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

Japan's Role: From Anti-terrorism to the Formation of a New Order

Masayuki YAMAUCHI (Professor, University of Tokyo)

Towards "the 21st Century Charter"

To deal with the kind of terrorism that Osama bin Laden is engaged in, particularly suicidal attacks, biological weapons and other kinds of terror, it is not sufficient to take short-term symptomatic responses. Rather we need to have a medium- or long-term strategy to offer a prospect for a way to build a world order in the 21st century and for a way to accommodate the Islamic world and Muslim people in such an order. In other words, we should reconsider our vision of the world system so as to pay due respect to Islamic views and values and, by doing so, help clear Muslims' anti-American sentiment and xenophobia and also heal their trauma and distrust.

Of course, understanding the distrust by Muslims and some Asian people towards Western nations does not mean submission to terrorism. Rather, the task is to build a world system in the 21st century and describe a global vision in the post "post cold war" period. Especially, the U.S. and other Western nations are urged to make it clear that their involvement in Afghan affairs is supported by their purpose and strategy to achieve peace, and make every effort not to revive the memories of colonial rule in the 19th and 20th century in the minds of Muslims and Asian people. Not only Americans but also Japanese must present current analyses and historical visions if we recognize that world history has changed since September 11th.

What we need is a new global vision that might be called "the 21st Century Charter." This should be comparable to U.S. President Wilson's "Fourteen Chapters," which was trusted by many nations including the Osman Empire and led to the establishment of the League of Nations. It also should be comparable to the "Atlantic Charter," which was an agreement between Churchill and Roosevelt, supported by the Soviet Union, and was later developed into the United Nations Charter. But we must not repeat the mistake made in the initial version of the U.N. Charter, which only reflected Western values and views and excluded their Asian counterparts. The 21st Century Charter should accommodate peace-oriented Chinese philosophy and Islamic religion as well as other Eastern philosophies including Hinduism.

Japan's Role and "Human Security"

Japan has been trying to balance traditional Japanese, Chinese, and Western cultures in the past, and therefore is in the best position to contribute to the 21st Century Charter from traditional Japanese, Chinese, Western, and Indian as well as Islamic viewpoints. In more concrete terms, we need to take the following factors into consideration.

Above all, we must realize that international cooperative systems in the 21st century could remain very unstable unless we provide a comprehensive framework in which 1.3 billion people in the Islamic world could respectfully be invited to participate in the construction of peace and order. If we can propose such a vision for coexistence, our plan for reconstruction of post-war Afghanistan would readily be advanced.

The first condition for that purpose is to form a coalition government that can broadly unite all races and religions in Afghanistan, possibly under the provisional control of the United Nations, and thereby reorganize the country into a democratic state. Actually, this is a very difficult task, because the existing conflicts among tribal chiefs as well as among Northern Alliance leaders cannot easily be resolved.

Second, Japan can be actively involved in the process of democratic elections and post-war reconstruction. In fact, Japan is the only country among the G7 nations that has maintained close human networks and friendly relations with various factions in Afghanistan and also with neighboring countries in Middle Asia such as Pakistan, Iran and Tajikistan. Japan also has shown its commitment in peacekeeping operations and provisional governments in Cambodia, Tajikistan and East Timor in the past. Regarding peace in Afghanistan, the Japanese government invited Taliban and Northern Alliance leaders to Tokyo in turn to find possible leads to peace in March, 2000, and sent some senior officials from the Foreign Ministry to Afghanistan in an attempt to persuade both sides to negotiate for peace in June, 2001. Furthermore, Japan's strategic plan, as expressed in Eurasia diplomacy in the Hashimoto administration and Middle Asia policy in the Obuchi administration in the past, included the idea of establishing order and stability in the region from mid-Eurasia to Southwest Asia.

This strategic diplomacy can be activated immediately with regard to the refugee problem this time. It is obvious that the refugee problem in Afghanistan and neighboring countries will get worse as U.S. bombing continues. According to some estimates, there are 2.5 million refugees in Pakistan now and another million will be added soon. To refugees in Afghanistan, which Sadako Ogata of the United Nations once called "the country abandoned by the international community," we can convey an important message that the international community would never abandon them by visiting them or by sending them materials such as foods, blankets, tents, power generators, and paper and pencils for children.

Japan can contribute a great deal non-militarily if its plan to hold an Afghanistan peace conference in Tokyo is combined with what might be called Japan's "human security," focusing on support for post-war reconstruction and cultural exchange. Japan's contribution could be significant in such areas as refugee assistance, mine removal, education support, vocational training of Taliban soldiers, reconstruction of infrastructure in transportation and agricultural and technology assistance. Dismantling of the Taliban would not lead to stability in Afghanistan. Rather, terrorism in this region can be controlled or even eliminated by the presence of NATO and American and British forces, as well as stability of civilian life due to long-term economic assistance. Most important is the promotion of industry in the region, and Japan can offer plans to construct pipelines for oil and natural gas, and also can provide a transportation system that Afghan people have never seen before.

International Conference for Dialogue between Civilizations

It would be quite meaningful to hold an international conference in Tokyo for cultural exchange and dialogue involving Pakistan, Iran, and other Middle Eastern and Middle Asian countries. This would help create a sense of mutual trust between Japan and the Islamic world. This kind of project could not be undertaken by the U.S. now. At such a conference, Prime Minister Koizumi should explain in plain words the meaning of Japan's involvement in the post-war reconstruction of Afghanistan and the formation of a new order by peaceful means in order to obtain public understanding for logistic support and relief operations of Japanese Self Defense Forces.

However, elimination of parasitic terrorist elements in Afghanistan such as Osama bin Laden is a prerequisite for the country's reconstruction as a democratic nation. Resolution to expel such terrorists is in the interest of the Afghan people and consistent with the formation of a new international order to honor Islamic values. Perhaps Osama bin Laden, if captured, should be turned over to a special international court for justice in connection with the idea of formation of a new international order. It will not be possible to eliminate terrorism and restore peace unless we secure Muslims people's understanding for and participation in the formation of a new order while facilitating the peace process for Middle East centering on the Palestinian problem. Japan should actively present a new vision to Muslim people for reconstruction and assistance in order to occupy an honored place in a new international order.

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