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Japanese Normalization

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I disagree with John Ikenberry. I don’t believe that Article 9 of the Japanese constitution serves any further purpose, and I think it should be abolished.

Ikenberry’s case is built around three arguments. First, the Japanese ought to resist normalization because normalization is being strongly pushed by the United States. The United States is pursuing this in order to make Japan a more useful military ally, and presumably to free up forces that could more profitably be used elsewhere in the world. Ikenberry’s second argument is tied to his first. Rather than becoming “normal” by establishing a set of regular military institutions, Japan ought to fulfill its global responsibilities through more peaceful means, thus setting a good example for the rest of the world. Finally, Ikenberry suspects that a remilitarized Japan will destabilize East Asia. I find all of these arguments uncompelling.

[Japanese] feel pressure from the United States to “step up to the plate” and be a more fully capable ally. Even before September 11, the U.S. has been urging Japan to breakout of its old postwar straightjacket. The so-called Armitage report – a bipartisan group of Japan foreign policy specialists and diplomats – called for the U.S. and Japan to transform their relationship into something akin to the U.S.-British special relationship.

I don’t see a problem here. Why is it a bad thing for anyone if one of the world wealthiest states, and one that has a deeply vested interest in maintenance of the political and economic status quo, takes more vigorous military steps to maintain that status quo? Why, exactly, would it be bad for the Japanese to become a military power on par with Britain or France (or, likely, even stronger than that)? Ikenberry does not present a compelling argument, but seems concerned that a stronger Japanese military will simply become a pawn in some neoconservative fantasy. This is absurd; whatever foreign policy goals Japan could be imagined to have, invading countries and installing liberal democratic governments can’t possibly be one of them. Japan is never going to be a driver of US military adventurism, and I doubt very much that it will even be an enthusiastic participant. Neocons are idiots, and just because they think that a re-militarized Japan will enable them to further pursue their fantasies doesn’t make it a reality. Indeed, I would expect a re-militarized Japan to be less amenable to US hegemony, rather than more. If the Japanese military can solve problems on its own, it will need to rely less on the United States. Moreover, I’m not really even sold on how strengthening the hand of the United States in hegemonic maintenance is a bad thing.

Ikenberry is concerned that international responsibility is being defined to narrowly by advocates of re-militarization:

I agree that Japan ought to be a “responsible” power. But I think it is incorrect to simply equate “responsibility” with the ability to use force. Is Japan being responsible when it alters its constitution so that it can more fully join the Bush administration’s war on terrorism – or is it being responsible when it engages America on its own terms and articulates its own vision of security and international community?

It seems to me that this is rather a question for the Japanese to answer. I am uncompelled by the argument that Japan ought to pursue some kind of pacific form of responsibility while it is obviously dependent on the military force of other nations for the maintenance of the global economic system on which its prosperity is contingent. Sure, there are plenty of ways to influence world politics without using military force, and certainly the Bush administration would be well advised to learn at least one. There are also lots of ways in which military force is a useful tool of statecraft. I see no reason why Japan should eschew this tool while Britain, France, Germany, China, Russia, India, and the United States do not.

Finally, Ikenberry uses a form of the old argument about Japanese war guilt:

I am not convinced that Japanese national identity – particularly as it is manifest in military/constitutional terms – is strictly an internal matter. Nor is Chinese, Korean or American national identity, for that matter. As is international politics more generally, national identity is profoundly relational. In Japan’s complicated historical case, this is all the more true. The revision of Article 9 is a major “regional event” – and Japan is headed for trouble if its leaders say:

It’s true that Japan has not evaluated its behavior in World War II as clearly as, say, Germany. It’s also clear that the Japanese have done a much better job of assessing their responsibility than, for example, the Russians. Yes, I am certain that the abolition of Article 9 will disconcert many of the Asian countries that suffered from Japanese imperialism sixty years ago. I am just as certain that Japan has no interest in reasserting the imperial project, and doubt very much that it could even if it wanted. I suspect that the abolition of Article 9 will arouse a fair amount of indignation at first, and will then be largely forgotten. I doubt that the Chinese, for example, put much trust in the argument that a constitutional clause will restrain Japanese imperialism in any case. Because Chinese defense policy is oriented around the conquest of Taiwan rather than defense against an outside aggressor anyway, I’m unconvinced that the Chinese leadership view Japan as a genuine threat, rather than as a useful sounding board for nationalist rhetoric.

Again, I see no further use for Article 9. If Japan wishes to build a more powerful military, capable of foreign intervention and hegemonic maintenance, then it ought to be able to. To be quite honest, I think that the world will benefit from a more militarily capable Japan.

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