Sorry States: Apologies in International Politics

Overview

Governments increasingly offer or demand apologies for past human rights abuses, and it is widely believed that such expressions of contrition are necessary to promote reconciliation between former adversaries. The post-World War II experiences of Japan and Germany suggest that international apologies have powerful healing effects when they are offered, and poisonous effects when withheld. West Germany made extensive efforts to atone for wartime crimes-formal apologies, monuments to victims of the Nazis, and ...

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Overview

Governments increasingly offer or demand apologies for past human rights abuses, and it is widely believed that such expressions of contrition are necessary to promote reconciliation between former adversaries. The post-World War II experiences of Japan and Germany suggest that international apologies have powerful healing effects when they are offered, and poisonous effects when withheld. West Germany made extensive efforts to atone for wartime crimes-formal apologies, monuments to victims of the Nazis, and candid history textbooks; Bonn successfully reconciled with its wartime enemies. By contrast, Tokyo has made few and unsatisfying apologies and approves school textbooks that whitewash wartime atrocities. Japanese leaders worship at the Yasukuni Shrine, which honors war criminals among Japan's war dead. Relations between Japan and its neighbors remain tense.

Examining the cases of South Korean relations with Japan and of French relations with Germany, Jennifer Lind demonstrates that denials of past atrocities fuel distrust and inhibit international reconciliation. In Sorry States, she argues that a country's acknowledgment of past misdeeds is essential for promoting trust and reconciliation after war. However, Lind challenges the conventional wisdom by showing that many countries have been able to reconcile without much in the way of apologies or reparations. Contrition can be highly controversial and is likely to cause a domestic backlash that alarms—rather than assuages—outside observers. Apologies and other such polarizing gestures are thus unlikely to soothe relations after conflict, Lind finds, and remembrance that is less accusatory-conducted bilaterally or in multilateral settings-holds the most promise for international reconciliation.

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Editorial Reviews

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"States victimized by aggression often harbor resentment against the perpetrator, but can apologies by the latter lead to reconciliation and harmonious relations' Jennifer Lind focuses on political rather than cultural factors in her cogent analysis of remembrance and remorse. She finds that the issue is whether apologies by the aggressor can reduce the perception of threat by former victims. She concludes that this is possible, but recognizes that bilateral ties may also be improved in the absence of apologies, and that apologies can produce jingoistic backlashes in their own countries."—Choice

"At a time when nations and societies around the world are engaging in remarkable new means to restore comity in the aftermath of violence and brutality, detailed and comparative studies of national successes and failures in reconciliation are sorely needed. Jennifer Lind's work will stand as a valued contribution in this humane project."—Journal of Japanese Studies

"Sorry States is an extremely timely book, covering an issue of great importance for the international relations of East Asia (and beyond). Jennifer Lind has compiled all of the important statements on war responsibility and related issues by Japanese and German politicians and other elites, including not just the official statements and acts but also the backlash statements that have received media attention."—Leonard J. Schoppa, University of Virginia, author of Race for the Exits: The Unraveling of Japan's System of Social Protection

"Is remorse the condition of reconciliation? With this original piece of scholarship, Jennifer Lind presents a more subtle argument. Yes, West Germany apologized profusely for Nazi atrocities, while Japan could never quite go beyond 'those unfortunate incidents.' As a result, Germany enjoys excellent relations with its neighbors, and Japan does not. Austria and Italy—Axis partners both—largely dodged their wartime responsibilities and still became respected members of the Western community. Neither have the United States and Britain apologized for Dresden, and yet they went on to enjoy warm relations with their wartime foes. Similarly, the Germans have not apologized to the French, their best friends in Europe. As it dissects these paradoxical outcomes, Sorry States makes a critical contribution to our understanding of comparative foreign policy and the politics of remembrance and reconciliation. It is a fine blend of good history and good political science."—Josef Joffe, Publisher-Editor, Die Zeit, Germany, and Senior Fellow, Institute for International Studies, Stanford University

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Product Details

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

1 Remembrance and Reconciliation 9

2 An Unhappy Phase in a Certain Period 26

3 Not Your Father's Fatherland 101

4 The Soul of a People Can Be Changed 159

Conclusion 179

Notes 199

Index 235

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