Japan from the inside out


Posted by ampontan on Sunday, August 7, 2011

HERE’S a passage worth reading from a longer article I saw on the Web this morning:

If we have learned anything from the experience of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty, it is the rediscovery of an old truth: dependency corrupts and absolute dependency corrupts absolutely. To the degree that Japan has been dependent upon the United States, the Japanese will has been corrupted and Japanese political vitality has diminished. A reconstructed alliance could reverse that process. But it would have to be an alliance with Japan as an equal partner.

Such a Japan might regain its self-respect, a feeling of control over its own national destiny, and, above all, it might recapture the spirit of nationalism that is indispensable to any successful foreign policy.

Well, wait — like little Georgie Washington copping to chopping the cherry tree, I cannot tell a lie. I did find the article on the Web this morning, but I made a substitution here and there for the sake of argument. The original is from a 1983 Irving Kristol essay called What’s Wrong with NATO? Replacing the references to Japan with Europe will restore the passage to close to its original form.

The post-substitution point is one that more than a few Japanese also make, but almost exclusively in Japanese-language publications for a Japanese audience: absent the drastic restructuring of the Security Treaty and the Constitution, Japan will never regain the sense of nationhood it lost in 1945. To be sure, there’s a culture, a country, a flag, and a national anthem that the current prime minister dislikes and has refused to sing on occasion, but there’s also little sense of Japan as a nation acting to uphold its legitimate interests in the world.

The position that a nation has legitimate interests to uphold is now doubleplusungood in some eccentric circles. Critics deride the people unafraid to support this position as right-wing nationalists, thereby yoking two political code words for “evil, wicked, mean and nasty”. The use of “right wing” as a substitute term for uncool people (usually, but not always, for people not on the meridian of social democracy or points left) became hackneyed decades ago, but the old-time glossary is still good enough for some.

In the same way, “nationalism” has more recently been added to the global governance jet set’s Lexicon of Shorthand Insults. The GGJS and their acolytes tend to view the concept of national interest as a Derridian construct and the people who would promote those interests as atavistic throwbacks. The combined application of those terms to Japan gives them a greater aggregate weight than the sum of their individual poundage. It’s a dog whistle blown to manifest the phantasmagorical image of a Japan that would recreate the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere in the 21st century. The whistle-blowers apparently have earplugs that prevent them from hearing the sounds emanating from Beijing.

Clear-eyed observation of How The World Works (HTWW) should be sufficient to disabuse anyone of those notions. The shared hallucination that is the Vision of the Anointed will not evaporate, however. Clear-eyed observation involves engagement with reality, and facts aren’t as important as feelings, so extended debate is meaningless. Besides, the idea of the Anointed Ones is not to create arrangements that provide for the greater good — it is to create arrangements for assuming positions of power to dictate how everyone else should live, once the proles assume the position. That also became apparent decades ago. Limiting them to the margins of the debate is the best we can hope for.

One critical step to nationhood for Japan will be removing the clause from Article 9 of the Constitution prohibiting military forces and recognizing that the use of military forces for self-defense is wholly legitimate. Anyone who would argue against those positions will ultimately have to explain why Japan, which shares a neighborhood with several atavistic throwback thug states, should not have the same right that other countries take as much for granted as air. They would also have to explain why the Japanese are incapable of exercising that right in a responsible manner. We’re all ears.

But taking that step will require placing the wartime events at Hiroshima and Nagasaki in a new perspective. Yes, those are terrible weapons, but they were weapons of war used in a war, not talking points in a grad school seminar. Would anti-nuke activists have preferred firebombings of the type to which Tokyo was subjected in 9-10 March 1945? Before they object to that question, here’s another one — do they really think that if they relax and repeat enough affirmations, they’re going to put an end to war?

Yesterday’s ceremony commemorating the Hiroshima bombing was attended by representatives from 66 countries, the second-highest total of foreigners ever, and it was lavished with extensive media coverage for all the wrong reasons. (The basic premise is the same as linking the Tokyo firebombings to thermal power plants.) But the emotionalism surrounding that event should revert to the downward trendline of recent years. With the average age of the hibakusha now at 77.4, the media and the activists will presently be deprived of their use as stage properties. The knowledge of that war for young Japanese will continue to decline until it bottoms out at the current level of knowledge of that war for young Americans.

That could well coincide with the United States relinquishing its role as global policeman, both through necessity as well as choice. Younger generations of Americans, atavistic throwbacks included, have grown increasingly suspicious of military adventures abroad. And if the American ruling class remains loathe to put the national financial house in order, the country will have to cut back on military expenditures in the same way its strapped municipalities are cutting back on police and fire departments. Speaking of coincident occurrences, that day could arrive at roughly the same time the Japanese decide they’d be better off spending on themselves the money they now pay the Americans to do a job they could do themselves. As it is, many Japanese already suspect the United States would find some way to weasel out of coming to their defense tomorrow for a foreign attack tonight. Can you blame them?

Those with the eyes to see know that the world is rapidly changing in drastic and unpredictable ways. In 2007, who would have thought that the American budget deficit would be turbocharged by 894% in just four years, leading to a ratings downgrade for government debt instruments?

A Japan ready to promote its national interests is an idea whose time is ready to come. It is not out of the question that the time could come sooner than anyone thinks.


The Mainichi Shimbun ran an article that quoted the speeches of several of the foreign officials in Hiroshima yesterday.

The Italian Consul-General in Osaka: That Japan would use atomic power in its postwar recovery couldn’t be helped, and besides, the issue of atomic power should not be mixed up with that of atomic weapons.

The German Consul-General in Osaka: Atomic weapons should be banned, but it is not appropriate for people to tell other nations how to deal with their energy problems.

The Russian ambassador: Fukushima occurred due to natural causes, but Hiroshima was a man-made tragedy.

Now how’s this for synchronicity — two hours after uploading this post, I read the report of a speech delivered in Hokkaido today by former Prime Minister Hatoyama Yukio during one of his periodic study tours among us Earthlings. Mr. Hatoyama said:

We must create an environment in which the work of the Self-Defense Forces can be boldy stipulated in the Constitution. That environment has still yet to be created.

Meanwhile, Hosono Goshi, the minister in charge of the Fukushima cleanup, said that a new nuclear power regulatory agency should be created and that it should be placed under the administration of the Ministry of Environment.

He seems to be the designated substitute for the role of Loopy in the Japanese government now that Mr. Hatoyama is no longer prime minister and is making sensible suggestions.

In a perfect illustration of Politics Under The Kan Cabinet, Minister of the Environment Eda Satsuki said he didn’t think the idea was at all practical.

Since it’s too much to ask the government to get on the same page, maybe we should settle for them getting in the same library in the same building.


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One Response to “Substitution”

  1. toadold said

    It is interesting to see national interests coming back to the fore in Europe despite the “annoited’s” attempt to keep the trans national meme going.
    Some how our peace and change US prince of the unicorns has managed to spread and disperse US military power all over the world and into places that we have no interests. Assets and people are wearing out. As one Marine Sgt. Major said, “Being gay in the military used to be illegal, Now it is being made legal. I’m quitting before it is made mandatory.” The procurement system for US military forces has become so corrupted by Congressional politicians that it has become impossible to shut down wasteful spending and to concentrate on what is needed and get goods and services at a fair price. So it is inevitable that across the board cuts will be coming for our military forces through national economic decline if nothing else.
    In other words our allies in Asia had better be prepared to go it alone for a few years because the nearest US forces will be at Hawaii and consist of docked ships with caretaker crews.

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