Japan Foreign Minister Taro Aso has called America’s military operation in Iraq “immature” and “not working very well.”
Bureaucrats are scrambling to explain what he really meant — that he wasn’t against the use of force in Iraq and that there are other ways than using force “to build peace — but the bottom line is that Japan has gone wobbly in its previous steadfast support of George W. Bush’s crusade in Iraq.
Just a few weeks ago, Japan Defense Minister Fumio Kyuma declared his opposition to the Iraq War which he called “wrong.”
These are remarkable, important, and hopeful statements (though we’ll have to go through the charade of referring to them as gaffes for a while).
When Germany expressed its opposition to the war in Iraq, I feel (though many European friends of mine have taken strong exception to my view) that America’s satellite of interests inside Europe finally reclaimed its soul in its entirety back from American control.
In Japan, Prime Minister Koizumi — at one time believed to be a populist-leaning prime minister who would assert a new, more robust yet healthy nationalism based on Japanese interests rather than American designs — actually went the other direction. When Bush set the US towards a new war against Iraq, Koizumi sacrificed Japanese sovereignty and re-fixed Japan as a lapdog of US interests.
The dog is out of the lap, apparently. And Taro Aso — a grandson of the famed post-WWII bureaucrat turned prime minister Shigeru Yoshida — is testing the waters of a less-tethered Japan.
I think that this new independence and candid talk can take either a good or bad course. But right now, Japan stepping forward and knocking out one of the few key pillars of global support Bush had is a very good thing.
To paraphrase John McCain, Foreign Minister Aso’s comment about Bush’s war constitutes “a vote of no confidence.”
— Steve Clemons