On Nov. 18, the Register published a letter in which Ray Estrada complained that Japan's recent decision to delay sending troops to Iraq was consistent with past actions, including not sending troops during Desert Storm. "I can't see how we can even call Japan an ally," Estrada wrote. "Japan probably can't afford to send anybody because it's building Hondas, Toyotas and Nissans for patriotic Americans."
In July, Japan's prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi, secured parliamentary approval to send troops to Iraq; however, in the wake of the recent bombing in Nasiriya, plans to dispatch soldiers were put on hold. Recently, a fact-finding mission was sent to investigate the security situation in Iraq. Upon its return in mid-December, a decision will be made regarding deployment of Self-Defense Forces. Koizumi has remained steadfast in his support of the U.S., and officials in both countries anticipate the SDF will be sent in early next year.
Complicating the situation is Japan's strict compliance with its 1947 constitution, written by a couple of American clerks during the post-WWII occupation. Article 9 renounces the use of force to settle disputes and, since WWII, not a single Japanese soldier has been killed in non-Godzilla-related combat. Opposition party members claim the spirit of this article prohibits sending the SDF into a war zone. With daily attacks on coalition forces, they claim Iraq certainly qualifies. Still, Estrada will be happy to know that in 2005, Koizumi will seek to amend the 1947 constitution to allow Japanese soldiers to play a larger role in international affairs. What could possibly go wrong?