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I don’t wish to speculate on why the United States has embarked on a war against Iraq at this time. What is clear is that U.S. President George W. Bush and the influential aides in his administration believed — without appearing to entertain the slightest doubt — that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is dangerous and that an Iraq under his leadership would soon move to harm U.S. national interests.

It seems the majority of Americans accepted this belief, too. Otherwise, the U.S. recourse would not have been to launch a preventive military attack on Iraq in clear contravention of international conventions that prohibit expanded interpretations of the right of self-defense — for which the Tokyo Tribunal convicted Japanese war leaders — or intervention in the internal affairs of other nations.

The U.S. may have in mind a grandiose plan for creating a new world order, with the Iraq war the first step. But at present we lack sufficient evidence to support this contention. So I will confine my comments solely to the war.

The majority of the Japanese people, while detesting Hussein, seem to consider the war devoid of a cause and not supported by the international community at large. The Japanese — like many other nations — judge Hussein as presently incapable of attacking America; therefore, U.S. action is unjustifiable.

Nevertheless, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi was obliged to support the war because of the importance of the Japan-U.S. alliance. His popularity is bound to sag further, but it will not undo his political life as the Japanese understand that he did not make this momentous decision lightly. He had no choice.

Still, I for one am deeply saddened that a grossly unjust war has started and that Japan has no option other than to support it for a couple of reasons.

First, faced with a North Korea apparently intent on developing weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons and their delivery systems, the alliance with the U.S. has come to assume paramount importance for Japan, protected as it is by the U.S. nuclear umbrella. In fact, the threat posed by North Korea to Japan may be far more serious than that posed by Iraq to America.

It is evident that sooner or later the U.S. will be forced to deal with this issue. The problem is that if the Iraq war does not proceed according to plan, the mercurial mood of the American public could take a sudden turn toward isolationism.

If that happens, doubts will rise over whether U.S. efforts to abolish weapons of mass destruction will be as tough against North Korea as they have been against Iraq. It should be noted that a view circulating in America of late has it that Japan should protect its interests by going nuclear.

I am particularly saddened that Japan has no diplomatic options other than to support the U.S. amid such uncertainty. This latest predicament faced by Japan demonstrates the failure of post-World War II defense and diplomatic policies toward East Asia. Japan has failed to accommodate relations with its Northeast Asian neighbors.

In addition, Japan has not made any rational commitment to defense for decades due to the sentimental pacifism that has permeated the country since the end of World War II and the neglect by Japanese politicians catering to such pacifism. As a consequence, Japan has found itself deprived of the option to “disagree,” which exists between the U.S. and certain major European nations.

Second, it is usually possible for sovereign nations, even allies, to “agree to disagree” among themselves when major differences in views exist. At present, the Bush administration — like Zoroastrians who divide the world between good and evil — is forcing nations to take sides either as allies or as enemies. Such rigidity could suffocate the possibility of coexistence among civilizations.

It is very difficult for us to understand this transformation at the very moment that America has become the unrivaled superpower. It is much feared that if this American tendency continues, the world could be driven toward divisiveness and increasing danger.

It is indeed deplorable that the U.S. did not choose to take advantage of the excellent opportunity to construct a more harmonious world following the end of the long Cold war, and that they now seem to have chosen the path of forcing unilateral American values and standards of justice on the entire world.

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