Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Mature Japanese State

Instapundit and Jules Crittenden are applauding Japanese escalation in military spending in the face of missile threats from North Korea. They're saying that Japan is finally growing up, whatever that means. My feelings are much more mixed.

Crittenden starts out his piece making statements like this:
Japan was content to allow the United States to handle its defense for six decades, while Japan prospered and assumed the appearance of a leading nation in the world.
First, the reason Japan doesn't have a "real military" is constitutional. The Japanese constitution says "The Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes." Why does it say that? Because we, the US of A, wrote their constitution after World War II. So if they haven't been a mature nation in terms of self defense capabilities, we have no one to blame but ourselves. Every once in a while Japan plays around with rewriting their constitution to make a more aggressive military action possible. And nobody likes it. Not me. Not you. Not even right wing political analysts.

You see the two main aggressor powers in WWII, Germany and Japan, largely learned their lessons after the war. The lesson Germany learned was that they, as a people, were capable of awful things. And they are shamed by the Nazis and the Holocaust to this day. When I was in grad school, I took some German interns to Aberdeen Proving Ground for a grant meeting. Several of them were ex-German army. We passed by the Ordnance Museum and I pointed out some of the German tanks on the display field. The interns looked at me like I had just shown them a picture of their grandparents eating a baby. Such is the German memory of WWII.

In contrast, the lesson Japan learned was that nuclear weapons suck and they'd rather not be hit by any more of them. Japan isn't especially shamed by their conduct in the war because the Japanese teach the war to their kids as "We tried to bring civilization to the great unwashed Asian masses and they didn't like it very much. And don't piss off Americans." The latter partly explains why Gaijin have superpowers in Japan. The part where they slaughtered and raped their way across the Pacific Rim isn't covered much. Rape of Nanking? Didn't she have it coming? (This also makes sense if you have ever had the misfortune of seeing Japanese porn.)

Japan is not some helpless nation completely dependent on the US for their own defense. They have the Japanese Self Defense Forces. While they are surprisingly ineffective against Godzilla or Gamera (startling when you consider the frequency of the attacks), the JSDF isn't a group to really screw with if you aren't a nuclear powered monster like China or Rodan. The JSDF includes a "navy" called the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force which is one of the most significant seo-going forces in the Pacific and Indian oceans (next to the US and maybe Singapore). They don't have raw offensive power, but we relied on them heavily for anti-mine, anti-submarine, and anti-piracy roles both in the Cold War and in the present.

Japan has hardly been an infant since WWII. Considering the last time they "grew up" they acted more like a teenager with 'roid rage, I'm not necessarily looking forward to an older more aggressive Japan.

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