Saturday, November 10, 2012

Japanese Conservatives Must Affirm the Postwar Regime Change

As the Noda administration appears increasingly lame duck, LDP (Liberal Democratic Party) leader Shinzo Abe is likely to become the next prime minister in Japan. Along with Abe and other LDP politicians, conservative voices are rising in the “third pole” led by ultra-nationalist Shintaro Ishihara and populist Toru Hashimoto. Quite a large portion of the above conservative politicians advocate a “reconsideration of the postwar regime”, and many of them openly criticize “imposed” democratization by the United States. It is critically concerned that such a remark will send a wrong message to the global community that Japan is moving toward prewar nationalism.


Rather, I would propose that Japan affirm the postwar regime change for much more active role in the Western alliance. Remember that all LDP leaders since the Koizumi administration supported regime changes in Iraq and Afghanistan led by the United States, both of which are modeled after postwar Japan and Germany. Logically, it does not make sense to support Middle East democratization, while denouncing “imposed” reforms in the postwar era by US led occupational forces. Ever since Junnichiro Koizumi, LDP prime ministers endorsed regime changes to win the War on Terror and stop nuclear proliferation, particularly to terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda. I have no doubt in their sincerity to stand with American forces to overthrow Saddam Hussein and Taliban. Koizumi’s successors were in his cabinet when both wars broke out. Taro Aso advocated the Arch of Freedom and Prosperity, which was in line with the Bush administration’s initiatives. Though the Obama administration decided to withdraw troops from both countries while terrorism is still strong, the global community explores to help their reconstruction and train their security forces, including Iraq war opponents like France and Germany. Japan has hosted the International Conference on the Reconstruction of Afghanistan.

Therefore, instead of quibbling over US occupational rule in the past, Japan should act as a role model of model of regime change from the Middle East to China, including Tibet, East Turkistan. That is, Japan can show the successful step toward democracy, and persuade citizens in those countries to follow the same path. This will bolster Japan’s position on the global stage. Remember that there is nothing wring with Japan’s support for regime changes in Iraq and Afghanistan. Japanese leaders should be more confident of it.

I have no objection to changing obsolete and dysfunctional systems, regardless of ideology. DPJ (Democratic Party Japan) liberals like Yukio Hatoyama, Naoto Kan, and Katsuya Okada also insisted on reviewing postwar Japanese politics with regard to the US-Japanese alliance and Kasumigaseki bureaucracy, which simply resulted in paralyzing Japanese domestic politics and worsening relations with the United StatesWhoever the next prime minister is, such horrible mistake should not be repeated.It is quite worrisome that the global public will misinterpret the “Reconsideration of the Postwar Regime” as a complete denial of regime changes and democratization in both Japan and Germany. Furthermore, Japan would be isolated from both Asia and the West if such misinterpretation prevails.

Let me talk about US-Japanese relations. Japan handlers in Washington political corridor may be generous to Japanese conservative aspiration to “independence” as long as they are sincere to develop security partnership against threats in East Asia like China and North Korea, and those on the global stage like Al Qaeda, Iran, and so forth. However, not all Americans share such mindsets. Some media may cast doubt on inconsistency to advocate close US-Japanese alliance and collective security against autocracies while denouncing an "imposed" regime change by Douglas McArthur. In other words, a "Reconsideration of the Postwar Regime" can be interpreted immature anti-Americanism, if it does not mean clearly. This can lead Japan to be isolated from democratic partners both in Asia and the West. The core of postwar regime change is the pacifist constitution. It has already accomplished a historical role to impress Japanese regime change to the global community, and that role is over as global security environment has changed. Therefore, I am in full support of changing the constitution.

It is understandable that not everything of postwar occupational rule was good. Also, not everything of prewar Japan was bad. The Taisho democracy was a marvelous achievement. While Meiji reforms are heavily dependent on Western thoughts introduced by elites, Taisho movements are initiated entirely by Japanese grassroots. It was beyond universal suffrage. Women and burakumin (social outcastes) stood up to improve their social position. People’s demand for freedom and equality spread nation wide. Had the Taisho democracy been successful, Japan could have democratized Prussian styled Meiji constitution without any foreign intervention. Regretfully, the Taisho democracy was destroyed by itself, just as the Weimar democracy in Germany did, which gave way to militarism. That is why we have to review the prewar political culture critically.

Currently, Shinzo Abe is most likely to succeed Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda. In view of the lost 20 years, obsolete and dysfunctional systems should be dismantled. But whoever the next prime minister is, or whatever the leader’s ideological standpoint is, it is necessary to clarify the meaning of a “Reconsideration of the Postwar Regime”, in order to avoid unnecessary misunderstandings both globally and domestically. Along with Germany, Japan is a role model to prevail democracy throughout the world, and this is the vital point to for Japan to deepen the alliance with the United States, develop strategic partnership with free nations of the West and Asia, and enhance its presence on the global stage. Remember Japan’s contribution to Iraq and Afghanistan! Historical revisionism simply ruins what Japan has achieved on the global stage.