Two Different Reactions, One Objective: Japan and Jordan on ISIS

A contribution from NESA intern Madison Barton.

The extremist group known as ISIS (The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) has received various responses from a wide range of countries to their brutal tactics. The recent executions of Japanese Security Contractor Haruna Yukawa, Journalist Kenji Goto, and Jordanian Pilot Moaz al-Kasasbeh, have amplified the ever-growing animosity towards ISIS. Both, Goto and Yukawa were Japanese hostages whose lives were taken by the radical group. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe spoke out against the acts of terror, denouncing the heinous behavior of ISIS, and reassuring the continuation of humanitarian aid to countries in need. However, while Japan chooses to advance with peace and prosperity in mind, Jordan is taking an antithetical approach. The two countries have suffered tremendous loss, and though the crimes have been carried out differently in each situation, they are analogously related. Why then, are the reactions so very different?

Just over two weeks ago Haruna Yukawa was murdered, one day later ISIS announced that the fate of Kenji Goto would be the same unless Jordanian prisoner, Sajida al-Rishawi, associated with hotel bomb attacks that killed 60 people, was released.  Goto was killed on January 31, 2015. ISIS claims that the Japanese aid was the reason for taking the hostages. Prime Minister Abe pledged 200 million in aid to countries fighting ISIS. The group later demanded this same amount for ransom and proclaimed that Japan joined an “unwinnable war” when they chose to provide assistance to their allies. Japan’s reaction to the horrific events has been especially interesting because it is one in which hostility and military action is not at the forefront. Of course Japan is outraged, they are mourning, and they are willing to take part in the international fight against ISIS.

Unlike Japan, Jordan has taken a more aggressive stance towards the extremist group. The video of Jordanian Pilot Moaz al-Kasasbeh being burned alive was released on February 3, 2015. The pilot was taken hostage in December after his plane came down in Syria during an anti-ISIS mission. Since the release of the graphic video, there has been a surge in news headlines around the globe displaying Jordan’s indignation. Jordan promised revenge and the country has carried out their threats promptly. Hours after the news of Lieutenant Al-Kasasbeh’s death, attempted suicide bomber Sajida al-Rishawi, and al-Qaeda operative Ziyad Karboli were both hanged in Jordan. Since then, Jordan’s air force has performed 56 airstrikes on ISIS, wiping out 19 locations said to be housing Islamic State commanders and fighters. Other targets are their economic and financial sources. These countries’ goal is to eradicate ISIS completely, and they seem to be letting very little get in their way. Jordan has vowed that this is just the beginning of their fight and will not stop until they have accomplished their goal.

Why did the two countries have different reactions?  Both countries have remained fairly quiet in international controversies, until now. Though Japan has not taken such an aggressive stance towards ISIS this does not imply that their punishments won’t be just as severe as Jordan’s. To Japan, it seems that an aggressive approach would mean giving in to terrorist tactics which is not something that they are willing to do. Others may think that Japan’s location is responsible for their reaction, as they are not as close as Jordan and therefore are not facing an immediate security threat, thus explaining them having not taken immediate forceful action. Jordan’s reaction has been more combative. Jordan wants to wipe ISIS from the face of the earth, and no time has been wasted. Is this because of their more immediate location? Has hostility been building up in the country? Whatever the reasons are a more peaceful and stable international world order is the objective.

Please note that the views expressed in this piece do not represent the official policy or position of the National Defense University, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. government.

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