Japan Extends Iraq Military Mission until December 2005
Reviewed by Hitoshi URABE
Japan extends Iraq military mission until December 2005
(by AFP) Turkish Press
The article reports that Japan's cabinet extended the deployment of the Self Defense Force (JSDF) in Iraq for another year, until December 14, 2005, with the explanation by the Prime Minister Koizumi saying, "It is Japan's responsibility to help Iraqis rebuild their nation."
The discuttion on the extension of the JSDF's stay in Iraq, amidst the apparent worsening of the situation there and a number of countries recalling their troops, increased concern among the Japanese people. And the polls conducted toward the end of November reflect the sentiment.
It is generally a risky affair to cite a survey result as more often than not the intentions of the administrator of the survey are reflected. In this case, however, the "liberal" Asahi and the "conservative" Sankei newspapers have come out with similar results. Those who think the dispatch of JSDF to Iraq should be extended: Asahi 29%, Sankei 32%. Those who think the JSDF should be recalled: Asahi 62%, Sankei 64%.
It may be safely assumed, then, that significantly more than half of the people feel that JSDF should be called back. But a little further looking into the survey results reveals a picture somewhat different than what may seem to be on the surface.
The Nikkei newspaper -- deemed to be specialized in reporting market and economy thus considered to be fairly neutral in political terms -- conducted a similar survey toward the end of November. Their results: 25% for the JSDF to stay, and 61% for it to be called back. The report also cites the results of the polls conducted in April this year, where it showed 42% of the people supporting JSDF in Iraq, and 40% opposed. It seems to be an appropriate interpretation that the opinions of the people in April were pretty much split in half.
The Nikkei also asked, in the last month's survey, the reasons for opposing the government's policy to extend the term for JSDF's stay in Iraq, and the results were very interesting.
Among those opposed, only 44% said that they had been against the dispatch from the beginning. More than half, 54% of those opposing the extension said that they had not necessarily been against having JSDF in Iraq, but changed their minds upon seeing the reports of Iraq becoming more dangerous. (Indeed, people are expressing concerns as to who would be protecting JSDF in Iraq once the Dutch troops, stationed there for the task of peacekeeping, retreat in March.)
This means that half of the people among who said they were against extending the JSDF's deployment in Iraq were not against for the cause, the purpose, or the background of the dispatch itself. They felt it to have become more dangerous for the JSDF staff to remain there and wanted them to leave and return to Japan before being entangled in hostile actions.
It is perfectly permissible to condemn the Japanese government's policy, including that of sending JSDF to Iraq -- as well as to support it, since Japan is one of few countries where freedom of thought and expression are genuinely guaranteed. But citing survey results in an attempt to reinforce a certain opinion without thorough consideration could sometimes backfire.
For the moment, Japanese people want the JSDF back home so as not to risk the safety of the staff. As for the cause and purpose of having JSDF in Iraq in the first place, the opinion is split.