Germany and Japan: Bracketed

March 10, 1991

Not since World War II have Germany and Japan found themselves bracketed in so unflattering a way before the bar of world opinion. Having refused to commit troops in support of the anti-Iraq coalition, the two former Axis partners now are branded as "checkbook powers" for trying to fulfill their international obligations with cash reluctantly placed on the barrelhead.

They are discovering that this is not enough. They are finding that their status as economic superpowers no longer allows them to prosper behind a defense cordon erected by other nations.

Few nations had more to gain than Germany and Japan in the swift, low-casualty victory that the United States achieved over Saddam Hussein. Had the struggle turned bloody and lengthy, the anger against these allies now heard on Capitol Hill could have inflicted lasting damage. The appearance of Japanese and Germans as paymasters for American mercenaries, though an overdrawn image, is too intolerable to be repeated again.

Ironically, the pacifism that exists so markedly in these once militaristic countries is largely a U.S. creation. It can even be described as one of the finest achievements of U.S. diplomacy. After defeating the Axis powers in World War II, the U.S. saw to it that they adopted democratic constitutions that inhibited their war-fighting proclivities.

The "MacArthur Constitution" of Japan "forever renounce(s) war" and even says "land, sea and air forces. . . will never be maintained." Though a large Japanese "defense force" exists, it will be very difficult to amend the constitution to permit participation in U.N. operations. Because of popular outcry, Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu scrubbed plans to use military personnel to evacuate refugees from the gulf. He had to struggle to get parliamentary approval of a $9 billion contribution to war costs.

The German basic law is far less specific than the Japanese, but that has not prevented German officials from contending, inaccurately, that they are prevented from sending troops outside the NATO area. The constitution permits entry in "a system of mutual collective security," a provision so widely worded that it could embrace the anti-Iraq coalition as easily as NATO. The prospects for constitutional change to permit participation in U.N. operations are brighter in Germany than Japan.

Yet the institutionalized peace movement in Germany was able to turn out demonstrations dwarfing anything seen in Japan. Though Germany sent a fighter squadron to Turkey, a NATO ally, the Kohl government would not explicitly promise to aid Turkey in combat with Iraq. This earned a rebuke from Turkey's Prime Minister Turgut Ozal that Germany had lost its "fighting spirit."

In fact, this is an accurate statement, but not necessarily 8 8TC pejorative one. As Germany and Japan grope to find an international role commensurate with their economic might, the United States can take comfort that they no longer menace world peace as they did half a century ago.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.