The seeming helplessness and frustration in the face of world events that had gripped Americans since the Vietnam War have finally passed. National unity has returned to America as the Bush administration's affirmation of the rule of law and morality has gained worldwide support. Thankfully, the woeful possibility that the United States might withdraw into neo-isolationism after the Cold War has diminished. In fact, the opposite concern - the restoration of Pax Americana - has now arisen among many nations.
While the free world shares in the joy surrounding the restoration of world order, some wariness is emerging that the United States, intoxicated with a decisive Persian Gulf victory under its leadership, might become inclined to take unilateral action in world affairs and increase pressure on other governments with respect to critical trade and economic issues.In Japan, there is a belief that perfection is imperfect. That is, while virtual success serves as the basis for future success because it encourages caution, complete success may lead to future failure because it creates room for complacency.
Especially with its menacing domestic problems - the very large trade and fiscal deficits, the savings-and-loan crisis, unemployment, education and social welfare deficiencies, and drugs - the United States must be careful now to avoid both complacency and the overextension of its power as it basks in the exuberant celebration of just victory.
Japan and Germany, America's principal global economic partners, can help avoid the mistake of the imperfection of perfection in the new international order by learning an important lesson from their less-than-satisfactory participation in the gulf war. For the moment, Japan and Germany may be required to play a principally economic role. In addition to a mere financial contribution, however, both should begin moving beyond existing legal constraints and prepare to participate more fully in future international efforts to keep the peace.
As an immediate goal, Japan should begin to clear the road for participation of the Self-Defense Forces in peacekeeping operations and logistical support of peace restoration efforts authorized by the United Nations. Japan's cooperation should include the supply and transportation of materials, communications, medical services and construction of facilities by SDF noncombat units.
Japan must either amend the SDF law or enact legislation similar to the U.N. Peace Cooperation Bill, which failed to pass in the last Diet session. The constitution need not be amended since the overseas dispatch of SDF non-combat units is not unconstitutional. Yet, even these moves will require immense political efforts in Japan to change a public consciousness still wedded to an outmoded concept of "one-nation pacifism."
Japan and Germany should show that they are allies of the United States that can be counted on to work together under the U.N. charter in crises that threaten Western security.
In the gulf war, Iraq's actions were a blatant violation of international law. The nature of the issue was easily understood, and supportive world opinion was easily mustered. But we should regard this episode as an exceptional case. In preparation for the future, a new formula for responsibility-sharing among the leading industrial Western nations, based on the experiences of the gulf crisis, should be built to share and alleviate America's burden. Such cooperation should combine three elements:
- A political framework for security and stability, such as the highly successful Conference for Security and Cooperation in Europe, for each of the world's regions or sub-regions, large or small.
- An international mechanism under U.N. auspices to regulate and monitor or ban arms exports to a country that possesses, or intends to possess, an incomparably large military capability in the region. Under this mechanism, the export of the so-called ABC weapons - atomic, biological and chemical - as well as long-range missiles should be totally banned.
- A planned military compatibility (of equipment, command and control, etc.) for the rapid deployment of allied forces, based on the success of the Rapid Deployment Forces established by the Americans in the Carter-Reagan era.
Throughout the gulf crisis, the indispensable role of the U.S. as the sole superpower has been confirmed and an excellent precedent for a U.N.-based settlement of armed conflict has been set. It is now time for other Western powers to take up their responsibilities and flesh out the appropriate structure of the new world order.
There is no doubt that the United States, with its sense of mission and military capability, is a key player in maintaining this world order. Yet I believe the world expects the United States in this new era to be a "humble superpower," coordinating with Japan and other Western superpowers, and consulting with China and the Soviet Union to construct a new "Pax Consortium" to fill in the post-Cold War security vacuum.
991 New Perspectives Quarterly
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