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U.S. faces bigger issues than hitting Iraq.
September 3, 2002 3:59 PM   Subscribe

U.S. faces bigger issues than hitting Iraq. A former Japanese diplomat--now chairman of the English-Speaking Union of Japan-- offers a quintessentially Japanese view regarding the manifest folly of a US attack on Iraq. (From The Japan Times). Mr. Hanabusa underscores the formidable difficulty of the victor's creating anything but a puppet "regime change." Since Japan has had some recent experience in this regard, his words merit contemplation by those who favor an immediate attack and damn the foreseeable consequences thereof.
posted by rdone (26 comments total)

 
Since Japan has had some recent experience in this regard

It's not quite as simple as that, is it?
I'm totally unconvinced about an attack on Iraq, but one interpretation of the regime replacement after the 2nd World War, is that Japan went on to create - with Allied force - a social democratic market based society where tyranny and aggression has been eradicated.

A very real question is: can that be done in the culture of Iraq, not 'is it a good idea ever?'
posted by dash_slot- at 4:11 PM on September 3, 2002


A very real question is: can that be done in the culture of Iraq, not 'is it a good idea ever?'

Surely the first stage is that America has to explain to the rest of the world what the plan is, should an invasion be successful in removing Saddam. Only if there is a credible plan in place can support of an invasion even be contempleted. So far no such plan has been presented. An assurance of "trust us, we know what we're doing" does not cut the mustard.

The issues of whether Saddam is developing weapons of mass destruction, whether such weapons would offer a threat to the security of the Unites States and whether other courses of action could achieve the same or better results have also so far remained unanswered. Only when the rest of the world receives answers to all these questions will an invasion garner any support.
posted by salmacis at 4:22 PM on September 3, 2002


Of course "regime change" is not simple. The transformation of Japan was a shattering experience, possible only after the most devastating military defeat in world history, and assisted by the real and assuredly threatening military might of Japan's chief modern enemy: Russia. The threat of Stalin and the Stalinists was the catalyst that forced the reaction: the survival of Japan depended on its cooperation with the United States against the Comintern. Moreover, the Japanese society was racially and culturally uniform, with a national history (at least since 1600 or so) of docile subjection to authoritarian rule.

That Japan survived the post war "regime change" reaction is a tribute to the Japanese. What is presaged for Iraq cannot be compared to the Japanese experience: ethnic and religious fault lines present today in Iraq were absent in Japan. Iraq itself is a League of Nations construct, not a traditional national geographic homeland entity, like Japan.

Japan's experience shows how difficult it is to transform a cultural unit. That change continues to this day, fifty years on. I don't see that Richard Perle has any plans to devote the time, effort and American treasure needed to "regime change" Iraq.
posted by rdone at 4:54 PM on September 3, 2002


What are the underlying reasons to establish a puppet regime, you ask?
posted by puddsharp at 5:00 PM on September 3, 2002


i love how they put quote marks on the word terrorist.

typical japanese logic- whining

('oh, some of us resent the occupation force')
say that to half a asia tojo....oh ne's dead isn't he.

That Japan survived the post war "regime change" reaction is a tribute to the Japanese

I'm sorry. i take issue. the japanese survived with the culture intact and it was due to U.S. benevolence and MacArthurs goodpolicies that made they japanese "survive".

Moreover, the Japanese society was racially and culturally uniform, with a national history (at least since 1600 or so) of docile subjection to authoritarian rule.

The Tokugawa docile to subjectation? boy, if that fella could come back from the dead....are you kidding. the japanese have never been invaded and have proven most capable of resisting authority.
posted by clavdivs at 5:07 PM on September 3, 2002


Invading Iraq and destroying the Hussein regime and any WMD capability in order to protect us from an Iraqi-manufactured WMD in the hands of some terrorists willing to use it is our goal. Having a friendly, free, liberal democracy government take Saddam's place would be nice, and we'll probably do what we can to see it happen, but it is by no means NECESSARY to protect us from nukes, nor is it even remotely necessary for the United States to lay out the post-war plan before the first shot is fired. That's fucking ridiculous.
posted by techgnollogic at 5:20 PM on September 3, 2002


Please use quotations around the word "our" techgnollogic. Speak for yourself but don't speak for "us".

Thanks for your attention to this matter.
posted by filchyboy at 5:40 PM on September 3, 2002


clavdius:

The Tokugawa shogunate *was* the 250 year "authoritarian rule" to which the Japanese docilely subjected themselves.

techg-no-llogic:

Achieve the "goal" and then split? Leaving one or more failed states behind? A Kurdistan for Turkey to chew on? Half of Iraq full of Shiites under Iranian control? Including the port of Basrah? Not to mention the Shatt-al-Arab?

If Vietnam taught us nothing, it taught us that a sound exit strategy is always necessary. Unless we face up--right here and right now--to the expected consequences of *winning* we have no business attacking Iraq.
posted by rdone at 5:52 PM on September 3, 2002


As always, the Japanese speak with unmatched moral authority regarding the unacceptability of nuclear war. The points about rebuilding after a war are also well taken.
posted by sheauga at 6:04 PM on September 3, 2002


No no no... I *want* us to work to improve the entire Iraqi situation, for the benefit of the Iraqis and the rest of the free world. I said I expect us to do so... after Saddam has been crushed. But some people would like to suggest that unless we can guarantee complete success in rebuilding the Iraqi government properly, we shouldn't even think about attacking. Unless you can guarantee a conviction, you shouldn't even arrest any suspects?

Filtchy: By "our" and "us" I mean people willing to use necessary force to defend themselves and the principles they stand for. Didn't mean to suggest that every American was such a person.
posted by techgnollogic at 7:03 PM on September 3, 2002


techgnollogic: that's a silly semantic game. Don't play it or we'll laugh at you. Who's we? Oh, all right-thinking people, of course - didn't mean to suggest that every Metafilterian was such a person.

Your conflation of "willing to use necessary force to defend themself" and "Invading Iraq and destroying the Hussein regime... is our goal" merely restates your opinion, with an implied insult toward those who disagree, and without adding any substance to the discussion.
posted by Mars Saxman at 7:16 PM on September 3, 2002


"I would hate to see all the postwar good will the Japanese had shown America -- despite the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki -- evaporate overnight and be replaced by a deep-rooted distrust and even hatred of the Americans."

In my experience - limited but real, after a year and a half in Tokyo - when a Japanese man of Hanabusa's stature and generation uses the formulation "I would hate to see X," it means nothing of the sort.

Despite my personal total lack of desire to see an American invasion of Iraq, I find this column disingenuous at best.
posted by adamgreenfield at 7:30 PM on September 3, 2002


by "our" and "us" i mean me and people like me
posted by techgnollogic at 7:31 PM on September 3, 2002


As always, the Japanese speak with unmatched moral authority regarding the unacceptability of nuclear war
Um..why do they have moral authority? Documents from the war time Japanese government show that it was researching the atomic bomb. It wasn't in a very advanced stage of development, but they were trying. Certainly Japan had had an atomic bomb they would've used it on their enemies. So why the moral high ground? If they'd had the bomb, they would've used it, pure and simple. Not using something horrible because you haven't got it doesn't make a moral authority on anything
posted by unreason at 7:36 PM on September 3, 2002


[off topic] rdone, please use more than one link when you post a news story, especially when it can lead to a flamed discussion. Suggestion: use sheauga's tips to search for supporting / opposite arguments. thanks. [/off topic]
posted by MzB at 7:38 PM on September 3, 2002


techgnollogic, your self-apologetic attitude regarding the perceived intentions of the current leadership to actually provide security to the US, or our allies, is fucking ridiculous. This is akin to control-freak denial.
posted by acridrabbit at 7:41 PM on September 3, 2002


unreason - Completely agreed.

I try hard to hold on to a nuanced viewpoint on these matters. It goes something like this:

1. Hiroshima, justifiable militarily, given the perception that the bombing ushered the Pacific war to an early end. Still, by any lights, a human tragedy of enormous proportions.

2. Nagasaki, unjustifiable on grounds of tactical or strategic necessity. Possibly a war crime, and again, a huge human tragedy.

3. It is necessary to consider these events separately in any attempt to derive a moral calculus of warfare, let alone a moral equivalence of acts of warfare, given their divergent contexts.

4. Regardless of how one views the atomic bombings of Japan, the mere act of having suffered them does not confer automatic moral superiority on the target nation, especially when:

- 4a. That nation was the aggressor and instigator of conflict;
- 4b. That nation conducted, as a matter of routine, operations far beyond the pale of any justifiable military action (i.e. the Unit 731 biological "experiment" atrocities);
- 4c. That nation conducted, as a matter of routine, rape and murder of civilian populations, on an extent unparalleled in modern times (in Nanking and the Philippines, to name just two loactions);
- 4d. That nation's forces routinely and regularly violated the laws of land warfare by, e.g., torturing and executing prisoners of war; and finally,
- 4e. That nation would certainly have employed atomic weaponry on civilian populations had it had recourse to same.

I shall never be among those that argue that America is always the white knight in shining armor. However, I find any attempt by Japan to claim the moral high ground in these discussions, and thus rewrite history, disgustingly santimonious and hypocritical.
posted by adamgreenfield at 8:31 PM on September 3, 2002


ok, these last few posts have conveniently sidestepped the real gist of the article, which is that to consider the invasion of Iraq as simply a justified and righteous move is short-sited and counterproductive. Read it again, and perhaps try to consider the criticisms for what they are, criticisms. It is easy enough to see the message, how about the point? Try this with any country's leadership, but perhaps start with the one that we are supposed to have some control over. (is my naivete showing? sorry, still believe in the things that make America great, the value of the individual, and not the flag-waving media bullshit.)
posted by acridrabbit at 9:25 PM on September 3, 2002


rdone:What is presaged for Iraq cannot be compared to the Japanese experience.
I that's the case then why is a Japanese persons opinion any more relevant than anyone elses? In fact, wouldn't it be even less relevant (assuming you are judging relevence from factors other than the persons actual arguments)?
posted by davidgentle at 11:02 PM on September 3, 2002


Unfortunately, the criticisms in the article are few and ill-founded.

America is unlikely to ask for Japanese military and financial support in any war on Iraq. While many Japanese resent the systematic demolition of Japanese values during the Occupation, the rest of Asia is pretty damn happy with it and the related end to the stream of brutal and racist Japanese invasions. Finally, the current government in Iraq is responsible for at least some of the present state of the I/P conflict due to its payments to the relatives of suicide bombers, so a war there is "dealing" with the I/P issue in a very real way.

Am I convinced that war on Iraq is the right way to go? Not totally. But this kind of whining and self-righteous posturing certainly isn't making me any less convinced.
posted by jaek at 11:14 PM on September 3, 2002


typical japanese logic- whining

Absolute racism.

Imagine if I'd write "typical black american logic- whining"? How long could that statement last without me being thrown off the board?

I assume this is a symptom of how Americans have always justified the sole use of nuclear weapons on civilians without batting an eye.

Civilians. There's a concept. Civilians do not make for the portrayal a government projects for its country onto the world.

I'm sorry. i take issue. the japanese survived with the culture intact and it was due to U.S. benevolence and MacArthurs goodpolicies that made they japanese "survive".

I'm sorry clav. I didn't realize you were a Japanese native. Because you know, only someone who was Japanese would know about the sacrifice the Japanese people had to make in order to survive. Cleared up at last.
posted by crasspastor at 12:11 AM on September 4, 2002


Invading Iraq and destroying the Hussein regime and any WMD capability in order to protect us from an Iraqi-manufactured WMD in the hands of some terrorists willing to use it is our goal.

The real question is, who's going to invade the US and save us all from the Bush regime and his WMD?
posted by dogmatic at 12:40 AM on September 4, 2002


Look, I don't think we ought to attack Iraq just because we've been talking about it. I find the al Qaeda connection tenuous; and I am uncomfortable with the idea that we're just gonna invade 'cause it's our to-do list. So I'm willing to listen to what Mr. Hanabusa has to say.

Still, I find it incredible that Mr. Hanabusa can compare the post-conflict parallels between a defeated Japan and a (presumptively) defeated Iraq, but can summon not one word of comparison for the antecedents.

He ignores the fact that at the conflict's outset, his country was a radicalized dictatorship with expansionist, imperial ambitions and a penchant for attacking without warning -- that just such an attack was, until very recently, this country's formative cautionary parable of vigilance.

He ignores the fact that our imposition of economic sanctions -- as a response to unmitigated Japanese barbarism on the Asian mainland -- provided a justification for Japan's leaders to strike our country without warning. Many Japanese even today believe that U.S. sanctions forced their country into war, and that those sanctions were a deliberate U.S. provocation. Does Mr. Hanabusa consider it impossible that another dictator under sanctions feels the same justifications today?

He doesn't mention that Japan's "progressive" willingness to reform was purchased with the lives of hundreds of thousands of Japanese and American citizens. He can't possibly believe that Iraqis are less interested in reform than the pre-war Japanese.

I'm not saying any of this will happen in the Middle East. Maybe from their perspective we're the expansionist imperium. Maybe Iraqi aircraft carriers aren't actually steaming toward Oahu right now. Even so, it seems as if some part of his analysis has fallen into an all-too-Japanese blind spot regarding his own country's past.
posted by coelecanth at 12:43 AM on September 4, 2002


Keep in mind that Japan has virtually no natural resources to speak of, especially oil, and for this reason they are even more dependant on the Middle East than most Western countries. For many years Japan has bent over backward to kiss a lot of Middle East butt, even going so far as unofficially banning any highly visible media (movies, news reports, etc.) which openly criticizes the oil-rich nations.

That being said, I don't personally support an invasion, but neither do I consider Japan's opinion completely unbiased. For some good insight into Japan, check out Karel von Wolferen's "The Enigma of Japanese Power." Many expatriates who lived in Japan for a long time say that they never understood Japan until they read this book.
posted by Brewer at 6:33 AM on September 4, 2002


The Tokugawa shogun *was* the 250 year "authoritarian rule" to which the Japanese docilely subjected themselves

i have to discard docile sir. it is too...weak a word as the shogun produced many advancements. isolation being one. also the rising taxes and land reform were met with riots at times and there would have been more civil disorder if all them samurai where disarmed....hmmm. my point is about attitude. subservient yes and where quibbling about a word, but docile...no. The rigid class structure was apparent before but seemed expanded with the Eta classification and its rigidity. These peoples had greater freedoms in some aspects.


crass, the tojo comment was offensive more then anything.
no, racism would entail mentioning the Ainu people.

to me, the japanese are whining on this issue (at least the writer), forgetting the aggression of it's former empire. don't talk about the bomb when i see the results of japanese experiments on civilians. The summary executions in Indochine. The puppet regime in 'Manchuko' (sic sp) The japanese people paid for these tragedies by lose of life and occupation. No i am not japanese crass, and a few semesters on its culture and a few kurusawa films don't make me a pundit. But from the research and reading i've done, as a whole, in hindsight, the U.S. occupation of Japan was one of the least disruptive to a culture. Yes, some resent the occupation. i respect the ones who hate us for the bomb(s). Where we that fair to the south during reconstruction? heck no.
not racism crass, just some generalizations.
but see this, do we as americans have a right to be a war like after 9-11. when say, an american company killed roughly 17,000 in India (er, assuming Union Carbide is american)
good question and yes, we have a right to wage war. we also have an obligation to make sure the union carbides of the world don't happen again.
and ask the average japanese...occupation by the soviets or the U.S. and crass, I'm one of the few hawks who would not have used the bomb in the manner it was.

I have e-mail from 1995 (printed) between our class and a class in Kobe. we posed questions to another. all the japanese questions had to do with america being a violent country with big guns. a country who lost its manufacturing dominance and soul to lazy greed and no morals. I mean those have validity but that was from about 20 students, all saying the same cheeseburger questions.
and they are relevant questions...all of them...on the same topic.
posted by clavdivs at 10:17 AM on September 4, 2002


rebuttal crass?....No?...i didnt think so.
cleaned and mopped up
posted by clavdivs at 8:33 AM on September 5, 2002


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