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Home > Debates Last Updated: 14:31 03/09/2007
Debate: Comment

Rejoinder to John de Boer

Tomohiko TANIGUCHI (GLOCOM Fellow)

When it comes to dealing with the US, the way in which the UK has cunningly played its hand regarding US policies over the past decades is a constant source of inspiration for Japan. That the UK is unequivocally supporting the US in its war against terrorism again tells us a great deal. By making it absolutely clear publicly that the UK stands with the US no matter how the coming war evolves, the UK has succeeded in achieving maximum freedom and influence in consulting with the US, diplomat-to-diplomat, behind the scenes. This is another classic example of British pragmatism. This is also what I meant to convey when I said in my short essay that whatever the US elects to do, Japan must undeniably endorse it and then follow if Japan wants to remain an ally of the US. I have not therefore excluded the possibility, or indeed desirability, that behind the scenes Japanese diplomats argue with their US colleagues on what should and should not be done - if in fact there is any member of Japan's foreign ministry capable of handling subtleties of this sort.

I am compelled to dismiss John de Boer's argument about whether the N-bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were a proportional response to Pearl Harbor, because the events of December 8 (or 7 depending on where they were), 1941 bear absolutely no relation to those of September 11 this year. I am not entirely sure I can agree with him on his point that Japan cannot unconditionally support nor participate in retaliatory strikes that aim to wipe out states without clarification of what "states" he is referring to. Do they include the Taliban occupied territories I wonder?

My opinion differs greatly from that of Jon de Boer, particularly when he asserts that "as a friend and ally, at the very least Japan must convince America that any military response needs to be in accordance with international and humanitarian law. And, if at all possible, it should remind the US that violence only breeds more violence, as has been demonstrated time and time again in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict" I see no fertile ground to argue this point as it relates not to our objective judgment of the situation, but to our political orientations.

That said, his assertion could even be said to be pointless, as it is largely a truism. Should the US kill women and children in Afghanistan? Absolutely not. Is it likely that violence only breeds violence? Yes, it is. Who understands this better than anyone else? I think it is America, that has made up its mind to engage in this long, twilight war. My stance is that not only Japan, but all peace loving nations of the world should bear their burden so long as it cannot be illegitimate to wipe out the deadly terrorists.

Similarly I see my views in stark contrast to de Boer's when he argues that Japan should not participate in the warfare between the US and terrorists as that "will only invite terrorist reprisals on Japanese soil". Firstly, I see the war not as one between the US and terrorists but one between all peace loving nations, Japan certainly included, and terrorists. He talks of the war as if it is largely theirs. I see it as ours too. Second, I would feel ashamed to be Japanese if Japan failed to participate in this war against terrorists and yet had to experience such terrorist attacks on its own soil. Disarm thyself is a call of Mephistopheles.

John de Boer concludes by saying that Japan must not participate in a US military retaliation that could resemble anything close to what was witnessed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki over 50 years ago. Well, again this will flatter Japanese Social Democrats but not me. To respond to this overblown statement I should rather say, like many a politician, that I can make no comment to such a grossly hypothetical question.

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