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Home > Opinions Last Updated: 15:03 03/09/2007
May 8, 2003

Clear Principles Needed for Supporting Iraq

Kenichi Ohno (Professor, National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies)

Peace building and human security -- these are the newly added objectives in reviewing Japan's policy on official development assistance (ODA), and restoration of Iraq would be a live field to test its feasibility. For Japan to participate not merely in post-battle clean up operations, clear principles for providing foreign aid and assistance should be established so that Japan can show its vision vividly to the outside world in regard to such issues as long term development strategy.

Insufficient discussion on the objective of assistance

The general framework of ODA is under review. The current framework was established at a cabinet meeting in 1992, and recognizing the changes in circumstances since then the government is planning to revise the framework by the middle of the year. The new framework is expected to include such aspects as peace building and human security, on top of development-related items such as growth and poverty. Japan has already utilized ODA as a means to build peace in Cambodia, East Timor, and Afghanistan, and by spelling out this type of assistance in writing the new framework intends to express Japan's will to promote usage of assistance in these manners in the future.

Until now Japan was not able to show its principle of assistance publicly and so had to stay a step behind international organizations and other donor countries in drafting development strategies even when Japan would be supporting a significant portion of total contributions. In other words, Japan has not thoroughly discussed the objective of ODA in terms of what sort of result it is aiming to achieve by it. Refining technical details in approval procedures or evaluation methods of ODA would not provide a whole picture, and whether Japan's ODA has in fact been beneficial to developing countries remains unclear. This flaw can be mended and the value of Japan's ODA reconfirmed by expanding the scope of ODA to include peace building and human security.

Assistance is not a conclusive measure by itself, and is effective only when used as a tool in realizing peace in a market economy guided by democracy. Diplomacy in this sense should not be a device to serve self-interests, but rather should be an effort to weave Japan's interests with stabilization and prosperity on a global scale. This is where diplomacy at senior levels must play a more effective role for ODA to become effective.

In making donations a country would ordinarily seek the best balance between effective results and minimizing the tax burden of their citizens. Japan, however, has compensated for its lack of imagination by donating more money. A very significant and inefficient donor indeed, but severe fiscal conditions no longer allow such inefficiency.

Present a Japanese vision of development

Assistance to Iraq must be assessed within this new frame of reference. Japan's diplomatic policy has been based upon relationships with the US and the UN, and when their policies conflict Japan is at a loss. The Koizumi government from very early stages expressed its unconditional support for the US, and indicated its intention to play an active role in restoration of Iraq and the region. A sense of contrition from when Japan was denounced for a slow response during the first Iraqi war could have played a big part in this hasty decision by the Administration.

Some commend Koizumi for courageously expressing his stance unlike his predecessors, and for keeping the alliance with the US with a threat from North Korea materializing. It seems, however, that many Japanese feel a certain level of anxiety and uneasiness toward US military action and the attitude of Japan's government. Though Saddam Hussein may have been evil, people also sense that Bush's way may have been too forceful and aggressive. I feel that this naive impression among people is not something that can be ignored as a result of peace-addiction or diplomacy-deafness, which Japanese are often accused of.

It was expected from the outset that the US and UK forces would win the physical battle and as a result the region would experience chaos instead of stability. Nothing was resolved by the war. Japan's obsessive notion that money and personnel must be provided as soon as the battle ceases is out of desire to stay in line with Western allies, but this lacks vision as a diplomatic strategy. Have the intentions of Iraq and other countries in the region been considered? Have policy measures been thought out in dealing with rising anti-US terrorist activities? The situation is not as simplistic as Japan being applauded for giving money to the people in the region after supporting the attack by the US.

Providing post-conflict assistance is not enough If Japan sincerely wishes to contribute in peace building in the area. Aid targeted only to post-conflict situations that do not factor in real causes and mechanisms of dissension would be a futile endeavor in the long run and would not put people out of misery. People at home would not accept tax hikes if it were a result of the government's unwise policies. If Japan is to assist Iraq, it should at least formulate its own vision and actively participate in building a new nation based upon it.

The plan the US has laid out in rebuilding Iraq is unrealistic and could even fuel instability. The plan must be altered so that it can be a roadmap acceptable to the people of Iraq, other countries in the region, and international society. As for the economy, in addition to immediate recovery and humanitarian support, long-term development strategy design needs to commence when political stability is regained.

Considering the rich oil reserves in Iraq, measures must be implemented to secure income from sale of oil to flow into the government's coffers, to protect the Iraqi economy from violent fluctuations of international oil prices, and to guarantee budgets and public spending to nurture growth. Realistic plans to foster growth of industry must be formulated. Goals must be set for human resources development and structural reform in order to determine policy priorities. A long-term vision is more important than the framework as to who the US or the UN is going to lead the process.

Formulate a plan to coexist in multiplicity

There are two more proposals to add.

First is to have the new policy on ODA state Japan's philosophy and principle on its assistance policy in a dignified manner at the very beginning or the document. It does not suffice to simply throw in such words as peace and prosperity. It must state Japan's proposal to the world, on the values it adheres to, the desired forms of contribution, and the part it wishes to play in the world based upon realities such as globalization, over- concentration of power, rise of anti-US sentiment, and recent international cooperation in poverty curtailment.

The second proposal is for Japan to include in its proposal to the world the idea of coexistence in multiplicity. Many conflicts and terrorist actions after the cold war originated in the accumulation of discontentment by developing countries unable to cope with strong pressures to change and reform from outside, and behind their hardships was American unilateralism.

American style democracy and market economy is indeed a respectable model but not something absolute and certainly not something countries should be forced to adopt. A mighty nation that sees those accepting its principles as good and those opposing them as evil, and that considers it proper to make a preemptive attack on what it considers evil while ignoring the UN along the way must be stopped by the international society. There is a fundamental principle here that must be addressed seriously.

Diversified cultures tend to cause frictions, especially after the IT revolution, but ignoring the differences is unproductive. Determination and patience are needed to live with or even to actively cope with contradictions and intercultural frictions, because they are going to stay forever. As the first step, Japan needs to upgrade its relationship with the US.

Japan need not confront the US like France or Germany. It could support the US, but an ally should have its own ways to get a message through. Japan should make it clear upfront that the support is conditional, then propose matters for discussion among Western allies on topics such as the UN's lead in the affair, protection of Iraqi rights on oil reserves, methodology of establishing a new government, maintenance of law and order, protection of cultural heritage, and means to curtail foreign debts.

Expressing its will unilaterally to provide assistance while fierce bargaining is still going on deprives the clout needed for negotiations. Diplomacy needs ability to draw a grand concept while shrewdness is required to realize immediate objectives.

As for further commitment, possibilities should be sought to provide those who have been repressed with some means to help themselves recover self-reliance, to give them hope. Combined with such policy objectives, the current emergency assistance program could acquire true value. Ideas such as peace building and human security sound good, but in order for the ideology to function as a guiding principle in executing ODA a considerable amount of preparation is necessary. Japan has not yet done that.

(This is an English translation of the original Japanese article, published in "Nihon Keizai Shimbun," April 25, 2003)

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