Abe rivals the Warlord in unpopularity and perceived incompetence. His rebuff in the Upper House elections notwithstanding, the nationalists and Administration’s enthusiasm for disemboweling the heart of the post-war Japanese self-identity via amending Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution will continue. Most of the animus against Abe is for his blandness and incompetence, not for his reactionary nationalism. We’ve written about it before and the importance of seemingly benign code words such as “normal country” futso no kuni here and here.
Japan is now flying planes from the home islands with the U.S. Air Force and dropping live 500 lb. bombs on Farallon de Medinilla, a tiny island in the western Pacific’s turquoise waters more than 150 miles north of Guam.
Japan is acquiring weapons that blur the lines between defensive and offensive. For the Guam bombing run, Japan deployed its newest war planes, the F-2s, the first developed jointly by Japan and the US. Unlike its older jets, the F-2s were able to fly the 1,700 miles from northern Japan to Guam without refuelling – a “straight shot,” as the Japanese said with unconcealed pride. Japan has strongly indicated its desire to buy the F-22 Raptor – a stealth fighter known mainly for its offensive abilities like penetrating contested airspace and destroying enemy targets – whose export is prohibited by US law.
At home, the Defence Agency, whose profile had been intentionally kept low, became a full ministry this year. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe used the huge parliamentary majority he inherited from his popular predecessor, Junichiro Koizumi, to push through a law that could lead to a revision of the pacifist constitution.
The Pentagon is not alone in pushing for overt re-militarization of Japan. Recall General Jello and the Benchpresser were in the forefront of this ill-conceived effort, as well as Michael Green. In another one of those horrific historical beau gestes, the Stiftung recalls the young Green taking Japanese classes and presenting earnest get-ahead go-getterdom. And Nat Thayer was no Reischauer and so on.
In fairness to both Messrs. Jello and Benchpresser, the issue is somewhat layered, tied up with Japan’s desire to sit on the UN Security Council, its insecurities in the face of Chinese military, economic, financial and demographic preponderance, etc. Nonetheless, the idea is a terrible short term embrace of expediency over sound strategic analysis and policy. Here’s a surprisingly good NYT video short on the efforts to remilitarize Japan. Those who know the Stiftung understand our personal interest in and connection to the Japanese Constitution and such misguided, ill-conceived thinking by some of the personalities on both sides of the Pacific.