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Open Letter to the Japanese Prime Minister on Eve of Visit to Pearl Harbor

25 Dec

[Prefatory Note: The press release and open letter to the Japanese Prime Minister concern the complex issues surrounding the ethos and politics of apology. I would have liked the statement to include an acknowledgement of accountability by the U.S. Government. President Barack Obama, several months ago, took a step in that direction by his visit to Hiroshima, the first sitting American president to do so, but he deliberately avoided language that could be construed as an apology, representing the event as ‘a tragedy’ of warfare, which it was of course, but it was also a flagrant violation of the laws of war due to the indiscriminate nature of the weaponry and an act of war that defied the prohibition of customary international law on violence that cannot be justified by ‘military necessity. Yet the open letter as it reads is primarily an initiative emanating from Japan, in worried reaction to the moves of Prime Minister Abe to disvalue, and if politically possible, abandon the constitutional provisions adopted after World War II to ensure that Japan would not again victimize itself and its neighbors by a revival of militarism in the future. That assurance is now in jeopardy. I am proud to be among the signatories. The full list follows the Japanese original version of the open letter, issued on Christmas Day. The letter is preceded by a press release also released today.]

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday, December 25, 2016

 

An Open Letter to Prime Minister Abe Calls for Clarification of His Understanding of the Asia-Pacific War

 

Washington, DC/Tokyo, Japan (December 25, 2016) – 53 international scholars, artists, and activists sent an Open Letter to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the eve of his upcoming visit to Pearl Harbor.

 

The signers include Oliver Stone, an Academy Award-winning filmmaker, his co-author of “The Untold History of the United States” Peter Kuznick of American University, Richard Falk of Princeton University, Tetsuya Takahashi of the University of Tokyo, Lim Jie-Hyun of Sogang University (Korea), Shue Tuck Wong of Simon Fraser University (Canada), and Gavan McCormack of Australian National University.

 

Assessing the Prime Minister’s statements about the war, the signers ask whether he still doubts that Japan’s Asia-Pacific War was a war of aggression. They ask whether he has plans to visit China, Korea, other Asia-Pacific nations and other Allied nations to “mourn” the major victims of Japan’s war.

 

As Peter Kuznick comments, “Unlike Germany, Japan has never made a sincere effort to deal with or atone for its wartime atrocities that resulted in the deaths of tens of millions of people. Prime Minister Abe has been in the forefront of efforts to whitewash Japanese history. We hope he will take this opportunity to once and for all correct that shameful record.”

 

As Mark Selden of Cornell University observes, “The time has come to lay to rest the denial of wartime responsibility and war atrocities by Japan and other nations to reduce frictions in an Asia-Pacific region that is experiencing rising conflicts.”

 

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 Oliver Stone and internatonal scholars and activists send an Open Letter to Prime Minister Abe on the eve of his Pearl Harbor visit

 

53 international scholars, artists, and activists sent an Open Letter to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the eve of his upcoming visit to Pearl Harbor. See below English and Japanese versions, followed by the list of signers.

 

 

USS Arizona Memorial, which Mr. Abe plans to visit.

 

 

 

An Open Letter to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe 

On the Occasion of Your Visit to Pearl Harbor 

 

December 25, 2016

 

Dear Mr. Abe,

You recently announced plans to visit Pearl Harbor in Hawai’i at the end of December 2016 to “mourn the victims” of the Japanese Navy’s attack on the U.S. naval base on December 8, 1941 (Tokyo Time).

 

In fact, Pearl Harbor was not the only place Japan attacked that day. The Japanese Army had attacked the northeastern shore of the Malay Peninsula one hour earlier and would go on to attack several other British and U.S. colonies and bases in the Asia-Pacific region later that day. Japan launched these attacks in order to secure the oil and other resources of Southeast Asia essential to extend its war of aggression against China.

 

Since this will be your first official visit to the place where Japan’s war against the United States began, we would like to raise the following questions concerning your previous statements about the war.

 

1) You were Deputy Executive Director of the “Diet Members’ League for the 50th Anniversary of the End of War,” which was established at the end of 1994 in order to counter parliamentary efforts to pass a resolution to critically reflect upon Japan’s aggressive war. Its Founding Statement asserts that Japan’s more than two million war-dead gave their lives for “Japan’s self-existence and self-defense, and peace of Asia.” The League’s Campaign Policy statement of April 13, 1995 rejected offering any apology or issuing the no-war pledge included in the parliamentary resolution to mark the 50th anniversary of the end of war. The League’s public statement of June 8, 1995 declared that the majority parties’ resolution draft was unacceptable because it admitted Japan’s “behaviors of aggression” and “colonial rule.” Mr. Abe, do you still hold such views about the war?

 

2) In the Diet questioning period of April 23, 2013, you as Prime Minister stated that “the definition of what constitutes ‘aggression’ has yet to be established in academia or in the international community.” Does that mean that you do not recognize Japan’s war against the Allied and Asia-Pacific nations and the preceding war against China as wars of aggression?

 

3) You state that you are going to visit Pearl Harbor to “mourn” the 2,400 Americans who perished in the attack. If that is the case, will you also be visiting China, Korea, other Asia-Pacific nations, or the other Allied nations for the purpose of “mourning” war victims in those countries who number in the tens of millions?

 

As Prime Minister, you have pressed for Constitutional revision including reinterpretation and revision of Article 9 to allow Japanese Self-Defense Forces to fight anywhere in the world. We ask that you reflect on the signal this sends to nations that suffered at Japan’s hands in the Asia-Pacific War.

 

(The list of signers follows the Japanese version.)

 

 

 

真珠湾訪問にあたっての安倍首相への公開質問状

 

2016年12月25日

 

親愛なる安倍首相、

安倍首相は先日、1941年12月8日(日本時間)に日本海軍が米国の海軍基地を攻撃した際の「犠牲者を慰霊する」目的で、12月末にハワイの真珠湾を訪問する計画を発表しました。

 

実際のところ、その日に日本が攻撃した場所は真珠湾だけではありませんでした。その約1時間前には日本陸軍はマレー半島の北東沿岸を攻撃、同日にはアジア太平洋地域の他の幾つかの英米の植民地や基地を攻撃しています。日本は、中国に対する侵略戦争を続行するために不可欠な石油や他の資源を東南アジアに求めてこれらの攻撃を開始したのです。

 

米日の開戦の場所をあなたが公式に訪問するのが初めてであることからも、私たちは以下の質問をしたく思います。

 

1) あなたは、1994年末に、日本の侵略戦争を反省する国会決議に対抗する目的で結成された「終戦五十周年議員連盟」の事務局長代理を務めていました。その結成趣意書には、日本の200万余の戦没者が「日本の自存自衛とアジアの平和」のために命を捧げたとあります。この連盟の1995年4月13日の運動方針では、終戦50周年を記念する国会決議に謝罪や不戦の誓いを入れることを拒否しています。1995年6月8日の声明では、与党の決議案が「侵略的行為」や「植民地支配」を認めていることから賛成できないと表明しています。安倍首相、あなたは今でもこの戦争についてこのような認識をお持ちですか。

 

2) 2013年4月23日の国会答弁では、首相として「侵略の定義は学界的にも国際的にも定まっていない」と答弁しています。ということは、あなたは、連合国およびアジア太平洋諸国に対する戦争と、すでに続行していた対中戦争を侵略戦争とは認めないということでしょうか。

 

3) あなたは、真珠湾攻撃で亡くなった約2400人の米国人の「慰霊」のために訪問するということです。それなら、中国や、朝鮮半島、他のアジア太平洋諸国、他の連合国における数千万にも上る戦争被害者の「慰霊」にも行く予定はありますか。

 

 

首相としてあなたは、憲法9条を再解釈あるいは改定して自衛隊に海外のどこでも戦争ができるようにすることを推進してきました。これがアジア太平洋戦争において日本に被害を受けた国々にどのような合図として映るのか、考えてみてください。

 

 

  1. [endif]Ikuro Anzai, Professor Emeritus, Ritsumeikan University 安斎育郎、立命館大学名誉教授

 

  1. [endif]Herbert P. Bix, emeritus professor of history and sociology, Binghamton University, SUNY ハーバート・P・ビックス、ニューヨーク州立大学ビンガムトン校歴史学・社会学名誉教授

 

  1. Peter van den Dungen, Formerly, Lecturer in Peace Studies, University of Bradford, UK, and general coordinator of the International Network of Museums for Peace ピーター・バン・デン・デュンゲン、元ブラッドフォード大学(英国)平和学教員、世界平和博物館ネットワーク総括コーディネーター

 

  1. Alexis Dudden, Professor of History, University of Connecticut アレクシス・ダディン、コネチカット大学歴史学教授

 

  1. Richard Falk, Albert G. Professor of International Law and Practice, Emeritus, Princeton University リチャード・フォーク、プリンストン大学国際法名誉教授

 

  1. John Feffer, Director, Foreign Policy In Focus, ジョン・フェッファー、「フォーリン・ポリシー・イン・フォーカス」ディレクター

 

  1. Norma Field, Professor emerita, University of Chicago ノーマ・フィールド、シカゴ大学名誉教授

 

  1. Kay Fischer, Instructor, Ethnic Studies, Chabot Collegeケイ・フィッシャー、シャボット・カレッジ(カリフォルニア州)講師

 

  1. Atsushi Fujioka, Emeritus Professor, Ritsumeikan University 藤岡惇、立命館大学名誉教授

 

  1. Joseph Gerson (PhD), Vice-President, International Peace Bureau ジョセフ・ガーソン、国際平和ビューロー副会長

 

  1. Geoffrey C. Gunn, Emeritus, Nagasaki University ジェフリー・C・ガン、長崎大学名誉教授

 

  1. Kyung Hee Ha, Assistant Professor, Meiji University 河庚希、明治大学特任講師

 

  1. 1Laura Hein, Professor, Northwestern University ローラ・ハイン、ノースウェスタン大学教授(米国シカゴ)

 

14.Hirofumi Hayashi, Professor, Kanto Gakuin University 林博史、関東学院大学教授

 

  1. Katsuya Hirano, Associate Professor of History, UCLA平野克弥、カリフォルニア大学ロスアンゼルス校准教授

 

  1. IKEDA Eriko, Chair of the Board, Women’s  Active  Museum on War  and  Peace(wam) 池田恵理子 アクティブ・ミュージアム「女たちの戦争と平和資料館」(wam)館長

 

  1. Masaie Ishihara, Professor Emeritus Okinawa International University 石原昌家、沖縄国際大学名誉教授

 

  1. Paul Jobin, Associate Research Fellow, Academia Sinica, Institute of Sociology

ポール・ジョバン 台湾国立中央研究院社会学研究所 アソシエート・リサーチ・フェロー

 

  1. John Junkerman, Documentary Filmmaker ジャン・ユンカーマン、ドキュメンタリー映画監督

 

  1. Nan Kim, Associate Professor, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee ナン・キム(金永蘭)、ウィスコンシン大学ミルウォーキー校准教授

 

  1. KIM Puja, Professor of Gender History, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies金 富子、ジェンダー史、東京外国語大学教授

 

  1. Akira Kimura, Professor, Kagoshima University 木村朗、鹿児島大学教授

 

23.Tomomi Kinukawa, Instructor, San Francisco State University絹川知美、サンフランシスコ州立大学講師

 

  1. Peter Kuznick, Professor of History, American University ピーター・カズニック、アメリカン大学歴史学教授

 

  1. Kwon, Heok-Tae, Professor, Sungkonghoe University, Korea 権赫泰(クォン・ヒョクテ)、韓国・聖公会大学教授

 

  1. Lee Kyeong-Ju, Professor, Inha University (Korea) 李京柱、仁荷大学教授

 

  1. Miho Kim Lee, Co-founder of Eclipse Rising ミホ・キム・リー、「エクリプス・ライジング」共同創立者

 

  1. Lim Jie-Hyun, Professor of transnational history, director of Critical Global Studies Institute, Sogang University 林志弦(イム・ジヒョン)、西江大学教授(韓国)

 

  1. Akira Maeda, Professor, Tokyo Zokei University 前田 朗、東京造形大学教授

 

  1. Janice Matsumura, Associate Professor of History, Simon Fraser University, Canada ジャニス・マツムラ、サイモンフレイザー大学(カナダ)歴史学准教授

 

31.Tanya Maus, PhD, Director, Wilmington College Peace Resource Center, Wilmington, Ohio タニア・マウス、ウィルミントン大学(オハイオ州)平和資料センターディレクター

 

  1. David McNeill, Adjunct Professor, Sophia University デイビッド・マクニール、上智大学非常勤講師

 

  1. Gavan McCormack, Emeritus Professor, Australian National University ガバン・マコーマック、オーストラリア国立大学名誉教授

 

  1. Katherine Muzik, Ph.D., marine biologist, Kauai Island キャサリン・ミュージック、海洋生物学者(ハワイ・カウアイ島)

 

  1. Koichi Nakano, Professor, Sophia University 中野晃一、上智大学教授

 

  1. NAKANO Toshio, Professor Emeritus, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies中野敏男、社会理論・社会思想、東京外国語大学名誉教授

 

  1. Narusawa Muneo, Editor, Weekly Kinyobi, 成澤宗男、『週刊金曜日』編集部

 

  1. Satoko Oka Norimatsu, Editor, Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus 乗松聡子、『アジア太平洋ジャーナル:ジャパンフォーカス』エディター

 

  1. John Price, Professor of History, University of Victoria, Canada ジョン・プライス、ビクトリア大学(カナダ)歴史学教授

 

  1. Steve Rabson, Professor Emeritus, Brown University (U.S.A.) Veteran, United States Armyスティーブ・ラブソン、ブラウン大学(米国)名誉教授 米国陸軍退役軍人

 

  1. Sonia Ryang, Director, Chao Center for Asian Studies, Rice University ソニア・リャン、ライス大学(テキサス州)チャオ・アジア研究センターディレクター

 

  1. Daiyo Sawada, Emeritus Professor, University of Alberta ダイヨウ・サワダ、アルバータ大学名誉教授

 

  1. Mark Selden, Senior Research Associate, East Asia Program, Cornell University マーク・セルダン、コーネル大学東アジア研究プログラム上級研究員

 

  1. Oliver Stone, Academy Award-Winning Filmmaker オリバー・ストーン、アカデミー賞受賞映画監督

 

  1. Tetsuya Takahashi, Professor, University of Tokyo 高橋哲哉、東京大学教授

 

  1. Nobuyoshi Takashima, Professor Emeritus, the University of Ryukyus 高嶋伸欣、琉球大学名誉教授

 

  1. Akiko Takenaka, Associate Professor of Japanese History, University of Kentucky竹中晶子、ケンタッキー大学准教授

 

  1. Wesley Ueunten, Associate Professor, Asian American Studies Department, San Francisco State University ウェスリー・ウエウンテン、サンフランシスコ州立大学アジア・アメリカ研究学部准教授

 

  1. Aiko Utsumi, Professor Emeritus, Keisen University内海愛子、恵泉女学園大学名誉教授

 

  1. Shue Tuck Wong, Professor Emeritus, Simon Fraser University シュエ・タク・ウォング、サイモンフレーザー大学(カナダ)名誉教授

 

  1. Yi Wu, Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Clemson University イー・ウー、クレムゾン大学社会学・人類学部助教授

 

  1. Tomomi Yamaguchi, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Montana State University 山口智美、モンタナ州立大学人類学准教授

 

  1. Lisa Yoneyama, Professor, University of Toronto リサ・ヨネヤマ、トロント大学教授

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

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.