Noted Academics Warn Against Japan's Extreme Bilaterialism
John de Boer (Research Associate, GLOCOM; Japan Fellow, Stanford University)
Considering the U.S. government's questionable credibility as a result of its "intelligence blunder" regarding Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, its responsibility for human suffering and utter chaos in Iraq, and Washington's misplaced impulse to apply military solutions to terrorism, it is not surprising to find many notable academics and journalists insist that Japan should think twice before it pledges its full allegiance to the U.S.-Japan alliance under all circumstances.
In a symposium on Japan's national strategy featuring the Japan-Russo War of a century ago (Feb. 1904), Harvard University Professor Akira Irie emphasized that Japan's "national interests cannot be obtained by force but by peaceful efforts". He then issued a warning stating that, "if Japan continues focusing only on the alliance with the U.S. and the rest of the world becomes hostile to the alliance, Japan's security won't be secured". Reading Chalmers Johnson's recent article, posted on TomDispatch (15 January 2004), one cannot help but fear the impending violent reaction to the Pentagon's plan to build hundreds of bases along the so-called "arc of instability" that spans the entire "Third World". It extends, from the Andean region of South America, through Africa and the Middle East to the Philippines and Indonesia. Japan's participation in the Iraqi and Afghani campaigns, which will no doubt be host to permanent U.S. bases could make Japan implicit and, thereby, compromise its integrity and security. Recently, Yoshikazu Sakamoto (professor emeritus, University of Tokyo) warned Japan against supporting the U.S.' military empire and instead suggested that it should promote political equality. He also stressed that Japan should "shift its focus from extreme bilateralism to a multilateral approach" (Japan Times, 1 January 2004). Finally, after challenging Prime Minister Koizumi's justification for Japan's military contribution to Iraq which emphasizes Japan's "obligations to the international community", the February 12 editorial in the Asahi Shimbun pressed the Japanese government to distinguish between the will of the U.S. and that of the international community. The editorial insisted that this was important because the U.S., in most instances related to the Iraq war, is not well received in the world and its policies are often unilateral and serve to erode international institutions and multilateral initiatives. The point was that the U.S. and the international community are not synonymous, this is particularly true when it comes to peace and security. Furthermore, U.S. military initiatives throughout the world are not reducing the terrorist threat and have instead demonstrated a consistent tendency to do the reverse. Prime Minister Koizumi's counter argument to fears about becoming too closely identified with the U.S. has been to insist that Japan is engaging on a humanitarian effort in Iraq. If that is the case, why didn't he send JICA officials and fund more Japanese non-governmental and volunteer associations? By sending the SDF, this mission to Iraq has become part of the U.S. military endeavor. Ultimately, as the Asahi article insists, Japan must find a way to differentiate between U.S. interest and the will of a greater "international community".
Having made clear the fact that Japan is in Iraq because of the U.S. it is important to examine what Japan has gained from this contribution. If Japan's objective in joining the United States in the "war against terrorism" by sending SDF personnel to Afghanistan and to Iraq was to make Japan and the world a safer place to live, there is very little that we can highlight to substantiate the claim that this goal has been, or is in the process of being, achieved. As has been pointed out by the eminent British military historian Correlli Barnett, while there were five major al-Qaeda attacks between 1993 and 9/11, there have been seventeen major assaults (including the ones in Istanbul against the British consulate and the HSBC) since then. Over the past three days, more than 150 people have been killed in suicide bombs in Iraq, the situation in the Israeli Occupied Territories continues to deteriorate and there is no end in sight to the threat posed by North Korea.
If Japan's goal is to create a safer world, perhaps it should start by stopping nuclear proliferators such as the Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan. It is disquieting to hear that while U.S. intelligence resources, and those of other countries, were focused on trying to find Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, Khan was busy proliferating nuclear material and technology throughout the world.
The uncovering of Khan's nuclear proliferation is being heralded here in the United States as a major intelligence breakthrough. However, the fact that Khan managed to get around international safeguards and watchdogs for several years and allegedly ship nuclear material to countries such as Libya, Iran and North Korea (Japan's most immediate threat), should be considered a major intelligence and security failure that is far more destabilizing than Iraq ever was. Instead of focusing on Saddam Hussein who was a menace to his own people but hardly a threat to anyone else, would it not have been wiser for Japan and the United States to have zoned in on individuals such as Khan? Japan has entered into the war in Iraq in support of the United States and in the hope that the U.S. will in response commit to Japan's national security, however its extreme bilateralism has caused it to lose focus of what truly threatens Japan's security. Khan's nuclear proliferation to North Korea is one of those threats.