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Stories of our boys, but for whom? The Japanese media's coverage of the SDF in Iraq

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The dispatch of the Japanese Self Defence Forces (SDF) to Iraq following the US invasion was a watershed in the transformation of Japan's defence and security policy, from its traditional pacifist policy toward deeper involvement in international security issues. The Japanese media covered the situation in Iraq mainly in the context of Japan's policy regarding the SDF. An analysis of editorials in major Japanese newspapers shows that media concern regarding the SDF reached a peak during the proceedings on legislation to allow the dispatch of the SDF, but decreased dramatically following the dispatch. The presence of the SDF in Iraq became an issue that was too close to home. As a result, criticism became impossible, and the debate on the SDF became limited to the issue of morality and the loyalty of the Japanese people to the government. The analysis also shows that the original motivation for the dispatch of the SDF was not perceived as a domestic factor but as a reflection of Japan's relationship with the United States. Thus, the Japanese media failed to grasp the situation surrounding the SDF within the overall context of domestic political developments in Iraq.
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Keywords: JapanUS relations; Japanese defence policy; Samawa; mass media; reconstruction of Iraq

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Tokyo University of Foreign Studies.

Publication date: 19 October 2007

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  • The International Journal of Contemporary Iraqi Studies is a new peer-reviewed, tri- annual, academic publication devoted to the study of modern Iraq. In recognition of Iraq's increasingly important position on the world stage, the time is right for a new journal dedicated to scholarly engagement with the country.
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