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May 20, 2002

Formulating a joint Japanese and US Security Concept in the aftermath of September 11

Taizo YAKUSHIJI (Professor, Keio University, and Institute for International Policy Studies)

The September 11 terrorist attack had a tremendous impact on strategic thinking, both at the global and individual national level. The security challenge to a major power such as the US posed by terrorists, and not by a major contending power such as the former Soviet Union, was unprecedented. The death toll of over 5000 civilians revealed clearly that even the US had a "security hole," although no nation could ever build a completely impenetrable system for homeland defense. The defense of the US homeland had focussed on protecting the nation from potential nuclear missile attacks by enemy countries: not many had envisaged that the country would be brought to its knees by a small group of terrorists.

The aftermath of 9-11 has also brought a new vision of international cooperation, which has, up till now, been mostly concentrated on economic issues. At this time, however, there is a shift in emphasis toward security matters. That is, how to jointly combat against the global network of terrorists and their financial resources. Recently, in order to tackle the issue of potential terrorist attacks in the future, various diplomats and scholars have argued that there is a need to develop a new concept of "liberal imperialism" or "reluctant imperialism." The arguments flourish but remain controversial and provocative. To date, there is no sound framework to understand how to rationalize our commitment and intervention in the so-called "failed states," such as Afghanistan or the Balkans. Thus, it is worthwhile to review some of these arguments here.

In this paper, I will summarize some of these new security arguments which may have implications for both US and Japanese security thinking. At the end of my presentation, I will give a verbal outline of some of the recent developments that have taken place in Japan in our efforts to fully participate in the international community and fulfill our security responsibilities. I will also describe the proposal we have come up with at the Institute of International Policy Studies (IIPS) for a new basic law of Japan's national security.

The New Liberal Imperialism
Tony Blair's former foreign policy adviser, Robert Cooper, the senior member of her majesty's diplomatic service given unusual license to publish, proposes a fresh look at humanitarian intervention. Cooper promotes a new liberal imperialism which places limits on state sovereignty. His arguments have outraged certain leftist elements including the British labor ministers of parliament, Tam Dalyell and Alan Simpson, but to discard Cooper's arguments as hubris misses the serious valid points he makes.

Cooper classifies nation states into the following three types:

1) The premodern states, such as the Balkans and Afghanistan, which are often former colonies that have failed or have been misgoverned. He describes these countries as largely in a state of "Hobbesian war of all against all."
2) The postmodern states, such as the member countries of the European Union (EU) plus Canada. Those countries whose security policy is no longer determined by invasion of another state. Moreover, in the postmodern states, the territorial as well as economic borders are blurred.
3) The traditional modern states, such as India, Pakistan or China, which continue to behave in the nineteenth century fashion of great powers. Their major concern is power projection capabilities.

The postmodern states have open and cooperative security arrangements. They would, however, suddenly resume the typical guise of a nineteenth century great power should they be threatened from the states and "need to revert to the rougher methods of an earlier era - force, pre-emptive attack, deception." At least, the threats from premodern states are not usually well prepared. They are often indirect: most premodern states are dysfunctional having lost sovereignty, so that they often become the sanctuaries of terrorists, drug smugglers, and all types of illegal business transactions. The threat to international society stems from these factors.

The major concern here is how to deal with this new challenge from the premodern states. Robert Cooper maintains that "The most logical way to deal with [pre-modern] chaos, and the one employed most often in the past, is colonisation. But colonisation is unacceptable to postmodern states…What is needed then is a new kind of imperialism, one acceptable to a world of human rights and cosmopolitan values. ….an imperialism which, like all imperialism, aims to bring order and organization but which rests today on the voluntary principle."

David Chandler, the author of From Kosovo to Kabul: Human Rights and International Intervention (Pluto Press, April, 2002), commenting on Robert Cooper's provocative yet bold assertion of new liberal imperialism (or voluntary imperialism or cooperative imperialism), states that in fact, Cooper's argument is "nothing new or exceptional." He maintains that "…Long before 11 September, the Labour government had been at the forefront of moves to downgrade the role of the United Nations and create new powers for ad hoc ‘coalitions of the willing' to wage war without the sanction of international law."

He continues that "Cooper's crime is not that of arguing for the end of the UN framework of international law and respect for equal rights of state sovereignty….Cooper's error is to pose these policies in the old-fashioned language of realpolitik and Western power." It is worth noting that the United States often ignored or even totally neglected the United Nations, but used the UN banner to justify American military intervention such as in the Korean War or the Gulf War, for example. Thus, there is nothing new when Cooper maintains that the UK would bypass the UN for new liberal imperialism. Like it or not, the US has always bypassed the UN. The question remains as to whether the US is a liberal empire or not.

Robert Cooper carefully refrained from calling the US a postmodern state. Canada is obviously a postmodern state. According to his rating, Japan is inclined to be postmodern, but its geographical location, surrounded by a group of modern states precludes Japan from a status of a fully fledged postmodern state. Then the question that inevitably arises is why Robert Cooper designates only the EU, the UK and Canada - all Western, capitalistic and Christian - as postmodern states.

The Reluctant Imperialist
In a rather different context, Sebastian Mallaby of The Washington Post in his article "The Reluctant Imperialist" develops a similar argument. According to Mallaby, in modern history, imperialism was the solution to threats posed to the great powers by power vacuums created by failed states. In the post-World War II era, this option had been ruled out as imperialism became a dirty word. In a nonimperialist world, assistance had been through foreign aid and nation building efforts. The United Nations and the World Bank, and even the IMF, are the multilateral alternatives to the nineteenth century type of European empires. Mallaby writes: "In the late 1980s, development theorists began to acknowledge that the main alternative to imperialism - economic aid - could not stabilize the weakest states." This has led to the collapse of authoritarian regimes and created many failed states in chaos. The need for nation building has been widely accepted.

Historically, the US has strong isolationist tendencies. A typical example is the Congressional veto against the creation of the International Trade Organization just after the end of World War II. Despite the fact that in terms of both economic and military might, the US is the most eligible candidate for a new type of imperialism, she is a reluctant one. The US does not even like to make strong commitments to nation building, in the Balkans, in the East Timor, and even in Afghanistan. The US' full-scale military intervention to topple the Taliban regime was an indisputable CNN moment. Some interpreted the sudden US intentions as rather selfish as having been motivated by the sole purpose of hunting down the perpetrators of the attacks on American lives and on the World Trade Center, the heart of American prosperity - the formidable terrorist group, Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. In the fight against terrorism the US dropped ammunition and sent combat soldiers into Afghanistan. Nevertheless, she has been consistently reluctant to play a major role in building a democratic state in Afghanistan, despite backing Japanese and EU endeavors to assist the new government of Hamid Karzai.

Mallaby points out two basic obstacles to the US playing an new imperial role. The first, is the fear that imperialism is simply not a suitable policy. Imposing order on the failed states is expensive and has no guarantee of success. The second obstacle is the ambiguity of the two alternatives - unilateralism or multilateralism. The US is uncertain whether to pursue the current unilateral approach in military intervention in Afghanistan for a prolonged period, or whether to revert to the multilateral approaches that had been successful in ending World War II. In short, Mallaby concludes that the US has not yet found a new "Manifest Destiny" in new imperialism.

The Logic of Human Security and Humanitarian Intervention
The former UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Mrs Sadako Ogata, apparently dislikes the appellation "failed states." She prefers to use "forgotten states" instead, as in, forgotten by the international community to describe the Balkans, certain African states, and Afghanistan. Mrs Ogata argues that because the international community stopped aid to Afghanistan, the Taliban regime had been able to maneuver power to replace the incompetent regimes brought in by the former Soviet Union. Her emphasis is on "human security."

In contrast to the well discussed concept of national security, human security has not been the subject of much cogitation. Partly due to this very lack, Cooper and Mallaby have tried to revitalize discussions with their concepts of new imperialism or new colonialism. Both imperialism and colonialism are based on national security: as defined by Michael Doyle, empires are the "relationships of political control imposed by some political societies over the effective sovereignty of other political societies" - that is, colonies. In order to maintain political control over colonies, military force is necessary, which is primarily for securing national security. Kimberly Zisk of Columbia's Barnard College points out the following four similarities between colonialism and the NATO's peacekeeping operations in the Balkans:

1) Riot control;
2) Incentives: rewards given to those who cooperate and the imposition of sanctions to those people who do not cooperate;
3) The use of military force to support particular political figures over detractors; and
4) The use of force to mobilize demographic change.

Therefore, as long as a distinct concept for human security per se, in and of itself, has not been developed, we will be caught in a logical trap: that is, no alternative to discuss human security but in terms of national security, so that the concept of human security is open to misinterpretation within the concept of nation-states. When human security is jeopardized, the nation will be a failed state, and the international community has an obligation to rescue that country. An effective method of rescue operation is nation building, but such nation building needs the revitalization of the concepts of empires and colonies. It is impossible to escape from such a circular argument.

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