Japan, their psyche and the world’s problems interact again. The Japanese, who inhabit one of the safest countries in the world, have been reminded in brutal fashion that the world is a dangerous place.
In a shock to a country that can feel insulated from distant geopolitical problems, two of their own have reportedly been killed by Islamic radicals in Syria, the latest apparently beheaded in a video posted online this weekend by militant websites.
This island nation, which once closed itself to the outside world for two centuries under samurai rule, has been venturing out as it has in fits and starts for the past two decades. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, in a bid to restore Japan’s position in the world, has been driving his country to play a larger international role, most controversially seeking to loosen constitutional restraints put on its military after World War II.
And as Japan has learned before, venturing out inevitably carries risks.
The question then is whether the risks will drive Japan back into its shell. Analysts say it is too early to predict the impact of the crisis on government policy and the public psyche. Past experience, though, suggests that Japan may, after some handwringing, continue what has been a very gradual expansion of its military role. A major test could come in the spring, when the parliament is expected to take up Abe’s proposals to allow its Self-Defense Forces to do more.