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By H. Ross Kawamura

Willing Ally

As a model of successful regime change, Japan is a beacon to other would-be democracies. Now for the next step

H. Ross Kawamura is an advocacy activist of the New Global Initiatives with America (www.newglobal-america.org)

Spurred by the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II, there’s been a lot of talk recently about changes that Japan must make in its foreign and domestic policies. Yet it’s clear what needs to be done. On the domestic side, Japan must remove the bureaucratic domination of its economy and political system. To this end, the government has taken the initiative to privatize public sectors such as the postal service. Accomplishing this would be a big step toward making Japan a truly democratic and market-oriented country.

On foreign policy issues, the US-Japan alliance must evolve, and the pacifist constitution must be swept away. Through these reforms, Japan will become a reliable partner of the US and Europe in the effort to spread democracy around the globe. In other words, Japan in the post-Cold War era must be the model of regime change—a formerly imperialist and militaristic country that has made the transition to a participatory democracy. All of our foreign and domestic policy goals must be compatible with this objective.

Throughout the postwar period, the Japanese have been exploring ways to prevent the recurrence of fascism and to win the trust of the global community. Toward these ends, specific issues have been discussed, like Yasukuni Shrine, the constitution, the role of the emperor and inter-Asia relations. However, no one has tried to provide a grand design for postwar Japan. As a result, people have wasted their energy on stupid debates.

Left-wingers point to the emperor, the hinomaru flag, the national anthem, and Yasukuni shrine as being symbols of wartime fascism. They advocate a pacifist constitution and continual apologies to Asian neighbors. On the other hand, ultra-rightists and neo-nationalists argue that traditional values must be maintained whether they contributed to wartime fascism or not.

In my opinion, these debates miss the fundamental point: whether Japan has really been born again after the war. More precisely, all policies must be judged according to whether they are compatible with the regime changes underway throughout the world, and which are still in process in Japan. By resolving this issue, Japanese leaders and citizens can cut the Gordian knot of all foreign and domestic policy issues.

With a coherent plan, everything can be judged from this single standard. Let me give some examples. Japan’s flag and national anthem do not contribute to fascism. So let’s respect them, as citizens of other countries respect their own flags and anthems. The monarchy has adapted to postwar democracy. So, keep it. As to Yasukuni, the shrine must shed its associations with fascist ideology. The graves of unknown soldiers must be honored, and the shrine must play a suitable role in a democratic Japan. Other issues can be resolved in similar ways.

The most critical issue is the constitution. When World War II ended, it was necessary to introduce a pacifism clause to punish Japan for its wartime aggression. However, no punishment is eternal. Because of the legal confinements of the constitution, post-Cold War Japan is ill-prepared for its most important international role: to fight for global freedom along with the US and Europe. Therefore, Article 9 must be abolished. Remember that America and Britain, the champions of liberal democracy, send troops aboard far more frequently than any other countries.

As a born-again nation, Japan must reconsider what its alliance with the US means. No Japanese leaders doubt how important this relationship is for their country’s national security. However, most of them see it as just a strategic deal to defeat common threats in the Asia-Pacific region.
In my understanding, these international coalitions go beyond a military alliance. They represent a manifestation of Japan’s wholehearted commitment to global democracy. Japan must play this vital role, just as Britain did under Margaret Thatcher and continues to do under Tony Blair. From this point of view, I would suggest the following roles for Japan:

1. Full-scale involvement in confronting terrorists and rogues. Japan has sent troops to Iraq, but this is just the first step toward further participation. The alliance is evolving on a global scale, so Japan’s commitment must stretch beyond the Asia-Pacific region.

2. Membership in “Greater Europe.” At the end of the Cold War,
a conference was held in Britain under the title “Redefining Society-Military Relations from Vancouver to Vladivostok.” These relations should be extended to Tokyo. As a liberal democracy and a vital ally to the US, Japan is distinct from its Asian neighbors, like China and Korea, and should be considered an equal to Europe.

3. Eliminate all domestic hurdles to Japan’s ongoing “regime change.” The postwar period was just Phase I of Japan’s evolution. Some sort of appeasement to ex-fascists had been necessary, because it was urgent to stabilize the country during the Cold War. The post-Cold War era now represents Phase II. We shouldn’t hesitate to throw away fascistic leaders who simply damage Japan’s reputation in the world. Other Asian nations, particularly China and Korea, use these domestic neo-fascists as an excuse to pursue an agenda of psychological superiority over Japan, and to try to split the US-Japanese alliance by blaming Japan’s wartime misconduct. This represents their power politics.

By accomplishing these three goals, a forward-looking Japan would become a major source of strength and assistance to the world’s citizens. Keep in mind that Japan is the model of regime change. All policies must be based on this premise.

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