FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Will Japan Take the Bait?

“………..Their defeat

Doth by their own insinuation grow.

‘Tis dangerous when the baser nature comes

Between the pass and fell incensèd points

Of mighty opposites.”

— Hamlet on the deaths of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

At the height of the 2012 election campaign in late October, a U.S. delegation tiptoed into Japan and then China with scant media coverage.   It was “unofficial,” but Hillary Clinton gave it her blessing.  And it was headed by two figures high in the imperial firmament, Richard L. Armitage, who served as Deputy Secretary of State for George W. Bush; and Joseph S. Nye Jr., a former Pentagon and intelligence official in the Clinton administration and Dean Emeritus of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.  The delegation also included James B. Steinberg, who served as the Deputy Secretary of State in the Obama administration and Stephen J. Hadley, Bush Two’s national security adviser.

The delegation was billed as an attempt by the U.S. to defuse tensions between Japan and China over a number of small islands both claim.  But was it?   What is the outlook of these influential figures?  Interestingly, Armitage and Nye provide us with a partial answer in a brief paper published the preceding August by the Center for International and Strategic Studies (CSIS), entitled “The Japan-U.S. Alliance.  Anchoring Stability in Asia,” the carefully crafted fruit of a CSIS Study Group they chaired.   The strategy proposed therein, as outlined below, should be very distressing to the Chinese – as well as to the Japanese and Americans.

The Armitage/Nye paper addresses itself to the Japanese themselves, the target audience, in the Introduction as follows:

“Together, we face the re-rise of China and its attendant uncertainties…..

Tier-one nations have significant economic weight, capable military forces global vision, and demonstrated leadership on international concerns. Although there are areas in which the United States can better support the (Japan-U.S.) alliance, we have no doubt of the United States’ continuing tier-one status. For Japan, however, there is a decision to be made. Does Japan desire to continue to be a tier-one nation, or is she content to drift into tier-two status? If tier-two status is good enough for the Japanese people and their government, this report will not be of interest.” (Emphasis, J.W)

Read that carefully.  It is a thinly veiled appeal to the worst aspects of Japanese militarism and nationalism, which for good reason are so reviled in East Asia.  It is done in the context of the “re-rise’ of China, a phrase that invokes China’s past world supremacy and Japan’s inferior status at the time.  What sort of beast is this disturbing plea designed to awaken?

Again in the Introduction, the authors make the military dimensions of their appeal quite specific, writing: “Japan’s Self-Defense Forces (JSDF)—now the most trusted institution in Japan—are poised to play a larger role in enhancing Japanese security and reputation if anachronistic constraints can be eased.” (Emphasis, J.W.)  What are these “anachronistic restraints”?  As the authors later make clear, they are embodied in Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution, written under the tutelage of MacArthur’s occupying forces.  The Article so irksome to Armitage and Nye reads:

“ARTICLE 9. Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes. (2) To accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.”

This is a breathtakingly appealing, pacifist statement; and there is a brief, worthwhile account of Article 9 here.   Article 9 is extremely popular in Japan, and eliminating it from the Constitution would not be easy, as Armitage and Nye recognize (1).   Moreover, Armitage and Nye concede that Article 9 prohibits collective self-defense, which involves joint military action by the U.S. and Japan .  As they say in their paper:

“The irony, however, is that even under the most severe conditions requiring the protection of Japan’s interests, our forces are legally prevented from collectively defending Japan. … Prohibition of collective self-defense is an impediment to the (U.S.-Japan) alliance.”  (Emphasis, JW.  Note that the authors do not say protection of Japan but of Japan’s “interests.”)

What then is the U.S. to do?  Armitage and Nye see a solution in the joint rescue operations mounted by the Japan Self Defense Forces (JSDF) and U.S. forces (Operation Tomodachi, meaning “Operation Friends”) in response to the earthquake, tsunami and Fukushima disaster of March 11, 2011, know as 3-11 in Japan.    There, the joint rescue efforts were not opposed by those who favor Article 9 and the spirit it embodies.   Armitage and Nye suggest that Operation Tomodachi simply be taken as a precedent to justify future joint operations.  In other words, the Japanese Constitution is simply to be ignored, pretty much the tactic that Truman inaugurated in the U.S. to plunge the country into the Korean war and the tactic Barack Obama has used in interventions like the one in Libya.  Simply ignore the Constitution and its requirement that the U.S. Congress alone can declare war.   This is an example, as if another were needed, of how our elites view the “rule of law” to which they appeal so often.  (And one wonders whether from the outset Operation Tomodachi was viewed in part in this way by its architects.  How many other U.S. humanitarian missions might have ancillary covert purposes, one might ask?)

Armitage and Nye also mention that the Yanai Committee report of 2006 notes that the prime minister could by fiat put aside the Article IX prohibition, as in antipiracy efforts in Djibouti.   But this report has been seen as an effort to subvert the Japanese Constitution.  As Prof. Craig Martin of Washburn School of Law, an American expert in these matters, wrote at the time,  “the exercise of using an extra-constitutional body to advance a ‘revision’ of the interpretation of the Constitution, was illegitimate on a number of levels, the most important being that it was an end-run around the amendment provisions in the Constitution.”   But then that is precisely what Armitage and Nye are up to.

Article 9 remains popular in Japan although its popularity has been substantially eroded in recent years.  The reasons for this and the forces behind it deserve some careful examination in light of the U.S. Empire’s “pivot” to East Asia.  But so long as the Japanese Communist Party and Japanese Socialists remain a force in government and society there is little chance that Article 9 will be repealed, making the end run necessary if Japan is to be remilitarized.  The very existence of the JDSF in fact can be seen as illegal under the provisions of Article 9, which is why the JDSF was originally dubbed a National Police Force.  Armitage and Nye sum up the military aspects of their report in the following recommendation to Japan:  “Japan should expand the scope of her responsibilities to include the defense of Japan and defense with the United States in regional contingencies. The allies require more robust, shared, and interoperable ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance) capabilities and operations that extend well beyond Japanese territory. It would be a responsible authorization on the part of Japan to allow U.S. forces and JSDF to respond in full cooperation throughout the security spectrum of peacetime, tension, crisis, and war.”  (Emphasis, JW.)  For diplomats that is about as specific and concrete as it gets.  And it is very troubling since it is hardly a plan for peace.

The Armitage/Nye paper contains much more.  Japan is urged to participate more fully in forums involving the Philippines, India, Taiwan and the Republic of Korea (ROK), i.e. South Korea.  China is not mentioned in this regard – not surprisingly.  Armitage and Nye know that this is a tough sell for the citizens of the ROK with vivid memories of Japanese conquest and atrocities in WWII.  But Armitage and Nye hope it can be engineered.

The report also has an economic dimension.  The idea of using India as a battering ram against China, which was popular in the Bush administration and which was aided by Israel, is not really viable.  India is riven by internal disputes, corruption, religious divisions and a Maoist rebellion over a large part of its territory.  And economically it is wanting.   Military power grows from economic power and so the U.S. needs the aid of a powerful regional economic power in its drive against China.  That is the role of Japan in the eyes of Armitage and Nye.  Thus, to be useful to the U.S., Japan must restore its economy, now in decline.  This is really a tall order since Japan’s main trading partner and the principle destination for its exports is China.  That became evident in the recent Chinese boycott of Japanese goods as the dispute over the Diaoyou/Sinkaku island intensified recently, which hurt Japan greatly but had little effect on the Chinese economy. But again Armitage and Nye hold out hope.  Their solution is for Japan to restore and expand its nuclear power.  (One wonders why the U.S. environmentalists have not spoken out about that and whether the Japanese environmentalists have knowledge of these plans for Japan, hatched in the U.S.) In addition Armitage and Nye offer Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) and other petroleum products from North America as more largesse to link Japan closer to the U.S.  As they write: “The shale gas revolution in the continental United States and the abundant gas reserves in Alaska present Japan and the United States with a complementary opportunity: the United States should begin to export LNG from the lower 48 states by 2015, and Japan continues to be the world’s largest LNG importer. Since 1969, Japan has imported relatively small amounts of LNG from Alaska, and interest is picking up in expanding that trade link, given Japan’s need to increase and diversify its sources of LNG imports, especially in light of 3-11.”  Again one wonders where the voices of U.S. environmentalists are on this matter.

The idea of Japan outdoing China in East Asia economically is a pipe dream, with or without the U.S.   China has a population of 1.3 billion and Japan 130 million.  To expect Japan to emerge as a serious challenge to China in the long term is like hoping that in the immediate future Canada with its 34 million can challenge the U.S. with 315 million.  And China has a vibrant economy, an educated workforce and a culture to be reckoned with, from which Japan’s emerged and followed until it was “Westernized.”

So what is Japan’s protection to be in the face of such a large and powerful neighbor?   For one thing, Japan certainly has the wherewithal to deter aggression from any quarter with its advanced technology and its potential for nuclear weapons development.   For another, China has no record of expansionism overseas even going back to 1400 when it was the world’s premier naval power but never conquered or established colonies or took slaves.  But a large part of Japanese security lies in an increasing respect for international law with its emphasis on sovereignty.  The concept of sovereignty in international law is the protection of small nations from the depredations of large ones.  And ironically the principal threat to the idea of sovereignty comes from the United States and the West with their pre-emptive wars and “humanitarian” interventions, which trash the classical concept of sovereignty.  Japan should be wary of dealings with such powers and supporting such ideas.

For Japan to take the bait and be the cat’s paw for U.S. schemes in East Asia borders on the insane.  And  diplomatic exchanges between China and Japan in recent weeks following the Japanese elections show that many Japanese recognize this.  They and the Chinese seem increasingly willing to work out differences in a structure of peace.  We should hope so – and so should the Japanese.  He who takes the bait is often left holding the bag.

John V. Walsh can be reached at John.Endwar@gmail.com

 

More articles by:

John V. Walsh can be reached at John.Endwar@gmail.com

June 20, 2018
Henry Giroux
Trump’s War on Children is an act of State Terrorism
Bill Hackwell
Unprecedented Cruelty Against Immigrants and Their Children
Paul Atwood
“What? You Think We’re So Innocent?”
Nicola Perugini
The Palestinian Tipping Point
K.J. Noh
Destiny and Daring: South Korean President Moon Jae-In’s Impossible Journey Towards Peace
Gary Leupp
Jeff Sessions and St. Paul’s Clear and Wise Commands
M. G. Piety
On Speaking Small Truths to Power
Dave Lindorff
Some Straight Talk for Younger People on Social Security (and Medicare too)
George Wuerthner
The Public Value of Forests as Carbon Reserves
CJ Hopkins
Confession of a Putin-Nazi Denialist
David Schultz
Less Than Fundamental:  the Myth of Voting Rights in America
Rohullah Naderi
The West’s Over-Publicized Development Achievements in Afghanistan 
Dan Bacher
California Lacks Real Marine Protection as Offshore Drilling Expands in State Waters
Lori Hanson – Miguel Gomez
The Students of Nicaragua’s April Uprising
Russell Mokhiber
Are Corporations Behind Frivolous Lawsuits Against Corporations?
Michael Welton
Infusing Civil Society With Hope for a Better World
June 19, 2018
Ann Robertson - Bill Leumer
We Can Thank Top Union Officials for Trump
Lawrence Davidson
The Republican Party Falls Apart, the Democrats Get Stuck
Sheldon Richman
Trump, North Korea, and Iran
Richard Rubenstein
Trump the (Shakespearean) Fool: a New Look at the Dynamics of Trumpism
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
Protect Immigrant Rights; End the Crises That Drive Migration
Gary Leupp
Norway: Just Withdraw From NATO
Kristine Mattis
Nerd Culture, Adultolescence, and the Abdication of Social Priorities
Mike Garrity
The Forest Service Should Not be Above the Law
Colin Todhunter
Pro-GMO Activism And Smears Masquerade As Journalism: From Seralini To Jairam Ramesh, Aruna Rodrigues Puts The Record Straight
Doug Rawlings
Does the Burns/Novick Vietnam Documentary Deserve an Emmy?
Kenneth Surin
2018 Electioneering in Appalachian Virginia
Nino Pagliccia
Chrystia Freeland Fails to See the Emerging Multipolar World
John Forte
Stuart Hall and Us
June 18, 2018
Paul Street
Denuclearize the United States? An Unthinkable Thought
John Pilger
Bring Julian Assange Home
Conn Hallinan
The Spanish Labyrinth
Patrick Cockburn
Attacking Hodeidah is a Deliberate Act of Cruelty by the Trump Administration
Gary Leupp
Trump Gives Bibi Whatever He Wants
Thomas Knapp
Child Abductions: A Conversation It’s Hard to Believe We’re Even Having
Robert Fisk
I Spoke to Palestinians Who Still Hold the Keys to Homes They Fled Decades Ago – Many are Still Determined to Return
Steve Early
Requiem for a Steelworker: Mon Valley Memories of Oil Can Eddie
Jim Scheff
Protect Our National Forests From an Increase in Logging
Adam Parsons
Reclaiming the UN’s Radical Vision of Global Economic Justice
Dean Baker
Manufacturing Production Falls in May and No One Notices
Laura Flanders
Bottom-Up Wins in Virginia’s Primaries
Binoy Kampmark
The Anguish for Lost Buildings: Embers and Death at the Victoria Park Hotel
Weekend Edition
June 15, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Dan Kovalik
The US & Nicaragua: a Case Study in Historical Amnesia & Blindness
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Yellow Journalism and the New Cold War
Charles Pierson
The Day the US Became an Empire
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail