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Monday, Dec. 23, 2002

JAPANESE PERSPECTIVES

Military supremacy cannot offset vulnerabilities in economic policy


Iraq has submitted its declaration on suspected weapons of mass destruction to the United Nations as required by the U.N. Security Council resolution. Since the massive report is more than 10,000 pages long, efforts by the U.N. and the United States to analyze its contents are expected to take some time. But the inspections by the U.N. team dispatched to Iraq have undergone a full-scale launch, and depending on their outcome, the U.S. attack on Iraq could take place at any time.

U.S. President George W. Bush has indicated the U.S. may act alone in any war against Iraq. His tough position is bolstered by the fact that the U.S. has become the world's sole military superpower. Operations in Kosovo and Afghanistan clearly show that the U.S. has expanded its military supremacy over the European Union, Russia and China.

However, we must not forget that this factor alone will not create a global unipolar power structure centered on the U.S. Sheer military might will not earn the U.S. the recognition it needs as a global leader, nor win it support from the international community.

While it is true force will be necessary to solve some of the problems confronting us today, force alone will be insufficient. What is more important than eliminating "evil forces" through military intervention is reconstructing countries and regions devastated by war. The situation in Afghanistan indicates post-conflict rehabilitation cannot be achieved by the U.S. alone. In addition to Afghanistan and Iraq, tensions are also mounting due to North Korea and the Middle East, as well as the global proliferation of terrorist activities.

President Bush recently axed his top economic advisers. In addition to their responsibility for the worsening condition of the U.S. economy, these officials reportedly mentioned the possibility of an attack on Iraq necessitating greater defense spending. They also saw the possibility of Iraq's reconstruction costing more than twice the value of the U.S. gross domestic product. The president may have been irked by these remarks because they exposed vulnerabilities in his policy.

The U.S. implemented the Marshall Plan for reconstructing Europe after World War II and changed its policy toward Japan as the Cold War began, helping Japan rebuild its economy. In those days, the U.S. gross national product accounted for nearly half of the world market economy. However, with the subsequent rise of Japan, Europe, and more recently, many developing countries, the U.S. economy's portion has declined to about one-quarter.

This trend will likely continue as the Southeast Asian and Chinese economies continue to grow.

In the currency markets, the dollar-yen exchange rate, which used to be fixed at 360 yen, is now down to about one-third that level. The dollar is also dropping below parity against the euro -- an indication of how the global economic power structure has changed over the decades.

When we think about the types of international contributions suitable to Japan's national interests, we must realize that being the world's sole military superpower is not necessarily the same as being the world leader.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has dispatched a destroyer equipped with the high-tech Aegis air-defense system to the Indian Ocean. The dispatch of this ship, which also features advanced intelligence-gathering capabilities, is something other U.S. allies cannot do to support antiterrorism efforts. Furthermore, the ship is expected to increase security for other Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyers and supply vessels already deployed.

With growing recognition of the threat posed by terrorism, New Komeito, one of the three members of the ruling coalition and a vocal opponent of dispatching Aegis ships, now condones Koizumi's decision. Japan should maintain a well-balanced perspective so it can contribute to international security in ways that will serve its national interests in a dynamically changing global environment.

Teruhiko Mano is an adviser to Tokyo Research International Ltd.


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