Skip to main content
Op-Ed

ON JAPAN: Time to Speak Up

Edward J. Lincoln

Saddam Hussein is clearly a dangerous and violent political leader. He has
amassed chemical and biological weapons, and used them against both Iran and
his own citizens. He invaded Kuwait. He used Japanese and other hostages as
a ?human shield? for several months after that invasion. He has tried to
develop nuclear weapons. He expelled UN inspectors. His military forces have
repeatedly fired on allied planes enforcing the no-fly zones across northern
and southern Iraq.

President Bush and some of his right-wing advisors are eager to initiate
a war to remove Saddam Hussein and his military machine from power. That
initiative has now been temporarily blunted by Iraq?s decision to re-admit
the UN inspectors. But there is no doubt whatsoever that military action
remains high on the agenda. Proponents of war in the Bush administration
will watch for every little obstacle to the inspectors and portray it as a
reason to declare the UN effort a failure requiring immediate American
action.

But military invasion is not the only option. Indeed, a strong and very
public argument has occurred between “hawks” and “doves” in the
administration over the past several months. Even many professional military
people I know think that invading Iraq is the wrong policy at the present
time. With policy still under debate in Washington and ample room to doubt
the necessity of war, this is a critical time for America?s friends to
speak up. As the Japanese public and government ponder how they should
react, I would like to emphasize that there are several very important
reasons to oppose war.

First, invasion of Iraq raises huge moral concerns. Without an actual
attack by Iraq, or a threat of imminent attack, how can we justify this
action? The United States cannot go around the world removing suspicious
dictators just because they are not to America’s liking. Arguing that he
might have some weapons of mass destruction and might possibly use them at
some indeterminate point in the future is simply not sufficient
justification for a massive preemptive military action.

Second, the administration has revealed no new evidence to prove an
attack by Iraq is imminent. If controls on trade (though imperfect) and
inspections have stymied Saddam Hussein?s effort to increase his arsenal of
weapons of mass destruction for 10 years, why not continue on this path?
Containment has not been uniformly effective, but we should be able to
prevent acquisition of nuclear capability and keep his chemical and
biological capabilities sufficiently limited to make their use unlikely.

Third, attacking Iraq is supposed to be part of the war on terrorism—a
war that Japan supports. But the administration admits it has no evidence of
a link between Iraq and the Al Qaeda terrorists. Attacking Iraq because it
might possibly use its weapons of mass destruction through terrorist actions
in the future is not an acceptable reason for invasion today.
Finally, there is little evidence that the Bush administration has
thought through the consequences of invasion of Iraq. The United States will
win the war—quickly and decisively. But what will be the impact on
political relations in the Middle East? What will happen to America’s? (And
from a Japanese perspective, what will happen to Japan?s reputation as an ally of the United States?) Are Americans willing to occupy defeated Iraq
for a number of years as a new political system is built? Who will do the
occupying, and who will pay for it? Japan? This lack of clarity in broader
or longer-term objectives and the policies to achieve them is especially
worrisome, but typical of the simplistic thinking of the hawks in this
administration.

Prime Minister Koizumi was right to emphasize the need to work this
problem through the United Nations when he met with President Bush in New
York. But just a few days later, I listened to Foreign Minister Kawaguchi
say publicly in Washington that the U.S.-Japan security relationship is as
close as it has ever been, and that she, too, believes the United States
always makes the right decisions on foreign policy—practically a carte
blanche to the Bush administration on Iraq. To be sure, she emphasized the
importance of working through the UN, but other than that, her endorsement
of the administration?s policies was unconditional. The danger for Japan is
that the hawks in the administration may convince the President that the UN
mission is a failure and that the United States must take unilateral action.
What will the Japanese government do then?

Sadly, if the Bush administration makes a superficial effort at working
through the UN, Prime Minister Koizumi will have little choice but to
support an American war on Iraq. Is that what the Japanese people really
want? I believe that the world would be better off if leaders like Prime
Minister Koizumi would deliver a message of strong opposition to President
Bush. Otherwise, the Bush administration might well end up doing something
truly unfortunate.

More

Get daily updates from Brookings