because there can
be no peace
without justice


Biography (1869-1948)
The Salt March
                     THE CONCEPT

Home » Features

Why a Ship Can Be Better Than a Tomahawk Missile
19 mars 2002, 22:14  |   ARTIKLAR  

When I first boarded the ship in October 2001, like
many Americans, my heart was a heavy mix of grief
and rage. I was unequivocally in support of the
“war on terrorism.” I wanted justice. I wanted to
feel safe again.

I still want this, but my new Arab friends from the
ship altered my views, softened my stance. They
forced me to think, really think: What could drive
someone to such blind hatred toward the United
States and the West?

Although my Arab shipmates universally condemned
terrorism, they also feared that military reprisals
by the Bush administration would lead to an endless
cycle of violence while solving nothing.

The biggest guns, they explained, might provide the
United States with short-term protection, but only
by addressing the deep-seated issues through
dialogue will either side truly achieve peace in
the long run.

This is the philosophy behind Japan’s program,
which is called, “Ship for World Youth.”

Perhaps it wouldn’t be such a crazy idea for
President Bush to take a cue from the Japanese —
sacrifice three Tomahawk cruise missiles from his
budget proposal and find a few paltry million to
stick a few Afghans, Iraqis, Israelis and Americans
at sea together for a few months.

“Absurd. Naive,” cry the hawks.

Squander our defense budget so 270 young people
(ranging in age from 18 to 30) can mingle aboard a
ship for a few months?

Unquestionably, for better or for worse, the United
States has inherited the role of cops of the world.
But police protection is not all about brute power
— it also entails community outreach.

Fanaticism will never be completely eradicated. But
a truly strong defense necessitates a heightened
sense of international responsibility —
accountability to the have-nots of the world. The
Japanese understand this.

Yet, even within Japan, there are plenty of
critics, those who question the wisdom of such
audacious spending, especially with the sputtering
Japanese economy. No other government on the planet
has a comparable program, footing the bill for
foreigners to participate in an international

“Many people do say it is a waste of money,” says
Tamai Saito, who is the international exchange
department chief of Japan’s international youth
exchange organization. But Saito also counters that
the ship is not only an investment in Japan’s
future leaders, but is an investment in the future
of the world. She has been on four trips, once as a

“If you experience it, you will know how deep the
relationships will be and the bonds that will be
created,” says Saito.

It is also a form of official assistance to
developing nations, an endowment in the future
leaders of Sri Lanka, Mauritius and other smaller
nations invited on the ship. Further, it is a way
of reinforcing ties with larger nations such as the
United States or the United Kingdom.

Despite the high price tag, it’s a shrewd
investment by the Japanese. Especially now, the
world needs programs like this more than ever.

Setting sail just a month-and-a-half after the
Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the ship was a
brilliant forum to analyze the state of the world
from so many viewpoints.

I recall a conversation one night in the ship’s
library with a Kenyan journalist, a British
teacher, a Japanese university student and myself.
We very much disagreed on everything from the role
of the United Nations, to the war in Afghanistan,
to the purpose of the Japanese grand bath on board
the ship.

Megumi Tsuda from Japan shared how the Japanese are
still scarred 56 years later by the horrors of the
atomic bomb. Like most Japanese I met on board,
Tsuda was opposed to the war in Afghanistan. She
mirrored the Japanese ethic — after World War II,
the Japanese government forever renounced war as a
means of settling international disputes.

Or my friend Sammy Kaboye from Kenya, who believed
the United States should have acted more swiftly
after the U.S. Embassy bombing in Nairobi in 1998.
He felt that the United States hadn’t given the
situation enough serious attention because it was
in Africa.

Then Jackson Griffiths, from the United Kingdom,
who opposed Britain’s support of the U.S.-led
invasion of Afghanistan. He rationalized that the
al Qaeda network was so complex, so deep, that a
manhunt for Osama bin Laden was like excising a
tumor when the cancer has spread throughout the
entire body.

We didn’t solve the world’s problems that night,
but new perspectives were shared and stereotypes
were broken. In the end, as I headed back for San
Francisco, I realized that changing the world
happens one individual at a time.

Jason Margolis is a freelance journalist in San
Francisco. He reported a story about the “Ship for
World Youth” for the KQED’s Radio program “Pacific
Time,” which is expected to air later this month.