If there is an unforgettable date that marks the beginning of the twenty-first century, it is that of 11th September 2001. Whether and how far the terrible events of that day will have changed the history of the new century and set it on a course other than that it would otherwise have taken will be for future historians to say. The terrorist attacks on the United States led to a war that largely eliminated the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden's organization from Afghanistan. Its rationale was proclaimed to be that of an international struggle against terrorism. In February 2002, President Bush publicly described Iraq, Iran and North Korea as an 'axis of evil', in that they were dictatorial states sponsoring terrorist activities. Subsequently, a hard-line Israeli government, faced with a spate of suicide bombings in Israeli cities, occupied many areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority, in an attempt to 'root out the terrorist infrastructure'. But Israel, in its turn, became the subject of widespread condemnation as the perpetrator of 'state terrorism'. The initial apparent simplicity of the 'crusade against terror' was becoming blurred, and European attitudes were coming to diverge from those of the United States administration.
One effect of 11th September has been a revival of interest in the concept of 'civilization' and of 'the civilized world'. An almost Manichean vision of the forces of civilization pitted against the forces of darkness infuses much of the commentary to which the events of that day have given rise. In practice, however, 'civilization' does not fit easily with those hundreds of millions of people that cannot escape from dire poverty, intolerance and exploitation. Unless these problems are tackled with determination and intelligence, it should surprise nobody that terror will be used to horrifying effect against the world deemed 'civilized'.
In all significant senses, Japan today is part of our 'civilized world'. The average standard of living of the Japanese people is high. The GNP of Japan is second only to that of the United States, and is larger than the combined GNP of all the other countries in Asia. Even the economy of China, though attracting much attention for the rapidity of its growth and for its success in Japanese markets, is many times smaller than that of Japan, though plainly it is catching up. The national interests of Japan, taking a hard-nosed view, lie with the interests of the advanced countries and their broad set of economic, political, social and moral values. Japan in most ways is an open democratic society. Since the early 1990s she has been suffering from severe problems of economic and political mismanagement. In the widest of terms the