Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Pacifism for Pacifism Sake

Ayako Doi and Kim Willenson wrote an alarmist op-ed on the Washington Post warning that Japan is loosing its spirit of Pacifism.

Since 9/11, Japan has shifted further away from pacifism. Starting in late 2001, it employed a task force of destroyers and fleet oilers to the Indian Ocean to help the allied fleet support operations in Afghanistan. And a few months after the United States toppled Saddam Hussein's government, Tokyo sent about 1,000 troops to establish and support a small force in southern Iraq that so far has avoided combat.

The emergence of a Japanese will to get back into the military game, even in a carefully nonviolent way, has stirred fears in Beijing, Seoul and Pyongyang. Koreans only too well remember the oppression and humiliation they suffered under Japanese colonial rule from 1910 to 1945, while the Chinese will never forget the hundreds of thousands killed in the 15-year conflict between China and Japan that began in the early 1930s and culminated in the second Sino-Japanese war.

Both Doi and Willenson both imply that Japan is sliding back toward militarism and imperialism of the 30s. This is complete nonsense. Doi and Willeson made the sad mistake of using the slippery slope fallacy. World War II was a long time ago. The chance of Japan going back to militarism is equal to that of Northern European countries going back to the period of pillage and plunder of their Viking ancestors. Northern European countries have participated in many military operations worldwide – Bosnia, Kosovo, and Afghanistan just to name a few. We still have not seen any Viking long ships raiding European coasts.

The fact is that for many years, Japan was a prosperous first world country, but without the responsibility of one. In a globalize economy, Japan was and is the main beneficiary of world stability. However, Japan contributed very little in relation to its wealth. Australia with a much smaller economy and much smaller size, contributed disproportionally. Australia took the lead in East Timor, participated in Afghanistan and Iraq, and numerous other missions around the world. It is time for Japan to step up to the plate and share the burden. It is inherently unfair to other countries otherwise. Japan recent action should be seen as an encouraging sign.

All of this has marginalized Japanese pacifism. The government last year embarked on a plan to revise the occupation-era constitution with support from a majority of the public. Earlier this month, a panel of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) proposed to drop the renunciation of war as a national principle, to do away with the ban on maintaining "land, sea and air forces" and to revive "the right of belligerency of the state."

………

Tokyo's "reinterpretation" of the constitution to permit things that the document plainly forbids has certainly improved Tokyo's relations with Washington, which were strained over economic and trade issues during the Clinton administration. Today, officials of both governments describe them as never better. But Japan's new militarism has made relations with Beijing and Seoul the worst in recent memory. That in turn is making East Asia look suddenly and unexpectedly volatile, after 30 or more post-Vietnam years of relative stability.

Doi and Willenson are acting as if the abandonment of strict Pacifism is the end of the world. Hundred of countries reserve the right to wage war but few of them embrace militarism or expansionism. Let be clear. Japan is not the cause for instability in the Pacific – North Korea and China is. To think otherwise is simply crazy or delusional. Japan is a liberal democracy with strong political and economic institutions. And Japan has a record of treating other country in an equitable and fair manner. This cannot be said of its critics. I have written about China attitude toward its neighbor here before. It treats it neighbor in a superior-subordinate fashion. In fact, since the 50s, China had fought with every single neighbor that shares its border. It has brutally subjugated Tibet and massacred its own citizens. It financed and armed the Khmer Rouge. And it has repeatedly threatened to invade Taiwan. Furthermore, China has continued to extent its support to despotic regimes in Burma and Sudan. And since the end of World War II, North Korea have brutally invaded South Korea, sent troops to fight in Vietnam, and oppressed its citizens. North Korea constitutes a grave threat to the Pacific and the world.

These are the reasons that Japan should (and the world should encourage Japan) to drop the archaic and obsolete “pacifism” clause in its constitution and take its rightful place among the nations of the world. Let not have pacifism for pacifism sake.

9 Comments:

Blogger Pedro said...

You're absolutely right. The US supports Japan's bid for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. Lest that seat be made completely symbolic, Japan should take its rightful place alongside the major powers of the world on whose shoulders -- for better or worse -- the burden of maintaining peace should fall. An armed and democratic Japan would be a great boon not only to Asia, but to the entire world, much like Australia or South Korea.

The problem with prewar Japan wasn't their "militarism," it was its non-democratic imperialism. The solution to that problem is not necessarily pacifism (that was a short-term answer to the fervent nationalism of the 1940s), it is democracy -- and Japan has plenty of that. Good analysis, Minh-Duc.

8:24 PM  
Blogger H2SO4 said...

Right on the money with this one..

Well thought out and well written..

6:37 AM  
Blogger MaxedOutMama said...

Minh-Duc, That is admirably clear and totally true. There is no way that Japan will go back.

Japan does face challenges in the current world, as do we all. They are likely to be among the most responsible countries in the world in meeting them.

5:15 PM  
Blogger Dan Morgan said...

I was going to make the point about Japan not being a threat now because it is democratic, but Pedro has already said it well.

One more point. Of course many on the left will see any military actions by Japan as "sliding back toward militarism and imperialism of the 30s". This is because they oppose nearly all military actions by free nations because they think they all have an underlying imperialist intent.

9:10 PM  
Blogger Dan Morgan said...

I was going to make the point about Japan not being a threat now because it is democratic, but Pedro has already said it well.

One more point. Of course many on the left will see any military actions by Japan as "sliding back toward militarism and imperialism of the 30s". This is because they oppose nearly all military actions by free nations because they think they all have an underlying imperialist intent.

9:10 PM  
Blogger Dan Morgan said...

I was going to make the point about Japan not being a threat now because it is democratic, but Pedro has already said it well.

One more point. Of course many on the left will see any military actions by Japan as "sliding back toward militarism and imperialism of the 30s". This is because they oppose nearly all military actions by free nations because they think they all have an underlying imperialist intent.

9:11 PM  
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