Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

Sending Japan's Self Defense Forces to Iraq
TAKAHASHI Kazuo / Associate Professor of the University of the Air

September 30, 2003
Let me begin with my conclusion - I am opposed to dispatching the Self Defense Forces (SDF) to Iraq. The first reason is because the legitimacy of the American occupation of Iraq is suspect under international law. That in turn means the legitimacy of cooperating with such an occupation is also questionable. To begin with, attacks against Iraq by the American and British forces this March were launched without the clear endorsement from the United Nations Security Council on the use of military force.

Secondly, because America's Iraq policy seems to have lost its way in the desert. There is no sight of an exit from Iraq. America hasn't stated when or how it intends to end its occupation of Iraq. What concrete goals does it have in mind for Iraq? And under current circumstances, what process and schedule does it plan to follow to attain those goals? What are the future costs? What are its projections regarding the cost of human lives? All these questions have gone unanswered.

Meanwhile, the occupation is costing $1 billion every week. American soldiers are being killed every other day. Already, the number of such deaths in Iraq has exceeded 300. The number of dead is now twice that of the Gulf War. In addition, the number of wounded has reached 1,000. That adds up to a total casualty count of 1,300. America currently has 140,000 soldiers in Iraq, so roughly 1% of its forces have either been wounded or killed. Resistance against the occupation has reached levels beyond what could be described as sporadic acts of terrorism. This is guerrilla warfare. The nightmare of Vietnam seems to linger above the deserts of Iraq like a mirage. America continues to pay a high price in terms of blood and bucks. Beyond the tunnel lies not a light, but another tunnel. Should we likewise invest the tax money and blood of the Japanese people in an occupation that seems to have no end, no exit?

Worse still, with no experience of actual combat and constrained by rules of engagement limiting them to defensive action only when fired upon, the Self Defense Forces could become an ideal target for guerrillas. From their point of view, the SDF will never initiate the shooting, which makes them an easy target. Such targets have included international aid groups as well as the Danish forces. And in August, even the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad was attacked. No place or organization is safe in Iraq any more. In the words of the local commander of the U.S. forces, the whole of Iraq has become a battlefield. The Japanese government is not at all persuasive in its explanation that the SDF will be sent to undertake safe tasks in safe locations inside Iraq. In any case, if it's so safe, there's no reason we should be sending the SDF in the first place.

The SDF is being sent to maintain our relationship with the United States, or so we are told. But once the SDF begins to suffer casualties, Japanese sentiment towards America will deteriorate rapidly. Should that happen, SDF presence in Iraq would only have the opposite effect. It is also possible that America will itself decide to change its Iraq policy. How much longer can the American people bear daily reports of casualties among their soldiers? Even the precondition that American forces are there to stay is open to questioning. The presidential election next year could serve to trigger the U.S. retreat from Iraq. We shouldn't confuse maintaining our relationship with the Bush administration with maintaining our relationship with the American people over the long term. We should also bear in mind that America may change its Iraq policy. This is no time to get our soldiers killed.

The writer is Associate Professor of International Politics at the University of the Air.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

高橋 和夫  / 放送大学助教授

2003年 9月 30日





一般社団法人 日本英語交流連盟

English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > Sending Japan's Self Defense Forces to Iraq