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

Ruling Iraq – No Repeat of The Marshall Plan
ONO Goro / Professor, Saitama University

May 21, 2004
The United States faces a deadlock in its post-war attempt at ruling Iraq. This has resulted in part from an error of judgment on the part of the U.S. related to its comparative success in the Marshall Plan implemented in Europe and its occupation of Japan in the aftermath of World War II. Ancient history it may be, but in reality the brilliant success of these measures have significantly influenced subsequent U.S. foreign policy including its ODA (Official Development Assistance) policies, which have mostly backfired.

The Marshall Plan and the U.S. Occupation of Japan were successful because both Japan and Europe - the targets of these measures - had already achieved a certain level of economic development prior to the war that needed only to be reconstructed. Meanwhile, the United States has been unsuccessful in its ODA and other policies because the same could not be applied to countries that were at the threshold of economic development. However, lessons gained from past failures were not put to good practice in the latest U.S. attempt at ruling Iraq.

The United States may have succeeded in the seemingly similar case of ruling and supporting the reconstruction of Japan, Germany and Italy - countries defeated in World War II that were placed under U.S. military occupation. However, these countries had one thing in common - pre-war existence of government organizations that were considered modern even by Western standards.

This is why war was formally over once the governments concerned admitted defeat and offered to surrender. More importantly, from that point onwards the new governments that were established under the occupying powers were given legitimate status. Furthermore, the administrative systems that remained after the war were competent enough to oversee the reconstruction of their respective countries in cooperation with the ruling occupational forces.

This is not the case in Iraq, where - depending on one's viewpoint - the war continues to this day because the Saddam Hussein government never openly surrendered. As such, the legitimacy of the new government that took over the Hussein regime became contingent on the approval of the international community. And this in turn means the formation of any new Iraqi government must be conducted under the auspices of the United Nations to which nearly all independent nations in today's international community belong.

What's more, the administrative system that was left in the aftermath of the war was so weak it didn't possess the ability to cooperate with the United States in smoothly implementing post-war rule, as had been the case in Japan, Germany and Italy. Meanwhile, the administrator dispatched by the United States was no better in terms of competence. That is because he didn't fulfill his primary role of ensuring a smooth transition to self-government by the Iraqi people. To put it the other way round, he was too proactive in cases where he should have intervened only upon request from the Iraqi side on issues arising from ethnic or religious differences that couldn’t be resolved among the Iraqis.

The latest U.S. military attack on the Hussein government should have been recognized as liberation by some part of the Iraqi populace, as the United States itself has claimed. But if that were the case, it is clearly inappropriate for the United States to remain a major presence in that country's post-war order. Imagine what would have happened if U.S. forces had continued its occupation of a liberated France and intervened in French policy. Under such hypothetical circumstances, it would have been natural for the United States to be viewed as an "invader" instead of a "liberator."

Democracy is a choice based on the free will of the members of a particular society and not something that can be forced upon by outsiders, however benevolent their intentions may be. The West, East and Islam all have their own distinct paths that leads ultimately to democracy. And while we should obviously offer directions to travelers who have strayed from their paths, it would be inadmissible for us to decide their destination.

U.S. success at guiding Japan, Germany and Italy - which after all had been walking down a similar path to its own - is no guarantee of a similar success in Iraq. With a firm eye on the future, when support for reconstruction will be fully underway, I should also add that the same applies to the actions of Non-Governmental Organizations as well.

The writer is a Professor at Saitama University.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

小野五郎 / 埼玉大学教授

2004年 5月 21日









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English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > Ruling Iraq – No Repeat of The Marshall Plan