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

UN Reform and Japan's Role
OZAKI Michio / Lecturer, Tsurumi University

November 25, 2003
When the Soviet Union collapsed in the late twentieth century and thereby brought the Cold War to an end, the people of the world experienced a profound sense of relief. But then in 2001, the opening year of the twenty-first century, terror struck from the sky at the United States, the world's superpower, and its economic, military, and political symbols. In that instant the dreams of well-intentioned people everywhere, who had their hopes pinned on a transition from a century of war to a century of coexistence, were ripped asunder, and their fragments came raining down in ashes.

Samuel Huntington's prophecy that the confrontation of ideologies would give way to an age of a "clash of civilizations" drew criticism on the grounds that it was too finely tailored to the strategic perspective of the United States. It was not long, however, before conflicts were erupting in many places and terrorism was on the rise, compelling the conclusion that his thesis had indeed hit upon the direction of history. The sharpest confrontations are a historical reenactment of the animosities among Christians, Jews, and Muslims, close relatives in the family of monotheistic religion. History would seem to have retrogressed to the age of the Crusades. On witnessing each instance of cold-hearted warfare, I am reminded of the view of the Hungarian-born writer Arthur Koestler, who hypothesized that the human brain is an evolutionary error.

Like all organisms, Koestler explains, the brain followed an evolutionary path starting from the single-celled organism and proceeding through amphibians and reptiles to mammals. At a certain point in the evolution of the human brain, however, the cells in part of it underwent explosive proliferation, creating incompatibilities with cellular structures that had gone through a very gradual process of progress over the ages. There are animals that depend on killing other animals to survive, but even in such cases they do not extend the slaughter beyond what they need to satiate their own appetite. It is only the human being that massacres others of its own kind, sometimes on the scale of a holocaust. We may not at present have the means to ascertain the correctness of this fatalistic view of the human being. But if we inquire into the motives behind the mass slaughters humans engage in, which Koestler traces to unusual reactions of the human brain when exposed to virulent slogans or religious beliefs, we will find our thoughts first returning to such scenes as the atrocities of the Nazis and the ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia, then moving on to the present time with its tragedies of terrorism, as well as its deep-rooted religious animosities, in such places as Iraq and Palestine.

It is not clear how seriously people perceived the United Nations, organized after the catastrophe of World War II, to be an agent intended to bring an end to the wars of human beings. In the United States and the other countries that led the UN's creation, though, there was undoubtedly a serious intent to make adjustments in the clashes over sovereignty among modern nation-states, which came into being with the Treaty of Westphalia of 1648. Now that the weight of the Cold War has been lifted, even though the factors disturbing peace in the world have shifted from ideologies to cultural friction, the UN is, for the time being, the only institution working to adjust the interests of peoples and states. In the United States the Bush administration, which is ensconced in an ideological hotbed of neoconservatism, has been pushed even more decidedly toward unilaterialism by the winds of September 11. As a result, in the Iraq War a fissure opened up within the Atlantic alliance, which was a model of solidarity during the Cold War, between Washington on the one side and Paris and Berlin on the other, and the centripetal force of the UN has diminished.

In the recent general election in Japan, Prime Minister Koizumi Junichiro did not show much enthusiasm for pressing Japan's case to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council. In explaining his stance, he made reference to the fact that the existing five permanent members are all nuclear powers, as if to imply that securing nuclear arms was a necessary precondition for gaining a permanent seat. But is this really so? If Japan, a country that is second only to the United States in the dues it pays to the UN and that espouses the three nonnuclear principles of not possessing, producing, or permitting the introduction of nuclear weapons, were to participate as a permanent Security Council member, international public opinion might shift toward favoring disarmament under the UN's lead. Japan could act as a bridge spanning the cultures of the East and West, and it could also play a role further down that road in the establishment of a "global united states" within which cultural diversity would be tolerated. Precisely this is what Japan should undertake to accomplish in the twenty-first century.

The writer is Lecturer of Faculty of Political Science at Tsurumi University. He is a former Mainichi Shimbun journalist.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

尾崎美千生 / 鶴見大学講師

2003年 11月 25日





一般社団法人 日本英語交流連盟