TWQ: Return from 9/11 PTSD to Global Leader - Fall 2008
October 1, 2008
The main theme of the foreign policy debate in the ongoing U.S. presidential campaign is how to restore the U.S. reputation in the world. Five years after the Iraq war, a consensus has emerged, not just in the United States but throughout the rest of the world, that the war will not bring about the Iraqi state for which the Bush administration had originally planned and hoped. As a result, the post–September 11 U.S. strategy, consisting of preemptive warfare, democracy promotion, and unilateralism, has been widely discredited. The United States has suffered from what could be described as 9/11 post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which has enormously hindered its capability to play the role of world leader.
Japan is one of the states that is most vulnerable to such damage to U.S. leadership because it does not have any viable strategic options other than remaining a junior alliance partner. As the U.S. reputation has progressively deteriorated since the September 11 attacks, it has become more difficult for allies and friends to follow its lead. It is no coincidence that nearly all of the national leaders who supported the decision to go to war in Iraq suffered fatal political blows later, including Prime Ministers Jose Maria Aznar of Spain, John Howard of Australia, and Tony Blair of the United Kingdom.
Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi of Japan was one of the few exceptions not to suffer a substantial loss of political capital for supporting the invasion. Koizumi's immediate successor, Shinzo Abe, even attempted to entrench the Japanese equivalent of the freedom agenda with his signature foreign policy, "the Arc of Freedom and Prosperity." The main goal of this policy was to enhance cooperation with other states pursuing democracy and market economies, with the arc extending from eastern Europe through the Middle East, South Asia, and Southeast Asia all the way to the Russian Far East. Yet, as soon as Abe stepped down in September 2007, the administration of his successor, Yasuo Fukuda, quietly but decisively removed this policy, concluding that democracy promotion and values-based diplomacy would not produce the expected results.
Japan is now watching very closely to see how the course of U.S. diplomacy will change in the next administration. If the United States is able to restore its standing and reputation in the world, it will have a positive impact on the capacity of Japan and other states to tackle pressing regional issues.