15 augustus 2006

Hard vs. Soft = Smart vs. Stupid/Stupid vs. Smart ?!

With the risk of proving myself to be completely unknowledgeable about these issues, I have to write something on things I picked up in the news this morning.

- Prime minister Junichiro Koizumi of Japan visits Yasukuni Shrine on the 61st anniversary of the end of the war, with this keeping his electoral pledge to visit the disputed shrine every year of his tenure.

- The agreement between Israel and Hezbollah to stop firing missiles to each other is more or less kept by both parties and now there are discussions in Israel whether or not it lost the war.

- Millions of the sum that the British sent to Pakistan last year to support the emergency help to and the build-up of the earthquake-destructed areas there, appear to have been used to plan the thwarted attacks of last Thursday on the American airplanes. (nu.nl in Dutch)

The relation between the two last issues is more or less obvious, but the relation of the first with the latter two might not be. In my opinion, however, it is. The first issue is about a conflict between Japan and its Asian neighbours. Koizumi wants to show that Japan is a strong and 'normal' country that can take care of its own internal affairs and does not need or want interference from other countries on these matters. China and Korea (honestly or politically) feel tremendously offended by this Japanese prime minister who, in their eyes, glorifies Japan's military past by paying tribute to (some not so innocent) war-dead at Yasukuni. Koizumi's visit today might provide China and Korea with a reason to extend the ice-age relations with Japan a bit longer, at least until he steps down in September. One of the main issues in the race between his candidate-successors is whether or not they will visit the shrine, this being the way to show what sort of posture they will take vis-a-vis Asia's rising power, China. Will it be a concilliatory approach, or not.

And this is exactly where the relation with the conflict in the Middle East and the whole terrorism issue is so obvious in my view. On the one hand you have the so-called hawks that preach an approach of strength, of never giving in to anything, and on the other hand there are the people that think that talking and compromising is the best way out of these conflicts.

I find it incredibly hard to form an opinion on what is the best approach. Being a product of the Dutch poldermodel, I have an inclination towards discussion and compromise. But as that model's effectivity has been questioned often over the past years, my inclination might be wrong. A good friend of mine's immediate response to the third issue (relief money to Pakistan) was "Well, that means that we should stop giving money to Muslims". This is what I call a somewhat tougher stand on the matter.

My question is whether it is necessary to take a stand, and if so what stand to take. I will probably be influenced by arguments of hawks and compromisers forever and the road that these issues will travel on will probably be one of compromise between the hawks and the compromisers. Anyone else struggling with this matter?

PS A very interesting documentary called "Negotiating with Al Qaeda" can be found here. It's a Dutch docu, but all the interviews are in English, German or French.

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