Academic journal article Military Review

Sorry States: Apologies in International Politics

Academic journal article Military Review

Sorry States: Apologies in International Politics

Article excerpt

SORRY STATES: Apologies in International Politics, Jennifer Lind, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY, and London, 2008, 242 pages, $39.95.

Don't be fooled by the catchy title and slim silhouette of this intellectually weighty little book: Sorry States is a serious piece of heavily documented, exhaustively footnoted scholarship, using case studies to examine the multi-faceted role contrition plays on the international stage.

Belying initial book jacket and table of contents impressions (one of its four chapters is impertinently titled "Not Your Father's Fatherland," referring to Germany). Author Jennifer Lind's real intent is to focus the global analyst's lens on international reaction to war crimes committed by Japan and Germany--and how and why merely saying "I'm sorry" for genocide, rape, pillage, and other crimes against humanity is not enough to facilitate post-conflict reconciliaton. Contrition, Lind says, can indeed sometimes lead to other complications, such as backlash from a not-sorry citizenry that may not share their leaders' sorry sentiments.

Lind posits that the intimate apology process between transgressor/aggressor and victim states to reestablish social, economic, and diplomatic normalcy is almost impossibly complex, influenced as it is by matters such as culture, geographic proximity, and pressures from regional military threats or aggressive political ideologies.

Her analyses try to make sense of why Germany and France enjoy warm relations as close allies today, while Japan and the countries it colonized and occupied before and during the World War II--chief among them Korea and China--do not.

For instance, American military members currently serving on the Korean peninsula have long believed their reason for being there is to help close allies deter North Korean aggression. They may be startled to learn from Lind's research that recent opinion surveys show South Koreans dislike Japan more than Kim Jong-Il's capricious regime, bristling with wannabe nukes and genuine hostile intent right on the ROK's doorstep. And, although Lind admits South Koreans do put North Korea at the top of their "most likely to be invaded by" list, Japan still lurks in the background as a perceived threat. …

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