transnational issues.
For example, on nuclear proliferation, the have's want to focus only on nonproliferation. On the other hand, the have-not's want to focus only on disarmament. The upshot is that for the last five years there has been not a single agreement in the international affairs in terms of disarmament or nonproliferation. The disarmament conferences in Geneva stopped working for the last five years. In 2005 the Nonproliferation Review Committee produced not even a single sentence that was agreed upon. Nothing works on this front.
The same with all the other transnational issues. The North/South divide seems increasingly to replace the East/West divide of the Cold War period, and this will be the dominant dynamic of the 21st century governing international relations—North/South divide, have's and have-not's—this is the serious situation we are facing now.
Within this North/South divide, each nation is resorting to traditional national interests. But suppose that within this shrunken global village each nation seeks to prevail on their own national interests. What will happen to our planet? It will become uninhabitable. Each country wants to have nuclear weapons. Each country does not care what happens with global warming. Each country does not care what happens with overpopulation and communicable diseases. So national interest does not work anymore. It works only in an open world, when we had unknown territories to expand, to conquer, and to explore. But in this closed world of a global village, a small village, national interest does not work.
We have a precedent. With the advent of industrialization in the 18th century, people didn't care about other people. Children under the age of four who were not rich had to work in factories. The scavengers, the piecers, are the names we still remember. Four-year-old children were scavengers, were piecers, in the factories. And women were not an exception.
But as citizens within a nation or national border became interdependent, more and more closely knit, they began to realize that they are truly interdependent. Whenever these bad things are happening to other people, one cannot truly prosper, one cannot be truly happy. That is why industrialized countries began to discover the value of enlightened self-interest. We pay a high rate of taxes in the name of enlightened self-interest. We take care of those failing or failed citizens inside our borders. The ill, the poor, the old, children, the unemployed or unemployable, we take care of them. There is an element of altruism, but also basically we are doing it for our own interest. So it is self-interest which saved us from this difficult situation.
This is the analogy we have to introduce to international relations now, because in a closed world nations have become interdependent, the same way that citizens have become interdependent inside a border. No nation can be truly happy, secure, or stable when there are many failed states out there. This is not because we want to be altruistic, but this is because we want to ensure more fully our own national interest. So, in a way, enlightened national interest is a better form of national self-interest, and this is the way we have to go.
Some may say that this is ethics, this is altruism, and by definition is against national interest. No. Enlightened national interest encompasses traditional national interest and wants to do more than the national interest. So those terms are not in opposition, but enlightened national interest is encompassing the national interest. This is the larger concept which will better ensure our survival in this interdependent world.
But again, the situation is not encouraging. During the Cold War period, all the developed countries tried to reach the target of 0.7 percent of ODA, Official Development Assistance. Many countries were approaching that target. But, after the demise of the Cold War, what we are witnessing is that instead of moving toward that target, countries are back-stepping from that target. So most countries contribute less than they did in terms of assisting failed states. This is another discouraging sign. This is a sign that we have not fully taken into account the dramatic change, the historic paradigm shift, from raid to trade. This is a very serious matter we have to take into account somehow.
The major transnational issues are really, really serious. The problem these transnational issues are posing is that, for the first time in history, they are irreversible. Global warming, once it happens, cannot be turned back. Nuclear apocalypse, once it happens, cannot be undone. This is a new situation in our history. It never happened in the past. Any wars of conquest, expansion, massacre, could be healed. Not global warming, not nuclear apocalypse.
In a way, we are dealing with a question of an evolutionary dimension. We are equipped with unique intellectual capacity, this powerful instrument evolution has given us. Is it a blessing or a curse? We are facing this question now. We have been accustomed to unbounded praise of this unique mental capacity. We have compared ourselves as God, we have a God-like understanding, apprehension, and intelligence. We call ourselves paragons amongst animals. But more and more scientists realize that this human intelligence is cutting both ways. This may not be altogether a blessing. If we do not pay attention, if we are not very careful, this will bring about our own demise, along with the countless species with which we share the planet.
Let me quote an Austrian scientist by the name of Konrad Lorenz, who won a Nobel Prize for his ideas. He said this in one of his books: "It is a curious paradox that the greatest gifts to man, the unique faculties of conceptual thought and verbal speech, which have raised him to a level high above all other creatures and given him mastery over the globe, are not altogether blessings, or at least are blessings that have to be paid for very dearly indeed. All the great dangers threatening humanity with extinction are direct consequences of conceptual thought and verbal speech." So we are dealing with a profound problem probably of an evolutionary dimension.
We talk about enlightened national interest. Many biologists now think that altruism is part of our evolution. This is not something imposed upon self-interest by civilization or by culture, but is part of our genes, part of biological evolution, because it ensures our better survival, it ensures our better self-interest.
So in the face of the growing problem of transnational issues—once again, international terrorism, nuclear proliferation, environmental degradation, communicable diseases, and overpopulation—we have a concept to deal with them, which is enlightened national interest. It may be time to introduce ethics in international relations, and not just for the sake of altruism but for our own sake.
Yet the acceptance of this new concept of enlightened national interest may not happen overnight. It may take decades, if not centuries. It may take a disaster, a catastrophe, for us to realize the importance and the urgency of this concept. But it must happen if we are to survive as successful, evolutionary beings. Whether enlightened national interest can cut across national borders will be the defining issue for the future of humankind.
I will stop there. I will be happy to take your questions.
Questions and Answers
QUESTION: You have brought up quite a list of different considerations, but I would like to go back to basics. You mentioned failed states. There are very different kinds of failed states. And there are also different kinds of conquest. I think one of the things you haven't addressed is the war of ideas, the war of ideology—the war of ideology that can be waged by communism in the face of a secular ideology; or radical Islam, which is an ideology linked to a religion—and sometimes that question is not for goods, bodies, or the like, but it is a quest for power. Even a failed state like North Korea is exerting a great deal of influence over your own country, South Korea, without necessarily wanting to take it over.
So to what extent are we really dealing with something else here, not only the quest for goods and the like, but also the quest for ideas as a way of influencing other aspects of the world?
YOUNG-JIN CHOI: When I mentioned the failed states, I was referring to those headlined failed states of the last two decades: Haiti, Cambodia, East Timor, Bosnia, Kosovo, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Congo, and Darfur. All these are failed states, and we have to somehow take care of them. If they are not the objects of raid, we have to take care of them somehow because it is in our own interest.
On your question about ideology and ideas, I would like to make a distinction between ideology and faith. I am convinced that the age of ideology is gone, is dead, because it is the outgrowth of Western spirit detached from the body, and this cannot stand any longer, because Western science has proved that mind and body are not separate entities, they form one entity, two different attributes of one entity. So the metaphysics, the theology, the ideologies, are all gone. Nobody is really talking seriously about colonialism or fascism or communism these days.
But faith is there, because it is part of religion, and it takes care of a much deeper yearning or need of human beings. So faith and ideology are different matters.
On the failed states, there is a different kind of a conquest or war, or ideology or ideas, and I would like to address from that perspective of faith and ideology. Ideology is gone. Faith is there. But one thing I would like to mention, because of the influence perhaps of this notorious article "The Clash of Civilizations?", we tend to think that the fault-line cuts across different civilizations. But that is not the case.
On the transnational issues, which are major concerns of the 21st century, for them the dividing line is not national borders, nor civilizational borders. The borders are between the have's and the have-not's, the North/South divide. That is what I can say at this moment.
QUESTION: Do you feel that North Korea is on the way to becoming a failed state, perhaps at the time when Kim Jong-Il dies; and, if you do, should we allow that to happen or should we take what actions we can to prevent it?
YOUNG-JIN CHOI: North Korea is a very peculiar hybrid. It has every symptom of a failed state, but it is not a failed state. The regime is stable and there is order. Even with how repressive it is, there is order in the society. But other than that, it has every symptom of a failed state. So how to define it is anybody's guess.
But what will happen after the demise of Kim Jong-Il is a tantalizing question to everybody. Maybe at the time, if the social order breaks down, it will become a failed state. That means we will have to take care of North Korea somehow. This is not an object of a raid, not easy prey. This will become a burden for all of us.
QUESTION: Along with this phenomenon of states that are failing, I see that there is another phenomenon of nonstate actors that are succeeding. Do you agree with that; and, if so, could you share some of your thoughts about this phenomenon?
YOUNG-JIN CHOI: Because the nature of transnational issues is that they do not recognize national borders, nonstate actors also do not recognize national borders. They are part of the new phenomenon, transnational issues. But my simple answer is that without failed states there will be no nonstate actors. So the failed states are the root cause of many transnational issues, including nonstate actors.
QUESTION: The gentleman over there asked you—at least as I understand his question—the extent to which ideological forces are important in a world where there are so many failed states. It seems to me that the reigning ideology of the 21st century in this part of the world is that unbridled capitalism will work and bring about magical results. I wonder if you might comment on that, especially in light of what is going on in South America, where there is a growing tendency, even though some of it is a little more dramatic than it should be, to shift toward a left-wing ideology, as it used to be called, and some degree of centralized management of the economy.
YOUNG-JIN CHOI: I thank you for your important question. What to do with this unbridled capitalism? In my introduction, in my remarks, I tended to stick to the broad lines, the tendencies, historic events. That is why I presented the view of a historic paradigm shift from raid to trade. So we are in a trade mode—no more raid, no more plundering; we are trading with each other. Whichever countries are successful in trading become rich and prosperous and stable.
But that is not the end of the story. Your question comes into that dimension. Can it take care of this unbridled capitalism? This is another topic, which deserves a full-time discussion breakfast meeting.
The problem is, again, with our human nature. In contrast to all other animals, we have an insatiable desire for power and riches, and this is a curse in a way. We do not know how much power we have, how much money we have, but still we want more. For a nation it is the same thing, however powerful. They may have innumerable numbers of nuclear weapons so that they can kill the entire population many times over, yet still they want more. They want to refine it; they want more powerful weapons. This insatiable appetite, this desire of human beings for more power, more riches, is a grave, grave question, which in a way refers to the same dilemma I presented to you by quoting Konrad Lorenz. Is it a curse or is it a blessing? That is a tantalizing question we have to address.
Again, on the problem of ideology, as an Asian who has an Asian background, which does not believe in the separation of spirit from the corporeal body—we believe in the oneness of spirit and body—ideology is a creation of metaphysics. Metaphysics is a continuation of the theology of the Middle Ages. All of this is the outgrowth of the spirit detached from the body. We do not believe in ideology. In this world, where Western science itself has proved that this separation does not exist—spirit is part of the body; the body is part of the spirit—there is no room for ideologies in the 21st century.
In Latin America, they have this recurrence of leftist ideology, but this will be a passing phenomenon and it will take care of itself.
QUESTION: Thank you for taking us beyond the normal discourse of diplomacy at the United Nations. I was very interested in the larger, broader reflections that you have articulated today. The case for enlightened self-interest is, of course, the very case on which the international institutions are built.
But I'd like to go back to the opening question. I'm not sure you have fully grappled with the substance of that. Let's argue that everyone accepts your proposition that failed states have to be dealt with in our enlightened self-interest; if we don't, other problems can arise from them. But there are surely some actors on the global stage who are beyond reach through those mechanisms. In other words, you can have your peacekeeping operations in Congo or Somalia or Afghanistan, but there will still be people who wish to resort to, in the first word of your topic today, terrorism; who, for whatever reason—call it ideology, idea, spirit, whatever it may be—there are some who are not going to have their objectives met through the enlightened self-interest that you have described in your talk.
So the question I think we come back to is: What is your prescription for dealing with that? In other words, we accept your central argument and we accept the notion that there is this broader international responsibility. But you still have a residual problem, which is more than residual because we have seen that in the global village that you spoke about, a fire that starts in a dusty tent in one corner of the global village can melt the steel girders underpinning the tallest skyscrapers in the opposite corner of the global village. I'm not sure that your analysis tells us how we can deal with that. Take us there.
YOUNG-JIN CHOI: I tried to limit my broad topic within the framework of general trends and broad direction of history. That is why I said at the outset that international terrorism may be only a symptom of a deeper, wider problem; that is, the advent of failed states with its accompanying transnational issues, international terrorism being one of those transnational issues.
Whatever happens, there will be terrorists all the time. Remember what happened just before the First World War. Kings and queens and presidents and prime ministers were asssasinated, even in this country—Austria, France, everywhere. And terrorism will always be with us. There are always, according to some social scientists, 20 percent of the population who will be malcontents, whatever happens to society.
So we are not aiming at a perfect society. We try to deal with the critical problems, general trends, history, directions. Within that framework, I think that we have to deal with the failed states first because they will be the principal sources of all the problems we will be facing in the 21st century. We have a tendency to ignore them, which we cannot.
Having said that, I would like to quote the Nobel Prize laureate Thomas Schelling, who is famous for game theory. He sometimes presents astounding insight. Just after receiving the Nobel Prize, he said that the threat of becoming a victim of international terrorism is less than that of being injured or killed by a traffic accident.
QUESTION: You said that you believe that the wars for natural resources, which characterized so much of the 19th century, are basically over. Now, there is undoubtedly in this world a search for natural resources. Countries like China, for example, are making great efforts, not through military means at this point, to assure themselves of the natural resources that they need for their booming economy. There are many people who suggest that we may see in the future the revival of those wars for natural resources as those natural resources are less and less available and as the needs and the demands of industrial society require them.
Do you think that that likelihood of the resurgence of wars for natural resources is a serious problem, or do you think that we don't have to worry about that?
YOUNG-JIN CHOI: I look at this from a historical perspective. For many thousands of years, perhaps until the last century, natural resources and human beings as slaves were the most important—perhaps the only—resources or instruments we had in our hands. Now look at the economy. Services account for 78 percent of our national wealth. These are not natural resources. There are other ways to secure natural resources like precious minerals or oil or other important resources.
But I agree with you, because of the problem of overpopulation, we will have serious, serious concerns for the future of oil, even fresh water. And don't forget that, in the North/South divide, in the South the population doubles every twenty-five or thirty years. That means in fifty years we will have four times the population in failed states. At the same time, the population will be stationary, or even diminish, in developed countries.
So I'd like to interpret the question you raised in the framework of overpopulation, one of the transnational issues, rather than the classic struggle or rush for natural resources.
QUESTION: How effective are economic sanctions as a tool of international policy? Do you think they are counterproductive, or they are successful in enticing the desired behavior of the targeted nations? Thank you.
YOUNG-JIN CHOI: I am not an expert on this matter, but I have some opinion on this. In the United Nations, whenever there was discussion of sanctions against one of those failed states or one of those problem-making states, immediately afterwards I read newspaper articles saying that sanctions will not be effective. That may be true. At the same time, we had energetic responses from the countries under discussion, objecting to sanctions. Why? If they are truly ineffective, why will countries resist receiving sanctions? So there is a certain effectiveness in sanctions, political if not purely economic, and it is damaging for the prestige of the nation. There are some things that work in international sanctions.
QUESTION: Would you comment on the growing importance of Asians in the world? Certainly, the new Secretary-General comes from your country—and I see you are very proud of it, as you should be—and China has become increasingly important, and India, and so forth. The Asian civilizations have offered so much to culture, if we talk of Buddhism and real enlightenment and so forth. Could you comment on how the growing Asian influence will improve the situation for the United Nations and the rest of the world?
YOUNG-JIN CHOI: I thank you for your intriguing question, because that is a topic I studied at the Fletcher School when I was Diplomat in Residence last year. It is really intriguing and it is really critical and important to understand East Asia.
Currently, we have three geo-economic centers around the globe—North America, Europe, and Northeast Asia—but in Northeast Asia you have a population twice the number of North America and the European Union combined. They are determined; they are motivated. Some say that Northeast Asia holds the key for the future economy of the 21st century, which may not be a farfetched assumption.
They say culture precedes economics. There is very powerful cultural, civilizational support for the economic growth of Northeast Asia. Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism are the popular expression of those values. But when you look into this matter from a historical perspective, we find that East Asia is the only civilization which has values that are in a polar opposite position to Western civilization, without falling prey to superiority/inferiority. You cannot really compare between which is superior and which is inferior. They are simply different values.
East Asia has great potential because their entire culture, their entire civilization, has grown in a closed environment. The Pacific, Siberia, the Himalayan mountain chain, and southern jungles, all constitute natural barriers. For more than 2,000 to 3,000 years, East Asia was confined to that geographical framework, but they developed highly sophisticated cultures and civilizations which permit them to produce their economic clout today.
This has relevance in the 21st century because, for the first time, thanks to Western exploration, expansion, conquest, the world has become a closed one. For the first time in history, we have no more unknown territory to explore or expand. It is more like the East Asian environment. So how people behaved, how people thought, in that part of the world has some relevance in the 21st century, in a way more than the Western ideological framework.
For example, we think of humility, modesty, and cooperation as typical Asian values. In the 21st century, dealing with transnational issues, dealing with failed states, we need more humility, more modesty, a more conciliatory attitude than the attitudes of the conquerors—"I can do anything I want and take others' resources."
So I thank you for your important question on East Asia, not because I come from East Asia, but, because by their economic development and their behavior and their contribution to the international community, they have certain relevance in the 21st century.
JOANNE MYERS: Thank you very much, Ambassador Choi.