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

Think Twice, America, Before Attacking Iraq: Japanese Views on the US Attack on Iraq
HANABUSA Masamichi / Chairman, The English-Speaking Union of Japan

August 30, 2002
In America, a military attack against Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein from power seems to be a foregone conclusion. US newspapers have been rife with various battle plans proposed by the generals.

However, President Bush's single-minded pursuit of victory against the "terrorists" who perpetrated the infamous September 11 attacks has its dangers. It would be particularly risky if top priority is given to the attack on Iraq, putting aside more urgent problems of the world such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the recovery of US economic vigor and the precarious state of Latin American economies. President Bush would be better advised to spend the rest of this year attending to these more urgent issues. The world is more interdependent than Americans are prepared to accept. Any immediate attack would undermine the innumerable delicate balances that exist among divergent forces and interests in the world.

It is good, therefore, that the decision to go ahead seems to have temporarily been postponed until some time next year. Taking advantage of this respite, it would be worthwhile to tell our American friends how the average Japanese view the prospective US military strike against Saddam.

First, most Japanese are not convinced that Iraq is providing direct support to the Al Qaeda terrorist group. So far, the Japanese government seems to be giving President Bush the benefit of the doubt. But when the attack comes and begins to directly affect Japan - for example, by America requesting Japan to provide financial or military support for its military campaign - crucial differences in opinion between Japan and America will come to the fore. In Japan, war on Iraq this time round will not be considered the same as the Gulf War. The Japanese government will find itself unable to persuade the nation to support unilateral American action in Iraq.

Second, even if Saddam was removed one way or another, the post-war rebuilding of a peaceful Iraq will not be easy. Many Japanese are reminded of what the Americans did to Japan during their occupation after Japan's defeat in 1945. There are still a considerable number of Japanese, both old and young, who resent the systematic demolition of old Japanese values and the planting of American systems under the occupation. Systemic reform of Japan succeeded because much of what the Americans brought to Japan after the war was progressive in nature and not incongruous with Japan's own history of wholesale Westernization that followed the Meiji Restoration. More importantly, Japan had the Emperor, a figure of authority who commanded the respect of his people.

In the case of Iraq, however, it would require a superhuman effort on the part of the occupying force to establish a credible regime there. The creation of an acceptable government in Iraq must start from scratch against a hostile indigenous population where no alternative authority exists. Iraq is many times more intractable than Afghanistan, where the local populace did not object to seeing foreign Al Qaeda elements ousted from their land.

Third, if the Americans unfortunately chose to use nuclear weapons in their preemptive military strike against Iraq, the vehemence of Japanese anger would be far greater than any American could imagine. It will touch a raw nerve of Japanese sensitivity. I would hate to see all the post-war goodwill the Japanese had shown America despite its nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki evaporate overnight and be replaced by a deep-rooted distrust and even hatred of the Americans.

Lastly, the Japanese are seriously concerned about the probable consequences the attack would have on the Middle East world. If the attack takes place without first having allayed Arab suspicion that the destruction of Iraq is to lend support to Israel against the Palestinians, it is much feared that the delicate balance that currently exists in the Middle East - both regionally and nationally - would be irrevocably lost. Although there would be no love lost between most Arab nations and Iraq, a "Western" attack on Iraq would be considered a war waged by the Jewish-Christian world against the Islamic world. The war would inevitably force even moderate Arabs and regimes friendly to the West to close ranks with radical Islamic forces along the divisions of civilization. And should moderate Arabs resist doing so, they will be washed away from power by a powerful anti-Western tidal wave that will arise in the Islamic world. For the Japanese, too, a Middle East composed of regimes hostile to the West would not be in their interest.

If Americans expect the Japanese to overcome these qualms and go along with the attack, they must provide conclusive and overwhelming evidence that Iraq has been supporting terrorists in such a way that only a systemic change in its regime can stop it. Otherwise, an American war on Iraq would be seen in this part of the world as a pursuit of its own national interests, perhaps based on some hidden agenda.

The writer is Chairman of the English-Speaking Union of Japan.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

英 正道 / 日本英語交流連盟会長

2002年 8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) > Think Twice, America, Before Attacking Iraq: Japanese Views on the US Attack on Iraq