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2011年9月11日 (日)


--The Asahi Shimbun, Sept. 10
EDITORIAL: U.S. should lead efforts toward global cooperation

How long will the war against terrorism, which no one is going to win, last?

Just a decade has passed since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks at the heart of the United States.

The war against terrorism was launched by former U.S. President George W. Bush, who urged countries to join the fight saying, "Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists."
But the United States has suffered as much damage from the war as it did from the Vietnam War.

U.S. forces have succeeded in killing Osama bin Laden, the founder of the al-Qaida terrorist group and the mastermind of the 2001 attacks, but the Americans are clearly feeling the pinch of the deteriorating economic health of their country, where jobless rates are hovering above 9 percent.


American people are apparently disturbed, caught between anxiety about the possibility that their country may lose the status as the leading superpower and the desperate feeling that they cannot stand any additional burden.

In a corner of the Arlington National Cemetery, a military cemetery stretched over a hill in the Washington suburbs, are rows of small signs bearing a name placed on the earth with the grass removed.

They are meant to be the graves of soldiers who have died in Afghanistan.

Nobody knows how many more white headstones will be laid in this corner of the cemetery.

Since the war on terror started, more than 6,000 U.S. military personnel have died and more than 550,000 have been injured.

One estimate has put the total cost of the war, including medical expenses for injured servicemen and women, at $4 trillion (309 trillion yen).

The quagmire of the war is hurting American society like a body blow.

The U.S. economy, which for a while enjoyed a boom driven by financial bubbles, has taken a downturn since the collapse of investment bank Lehman Brothers in 2008.

The U.S. budget deficit for fiscal 2011, which ends on Sept. 30, is reaching $1.3 trillion. The towering budget deficit has prompted a U.S. credit rating agency to downgrade long-term federal debt, which has long been considered the safest investment, bringing humiliation to the world's largest economy.

President Barack Obama has acknowledged that the United States has been on an unsustainable spending spree. "For a decade, we have been spending more money than we take in," he recently said.

But even more lives have been lost in countries where the United States has been fighting the war.

Some 125,000 civilians in Iraq, 11,700 in Afghanistan and 35,600 in Pakistan have been killed during the war, according to estimates by the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University.

In Iraq, years of failed occupation, plagued by an endless series of missteps and bad judgments, resulted in bloody nationwide sectarian strife.

Amid continued conflict among various religious sects, Obama has promised to withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq by the end of this year. Given the chaotic state of the war-torn country, however, many observers say it will be impossible to pull out all the U.S. troops by the deadline.


Meanwhile in Afghanistan, 66 American soldiers were killed in August, the worst ever monthly death toll among U.S. military personnel in the country.

Obama has said 33,000 U.S. troops will leave the country by next summer, but the outlook for the U.S. strategy for dealing with the situation after the withdrawal remains murky.

Many American citizens appear to be finding it hard to come up with a good reason for continuing the fight without a clear outlook.

Outside the Unites States, indiscriminate terrorist attacks have also taken place in cities like Madrid and London.  米国の外にも、マドリード、ロンドンなどに無差別テロは拡散した。

The scope of targets for terrorist attacks has widened. At the end of August, for instance, a car bomb attack on the United Nations building in Nigeria killed more than 20 people.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the attack, saying in a grievous statement that it was "an assault on those who devote their lives to helping others."

In his historic speech delivered in 2009 in Cairo, Obama proposed reconciliation with the Muslim world for "a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world," raising renewed hope for peace.

But in countries like Yemen and Pakistan, the United States is expanding its strikes against terrorists using unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, instead of ground troops.

The Obama administration has postponed the promised closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, where abuses of detainees have been disclosed.

The Obama administration also initially failed to express its clear support to the revolutionary waves of demonstrations and protests that have led to the collapse of dictatorial regimes in some Arab countries including Tunisia and Egypt, now known as the "Arab Spring."

That's because the administration was concerned about a possible rise of Muslim extremists and about possible negative effects on Washington's relations with the autocratic governments of its allies in the region, like Saudi Arabia.

Now that people in many Arab countries have embarked on a path to democracy by risking their lives, however, the United States should take steps to settle the dark past and build new relations with these countries.

In particular, it is essential for Washington to tackle the Palestine issue, which is at the root of conflict in the Arab world.

As long as the United States keeps avoiding this challenge, anti-U.S. extremists will continue to come into being.

The Americans should not forget that Osama bin Laden personified the deep antipathy aroused among Muslims by the U.S. military presence in the "holy land" of Islam.

America's unilateralism also strained its ties with its key allies.

Japan, under the government of former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, supported the U.S. war in Iraq and sent Self-Defense Forces troops to the country.

But Japan's decision to support a war without cause, made under strong pressure from Washington, deeply damaged the bilateral relations.

Japanese sympathy with the United States as the leading standard-bearer for democracy wore thin, while the Japanese government's action provoked criticism among Japanese people that it was blindly following in the footsteps of the United States.

The past 10 years, in which the United States became overconfident of its power and tried to impose its values on the world, has been a decade of failure for the superpower.

The United States will remain a country with overwhelming power, but it still needs to find a new role for itself as a member of the global community.

Sick and tired of the endless war against terrorism, some Americans are arguing that their country should now wash its hands of intervention in affairs in other parts of the world.

It would be good for the United States to respect the unique conditions in other countries and seek cooperative ties with them.


But if such a superpower becomes indifferent to stability and movements toward democracy in the outside world, the entire world may fall into serious confusion.

The United States should not abandon its efforts to establish a stable and peaceful world order.

What the United States should do in the next decade is to seek serious dialogue with people living with different values in order to create a world without terrorism, instead of trying to stamp out terrorism with war.


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