ISIS attacks on Japanese hostages: A time for mourning and reflection.

ISIS attacks on Japanese hostages: A time for mourning and reflection.

Kevin P Clements

My heart goes out to the children,widow and wider family of  Japanese journalist Kenji Goto  who has apparently just been beheaded  by IS militants in the Middle East. His  murderer has indicated    that Japan is now a target for wider militant activity.  Japanese journalist Kenji Goto, 47, was captured by Isis in October after travelling to Syria to try to win another hostage’s release.

People who engage in political violence of this sort are seeking to  provoke an overreaction  on the part of the   aggrieved. In the face of such barbarism it is quite appropriate for people to feel frightened, sad, and impotent . It is vital that the Japanese government and any other government that finds itself in this appalling situation, however,  takes time  to reflect  on a  response that will hold the guilty accountable but not play into the hands of  the violent.  It is important that  any response expresses outrage but  is measured. It is particularly important to treat this action  as an international crime rather than an act of war . Nothing would give ISIS more satisfaction than the Japanese government  treating  the  individual who committed this act  as representative of  an aggressive state.

Thus far the responses have been appropriate. Japan has  condemned the  execution of Goto after efforts to secure his release.  Prime minister, Shinzo Abe, said Japan would not give in to terrorism but would work with the international community to bring Goto’s killers to justice.The chief cabinet secretary, Yoshihide Suga, condemning the  execution  described Goto’s apparent murder as “despicable”.

The challenge facing the Japanese government, however,is how to work with others to bring the murderer to justice  without deepening or joining the allied military response which is exactly what IS is trying to achieve.  If Japan decides to move from non combat to combat support , for example,  this will make Japanese economic and political interests all across the Middle East fair game for IS militants. This is a moment for deep mourning in Japan not an occasion for jingoistic militarism. The West  has to figure out better strategies if it wishes to secure the  the immediate release of all the remaining hostages.

Unfortunately, ISIS  has indicated that it is not a   reliable negotiator  although it is interesting to speculate on whether Kenji Goto would still be alive if Jordan  had  freed failed suicide bomber Rishawi from a Jordanian prison.

If the West is interested in nonviolent solutions to this appalling carnage then instead of expanded military activity it needs other brave interlocoturs like Kenji Goto to open up conversations with  local tribal leaders  and people close to them to see whether  there is any chance of  civilised conversation with people who engage in uncivilised behaviour.  I know its a big and dangerous ask but we do not demonstrate moral superiority by responding to violence with more violence. We need to think calmly and creatively  about ways of responding to brutality so that it is delegitimised, so that those who engage in it are held to account in national and international courts  and so that they are punished f0r their crimes.  As appalling as this incident is, it is no excuse for Prime Minister Abe or anyone else to  expand  military action against ISIS not does it provide a rationale for  the Japanese Prime Minister  to embark on deeper remilitarisation of Japan or more vociferous support for coalition air strikes against ISIS. To move in this direction would certainly become a self fulfilling prophecy.  In a provocative statement to Premier Abe, the militant says: “Because of your reckless decision to take part in an unwinnable war, this man will not only slaughter Kenji but will also carry on and cause carnage wherever your people are found. So let the nightmare for Japan begin.”

If Japan wishes to avert this nightmare it need to respond calmly  and fearlessly to these provocations.  These two appalling nurders do not place Japan’s  national security  at risk. Japan will still be  one of if not the safest society in the world.  If it chooses to join the foolhardy western military responses to ISIS, however, it will make itself a target for violent jihadists.  This is a moment to deprive ISIS of extra media oxygen. It is a time for familial and national mourning  in Japan and a reassertion of civilised standards and the international rule of law.  Even though the Japanese government claims that it does not have any military involvement in the campaign against Isis and that its  assistance is purely humanitarian. The fact is that this non combat support is deliberately aimed at indirectly supporting  the West’s combat operations.  The Japanese people need to ask themselves, once again, do they want to jeopardise their pacifist status and  their post war  detachment from a variety of hot conflicts   in order to get involved in other nation’s wars for  other nation’s interests.


About kevinclements2012

Short CV Professor Kevin P Clements. I am the Foundation Chair of Peace and Conflict Studies and Director of the New Zealand Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Otago, Dunedin New Zealand and Secretary General of the Toda Institute for Global Peace and Policy. Prior to taking up these positions I was the Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies and Foundation Director of the Australian Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Queensland, Brisbane Australia . I went to Queensland from International Alert where I was Secretary General from January 1999 to September 2003. International Alert is one of the world’s largest NGOs working on conflict transformation. It pioneered innovative policy and practical approaches to conflict prevention and transformation in Africa ,Eurasia and Asia . It has also made a major contribution to the mainstreaming of conflict prevention within European Foreign and Development Ministries, the EU and a variety of UN institutions. During his time there I was on the Board of the European Centre for Conflict Prevention and past President of the European Peace Building Liaison Office in Brussels. Prior to becoming Secretary General of International Alert I was the Vernon and Minnie Lynch Chair of Conflict Resolution at the Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University Fairfax Virginia USA 1994-2000 and Director of the Institute from 1994-1999. My career has been a combination of academic analysis and practice in the areas of peacebuilding and conflict transformation. I was, for example, formerly Director of the Quaker United Nations Office in Geneva and Head of the Peace Research Centre at the Australian National University in Canberra .Prior to this I was Senior Lecturer in Sociology and Coordinator of Peace Studies at Canterbury University, Christchurch New Zealand . My first academic position was as a lecturer in Sociology at Hong Kong University . I took up this position from a Post Doctoral Fellowship at Oxford University where I worked on development issues with Paul Streeten and others. I have been an advisor to the New Zealand, Australian , British , Swedish and Dutch governments on conflict prevention , peace, defence and security issues and advised the German Government and the OECD on States and Violence. I was, a member of the New Zealand Government’s Defence Committee of Enquiry in 1985 and I currently conducting Problem Solving Workshops in North East Asia with high level participants from Japan, China and Korea. Iwas President of the International Peace Research Association (IPRA) from 1994-1998, President of the IPRA Foundation from 1995-2000 and Secretary General of the Asia Pacific Peace Research Association. I was Secretary General of the International Peace Research Association 2008-2010. I got my B.A, B.A Hon ( First Class) and Ph.D in Sociology from Victoria University of Wellington New Zealand. and held a Post-Doctoral Fellowship at the University of Oxford from 1970-1971. I have been a regular consultant to a variety of non governmental and intergovernmental organisations on disarmament, arms control, conflict resolution, development and regional security issues and I have written or edited 7 books and over 160 chapters /articles on conflict transformation, peacebuilding, preventive diplomacy and development with a specific focus on the Asia Pacific region. Research Expertise 1. Peace Research Theory- Conflict and Conflict Resolution Theory . Preventive Diplomacy , Development and Peacebuilding 2. International and Regional Regimes-APEC, ASEAN, the ARF, ECOWAS 3. Political Sociology-International Organisations. Multilateral/bilateral negotiating processes. 4. Fragile States, Legitimacy and Political Hybridity 5. Alternative Defence and Security Policies-Peace and Security in the Asia-Pacific region. 6. The politics and ethics of international humanitarian intervention 7. Altruism and Compassion In my spare time I like to paint with acrylics or pastels, go to the theatre, listen to classical music, visit art galleries etc!
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