Sea change in Japan’s thinking Posted by: McQ
on Wednesday, July 12, 2006
It was noted previously here at QandO that the Japanese reaction to North Korea's missile launches last week was quite extraordinary. A country which suffered a catastrophic defeat in WWII as a result of aggressive militarism has, as a society and culture, rejected any hit of such a thing since then. Japan has adamantly maintained a purely defensive force since then, at first forced on it by an occupying US and later as a matter of choice by it's people and government.
"If we accept that there is no other option to prevent an attack ... there is the view that attacking the launch base of the guided missiles is within the constitutional right of self-defense. We need to deepen discussion," Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe said.
"It's irresponsible to do nothing when we know North Korea could riddle us with missiles," said Tsutomu Takebe, secretary general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. To legally allow such an attack, he said, "We should consider measures, including legal changes."
While such talk may mildly concern North Korea, China will not be so blasé about it. The last thing China wants to see is an offensively capable Japan. And, given Japan's "a good offense is the best defense" rationalization, it isn't too far fetched to believe that possible. China, of course, suffered horribly under the Japanese military during WWII and that hasn't been forgotten in the PRC.
Japan, of course, is a key regional player who has, until now, been pretty content to let the US bear the primary responsibility for the defense of the region. But the era of unstable governments with WMDs seems to be changing that paradigm.
Japan's questioning of the basics of its existing defense policy is perfectly understandable. Previously, a conventionally armed North Korea was of little threat or consequence to Japan. A nuclear armed North Korea with missiles that can reach Japan are another thing entirely.
Some will write this off as a ploy to bring NoKo to the 6-party talks and to spur China into a more active role in putting pressure on NoKo to join and comply. But there is more than a hint of seriousness in these quotes. This is more than a ploy. This is a serious internal reassessment of Japan's role in it's own defense in a new and dangerous era.
Frankly, I'd like to see Japan become much more self-sufficient militarily and yes, develop an offensive capability. I think it is a mature enough democracy now to handle such power. And it would certainly, along with South Korea, help balance the power in the region a bit more and allow the US to pull back and concentrate it's efforts, militarily, elsewhere.
Still, there’s something that makes me a little uneasy... the situation in Japan may have changed in many ways since the end of World War II, but there are still far too many elements in their "developmental capitalism" and political culture that make me wonder if they’re still not a little too close to fascism for us to be encouraging them to attach military offensive capability to their national image again.
(Warning to anyone who objects to my characterization of Japan as having many near-fascist characteristics: make sure you know what fascism actually is before you comment.)
If Japan and MITI decide to play catch-up in military prowess, they will make it an issue of national pride to regain "market share" and show they mean business. This has been the overwhelming pattern of their development whether nominally fascist or not for a very long time, and I only see a few hopeful signs that the relationship between the state, the banks and industry have changed. They will undoubtedly be dazzlingly successful at their military buildup — does anyone doubt Japan’s technical capacity to build a military machine, particularly with American support? Does anyone doubt that within a short time, they would have a peer relationship with the US on a per-unit basis (as in: be equally powerful, give or take)? And when the industry Japan is focusing on becomes its military, I have my reservations. And most importantly, so do Japan’s neighbors, who all remember very well what Japan did to them in the 20th century. I fear that rather than discouraging military buildup among Japan’s neighbors, it will make them decidedly uneasy and encourage them to build up their own capabilities as a precaution. And therein you have your classic security dilemma.
Now, I like Japan. I’d like to see them succeed as a nation, and I certainly would like to have good partners in the region. They are an incredibly important partner in trade, and on the surface, the argument that someone else could help carry the security burden in the region sounds nice — if for no other reason than that Japan is basically on our side when it comes to North Korea and Taiwan. I’m just cautioning against playing with fire.
OrneryWP, certainly you raise some valid points, though the "arms race" one doesn’t really wash as the PRC is busy re-arming to beat the band. I guess I’ll get nervous when they have nuclear weapons or rebuild the First Air Fleet around 6 fast carriers...
Let’s not forget to give some of the credit for this development to the transnationalists, leftists, and various U.N. one-world boosters. Events of recent years have made it plain that if the U.S. were to contemplate interceding on Japan’s behalf in some regional conflict, the hue and cry over the prospect could scuttle even the most just interdiction. Japan cannot submit themselves to this insecurity, and neither can any other nation. When you disarm the sheriff, everybody has to get their own gun. I’d call it the law of unintended consequences, but it really is too damn predictable.
If China is uncomfortable with Japan rearming, the puppeteer must get control of it’s puppet.
If the SORKS want a "peace at all costs" policy with the NORKS, they can have that too...provided the US finally moves it’s "WWIII tripwire" troops out completely.
No US troops mean Zero American targets for the 11,000 howitzers with 900,000 tons of available HE and nerve gas to chuck South. And makes the SORKS safer from attack given No Runnning Dog Imperialists there - if the US joins Japan in crushing Little Kim’s infrastructure and WMD facilities. But it also makes SORKs less certain of victory sans Americans, if the NORKS decide to blast away on the South anyways.
Japan’s new interest in military capability may also wake Taiwan up - because the Taiwanese are not keeping up with the China buildup on the assumption they can spend the money on social programs given the US is likely to ride to their rescue. (Many say a Taiwan that has declining interest in defending itself is not worth defending. Mainly the Aussies, who have indicated their joining in a defense of Taiwan is no longer certain.)
With the threats by North Korea, the build-up of the military of their puppet-master, China, and even threats by the little toady (S. Korea), why should Japan not have a strong military? Please do not forget that each of those nations teaches hatred toward Japan in their schools, and each of them conducts an active anti-Japanese propaganda campaign, feigning outrage at anything Japan does, and constantly interferes in Japanese internal affairs. While it is true that they suffered from Japanese occupation, they do not seem to realize that WWII has been over for sixty years, a different generation is in charge, and Japan has been one of the most peaceful countries in the world ever since. Add to this that they are the only real democracy in the region, unless you count South Korea and Taiwan, which are riddled with corruption. Most of their attitute toward Japan is fueled by envy and jealousy, not by what happened in the past. Each of those countries rose from the ashes after WWII and were left far behind Japan. they cannot accept that and would get revenge if they only could. For that reason Japan needs a strong military.
Ah, so. Now Japan is the victim who must rearm to protect itself from corrupt and envious Korea and Taiwan. Don’t forget oppression by the US forces of occupation, a hostile and expansionist Russia, etc. Deja vu.