Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Rearming Japan

A little while ago, Victor Davis Hanson wrote an article talking about how there will be no 'end of history'. In it he wrote the following:

Rich and free Japan is considering rearming rather than writing more checks to stop North Korean missiles from zooming through its airspace.

The article itself isn't exactly short, but this one sentence stuck out at me. At the time, I'd said that I'm with him on thinking that the rearming of Japan is almost inevitable. The reason being that I don't think the United States is willing to commit the resources necessary to defend itself from the rising Islamofacist tide as well as the forces required to keep the situation in Asia stable. Would the U.S. go to war with NoKos or the Chinese if they decided to snag an island or two?

Now I, myself, can't say as I'd be all that comfortable with a rearmed Japan (ditto Germany), and I tend to doubt that many of Japan's neighbors would be all that comfortable either (might even lead to a regional arms buildup a'la pre-WWI Europe); but what else are they going to do?

Recently, as well, Den Beste wrote an article lauding Japan's help in Iraq. He linked to another site which had the following interesting comment from a web reader:

Yes, Japan is acting as US ally in this instance, but everyone here (I live in Japan) sees the issue from another perspective.
Koizumi and the rest of the LDP have for years been trying to chip away at Article 9, the part of the constitution that prevents them from fielding a "real army" (even though the SDF is very impressive) and from engaging in battle zones.
The domestic reality is that they cannot repeal Article 9, no matter how much they would like to. However, by doing things like deploying the SDF to Iraq, they are gradually stretching its bounds and creating precedent for more creative and aggressive use of the military.

Ahh, the plot thickens! Of course John Derbyshire poo-poo'd the idea of a rearmed Japan based on imploding demographics. What the U.S. military proves, though, is that high technology can make up for a lack of manpower; and would there be any doubt about the technical prowess of a rearmed Japan? My guess would be that Japan could field a military at least as competent, if not more so, as Great Britain's in a very short order.

Why my unease at a rearmed Japan? Firstly, there was the whole 'trying-to-take-over-all-of-East-Asia' thing; a facet of Japanese history that the Japanese themselves tend to gloss over or forget the worst aspects of.

My other reasons are a little more gut driven. With Great Britain, there is little doubt that Britain's own use of their armed services worry us not. Because of a common culture and military doctrine, we don't worry about the U.K. starting some cataclysmic affair that threatens world stability (for what that 'stability' counts for today). When Great Britain took back the Falklands, they didn't then go to Argentina and overthrow the government while raping and plundering the countryside. This is not to come off as ethnocentric, but I don't know if we could have the same expectations of Japan (or Germany) were they to rearm. Looking back on their military history, most of it is bad, not in terms of skill mind you, but in execution. I don't know where they would draw their military traditions from, but I'm afraid the all too recent past would provide too tempting a model. This is not to say that I think Japan would run rampant over Asia again, just that the mindset of their military may run counter to the interests of the United States and Japan's neighbors in Asia.

Another reason has to do with the idea of the 'single broker'. In general, Russia saw the NATO countries as one homogeneous block; and for the most part that was true. The U.S. wasn't going to try to retake East Germany by force if the West Germans and/or British didn't approve. In this instance, it led to a predictability in the situation that kept it rather stable.

I would tend to doubt, though, that the other countries in Asia would view the U.S./rearmed Japan relationship that way, as I doubt many people in those countries would see it that way themselves. International deals concerning security would be moot since the countries involved wouldn't trust Japan to hold up their end of any bargain, and without the over riding military dominance of the U.S. over Japan, there really wouldn't be any way for the U.S. to twist their arm (not that we have all that much ability now).

I must conclude, though, that despite the downsides, that the rearming may be the best option for Japan at the moment. At least if I lived in Japan, that's what I would think. If Japan had some islands stolen by one of her nasty neighbors, the U.S. citizenry would probably scratch their heads at having to exclusively defend such a well-to-do country. Sure, we'd help, but I'd think it'd be condensing to all involved if the U.S. had to defend Japan by themselves.

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