Warning: Reading The Wall Street Journal on China-Japan relations is dangerous to your intellectual health. Exhibit: the Review & Outlook (Asia) column entitled “A ‘Collective’ U.S.-Japan Defense” published on February 5, 2014.
What kind of East Asia do the people of this region yearn for and deserve? No thought is required to answer: a region of harmony, peace and security.
That the editors of the Wall Street Journal do hot share this view, do not sympathize with it, or do not believe that it is possible, is evident in this column. Like an unfortunately large number of foreign interested parties, the WSJ seems able to conceive of only two conditions of Asian interstate relations: armed-to-the-teeth standoff Cold War, or hot war.
An unchallengeable U.S.-Japan military alliance as the “cornerstone” of the U.S. and Japanese relations, and military power as the principle (or at least the key) element in political relations, are the organizing principles for both U.S. and Japanese bi-lateral and regional policy, according to the WSJ’s view.
That the WSJ is faithfully representing the Pentagon and the rest of the U.S. and Japanese political-military-industrial complexes is obvious.
Also obvious is that the WSJ’s view–again, unfortunately, representing a broad range of deeply entrenched bureaucratic, political and economic vested interests–creates a convenient self-fulfilling prophesy, as a “national security” militarized approach and mentality by Japan and the U.S. inevitably engenders a militarized response from the regional counterparties–especially (as everyone must and does expect) China.
In the February 5 column, the WSJ writes:
“U.S. and Chinese officials continue to spar over China’s recent declaration of a huge new air-defense zone, which makes even more important Shinzo Abe’s move to reinterpret the Japanese constitution and end a 67-year ban on collective self-defense….
“Because of the way the constitution’s Article 9 is interpreted now, Japanese forces could do nothing to help the U.S. if it were under attack. That’s especially relevant given North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs….”
The point is correctly made that the U.S.-Japan “Mutual Defense Treaty” has never really been “mutual.” Article 9 prohibits Japan from possessing army, navy, or air forces and foreswears the use of force to resolve international disputes. The “interpretation” of the Constitution that has allowed “self defense forces” is clearly a violation of both the letter and spirit of the constitution.
The WSJ column continues:
“The two countries are now revising their bilateral defense guidelines, and past revisions have expanded Japan’s role in support of U.S. operations in a regional crisis… and the U.S. has in the past urged Japan to move toward collective self-defense….”
Yes, U.S. pressure on Japan’s military to build or buy more weapons, increase troop levels, expand missions, and generally to increasingly adopt an offensive, rather than defensive capability and raison d’etre is long standing. (And this is always ‘incremental’ within the alliance. Never considered is a substantial reduction in U.S. forces or bases in Japan or in the USD 2 billion paid annually by Japan to the Pentagon. On the contrary, in the case the “relocation” of the Futenma U.S. Marine airbase what is really happening is building of a huge new base the use of which will be unrestricted.)
With the Pentagon and, now, under Abe, Tokyo defense bureaucracies, the only choice is between more and deadlier armaments and offensive reach, and much more of both. “Collective defense” would have Japan attacking and submitting itself to attacks in circumstances where it had not been attacked first and could have avoided hostilities.
The WSJ continues with painfully familiar breast-beating, Cold War rhetoric:
“The principle that democracies should band together to face the threat of dictatorships is a linchpin of the post-World War II world order…The rise of China is putting stress on this Pax Americana, as the Obama Administration’s ‘pivot’ implicitly acknowledges. Washington now needs its allies to work cooperatively, not merely as spokes on a security wheel.”
And, so there can be no mistake, this line:
“…. A coalition of democracies could be a more effective counterweight to China’s encroaching militarism.”
We must ask: “More effective that what?” “The status quo?” The WSJ is blind to the militarism of its own mentality and approach, as well as to the essential militarism of the U.S. alliance system in Asia, with its “cornerstone” of U.S. bases, including the headquarters and the Seventh Fleet, and some 100,000 force personnel in Japan and South Korea.
But it is not militarism that most concerns the WSJ, it is the absence of militarism and the desire of almost all the people in Japan to avoid war, a people who–unlike most Americans–know the horrors of modern war in their own country.
The WSJ continues: “….Japan can fill the breach if it can navigate the tricky politics. The majority of the Japanese public is against collective self-defense…. While Mr. Abe probably can get the votes, New Komeito might then leave the government. One possible scenario is a reorganization of Japan’s parties in which right-of-center elements in the opposition come over to the LDP.”
This may, indeed, happen. Abe, seizing the chance provided by the crisis in relations with China–a crisis caused by Japan’s “nationalization” of the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands and exacerbated by U.S. policies–may succeed in getting the constitutional “reinterpretation” he wants to permit “collective defense” with the U.S.
But this will be a great and grave (though not uncorrectable) mistake. What most Japanese believe is that modern war is, and must remain, unconscionable and unthinkable, a non-option. They are right and just to so believe.
The natural and correct path for Japan today and tomorrow is pacifism and essential neutrality between the United States and China. Advancing along this path requires abrogating the U.S.-Japan “alliance,” not expanding it through a doctrine of “collective defense.”
Abe’s “collective defense” initiative should be defeated, and the Cold Warriors at the WSJ should be retired.
Source: Forbes Business