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Why Okinawa Should Matter

12 Oct

 

[An earlier version of this post appeared in the Japanese publication, Ryukyu Shimpo. The article is devoted to a critical discussion of Okinawa’s role in serving American and Japanese strategic interests. Since the end of World War II Okinawa has been a mostly unhappy host of American military bases, and the issue has been prominent at times on the agenda of the Japanese peace movement. The interplay of overseas bases and U.S. foreign policy is a crucial and often hidden dimension of the global projection of American power, which gives rise to friction with and opposition from the peoples living in the vicinity of the bases. This has certainly been the case in relation to Okinawa. The essay below offers some reflections on this underlying reality, as well as the linkage between this network of foreign military bases and the emergence of the first global state in history, a new political phenomenon that should not be confused with ‘empires’ of the past.]

 

Remembering Okinawa

 

When President Barack Obama visited Hiroshima in May of 2016 there was an effort to persuade him to put Okinawa on his travel itinerary, but as has happened frequently throughout the long tortured history of Okinawa, the request was ignored, and the people of the island were once more disappointed. In an important sense, Okinawa is the most shameful legacy of Japan’s defeat in World War II, exceeding even the sites of the atomic attacks by its daily reminders of a continued colonialist encroachment on Okinawan national dignity and wellbeing.

 

Actually, Okinawa is being victimized by overlapping exploitations with that of the United States reinforced and legitimized by mainland Japan. For the United States Okinawa serves as a hub for its strategic military operations throughout the Pacific, with at least 14 separate military bases occupying about 20% of the island, with Kadena Air Base having been used for B-29 bombing missions during the Korean War more than a half century ago, the island being used as a major staging area throughout the Vietnam War and as a secret site for the deployment of as many as 1,000 nuclear warheads in defiance of Japanese declared no-nukes policy. Actually, in recent years Okinawa rarely receives global news coverage except when there occurs a sex crime by American servicemen that provokes local outrage, peaceful mass demonstrations followed by the strained apologies of local American military commanders.

 

Japan’s role in the misfortunes of Okinawa is more than one of a passive acceptance of the enduring side effects of its defeat and humiliation in World War II. After a series of military incursions, Japan finally conquered Okinawa and the Ryukyu island chain of which it is a part in 1879, and then imposed its rule in ways that suppressed the culture, traditions, and even the language of the native populations of the islands. What is virtually unknown in the West is that Okinawa was the scene of the culminating catastrophic land battle between the United States and Japan in the Spring of 1945 that resulted in the death of an astounding one-third of the island’s civilian population of then 300,000, and its subsequent harsh military administration by the United States for the next 27 years until the island was finally turned back to Japan in 1972. Despite an estimated 60-80% of Okinawans being opposed to the U.S. bases, confirmed by the recent election of an anti-bases governor of prefecture, the government in Tokyo, currently headed by a dangerous militarist, Shinzo Abe, is comfortable with the status quo, which allows most of the unpopular continuing American military presence to be centered outside of mainland Japan, and hence no longer a serious political irritant within the country.

 

What the plight of Okinawans exemplifies is the tragic ordeal of a small island society, which because of its small population and size, entrapment within Japan, and geopolitical significance, failed to be included in the decolonizing agenda that was pursued around the world with such success in the last half of the 20th century. This tragic fate that has befallen Okinawa and its people results from being a ‘colony’ in a post-colonial era. Its smallness of current population (1.4 million) combined with its enclosure within Japanese sovereign statehood and its role in pursuing the Asian strategic interests of the United States, as well as joint military operations with Japan make it captive of a militarized world order that refuses to acknowledge the supposedly inalienable right of self-determination, an entitlement of all peoples according to common Article 1 of both human rights covenants. In this respect Okinawa, from a global perspective, is a forgotten remnant of the colonial past, which means it is subjugated and irrelevant from the perspective of a state-centric world order. In this respect, it bears a kinship with such other forgotten peoples as those living in Kashmir, Chechnya, Xinjiang, Tibet, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Palau, Marianas Islands, among many others.

 

There are other ways of being forgotten. I have for many years been concerned about the Palestinian ordeal, another geopolitical and historical casualty of Euro-American priorities and the colonialist legacy. Here, too, the indigenous population of Palestine has endured decades of suffering, denials of basic rights, and a dynamic of victimization initiated a century ago when the British Foreign Office issued the Balfour Declaration pledging support to the world Zionist movement for the establishment of a Jewish Homeland in historic Palestine, later placed under the tutorial role of the United Kingdom with the formal blessings of the League of Nations until the end of World War II. Instead of Japan playing the intermediate role as in Okinawa, it is Israel that pursues its own interests and teams with the United States and Europe as a strategic partner to carry forward its shared geopolitical goals throughout the Middle East and North Africa. Of course, there are crucial differences. Japan is constrained as a partner by its postwar peace constitution, which Abe is keen to circumvent and dilute, while Israel has become a military powerhouse in the region, enjoying a special relationship with the United States that includes the incredible assurance by Washington of a military capability capable of defeating any foreseeable combination of Arab adversaries. Also, unlike Okinawa, there are no American military bases in Israel. There is no need for them. Israel acts as an American surrogate, and sometimes even vice versa. Yet the result is the same—force projection unconnected with self-defense, but vital for upholding regional strategic interests that involves maintaining a visible military presence and offering allies in the region credible promises of protection.

 

When we raise questions about the future of Okinawa, we come face to face with the role and responsibility of global civil society. The Palestinian goals appear to remain more ambitious than those of the Okinawans, although such an impression could be misleading. The Palestinian movement is centered upon realizing the right of self-determination, which means at the very least an end to occupation and a diplomacy that achieves a comprehensive, sustainable, and just peace. For Okinawans, long integrated into the Japanese state, earlier dreams of independence seem to have faded, and the focus of political energy is currently devoted to the anti-bases campaign. Taking moral globalization seriously means conceiving of citizenship as borderless with respect to space and time, an overall identity I have described elsewhere under the label ‘citizen pilgrim,’ someone on a life journey to build a better future by addressing the injustices of the present wherever encountered.

 

In this respect, acting as citizen pilgrims means giving attention to injustices that the world as a whole treats as invisible except when an awkward incident of lethal abuse occurs. Okinawa has been effectively swept under the dual rugs of statism (Okinawa is part of the sovereign state of Japan) and geopolitics (Okinawa offers the United States indispensable military bases), and even the mainly Japanese peace movement may have grown fatigued and distracted, being currently preoccupied with its opposition to the revival of Japanese militarism under Abe’s leadership. Whether attention to the plight of Okinawa will give rise to false hopes is a concern, but the aspiration is to produce an empowering recognition throughout the world that for some peoples the struggle against colonialism remains a present reality rather than a heroic memory that can be annually celebrated as an independence day holiday. Until we in the United States stand in active solidarity with such victims of colonialist governance we will never know whether more can be done to improve prospects of their emancipation. This awareness and allegiance is the very least that we can do if we are to act in the spirit of a citizen pilgrimage.

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A Moral Revolution? Reflections on President Obama’s Visit to Hiroshima

5 Jun

There is no doubt that President Barack Obama’s visit to Hiroshima this May crossed some thresholds hitherto taboo. Above all the visit was properly heralded as the first time a sitting American president has dared such a pilgrimage, which has already been critically commented upon by patrioteers in America who still think that the Japanese deserved such a punishment for initiating the war or believed that only such ‘shock and awe’ could induce the Japenese to surrender without a costly invasion of the mainland. As well many in Asia believe that Obama by the visit is unwittingly letting Japan off the accountability hook for its seemingly unrepentant record of atrocities throughout Asia, especially given the perception that the current Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, is doing his conservative best to reinvigorate Japanese nationalism, and even revive imperial ambitions.

 

Obama is a gifted orator who excels in finding the right words for the occasion, and in Hiroshima his rhetoric soared once more. There he noted “[t]echnological progress without an equivalent progress in human institutions can doom us. The scientific revolution that led to the splitting of the atom requires a moral revolution as well.” Such stirring words would seem to be a call to action, especially when reinforced by a direct challenge: “..among nations like my own that hold nuclear stockpiles, we must have the courage to escape the logic of fear and pursue a world without them.” Obama at Prague in 2009, shortly after being sworn in as president, set forth an inspiring vision along the same lines, yet the small print there and now makes us wonder whether his heart and head are truly aligned. The words flow with grace and even passion, but where are the deeds?

 

As in Prague, Obama expressed the cautionary sentiment in Hiroshima that “[w]e may not realize this goal in my lifetime.” At which point Obama associates himself with the stabilizing agenda of arms control, reducing the size of the stockpile, making the weapons less obtainable by ‘fanatics,’ and implementing nonproliferation goals. Apparently, neither Obama nor the media take note of the tension between eliminating the weaponry and these proposals designed to stabilize the nuclear weapons environment by making it more reliably subject to prudent and rational policies of control. Yet at the same time making proposals to eliminate the weaponry seem less needed, and even at risk of threatening the stability so carefully constructed over the course of decades.

 

The real reason for skepticism about Obama’s approach is his unexplained reasons to defer the abolition of nuclear weaponry to the distant future. When Obama declares that a world without nuclear weapons is not likely to happen in his lifetime without telling us why he is changing his role from an advocate of the needed ‘moral revolution’ so as to achieve the desired political transformation to that of being a subtle endorser of the nuclear status quo. Of course, Obama may be right that negotiating nuclear disarmament will not be easy or quick, but what is the argument against trying, why defer indefinitely?

 

The global setting seems as favorable as it is likely to get. We live at a time when there are no fundamental cleavages among leading sovereign states, all of whom seek to benefit from a robust world economy and to live together without international wars. It would seem to be an overall situation in which dramatic innovations of benefit to the entire world would seem politically attractive. In such an atmosphere why could not Obama have said at Hiroshima, or seven years earlier at Prague, “that during the Cold War people dreamed of a world without nuclear weapons, but the tensions, distrust, and rivalry precluded a reliable disarming process, but now conditions are different. There are no good reasons not to convert dreams of a world without nuclear weapons into a carefully monitored and verified disarmament process, and there are many important reasons to try to do so.” What holds Obama back? Why does he not table a proposal or work with other nuclear governments to produce a realistic timetable to reach nuclear zero?

 

Worse than the seeming absence of what the great theologian, Paul Tillich, called ‘the courage to be’ is the worrisome evidence of double dealing—eloquent words spoken to warn us of the menace of nuclearism coupled with deeds that actually strengthen the hold of nuclearism on the human future. How else should we interpret by plans of the U.S. Government to spend $1 trillion over the next 30 years for the modernization and further development of the existing nuclear weapons arsenal, including provocative plans to develop nuclear weapons with potential battlefield, as opposed to deterrent, missions? Such plans are provocative because they weaken inhibitions on use and tempt other governments to emulate the United States so as offset feared new vulnerabilities to threat and attack. What stands out is the concreteness of the deeds reinforcing the nuclear established order and the abstractness of the words challenging that same order.

 

Beyond this, while calling for a moral revolution, Obama seems at the same time to give his blessings to nuclear energy despite its profound moral shortcomings. Obama views nuclear energy as a contribution to reducing carbon emissions in relation to global warming concerns and as a way to sell nuclear technology abroad and at the same time satisfy the energy goals of countries, such as India, in the global South. What is not acknowledged by Obama is that this nuclear energy technology is extremely dangerous and on balance detrimental in many of the same ways as nuclear weapons, prone to accidents of the sort associated with the incidents at Chernobyl and Fukushima, subject to the hazards of accumulating and disposing of nuclear wastes, vulnerable to nuclear terrorism, and creating the technological capacity for the development of the weapons in a series of additional states.

 

Obama made a point of announcing before visiting Hiroshima that there would be no apology for the attacks by the United States. Clearly, Obama was unwilling to enter a domain that in America remains inflamed by antagonistic beliefs, interpretations, and priorities. There is a scholarly consensus that the war would have soon ended without an invasion or the atomic bomb, but this thesis continues to be challenged by veterans and others who think that the bomb saved American lives, or at minimum, ended the captivity of captured soldiers far sooner than would have been the case without the attacks.

 

In fairness, Obama did acknowledge the unspeakable tragedy for Japanese civilians that experienced the Hiroshima bomb, and he showed real empathy for survivors (hibakusha) who were there in the front rows when he spoke in Hiroshima Memorial Peace Park, but he held back from saying the use of the bomb was wrong, even the second bomb dropped on Nagasaki. Obama’s emphasis, instead, was on working together to make sure that it doesn’t happen again. In this sense, Obama was indirectly legitimating the impunity that was accorded to the victors after World War II, which contrasted with the punitive measures of accountability used to deal with the crimes committed by the surviving leaders of defeated Japan and Germany. The main value of an apology is to bring a degree of closure to those directly and indirectly victimized by those terrible, events that took place more than 70 years ago. By so doing the United States would have moved a bit closer to suspending its self-serving insistence on impunity and this would have withdrawn geopolitical legitimacy from the weaponry.

 

There is something disturbing about America’s unwillingness to live up to the full horror of its past actions even while making a never again pledge. In another recent development that is freighted with similar moral ambiguities, former Senator Bob Kerrey was named the first Chair of the Board of the new Fulbright Vietnam University, a laudable joint educational project of the two countries partly funded by the U.S. Congress, despite his apparent involvement in a shameful atrocity committed during the war. The incident occurred on February 25, 1969 in the village of Thang Phong where a unit of Navy SEALS was assigned the task of assassinating a Viet Cong leader believed to be in the vicinity. Instead of a military encounter, 20 civilians were killed, some brutally. 13 were children and one a pregnant woman.

 

Kerrey contends that the carnage was a result of mistakes, while both a fellow member of the SEALS squad and village residents say that the killing of the civilians was a result of deliberate actions, and not an accident in the darkness. Kerrey received a Bronze Star for the mission, which was reported falsely to his military superiors as resulted in killing 21 Viet Cong militants. What is almost worse, Kerrey kept silent about the incident for more than 30 years, and only spoke about it in public after learning there was about to be a published piece highly critical of his role. Kerrey now says “I have been haunted for 32 years” and explains, “It was not a military victory, it was a tragedy, and I had ordered it.” The weight of the evidence suggests that Kerrey participated as well as ordered the killings, and that although certainly a tragedy it is more properly acknowledged as a severe war crime amounting to an atrocity.

 

We can only imagine what would be the American or Chinese reaction if Japan sent to the United States or China a comparable person to provide an honorific link between the two countries. For instance, sending a Japanese officer to the U.S. who had cruelly administered a POW camp where Americans were held captive and tortured or sending to China a Japanese commander who had participated in some of the grisly happenings associated with ‘the rape of Nanking.’ It is good that Kerrey is finally contrite about his past role and appears to have been genuinely involved in promoting this goodwill encouragement of quality education in Vietnam, yet it seems unacceptably insensitive that he would be chosen to occupy such a position in an educational institution in Vietnam that is named after a prominent American senator who is particularly remembered for his efforts to bringing the Vietnam War to an end.

 

What connects these two seemingly distinct concerns is the steadfast refusal of the United States Government to take responsibility for its past crimes, which ensures that when future political pressures push toward immoral and unlawful behavior a similar disregard for minimal decency will be papered over. Obama’s refusal to consider accountability for the unabashed reliance on torture during the presidency of George W. Bush similarly whitewashes the past while unconvincingly promising to do better in the future. Such a pattern makes a mockery of claims made by Obama on behalf of the United States that unlike its adversaries this is a country that reveres the rule of law whenever it acts at home or abroad. From the pragmatic standpoint of governing America, in fairness, Obama never really had a choice. The political culture would have rebelled against holding the Bush administration accountable for its crime, which brings us closer to the truth of a double standard of suspending the applicability of international criminal law with respect to the policies and practices of the United States while championing individual legal responsibility for its adversaries as an expression of the evolution of moral standards in international life.

 

I believe that double standards has led Obama to put himself forward both as a visionary who seeks a transformed peaceful and just world and also as a geopolitical manager that accepts the job description of the presidency as upholding American global dominance by force as necessary. Now that Obama’s time in the White House is nearing its end we are better able to grasp the incompatibility of his embrace of these two roles, which sadly, and likely tragically, leads to the conclusion that the vision of a world without nuclear weapons was never meant to be more than empty words. What the peoples of the world need to discover over and over again is that the promising words flow easily from the lips of leaders have little significance unless supplemented by a robust movement from below that challenges those who are governing from above. As activists in the 1960s began to understand is that only when the body pushes against the machine will policies incline toward peace and justice, and we in the 21st century will have to rediscover this bit of political wisdom if hope for a nuclear free world is to become a genuine political project.

 

If more than rhetoric is attached to the call for a “moral revolution,” then the place to start would be to question, prior to abandoning, the mentality that is comfortable with double standards when it come to war making and criminal accountability. The whole idea of impunity for the victors and capital punishment for the losers is morally regressive. Both the Obama visit to Hiroshima, as significant as it was, and the Kerrey relationship to the Fulbright Vietnam University, show that American society, even at its best, is far from prepared to take part in the necessary moral revolution.

 

 

Making the Most of Obama’s Hiroshima Visit

11 May

Message to President Barack Obama with respect to forthcoming Hiroshima visit

 

 

[Prefatory Note: I sent the following message to the White House today, and encourage readers of this blog to do the same <www.whitehouse.gov>This symbolic visit by Obama creates a major opportunity to advance a denuclearization agenda, and we should take as much advantage as possible. I am against the mainstream advice that suggests that the best way to give meaning to the event would be to announce the adoption of arms control measures such as suspending development of a new nuclear cruise missile. These measures, while intrinsically valuable, have the downside of stabilizing the nuclear weapons status quo. What would be most helpful would be a step, as suggested below, that gives primacy to nuclear disarmament instead of continuing the deceptive practice of taking prudent steps to cut risks of accidental use and curtail provocative developments and deployments. These steps take the public eye off the supposed target of nuclear disarmament. The only was to honor the memory of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is by moving toward Nuclear Zero, and President Obama is one of the few persons on the planet that has this precious chance to aim at the true target. Of course, it would be appropriate, and long overdue, to apologize to the Japanese public for the ghastly suffering inflicted by the atomic attacks, but that is more than we can reasonably expect a cautious president to do.]

 

 

 

 

Message to President Barack Obama upon the announcement of his intended

                                                Visit to Hiroshima

 

Mr. President:

 

I applaud your decision to visit Hiroshima during your upcoming visit to Japan.

 

I would encourage you to supplement your acknowledgement of a MORAL responsibility of the U.S. in your 2009 Prague Speech with an acknowledgement of a LEGAL responsibility to seek in good faith nuclear disarmament, a point unanimously asserted by the International Court of Justice in its Advisory Opinion of 1996. Such a move would also recognize the legal obligation embedded in Article 6 of the NPT.

 

Making such an historic affirmation would give new life to the pledge to give real meaning to the vision of a world without nuclear weapons, and

act to heighten your legacy in this vital area of your presidency. It would put legal, as well as moral, pressure on all nine nuclear weapons states to comply with their obligations under international law, and in the American case, since the since the NPT is a duly ratified treaty, to act in accordance with the Constitution’s recognition of treaties as ‘the supreme law of the land.’

 

Respectfully,

 

 

Richard Falk

Jeopardizing Japanese ‘Abnormality’: Rejoining the War System

23 Sep

[Prefatory Note: The following post was originally published as an opinion piece in the leading Japanese newspaper, Asahi Shimbun, and appears here with their permission. The link to the Japanese version: http://digital.asahi.com/articles/DA3S11975719.htmlThere are two converging dangers of a new Cold War—one is confronting Russia in the Middle East and Central Asia and the other is confronting China in the South China Sea and elsewhere with a containment mentality within their own immediate sphere of operations. Washington’s encouragement of Prime Minister Abe’s campaign for a ‘normal’ Japan represents a regressive move regionally and globally, and deserves critical attention from a wider geopolitical perspective as well as from the viewpoint of Japan. It may in the end do more to limit the flexibility of the American approach to China than to free Japan from Article 9 constraints, a post-1945 ‘abnormality.’]

 

 

 

Commenting on the Japanese National Security Debate

 

At its peril, most of the world is ignoring the intense Japanese debate that surrounds the passage by the Diet of national security legislation that fulfills Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s vision of Japan’s proper role in the world of the 21st century. The core of the debate is about whether famous Article 9 of the Constitution can be interpreted to permit Japan to engage in collective defense arrangements around the world. Despite various prior tests of the outer limits of Article 9, and its seeming restriction of international force to territorial self-defense, the new legislation stakes out a far broader claim to engage militarily in a variety of situations around the world.

 

Most profoundly at issue is whether a changed national security environment resulting from issues involving nuclear weaponry, extremist non-state actors, and cyber warfare justify this more expansive approach to the use of force. Clearly, Abe’s belief that Japan’s national interests require an expanded role for force, and specifically the option to take part in overseas collective self-defense underlies the crafting of this new national security legislation.

 

There seems to be other issues at stake as well. The most salient of these is the continuing primacy of the United States in shaping of Japan’s security policy. It is ironic that it was U.S. occupation policy that initially demanded an anti-war clause in the new Japanese constitution, and even more ironic that the current prime minister announced his proposed policy reform with respect to collective self-defense on a state visit to the United States prior to informing the Japanese public. This posture long urged by the U.S. was welcomed by its Secretary of Defense as signaling a Japanese shift from a ‘local’ to a ‘global’ view of national security.

 

Most of the internal Japanese debate, pro and con, has been focused on the constitutional issues, especially on whether Article 9 can be interpreted in a manner that is compatible with collective self-defense and other features of the new security proposals. An informed consensus appears to be a resounding ‘no’ as expressed in expert testimony in the Diet and strong statements of opposition circulated among constitutional law professors in Japan. The effective LDP control of both houses of the Diet ensured from the outset that whatever the government proposed would be approved regardless of public opinion or constitutional objections. What seems clear is that legislative endorsement is only the first step in what is expected to be a lengthy battle in court to determine whether the ‘legalization’ of this contested interpretation of Article 9 survives judicial scrutiny.

 

There are more crucial issues at stake than raised by the legal controversy. Abe has previously argued that Article 9 was imposed on a defeated Japan when it was a helpless country without the capacity to form a national will of its own. In effect, his new approach, presented under the banner of making Japan a ‘Proactive Contributor to Peace’ is a bid to overcome the abnormal situation that existed in Japan after 1945. Flexibility for a sovereign government in defining its security priorities should not be, according to this kind of realist thinking, subject to arbitrary and rigid territorial restrictions that Article 9 has imposed. In effect, the new legislation is not militaristic at all, but a recovery of ‘normalcy,’ a restoration of full Japanese sovereignty in a manner enjoyed by other states.

 

This raises the deepest and most meaningful question: Was Japanese ‘abnormality’ a good or bad thing for the people of Japan and of the world? As someone with a commitment to peace and justice I long ago found the Article 9 approach taken by Japan inspirational, pointing the way toward making the international law of the UN Charter come to life, an example that could beneficially be followed by others, including in my wildest fantasies, by the United States itself. It is also encouraging that the Japanese public appears to agree with the positive contributions of Article 9, opinion polls indicating that a clear majority of the Japanese people oppose the new national security legislation and its implicit endorsement of collective self-defense. As is often the case, society is more peace-oriented than the elected leadership, and when party politics endows those in control of the government a capacity to defy the values and opinions of the citizenry, a crisis for democracy becomes embedded in what is put forward as a revision of security policy in light of changed circumstances.

 

The last question contained in such reflections is whether changed regional and international circumstances justify abandoning Article 9 and the peace mentality associated with it. Although Prime Minister Abe promises to carry forward Japan postwar tradition of ‘peace and prosperity’ this effort to normalize Japan is a deliberate policy rupture, especially when tied so indiscreetly to a more active geopolitical partnership with the United States. From my perspective, Japanese abnormality remains a most precious reality, a beacon pointing toward the kind of ‘new realism’ that the 21st century urgently requires.

Remembering Yoshikazu Sakamoto (1927-2014)

30 Nov

(Prefatory Note: This post is dedicated to my remembrance of Yoshi Sakamoto who died recently. Yoshi was a deeply valued friend and an important public intellectual in Japan who exerted a strong influence on the post-war generation. His political orientation, rejecting extremes of right and left, while questioning the militarist premises of the Cold War and Japan’s willingness to become America’s Asian poodle, gave him a distinctive political profile. I am sharing these words of appreciation, and hope that anyone from Japan who comes across this text will contact me, especially if they have a way of putting me in touch with either Yoshi’s family or Japanese media. I would like to believe that ‘an American appreciation’ of Professor Sakamoto would be of interest to those who knew and admired him.)

 

 

Remembering Yoshikazu Sakamoto (1927-2014)

 

I first met Yoshi in the mid-1960s when he came to visit me at Princeton, expressing his concern about the Vietnam War and knowing of my anti-war activism. We bonded quickly and marched in a peaceful demonstration in New York City a few days later, and somehow managed to keep in fairly consistent contact until Yoshi’s death on October 2nd.

 

It was through our participation in the World Order Models Project (WOMP) over a period of about twenty years that we came to know each other best, meeting in different parts of the world every few months, and discussing the weighty issues of the day from time to time. Yoshi was one of the most principled and serious persons I have ever known, subjecting himself (and others) to the highest standards of performance and character from which he never deviated. His work exhibited a perfectionist dedication to excellence that was very challenging to those of us who worked within the ambit of his influence. The majority of his publications were written in Japanese, meaning that the non-Japanese speaking world is so far deprived of much of his scholarship and is not aware of his sustained productivity over the years. His Japanese writings have been collected in six volumes published a few years ago.

 

The golden thread that was woven into the fabric of Yoshi’s life was his commitment to a peaceful world. He was highly critical of and affected by Japanese militarism of the 1930s and World War II that had shadowed his childhood, which he viewed as a betrayal of the Japanese people by the state, and its supportive established order. When I first knew Yoshi he was struggling hard to find firm ground in Japanese political culture for a peaceful future, and was a strong believer in the peace constitution imposed upon the country after World War II, especially Article 9. He was, in the same spirit, opposed to Japanese complicity with American militarism during the Cold War period, and opposed having permanent American military bases on Japanese territory, including Okinawa. Yoshi also favored what might be called peace diplomacy, especially in the Asian setting, working with progressive Japanese intellectuals to promote positive relations with both China and North Korea.

 

In the Japanese discourse Yoshi was often referred to as the leading ‘pacifist’ of ‘the post-war generation,’ and so he was, if pacifist is understood as essentially a synonym for ‘peace’ rather than as an affirmation of unconditional nonviolence in the Gandhi mode. Yoshi supported strongly efforts to achieve disarmament, especially nuclear disarmament, encouraged adherence to international law and respect for the United Nations, and endorsed what I have called ‘nonviolent geopolitics,’ but he was also a believer in human rights and could support ‘humanitarian intervention’ under exceptional circumstances, such as to prevent genocide, ethnic cleansing, and severe crimes against humanity. In this regard, Yoshi tempered his quest for peace with the realization that under some circumstances oppressive violence must be countered by the enforcement of international criminal law. He was sophisticated about the risks entailed, well aware of the capacity of hegemonic actors to manipulate the language of intervention to serve their strategic purposes by hypocritically invoking humanitarianism. Yoshi was critical of the way the superpowers behaved in the decades following the Second World War, and his sympathies clearly supported the struggles of Third World peoples to rid their countries of colonial rule in the spirit of self-determination. He favored reforms that would level the economic playing field, and facilitate the democratic development of the Third World. Apparently a legacy of Hans Morgenthau’s mentorship (as PhD advisor and friend), Yoshi tempered his ethical stance toward world politics with a keen awareness of the way sovereign states pursued their national interests as the expense of the public good.

 

I was struck also in the WOMP context by Yoshi’s emphasis on ‘identity’ as a crucial, often neglected, world order value. [See especially his seminal essay, “Toward Global Identity” in Saul H. Mendlovitz, ed., On the Creation of a Just World Order, 189-210 (1975). Yoshi affirmed that “[t]he need for a global coordinating body is unquestionable.” [193] And yet he was keenly aware that the need by itself was insufficient to what he called “the organizational lag.” From this vantage point, he tried to think through why such a dysfunctional lag persisted in the age of scientific rationality, and how it might be overcome. In seeking understanding, Yoshi emphasized two factors: attachment by individuals to the nation-state as the political actor commanding loyalty unto death for most of its citizens, and existing as the outer limit of political community; the consequent need to construct identities that transcend nationalist boundaries if there ever was to emerge the political will required to support a stronger globalist institutional capacity.

 

With intellectual rigor, and a passion for practical theorizing (and a dislike of wishful thinking), Yoshi offered some guidelines: he expected to witness the growing transnationalization of international life amid increasing interdependence that would over time weaken nationalist attachments, especially as he foresaw the weakening of the geopolitical rivalries that were at the core of the Cold War. He also affirmed the community-building potential of the United Nations, which he believed could be activated through the establishment of a UN Consultative Assembly “composed of representatives of the major political parties of each country.” [207] To ensure diversity and contestation, any party with 10% or more electoral support would be eligible to send delegates. The underlying idea was to create a feeling for global community that would produce a greater appreciation of the need for a stronger global institutional presence. The animating idea was well articulated: “The crucial point here is that the UN system should act as a nucleus of community-building by serving as a vehicle for the creation of small-scale but open communities throughout the world, worldwide adoption of nondiscriminatory practices by the UN and related agencies would serve as a model for national and private organizations.”

 

It is worth observing that Yoshi, true to his training in international relations at the University of Chicago, insisted upon careful diagnosis of the existing situation, believing that the way forward in human affairs at this stage of history was to extend the domain of the feasible by stressing the social prerequisites of globally and ethically oriented political behavior. He was institutionally cautious, and decidedly anti-utopian, and as such avoided the terminology of ‘world government,’ being content with the far more modest attainment of ‘a global coordinating body.’ And when it came to advocating a UN Consultative Assembly he deliberately held back from proposing a ‘global parliament’ or even ‘a global peoples assembly,’ presumably to discipline his normative imagination by adhering to the optic of ‘politics as the art of the possible.’ I confess that as I have grown older I do my best to heed the counter-wisdom of ‘politics as the art of the impossible.’ This reflects my judgment that the domain of the feasible, even if extended to the maximum, cannot address such global challenges as climate change and nuclear weapons in a sufficiently timely fashion.

 

In the WOMP experience, this kind of disciplined imagination clashed with the more idealized ambitions and beliefs of Saul Mendlovitz, outspokenly convinced that world government in some form was not only desirable, but well on its way to realization. And yet both listened to one another, and the rest of us positioned ourselves in the debate, siding in one way or another with Yoshi on the bottom line issue of what to expect, as well as what kind of process we should be encouraging and what sort of goals we should affirm.

 

Beyond WOMP, Yoshi was extremely influential on the progressive, anti-totalitarian side of the Japanese political spectrum. He was a chief advisor to the governor of the Kanagawa prefecture within which the city of Yokohama was located, and helped organize annual conferences on the theme of ‘Yokohama and the World’ for several years in the 1980s. The intriguing sub-text, consistent with Yoshi’s call for the formation of new positive identities, was the premise that Tokyo and the national government were not necessarily speaking on behalf of the people of Yokohama (or for people in general), and that for this sub-state more cosmopolitan perspective to be properly shaped it was necessary to incorporate views from people outside of Japan. Yoshi was especially affirmed the need of First World leaders to listen sympathetically to authentic Third World voices. I took part in these stimulating sessions, which were highlighted by the governor’s eagerness to normalize relations between the peoples of Japan and China through the vehicle of Yokohama’s initiative. This wish for reconciliation cut against the grain of the Japanese government’s disinclination at that time to take any foreign policy initiative that might displease its masters in Washington.

 

Yoshi was a loyal and attentive friend, but he was also formal in the traditional Japanese manner. I am guessing that he wished that he had been culturally endowed with more lightness of being, and not quite as beholden to the strong constraints imposed of Japanese tradition. Observing Yoshi through the years, he functioned both as a sort of ‘conscience’ for WOMP and a deterrent to sloppy, sentimental thinking on the part of the rest of us. As such Yoshi could be a rather intimidating presence, although his humanistic sensibility would not have considered this a compliment. I for one feared displeasing or disappointing him, and felt that Yoshi regarded me as somewhat ‘flaky’ at times, despite sharing my political activist stances. As his devoted students confirmed over the years, Yoshi was a stern taskmaster, although the kindest and most loyal professor in their experience.

 

To remember Yoshikazu Sakamoto is to take note of a loss of someone that has made a lasting difference in my experience, and that of many others whose path he crossed. It was through Yoshi that I met with the venerable editor of Sekai and with Kenzaburo Oe, the winner of the 1994 Nobel Prize in Literature. Both of these extraordinary individuals regarded Yoshi as their political guru, which is hardly surprising given his capacity to combine knowledge and wisdom, and to be totally trustworthy, beyond reproach on matters of character large and small. Writing this essay has made me realize how much I miss Yoshi, and his grounded cosmopolitanism, and how much the world we live in could benefit from his humane vision of how we on this planet should live together and also from his insistence that we must not indulge our desires without knowing how to navigate the treacherous course that leads from the precarious and unjust present to a more sustainable and just future. Such a combination of qualities is not only greatly valued and desired, but it is extremely rare, especially as so graciously embodied as it was in the person of

Yoshikazu Sakamoto. RIP.