Rethinking Japanese Public Opinion and Security: From Pacifism to Realism?

By Paul Midford | Go to book overview
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8
The Iraq War and the SDF

The Japanese public’s distinctive skepticism about the utility of offensive military power coupled with its skepticism of American offensive uses of military power and accompanying fears of entrapment, partially obscured by the initial shock of the 9/11 attacks, came roaring back to political salience by the time of the Iraq War and the debate about the SDF’s possible deployment there. Consequently, the ambitious plans of Koizumi and hawks regarding the Iraq deployment were thwarted. An envisaged security mission in support of the U.S. military was transformed into a humanitarian relief and reconstruction focused mission.

This chapter thus presents the final full case-study of SDF overseas deployment in this book: the public’s reaction to the Iraq War and the Koizumi cabinet’s deployment of the SDF to Iraq following the end of initial hostilities and the establishment of a U.N. mandate for foreign forces in that country. It shows that the public consistently and overwhelmingly opposed the Iraq invasion, displaying its characteristic skepticism about the utility of strategically offensive military power. Moreover, the public strongly opposed Koizumi’s plans to dispatch the SDF to Iraq, especially for missions that implied involvement in combat or support in any way for the U.S. war effort. Public opposition led to a drastic watering down of Koizumi’s initial ambitions and transformed the eventual dispatch into a Cambodia-style humanitarian relief and reconstruction mission.


Japanese Public Opinion toward the Invasion of Iraq

Japanese opinion about the prospect of attacking Iraq was, from the beginning, overwhelmingly critical. Although the size of the lopsided majority opposing the Iraq war waxed and waned over the months, it never shrank from clear majority status. Regarding the reasons for waxing and waning, the results in Table 8.1 suggest that the return of U.N. weapons inspectors and U.S. cooperation with the United Nations between September and December 2002 might have temporarily increased support for the eventual prospect of an attack on Iraq. However, by December 2002, as it became clearer that the

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