In the analysis of a BBC article discussing the death of a Japanese man at the hand of ISIS, it was mentioned that the man’s father apologized for the difficulty his son’s death has caused for Japan. And some of the general population is annoyed (while also sad) over the death. Initially, this might seem horrible. But digging into the reason why, shows that the population is not being crass or unfeeling. If this Japanese man had not put himself in a situation where he was at risk of being captured by ISIS, then Japan would have been able to avoid becoming embroiled in the growing conflict. The annoyance the population feels is somewhat justified in that sense. One death, could cause the country a lot of political turmoil. On the other hand, it would be unacceptable according to the people for the government to completely ignore this death and sweep it under the rug. If this man had not died, Japan would be able to avoid any stringent line about ISIS. But now Japan is involved.
What I find most interesting is that this is true for most countries. As long as a conflict has not touched their nation firsthand, they are able to avoid becoming involved. America was not overtly concerned about terrorism or Bin Laden or Al Qaeda prior to the 9/11 bombing. But, as soon as a terrorist group caused American deaths, it was impossible to ignore the presence of this enemy.
Ignoring Bin Laden would have caused uproar among American citizens and it would have made America appear weak internationally. It would have opened the doors for other terrorist groups to attack, it would have made it seem possible that America could not defend itself. So, the U.S started the war on terror. France was also comfortable in taking a back seat in the fight against ISIS until the recent rash of killings and terrorism that took place. Now, it has been forced to be more public with its condemnation and efforts to stop terrorism.
When a country is not directly touched by a conflict, it is easier to ignore. Take the Rwanda genocide or the war in Ukraine. These conflicts were very locally centred and do/did not harm others outside of the country, so nations and international institutions have not gotten heavily involved. Under Stalin’s tyrannical rule in Russia, the U.S and other international watchdogs stood back and allowed massive amounts of death to occur, because it was only Russian death.
States are able to bypass the guilt from witnessing large amounts of pain if it doesn’t directly affect their people, international status or country. I don’t mean to say this is wrong or right. It is a very realist centred approach to deal with international situations. Realism is where countries are driven purely by selfish reasons. If getting involved in a situation does not benefit them, then a state won’t risk the loss of life or the high economical costs. But, it also means that large atrocities are committed worldwide with no one stopping them. Should we have countries like the U.S to act as watch dogs? But if they are watchdogs, should they not be bound to intervene in every genocidal or horrific violent situation? This leaves a lot of questions to be answered.