Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Postscript of NHK Forum 1: Japan Has to Be a Pretty Boy in the Middle East? No way!

As I mentioned in the previous post, I attended an NHK TV forum on August 15. The debate was extremely excited. I would like to talk about two important points, I could not argue in the forum. The first postscript is on Japan’s pretty boy diplomacy in the Middle East. The second postscript is on Japanese nationalism and the US-Japanese alliance. Let me speak about the first one.

It is widely believed among the Japanese public that Japan’s position in the Middle East is completely different from those of America and Europe. Those who argue like this, mention the following reasons. First, Japan is not involved in the clash of civilizations between Christian West and Islam Middle East. Second, Japan has been a disinterested power, and never pursued imperialist policy in this region. Third, people in the Middle East admire Japan as a non-imperialist economic giant. However, I am determined to refute such airy fairy ideas, and insist that Japan stop being a pretty boy in the Middle East. Furthermore, I advocate that Japan must be at the heart of the Western alliance to promote enlightenment and democracy, and defeat Islamic radicals who are spiritually indulged in Dark Age ideals.

Unfortunately, when Yasuyuki Aizawa, Representative of Peace On, insisted Japan continue pretty boy diplomacy as mentioned above at the forum, I raised my hand but had no chance to rebut his comment. Therefore, I am writing the following arguments.

Whether love or hate, Middle East nations glorify the West much more than Japan. In one of previous posts, entitled “Five Questions on Islamic Radicalism”, I quoted an article in Foreign Policy, “What Makes a Muslim Radical?” in web exclusive version of November 2006. In this article, both John Epostino, professor of religion and international affairs at the Wash School of Foreign Service, and Dalia Mogahed, Executive Director of Muslim Studies for the Gallup Organization, conclude that Muslims in the Middle East ―― whether radical or moderate ―― admire Western liberal democracy.

There is nothing strange that Middle East civil societies and think tanks establish close partnership with Western counterparts. This is a vital fact, and I mention it in a previous post “Is Middle East Democratization a Neocon Plot?” further in detail.

Quite importantly, anti-establishment activists find their places for exile in the West, not in Japan. From there, activists fight against super villains in their counties, in order to win freedom of their fellow citizens. You can name it. The Iraqi National Congress led by Ahmad Chalabi was in London. Reza Pahlavi lives near Washington, D.C. Mariam Rajavi is based in London, and so forth. Pro-democracy activists make an appeal to Western media, and explore close contacts with Western civil societies. Their admiration to the West is apparent when someone sees some cyberspace communities, such as Persian Journal. This is an online forum of progressive Iranian journalists and bloggers. However, this site is published in English. This indicates clearly that Iranian civil societies expect substantial physical and spiritual help from America and Europe. Unfortunately, I do not find such a compelling expectation to Japan among Middle East citizens.

Establishments also look America and Europe far more than Japan. Arab princes and millionaires spend their holidays for shopping and sightseeing in London, Paris, and New York rather than in Tokyo. This is quite strange because some areas in Tokyo are no less attractive than those in American and European major cities. In the past, people regarded Tokyo as the headquarters of the Japanese Corporation. Nothing else. But today, Tokyo has become one of the centers of pop culture. Thanks to this reputation, Foreign Minister Taro Aso insists on conducting anime diplomacy to prevail Japanese soft power. Despite such reputation, Middle East establishments prefer to visit American and European cities.

Apparently, Japan’s pretty boy diplomacy leaves extremely weak impression on both anti-establishments and establishments in the Middle East.

More importantly Japanese people must keep alert to threats posed by radical Muslims. In terms of ideology, they are natural enemy to Japan. This is because they have been defying modernization and enlightenment in Turkey and Iran. This is a serious challenge to Japanese ideology of getting out of Dark Age Asia and becoming a Western Great Power. As widely known, Japan was in the process of spectacular evolution from the Meiji revolution to the Taisho democracy. I mention this evolution in “New Year Question 2: The Legacy of Queen Victoria in East Asian History” and A Radical Agenda for Japanese People.” Japan was a role model for both nations. Kemal Ataturk and Reza Pahlavi Ⅰ made a step toward rapid Westernization as Japan had done.

Turkish writing switched from Arabic characters to Roman alphabet. Turkey joins NATO and has been bidding for EU membership. Iran launched the White Revolution. Its country name means “the land of Aryans.” Clearly, Pahlavi shahs intended to distinguish their countries from backward Arab and Islamic neighbors. Japan differentiated itself from dormant Asians since the Opium War. Both Turkey and Iran followed exactly the same path of Japanese modernization.

However, the rise of Islamic radicals since the Iranian Revolution endangers Japanese values, and posing dreadful threats to Japanese national identity. Today, radicals are devastating Kemal’s dream that Turkey be firmly at the heart of Europe.

It is Japan’s shame to continue pretty boy diplomacy in the Middle East. Japan is a member of prestigious club of industrialized democracy. Therefore, Japan’s commitment to the Middle East must step up to the level of America and Europe. Historically, Japan has been the role model of modernization and enlightenment for Middle East nations. Theocrats, jihadists, terrorists, and rogue dictators are common enemy to the United States, Europe, and Japan. Therefore, it is Japan’s interest to act for Middle East reform along with America and Europe. Facts mentioned in this post substantiate that Japan’s pretty boy diplomacy in the Middle East is no pain and no gain.

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