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In the midst of debates about whether the Self-Defense Forces should be dispatched to the far corners of the globe to assist a military alliance partner, an obscure episode involving the Imperial Japanese Navy a century ago in the Mediterranean Sea offers key lessons for today’s politicians, bureaucrats and military leaders.

In August 1914 at the outbreak of World War I, Japan, deciding to honor the terms of its 1902 alliance with Great Britain, declared war on Germany despite deep misgivings among many in the government and army, who felt Germany would prevail. The war in Europe quickly became a stalemate along the Western Front, with both sides dug into trenches, unable to achieve a decisive victory.

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