Meanwhile in Japan…

 

1072px-Flag_of_JSDF.svgFrom today’s New York Times, the world continues to be… interesting:

TOKYO — The lower house of Japan’s Parliament passed legislation on Thursday that would give the country’s military limited powers to fight in foreign conflicts. […] The bills represent a break from the strictly defensive stance maintained by Japan in the decades since the war, under which it would fight only if directly attacked. Critics, including a majority of Japanese constitutional specialists, say the legislation violates the country’s postwar charter, which renounces war.

More:

[Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo] Abe has spent considerable political capital pushing the bills through. Voters oppose them by a ratio of roughly two to one, according to numerous surveys, and the government’s once-high support ratings fell to around 40 percent in several polls taken this month.

Mr. Abe has presented the package as an unavoidable response to new threats facing Japan, in particular the growing military power of China. He seized on the murder of two Japanese hostages by the Islamic State militant group in January as an example of why Japan needs to loosen restrictions on its military, suggesting that the military might have rescued them had it been free to act.

I’m a little torn on this. On the one hand, Japan is an enormous power whose strategic interests are largely in sync with our own. In much the same way that many of us — self included — are frustrated by Europe’s reliance on the United States for protection and would like to see NATO turn into something closer to an actual alliance than a protectorate, the same could be said of Japan. If you like the Pax Americana, be willing to fight for it.

On the other hand, as our own Victor Davis Hanson has pointed out, it’s impossible to discount the importance that Germany and Japan’s abandonment of martial life has played in the relative peace of the past 70 years. Moreover, Japan’s continuing refusal to speak plainly and honestly about the atrocities its army conducted — which really did give the Nazis a run for their money — makes it all the more worrisome. I don’t exactly think we’re on the verge of another Rape of Nanking, but I can hardly blame the Chinese or Koreans for being concerned.

(Side note: Have we been complicit in this, albeit for our own, likely PC, reasons? There may well be an exception or two I don’t know about, but the Imperial Japanese military are more likely to be portrayed in American popular media as reluctant but honorbound — think of Toshiro Mifune as Admiral Yamamoto in Tora, Tora, Tora! or Ken Wantanabe as General Kuribayashi in Letters From Iwo Jima — than as the monsters they so often were. Even Colonel Saito from Bridge Over The River Kwai is portrayed more as a desperate brute than anything else. If General Tojo has ever been meaningfully portrayed in American film, it’s escaped my notice).

So, are we seeing the rise of a new, powerful military ally or the early awakenings of a sleeping giant?

Published in Foreign Policy, General
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  1. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    What you say makes sense. To me, it sounds like there may be a curfew on war if countries lose their youth through demographic changes. But in this generation, what I see is this: By the time Korea might turn to Japan for help, it would already be too late. They would be realistic instead & appease & then surrender. As also Taiwan. Then Japan would become close to indefensible.

    • #61
  2. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @Tedley

    Misthiocracy: But seriously, this seems to confirm my suspicion that Japan isn’t forced to accept a US-written constitution in perpetuity, since they do have a mechanism for amending their own constitution. Abe should probably abide by his country’s constitution.

    No matter how it got created, they still take their constitution seriously.  In fact, I think they’re more serious about it than many American office holders are about our constitution.

    Like in the U.S., the process for amending their constitution would be time-consuming.  While it would be optimal to amend the constitution, PM Abe doesn’t think it can happen quickly enough.  In view of how China is acting now, he is focused on getting formal legislation approved right away as the next best thing.  The ruling coalition has sufficient votes to ensure passage of this law, so it can implement the legislation in about 60 days.  Although the polls show that the public doesn’t support it, that isn’t going to stop PM Abe.

    • #62
  3. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @Tedley

    Titus Techera:What you say makes sense. To me, it sounds like there may be a curfew on war if countries lose their youth through demographic changes. But in this generation, what I see is this: By the time Korea might turn to Japan for help, it would already be too late. They would be realistic instead & appease & then surrender. As also Taiwan. Then Japan would become close to indefensible.

    You left the U.S. out of your analysis.  We have defense treaties with both countries, and we’re there as a show of continued support.  This posture benefits all three countries.

    Be aware that China has lost wars with smaller neighboring countries, most recently Vietnam.  That said, Siberia is a huge place, with relatively few there to defend it.

    • #63
  4. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    Maybe China will do something in Siberia, but it seems like SE Asia is a much bigger deal politically. & they are not going to abandon their long-term desire to get Taiwan. & the fact that they are continuously making trouble in the SC sea also suggests where they’re attention is focused.

    As for America–I don’t think that changes the basic problem–I’m not sure America has what it takes to go to war in Korea if it should be necessary. You’re right, America is the big actor in the area, but you have to leave it aside to consider the other actors. For example, it is implied in the militarization of Japan that they would benefit from an American retreat–a partial retreat, with coordination & help for Japan, of course.

    • #64
  5. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @Tedley

    Tom,

    In my earlier comment, I forgot to address the following sentence in your post:

    “I don’t exactly think we’re on the verge of another Rape of Nanking, but I can hardly blame the Chinese or Koreans for being concerned.”

    Politicians in China and Korea regularly use Japan as a whipping boy, sometimes appropriately, but usually for selfish political reasons.  There is absolutely no basis to believe that Japan might even consider becoming belligerent.  The Japanese people are still mostly pacifists.  The legislation is in response to increasing threats to their national interests, and are in concert with U.S. government desires.

    Regards,

    Ted

    • #65
  6. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Snirtler:Still on the claim made by Instugator (and Titus), a table showing how favorable views are toward China and Japan (and others) among various Asian countries.

    Pew Asians2

    Hmm. Looks to me like the biggest obstacle for military cooperation between Asia’s democracies is actually South Korea.

    • #66
  7. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Titus Techera:Korea has reasons to hate the Japanese invaders that go back 500 years. The question is, will they get around those grievances to form an alliance & will Japan look like it’s capable of leading it?If you cannot persuade Korea that Japan will go to war in Korea against China, there is no way this is going to add up, as it seems to me. What do you think?

    I think a mere 22% favourability rating is pretty dang insurmountable for the foreseeable future. If South Korea and Japan cannot get past their shared history, there is likely no hope for a military alliance of Asian democracies. The US Navy will have to remain in the area until Japan and South Korea can learn to get along.

    • #67
  8. Eric Hines Inactive
    Eric Hines
    @EricHines

    Tedley: You left the U.S. out of your analysis. We have defense treaties with both countries, and we’re there as a show of continued support. This posture benefits all three countries.

    We also have treaties and other arrangements with Georgia, Poland, Israel, et al.  The nations rimming the East and South China Seas can read newspapers at least as well as can Obama.

    Eric Hines

    • #68
  9. Eric Hines Inactive
    Eric Hines
    @EricHines

    Titus Techera: Maybe China will do something in Siberia, but it seems like SE Asia is a much bigger deal politically. & they are not going to abandon their long-term desire to get Taiwan. & the fact that they are continuously making trouble in the SC sea also suggests where they’re attention is focused.

    The PRC already is doing something in Siberia.  It’s durability depends entirely on Russian willingness to honor the arrangements, and its desperation for PRC money.

    What the PRC is doing in the South China Sea is grabbing the fisheries, the minerals on the sea floor, and the hydrocarbon fields beneath it, and building the military bases useful to holding the grab.  All of this is entirely within the Outer Island Barrier for the PRC, and so they really don’t give a rat’s patootie what the other nations rimming the Sea think.  “Trouble” is a non sequitur here; a mere side effect of no importance to the PRC.

    And their activities there serve as distractions from their moves into Siberia.

    Eric Hines

    • #69
  10. Eric Hines Inactive
    Eric Hines
    @EricHines

    Tedley: “I don’t exactly think we’re on the verge of another Rape of Nanking, but I can hardly blame the Chinese or Koreans for being concerned.”

    One comment from me on Mr Meyer’s sentence, too: I don’t give a rat’s patootie about the PRC’s concerns, except as knowing them helps me predict PRC behavior.

    Eric Hines

    • #70
  11. Eric Hines Inactive
    Eric Hines
    @EricHines

    Misthiocracy: The US Navy will have to remain in the area until Japan and South Korea can learn to get along.

    The US Navy needs to remain in the area regardless.

    Eric Hines

    • #71
  12. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @Tedley

    Titus Techera:As for America–I don’t think that changes the basic problem–I’m not sure America has what it takes to go to war in Korea if it should be necessary. You’re right, America is the big actor in the area, but you have to leave it aside to consider the other actors. For example, it is implied in the militarization of Japan that they would benefit from an American retreat–a partial retreat, with coordination & help for Japan, of course.

    The governments of South Korea and Japan depend upon their military alliances with the U.S.  Neither is interested in seeing decreased U.S. support or involvement in the region, let alone their respective countries.  Although our presence isn’t large, our military is the counterweight to any major threat in Asia, especially from the big countries like China and Russia.  We have the military capability to cover for their respective shortfalls.

    Using our forward deployed forces and those deploying from the U.S., we conduct training and share doctrine with both countries, and conduct bilateral exercises.  To remove the U.S. from their equation would be like cutting off a person’s limb–they could survive, but wouldn’t be nearly as effective in a fight.

    • #72
  13. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    I agree. But American arms there also means, these countries are not ultimately serious about defense-

    • #73
  14. user_82762 Inactive
    user_82762
    @JamesGawron

    Eric Hines:

    Misthiocracy: The US Navy will have to remain in the area until Japan and South Korea can learn to get along.

    The US Navy needs to remain in the area regardless.

    Eric Hines

    Eric & Mis,

    A larger and technologically enhanced US Navy.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #74
  15. Eric Hines Inactive
    Eric Hines
    @EricHines

    James Gawron:

    Eric Hines:

    Misthiocracy: The US Navy will have to remain in the area until Japan and South Korea can learn to get along.

    The US Navy needs to remain in the area regardless.

    Eric Hines

    Eric & Mis,

    A larger and technologically enhanced US Navy.

    Regards,

    Jim

    On that we absolutely agree.

    Eric Hines

    • #75
  16. CuriousKevmo Member
    CuriousKevmo
    @CuriousKevmo

    Stu In Tokyo: like the star player on a hockey team that never fights their own fights, they have some goon (you guys in the US) who will step in and take the punches and also give the punches

    Haha…this is awesome.  And I say that as a proud American.

    • #76
  17. Stu In Tokyo Inactive
    Stu In Tokyo
    @StuInTokyo

    a bit of a funny look at how the Japanese are portrayed in China, is it no wonder that many Chinese still hate the Japanese?

    Domo

    • #77
  18. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    Have you seen the Ip Man movies starring Donnie Yen? Or his Chen Zhen movie? White & Japanese enemies make these movies. They are massive box office successes. Some of Jet Li’s movies are like that, as well. A number of Jackie Chan movies–more recent ones, at least–have been about Chinese nationalism–recovering art stolen by the foreign devils (quai loh?) or what have you… Then there’s this recent one by a really talented martial arts actor, Jacky Wu, where Chinese special forces have to fight evil white special forces. There also have been big studio movies about the period from the fall of the Ch’ing dynasty to the rise of Mao’s tyranny–usually, if you’re not a Communist, you do not look good in these movies. Of course, the Japanese are worst of all–for very good reasons…

    • #78
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