Tribulations in the Middle East
Like their Meiji-era predecessors of a century ago, Japan's current leaders must balance their initiatives abroad with domestic considerations. As American interests spread across Eurasia and increasingly come into conflict with Islamist forces, the looming war in Iraq is viewed in some quarters as the culmination of a "clash of civilizations," pitting the industrialized West and its allies against the Muslim world. In this article, University of Tokyo professor Masayuki Yamauchi recalls an eighteenth-century war, precipitously embarked upon, in which Britain vied with Spain for trading rights with colonies in the New World. Present-day US public opinion is then contrasted with popular anti-war sentiment in other countries. Discussing the unintended victims of war, Yamauchi highlights the plight of the Kurds, caught between a rock and a hard place, and concludes by hinting at possible humanitarian and law-enforcement roles for Japan in a post-war Iraq.