Keep Abe’s hawks in check or Japan and Asia will suffer

by Debito Arudou

On Jan. 1, The Japan Times’ lead story was “Summer poll to keep Abe in check.” It made the argument that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party alliance falls short of a majority in the Upper House, so until elections happen this summer he lacks a “full-fledged administration” to carry out a conservative agenda.

I believe this is over-optimistic. The LDP alliance already has 325 seats in Japan’s overwhelmingly powerful Lower House — safely more than the 320 necessary to override Upper House vetoes. Moreover, as Japan’s left was decimated in December’s elections, about three-quarters of the Lower House is in the hands of avowed hard-right conservatives. Thus Abe already has his mandate.

So this column will focus on what Abe, only the second person in postwar Japanese history given another chance at PM, is up to this time.

Recall how Abe fluffed his first chance between 2006-7 — so badly that he made it onto a list of “Japan’s top 10 most useless PMs” (Light Gist, Sept. 27, 2011) on these pages. The Cabinet he selected was a circus of embarrassments (e.g., after his corrupt agriculture minister claimed ¥5 million for “office utility expenses,” the replacement then claimed expenses for no office at all, and the next replacement only lasted a week), with gaffe after gaffe from an elitist old-boy club whittling away Abe’s approval ratings.

Abe himself was famously incapacitated with diarrhea (spending hours a day on the john) as well as logorrhea, where his denials of wartime sexual slavery (i.e., the “comfort women”) were denounced even by Japan’s closest geopolitical allies. Finally, after the LDP was trounced in a 2007 Upper House election, Abe suddenly resigned one week after reshuffling his Cabinet, beginning a pattern of a one-year tenure for all subsequent Japanese PMs.

However, Abe did accomplish one important conservative reform in 2006: amending the Fundamental Law of Education. The law now clearly states that a right to education in Japan is restricted to “us Japanese citizens” (ware ware Nihon kokumin — i.e., excluding foreigners), while references to educational goals developing individuality have been removed in favor of education that transmits “tradition,” “culture” and “love of nation.”

In other words, building on Japan’s enforced patriotism launched by former PM Keizo Obuchi from 1999 (e.g., schoolteachers and students are now technically required to demonstrate public respect to Japan’s flag and national anthem or face official discipline), vague mystical elements of “Japaneseness” are now formally enshrined in law to influence future generations.

That’s one success story from Abe’s rightist to-do list. He has also called for the “reconsideration” of the 1993 and 1995 official apologies for wartime sexual slavery (even pressuring NHK to censor its historical reportage on it in 2001), consistently denied the Nanjing Massacre, advocated children’s textbooks instill “love” of “a beautiful country” by omitting uglier parts of the past, and declared his political mission as “recovering Japan’s independence” (dokuritsu no kaifuku) in the postwar order.

Although LDP leaders were once reticent about public displays of affection towards Japan’s hard right, Abe has been more unabashed. Within the past six months he has made two visits to controversial Yasukuni Shrine (once just before becoming LDP head, and once, officially, afterwards). Scholar Gavan McCormack unreservedly calls Abe “the most radical of all Japanese post-1945 leaders.”

Now Abe and his minions are back in power with possibly the most right-wing Cabinet in history. Academic journal Japan Focus last week published a translation of an NGO report (japanfocus.org/events/view/170) outlining the ultraconservative interest groups that Abe’s 19 Cabinet members participate in. Three-quarters are members of groups favoring the political re-enfranchisement of “Shinto values” and Yasukuni visits, two-thirds are in groups for remilitarizing Japan and denying wartime atrocities, and half are in groups seeking sanitation of school textbooks, adoption of a new “unimposed” Constitution, and protection of Japan from modernizing reforms (such as separate surnames for married couples) and outside influences (such as local suffrage for foreign permanent residents).

Abe alone is a prominent leader (if not a charter member) of almost all the ultra-rightist groups mentioned. Whenever I read rightwing propaganda, Abe’s face or name invariably pops up as a spokesman or symbol. He’s a big carp in a small swamp, and in a liberal political environment would have been consigned to a radical backwater of fringe ideologues.

But these are dire times for Japan, what with decades of stagnation, insuperable natural and man-made disasters, and the shame of no longer being Asia’s largest economy. The glory of Japan’s regional peerlessness is gone.

That’s why I have little doubt that the LDP saw this perfect storm of 3/11 disasters (which, given how corrupt the unelected bureaucracy has been after Fukushima, would have led to the trouncing of any party in power) as perfect timing to reinstall someone like Abe. Why else, except for Abe’s thoroughbred political pedigree (grandson of a suspected Class-A war criminal turned postwar PM, and son of another big LDP leader whose name is on international fellowships) and sustained leadership of back-room interest groups, would they choose for a second time this jittery little man with a weak stomach?

Why? Because LDP kingpins knew that people were so desperate for change last year they would have elected a lampshade. After all, given the nature of parliamentary systems, people vote more for (or, in this case, against) a party, less for an individual party leader. Moreover, Abe, at first glance, does not seem as extreme as the “restorationists” (Shintaro Ishihara et al) who wish to take Japan back to prewar glories by banging war drums over territorial sea specks. So, the lesser of two evils.

But look at the record more closely and these “liberal democrats” and restorationists are actually birds of a feather. Now more powerful than ever, they’re getting to work on dismantling postwar Japan. Abe announced on Jan. 31 that he will seek to amend Article 96 of the Constitution, which currently requires a two-thirds Diet majority to approve constitutional changes. That’s entirely possible. Then the rest of Japan’s “Peace Constitution” will follow.

So I end this month’s column with a caution to outside observers:

The current Abe administration is in pole position to drive Japan back to a xenophobic, ultra-rightist, militaristic Japan that we thought the world had seen the last of after two world wars. Abe can (and will, if left to his own devices) undo all the liberal reforms that postwar social engineers thought would forever overwrite the imperialist elements of Japanese society. In fact, it is now clear that Japan’s conservative elite were just biding their time all along, waiting for their rehabilitation. It has come.

One of the basic lessons of chess is that if you allow your opponent to accomplish his plans, you will lose. If Abe is not kept in check, Asia will lose: Japan will cease to be a liberal presence in the region. In fact, given its wealth and power in terms of money and technology, Japan could become a surprisingly destabilizing geopolitical force. Vigilance, everyone.

Debito Arudou and Akira Higuchi’s bilingual 2nd Edition of “Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants,” with updates for 2012’s changes to immigration laws, is now on sale. Twitter @arudoudebito. Just Be Cause appears on the first Community Page of the month. Send your comments to community@japantimes.co.jp .

  • Jim Di Griz

    Well done Debito. A thoughtful and interesting insight into the real goals held by Abe, and the interests he represents, and the dangers therein.
    ‘Taking back Japan!’….all the way to the (imagined) 1930’s, it would seem.

  • Edohiguma

    Seems that Debito wants the same old pointless, useless, faceless, back and forth nonsense to continue. No surprise there. he’s American, his grasp of Japanese history is, as shown on multiple occasions, thin to say the least.

    Abe’s hawks are the problem? Really? Who has been utterly aggressive? China. Who has covered up atrocities? South Korea. North Korea. Even Taiwan.

    Article 9 is worthless paper. It’s like Austria’s neutrality. It’s on paper. In reality it’s completely worthless. In case the Cold War would have gone hot Austria would have been the battlefield. We have evidence for that. Hard, cold facts. In the case of Japan, the same is true. Article 9 means nothing. By following it to the letter Japan can’t even operate the JSDF. That is utterly laughable.

    Japan has the right to maintain a military to defend herself, like any other sovereign nation. Any attempt to link this to the 1930s is utterly ridiculous and shows that, whoever is doing it, needs a few history lessons.

    The so called “Peace Constitution” has failed, which is hardly a surprise. Again, history shows that it could only fail.

    • Jim Di Griz

      ‘he’s American’
      No. He’s Japanese.

      • American can refer to an ethnicity or cultural background, not necessarily citizenship. (just like the word “Japanese”)

        Debito himself has described himself as “American-Japanese” on many occasions on his own blog. Nobody is doubting his citizenship. Culturally, he lives in the U.S. and communicates almost exclusively in American English. He also is an inhabitant of the western hemisphere, which is another definition of “American” in the dictionary.

      • Ron NJ

        American being an ethnicity is a completely laughable concept – it’s a nationality and nothing more, unless you’re speaking about the natives. No one of noticeable European descent should be classified as “American” ethnically, which is precisely why such an option does not appear on census forms.

      • I understand your opinion. Nevertheless, on the U.S. 2000 census form, which had the question “What is your ancestry or ethnic origin?”, having two blanks (not a multiple choice answer, anything is permissible) for an answer area, over 7% answered “American”, which was the largest growth of any U.S. ethnic group for the previous decade.

      • “7% answered ‘American'”. That is about the same % of Americans that believe Elvis is still alive.

        51%, a majority, believe in Creationism. That still doesn’t make it so. Merely citing the fact that some percentage of Americans believe something really dumb doesn’t change the fact they are mistaken.

      • Toolonggone

        The main purpose of census is the study of demographics based on race/ethnicity, and this generally includes foreign nationals, too. He’s not gonna be recorded as ‘American’ in US Census, because he reported his change of status to the Department of State and surrendered his American passport more than 10 years ago.

        And more importantly, ethnic origin does not really matter to the acquisition of US permanent residency or citizenship–and that ditto to Japan or any developed country.

      • Jim Di Griz

        I love the ‘down’ votes this comment is getting. What are they voting down? The fact that Debito is legally a Japanese citizen? How racist is that? Proves all Debito’s points about how exclusionary Japan is, and how apologists have sold out. Keep voting!

      • Christopher-trier

        No he’s not, he’s an American.

        He might hold a Japanese passport
        but he is fully American in his attitudes,

        mentality, and loyalty. To put it bluntly being

        Japanese requires one to be ethnically Japanese.
        As he is not, Arudou is an American with a Japanese

    • Disagree with you here. Japan still continues to whitewash its history. Fact: The “comfort women” did exist, and some are still alive. Fact: Japan used POWs as slave labour at some factories and mines in Japan (Not to mention the treatment of wartime POWs. Japan has made some amends for that)
      Fact: The Nanking massacre took place. Maybe not as many people as China claims were killed, but a great many nonetheless. Plenty of western and neutral observers witnessed it.
      Fact: Japan used poison gas against Chinese people. The Emperor Hirohito even authorised its use on occasion, although under pressure from the militarists. Maybe.
      Fact: The Emperor was not held accountable for the atrocities of WW2. We can blame MacArthur for this. He didn`t even have to reisgn. As a result, as he didn`t take responsibility from the very top, ordinary Japanese have difficulty taking responsibility even now. But that`s what needs to happen.
      When Japan is honest and comes clean about all the above points, only then would I support amending the constitution.

      • You can find individuals (including politicians), not just in Japan, but in every country, such as the United States and Australia, that deny ugly parts of history. For example, just because a politician in Australia says something racist about the aboriginals doesn’t mean that’s the official position of Australia and how all Australians think. Just because a politician in America says something denying that the Civil War had anything to do with slavery doesn’t mean that’s the U.S. official position.

        You see, unlike some European countries, the United States and Japan have Constitutionally protected Freedom of Speech (and Australia, with its protection of political speech) — which includes outrageous and extremely offensive speech. This means no matter what the official position of a country is, anybody, including politicians, can say something that is unofficial and offensive. They always have. They always will, no matter what the amount of education. Doesn’t mean it represents the official position of Japan or anybody else or represent how most people think.

        Japan’s official position on the Nanking Massacre, according to and published by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is exactly the same as what you wrote:

        The Government of Japan believes that it cannot be denied that following the entrance of the Japanese Army into Nanjing in 1937, the killing of a large number of noncombatants, looting and other acts occurred.However, there are numerous theories as to the actual number of victims, and the Government of Japan believes it is difficult to determine which the correct number is. Japan candidly acknowledges that during a certain period in its history, Japan, through its colonial rule and aggression, caused tremendous damage and suffering to the people of many countries, particularly to those of Asian nations, and holds a firm resolve to never repeat war again and to advance the path of a peaceful nation with feelings of deep remorse and heartfelt apology always engraved in mind.

        There are many other official positions, such as the recognition of comfort women, the the acceptance of the rulings and punishments of the IMTFE military tribunal (which covers poison gas), which are also covered by MoFA.

        So if you claim that “Japan” isn’t honest about these points because of the statements of a politician or two or a celebrity or a random individual, then I think it’s fair that we judge the entire country of Australia by the statements of Pauline Hanson (voted as 100 most influential Australians of all time, by the way) and the One Nation party.

      • Toolonggone

        Nice try! By bringing up the case of other country to provide a contrast in a
        way to appease the magnitude of the problem Japan has been dealing with, huh?
        So it’s like, no argument against Japan’s war guilt will pass your
        judgment–unless it is paralleled with other countries–let’s say US, UK,
        and/or Australia. Does that mean Japanese officials have no sense of obligation
        to reconcile with their neighbors whatsoever–unless the leading countries in
        the West would do so first? Does that convince you to argue that Japan is cut
        above other countries because they–at least–tried to make
        apologies–repetitively, which only upset their neighbors repetitively? By
        having some officials who make a back-ward looking for the purpose of
        whitewashing their past mistake through unnecessary political gaffe? And you
        think that’s the beauty of Japanese virtue? That sounds more like ‘pity’–to

      • Sam Gilman

        Fact: I’m afraid you’ve got things all muddled.

        You’re entirely mistaken about the official position of the Japanese government which explicitly states that the Nanjing massacre is undeniable and that the comfort women not only existed but were forced into service. Even Abe himself doesn’t deny the existence of and suffering of comfort women – he made a statement about it only recently as reported in the Japan Times.

        It’s also not true that the population of Japan in general denies these events. For example, it is a Western media myth that Japanese schoolchildren do not learn about Nanjing in history classes.

        To write about “the Japanese” as if the population thinks with one mind and with the same mind as the leader of the government is a bit, well, suspect, don’t you think? Why take one side of one wing of the politics of the country and assume it represents the whole place? Isn’t that a crude, orientalist stereotype?

      • Ron NJ

        “To write about “the Japanese” as if the population thinks with one mind
        and with the same mind as the leader of the government is a bit, well, suspect, don’t you think?”
        Hard to call foul on something like that when you hear “wareware nihonjin _____” and “We Japanese ____” nonstop.

    • Jim Di Griz

      ‘The so called “Peace Constitution” has failed’.
      Failed? Really? Please tell me, what countries has Japan invaded since 1945? None, right? Then it’s a success.

    • Toolonggone

      >Abe’s hawks are the problem? Really? Who has been utterly aggressive?

      He was in his previous term. He didn’t have to, but his temptation got the better of him and vented his spleens, only to receive mounting criticism from both domestic and overseas. His cabinet aides were completely basket case. They said something stupid in the media and got sacked in less than six months.

      >China. Who has covered up atrocities? South Korea. North Korea. Even Taiwan

      Which one are you referring to?

    • GIJ

      Failed? Uh, not one Japanese soldier has died in an overseas military conflict since 1945. Compare this to the 100,000 plus American soldiers who have died overseas since 1945 in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, fighting ultimately for Northrup Grumman, McDonnell Douglas, and Halliburton. Compare Japan’s airports and railway stations with what you see in any other country on earth, and then tell me that the Peace Constitution has failed. The peace dividend–it’s real.

  • duGarbandier

    there seems to be a China sized elephant in this room. There is an enormous amount of military spending going on in the region, and not primarily in Japan. With the United States becoming weaker, is it surprising that there is pressure for Japan to change its constitution? The right wingers may be distasteful, personally and politically, but to consider them in isolation risks misunderstaning the regional picture

    • Jim Di Griz

      China is just an excuse, and fear of China is a ‘phoney war’ that the right-wingers are using to convince the Japanese people to give up civil liberties. Just like the ‘war on terror’ and the Patriot Act.

      • KetsuroOu

        China is just an excuse for what? An excuse for “right-wingers to convince Japanese people to give up civil liberties”? Sounds very nefarious. Very nefarious indeed. But what exactly is the point? Once the Japanese lose all their civil liberties, what happens next? And has anyone informed the Chinese about all this?

      • tangxin

        An excuse for what, exactly? What’s the Japanese Patriot Act? Are they planning on war?

      • Toolonggone

        Not that kind of Patriot Act. But don’t expect dramatic changes about Japan’s understanding of its history and relations with their neighbors–China, South Korea. Japan has managed to tone down their denial mode about war aggression in the last decade, but there’s no guarantee they will keep doing so in the future. The things between Japan and China are getting very ugly in the last couple of months.

  • Sam Gilman

    I don’t like Shinzo Abe. He was a dreadful Prime Minister last time around, and he has some very dodgy friends in politics. So it takes a special kind of klutz to drop the ball in an attack on him. Debito Arudou is not unique here – a whole lot of western coverage has been pant-wettingly frantic, as if it’s only a matter of months before the airwaves are filled with patriotic marches and and the bellowing of anti-Chinese propaganda. He does go the extra mile, however. In saying “The current Abe administration is in pole position to drive Japan back to a xenophobic, ultra-rightist, militaristic Japan that we thought the world had seen the last of after two world wars”, he simply comes across as a little unhinged.

    It’s also surreal to accuse modern-day Japan of being the main source of aggression and instability in the region. I’m not sure if Debito Arudou understands how international law works, but “specks” like these imply access to fishing, oil and other commodities, as well as influence over shipping lanes. Chinese “historic” claims of ownership are very shaky indeed, and the government in Beijing appears to be engaged in a cover-up over just that, as reported in this paper. Is he suggesting that Japan just roll over and surrender because China says so? Is it that he prefers to support a real authoritarian militarist regime to an imaginary one?

    There are a few errors too: While some of his political friends have, I don’t believe Abe himself has ever publicly denied the Nanjing massacre, let alone “consistently”. The constitution also requires a referendum before it can be amended, not just supermajorities in both houses. Logorrhea does not mean “saying unwise things” (Abe’s words were planned, not logorrheic). Foreign children in Japan are not excluded from schools (very odd idea that).

    I am deeply uncomfortable with Abe’s associations, his statements on history, and his past attempts to introduce compulsory patriotism. But I’m pretty sure he’s not planning to invade Manchuria.

  • I’d have to agree with Debito on this one. Abe’s motivations are clear enough for a toddler to see. What’s even more revealing is the fact he was voted in by the people of Japan — they have requested this type of government. A strong swing to the right.

    • GIJ

      Uh, Japan is a parliamentary democracy. There was no national election for Abe, so besides the voters in just one of Japan’s 300 single-member districts, nobody directly voted for Abe. The only people he was voted in by were LDP members–as their leader. The LDP would have won the Dec. 16 election if their leader had been a potted plant.

  • Fight Back

    Debito has long been a crusader for NJ rights in Japan. His track record speak for itself and he is the primary reason we NJ have the limited freedoms we have in Japan now. When people choose to bicker over some the points he makes, I feel it is setting back the progress we need to make as a community. I think Debito has earned the right to be free from criticism, especially from those who enjoy the freedoms he has worked so hard to secure for us.

    • iago

      “Debito … is the primary reason we NJ have the limited freedoms we have in Japan now.”

      While I can certainly understand the sentiment, it does seem rather unfair to put the blame entirely on him.

      • Jim Di Griz

        ‘it does seem rather unfair to put the blame entirely on him.’
        Why not? Isn’t that what apologists do? Scapegoat and victimize their own, in order to gain a scrap from the masters table?

      • I do not think that word (“apologists”) mean what you think it does. And using the same tired arguments and language as “fight back” – did you login under the wrong alias while sockpuppeting again?

      • Fight Back

        I’m sure it’s possible for Mr Di Griz to share the same sentiment and disappointment that I feel myself when considering the actions of apologists who attack their fellow NJ for a pat on the head at their local Izakaya, where I’m sure they wholeheartedly spout the anti-China nonsense and hysteria that Abe has created.

        Only the apologists with their various ‘characters’ and non de plumes seem to live in a paranoid world where they suspect everyone to be someone else. And yet recently it was proved on Debito’s website that many of these ‘characters’ were the work of a single person. I wonder if you are somehow involved with that.

    • Jim Di Griz

      So true Fight Back!

      The apologists bask in the freedom from persecution that Debito has worked for on their behalf (gaijin hanzai ura- anyone?), and then they criticize the manner in which he defends them. It is indeed unfortunate that in the struggle for NJ rights in Japan, we also have to struggle for the rights of the apologists.

      Bravo Debito! Don’t stop! The more criticism you attract, the more threatened the vested interests in the status quo must be!

      • KetsuroOu

        Three quick points:

        1) The “Gaijin Hanzai Ura Fairu” was a privately published magazine, and not an official piece of legislation. It was not responsible for anyone’s “persecution”.

        2) By suggesting that it’s unfortunate that you “also have to struggle for the rights of the apologists” you suggest that all foreigners are equal, but some are more equal than others.

        3) You don’t know what the word “apologist” means, do you?

      • Toolonggone

        1) So, your point is…? No one has the right to sue the publisher because private
        proprietor is immune to the libel suit in Japan? If you believe this is true,
        then, go ahead and ask the same question to Japanese individuals who indeed
        have filed a lawsuit against private employers.

        2) This is NOT the matter of nationality or language they speak, contrary to your
        assumption that apologists= non-Japanese.

        3) Oh, you need clarification? Isn’t that any individual who tries to defend
        her/himself from any suspicion or accusation not by one’s faculty for
        argument/persuasion or any clear, rational explanation, but by half-hearted
        apology that will allow an accused to deflect people’s attention away from the matter?
        Well, we already have an answer here, don’t we?

  • Bullpucky

    I find it hard to imagine how Abe can be both “a jittery little man with a weak stomach” who spends entire days in the restroom while also a strong leader who will bring about the rise of “a xenophobic, ultra-rightist, militaristic Japan.” Perhaps the author believes the revolution will be lead from the can?

  • StevenStreets

    Fractional Reserve Central banking is what made America a warlike Nation. It violates our Constitutions wisdom of legal tender power vested in elected State Governments. It destroyed the check and balance of two, two, 2 precious metal only legal tender mandate in Article One sections 8 and 10. PM Abe wants to depreciate Yen and that nexus between Nationalism and finance fuel the drive for military debt spending. Be careful Japan. Next thing you know, you will be borrowing money from communist China to build warships and planes just like USA. No one really wants their sons fighting and dying for banks and their beneficiary body politics.

    God bless the Bank of Japan for all the good they do. There are better ways to keep a country in perpetual debt than war.

    If something isn’t broke don’t try to fix it, when life has so many other pressing survival issues than to afford the added burden of war.

  • Apologist

    ‘Japan swings to the right’. Has there ever been a time when foreign pundits haven’t trotted out this tired old trope? I first arrived in Japan during the bubble period. The trade friction with the U.S. at the time was then described as a heightened display of nationalism. Shintaro Ishihara’s bellicose ‘The Japan That Can Say No’ was published. Pseudo-academic studies of Japan’s alleged uniqueness were popular. All ascribed to a resurgent nationalism. A shift to the right, echoing pre-war Japan we were led to believe.

    Fast forward to the 90s. The Comfort Women and Nanjing Massacre issues arise and some Japanese statesemen want to mitigate Japan’s role. Once again, this is deemed a national mood swing towards a more militaristic, right-wing mentality. History textbooks are debated and a tiny minority of schools choose to use a revised text. Right on cue, it is deemed resurgent neo-nationalism. The Kimigayo and Hinomaru issue goes to court and gets a favourable decision. A shift to the right, it is called. Later in the decade the self-defence forces are sent abroad and Japan’s constitutional limitations are debated. Sure enough the foreign press chime in with claims of resurgent Japanese nationalism. The specter of a belligerent re-militarized Japan looms we are told.

    Now, the conservative LDP is re-elected. And guess how the foreign press chime in? Same old, same old. ‘The specter of resurgent neo-nationalism, a swing to the right’. The predictable fallback mantra of shallow foreign analysts. Yawn.

  • tangxin

    I find anything written by debito to be disingenuous. I am ethnic Chinese living overseas, and I can agree that Abe’s vision is not the way for Japan. But this is not debito’s concern.

    Debito falls into the category of white expat who, upon having a negative experience in some foreign country, takes it on himself to find and agree with every criticism there is about that country, yet actually expects people to believe his words are meant constructively. I have seen more than a few of this type in China as well.

    No, sorry. I don’t believe Abe will do anything extreme regardless of what he believes in. Non-asians and foreign opinions not needed.

    • Jim Di Griz

      ‘Non-asians and foreign opinions not needed.’
      Non-asians, and foreigners? Debito is legally a Japanese citizen, and while the current constitution lasts, is entitled to free speech just as much as the black van sound trucks. Gee, racist much?

      • What about non-citizens? You were just agreeing with “Fight Back” when he said “It’s time to purge this Apologist nonsense that has gained so much traction through the sheer art of noise.” So apparently you support free speech, but not for all? Somehow I am not surprised in the least.

    • Toolonggone

      >Debito falls into the category of white expat who, upon having a negative experience
      in some foreign country, takes it on himself to find and agree with every
      criticism there is about that country,

      Sorry he’s not the only one doing that. Take a look at articles by other writers– Colin P. Jones, Philip Brasor, Mike Hoffman, Roger Pulvers, etc. They may not be as overtly critical as Debito, but they are indeed critical of Japan regarding on the issues they discuss. And race doesn’t really matter to take a critical position on your country. Late Iris Chan is a good example. Some news writers publishing the articles critical of Japan are actually Japanese.

      Also, you said ‘every’ criticism? This means anything referring to Japan–i.e., politics, foods, lifestyle, consumption, environment, family, etc. Sure, some of Debito’s pieces are provocative and make readers offensive (I felt it that way, too.). But did he ever say it bluntly “Japan sucks almost everything” in any of his articles?

      >yet actually expects people to believe his words are meant constructively

      And this is exactly what you are supposed to do–speaker/writer’s responsibility. No exception. If you don’t like it, then, forget it. It’s like telling the difference from PBS New Hours to Fox News. Or sapient journalists like Gwen Ifill or Andrew Sullivan to rabble-rousing shock-jockers like Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck. You won’t have much difficulty in understanding this as long as you live abroad, will you?

      >I don’t believe Abe will do anything extreme regardless of what he believes in. Non-asians and foreign opinions not needed.

      Well, contrary to your opinion, I hear many people in your country believe Abe will do something crazy. And there are many Chinese people living overseas raising voices against him–but mostly ignored. Can you explain why this is the case?

    • Jameika

      While it’s clear that you have a serious lack of respect for other people’s ability to understand and think of things on their own. Plus, you’re clearly a racist.
      The you-don’t-belong-here argument never holds water. What would stop any resident of a place–regardless of his origins–from caring about where he lives and having an opinion? Even if it were only as simple as that.

      However, I’m failing to understand how your comments aren’t exactly what you’re complaining about.

    • Toolonggone

      >Debito falls into the category of white expat who, upon having a negative experience in some foreign country, takes it on himself to find and agree with every criticism there is about that country, yet actually expects people to believe his words are meant constructively. I have seen more than a few of this type in China as well.

      It’s not the matter of positivity or negativity that makes one’s argument real deal. It’s one’s ability to construct argument from solid evidence and reasoning to make it compelling. That’s what you/we are supposed to do if you are to join in the public forum for constructive discussion. If not, then, forget it. That’s what few people in Japan understand properly. You don’t have trouble understanding what this means, since you are living abroad, do you?

      >No, sorry. I don’t believe Abe will do anything extreme regardless of what he believes in. Non-asians and foreign opinions not needed.

      Contrary to your assumption, many people in your home country see it otherwise. They know who Abe is. He’s the one who likes to vent his spleens. And your last sentence is problematic regarding that many Chinese/Koreans who are eligible to live in Japan permanently are indeed silenced by wacky right-wingers and Japanese employers. Explain to me how you frame these people in your perspective and why.

  • Yamatosenkan

    As others have pointed out here, it is strange that Debito thinks Abe and his people are a throwback to the 1930’s and 1940’s Japan. They have no aspiration whatsoever to expand territorially. On the contrary, it is China that is expanding. Instead of focusing on Japan, Debito would also do well reading some Chinese newspapers that talk of “defending the sacred motherland” and “teaching the Japanese a lesson.” Chinese television now frequently features Chinese military folk and “experts” who predict on war with Japan and the U.S. China today has a lot more in common with Japan in 1941 than Japan has.

  • I see Mr. Arudou is up to his old trick of creating his own facts and hoping the rest of us are too lazy to actually look up his references. Or perhaps he himself does not understand the Japanese he is trying to translate for us?

    Arudou claims that the 2006 revision to the Basic Education Law “now clearly states that a right to education in Japan is restricted to “us [sic] Japanese citizens” (ware ware Nihon kokumin — i.e., excluding foreigners)”. Nonsense. Firstly, while the phrase “we Japanese citizens” does indeed appear in the text of law, it is in the preamble, where the reason for the promulgation of the law (creating a democratic and cultured nation, contributing to world peace and the welfare of mankind, etc.) is given. “We the People…” in other words. The phrase “Ware ware Nihon kokumin” replaces the word “Warera (We)” in the original 1947 law. Nothing more.

    Arudou then goes on to claim the revised law has removed goals for developing individuality. Apparently Arudou was too tired to read past Article One when comparing the new and old laws, or he might have noticed that while the bit about respecting individuality was indeed removed from Article One (where it existed in the 1947 law) it is right there in Article Two of the new law – which among other things adds in dangerous right-wing thought such as “equality of the sexes” and “value of life” as cornerstones, concepts which the original (and, we are to assume, more progressive law, according to Arudou) didn’t even touch on!

    Now since Arudou was apparently incapable of deciphering the squiggles on the page so far, I suppose he is to be forgiven when he claims that the revised law restricts the right to education to Japanese citizens only. After all, that bit is only covered further down, in Article 4 (not the preamble!) of the revised law, and is nothing more nor less than a copy-and-paste of Article 3 of the 1947 law, which says education must be provided to all “kokumin”, a word which Arudou is fond of pointing out has been determined by Japan’s Supreme Court (in the context of the Constitution) to mean “the people” irrespective of nationality.

    Cunning, those “hawks”, changing the law by moving Articles about! Well, they certainly seem to have fooled our man Arudou!

    • johnny cassidy

      Thanks for filling in some gaps sir. Hope you can put some of this in a letter to the editor as well. But as Wilson would say, “You know sir, I can’t help feeling you’ve got a bit of a chip on your shoulder…”

    • The answer to your rhetorical question regarding whether Debito Arudou actually read the original 2006 Japanese Basic/Fundamental Education Law is linked in the sources for his blog version of this article: he cites an all-English article in the “The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus”. The reason Arudou may have not picked up on the “individuality” expression being simply moved to a different section may be because in the English translation that accompanies the Lebowitz/McNeill article, the one word concept is expressed in multi-word (English) phrases such as “[r]espect the value of individuals, develop their abilities, cultivate their creativity, and foster a spirit of autonomy and independence”.

      It is regrettable that Arudou apparently didn’t confirm by reading the original Japanese law, or even read the provided supplemental English translations accompanying his source more carefully, when he made this erroneous claim in this month’s column.

    • Toolonggone

      >Arudou claims that the 2006 revision to the Basic Education Law “now clearly states that a right to education in Japan is restricted to “us [sic] Japanese citizens” (ware ware Nihon kokumin — i.e., excluding foreigners)”. Nonsense.

      OK. Then, bring me some credible evidence suggesting that Fundamental Education Law indeed guarantees the rights of non-Japanese or anyone who doesn’t have Japanese citizenship. I have never seen any word or reference to foreign nationals or non-Japanese in any part of clause whatsoever. It’s like looking for the needle in a haystack.

      >is nothing more nor less than a copy-and-paste of Article 3 of the 1947 law, which says
      education must be provided to all “kokumin”,

      Explain the definition of “kokumin” in English. Is it equivalent to which — citizen or non-citizen? And why is that so?

    • Toolonggone

      >Arudou claims that the 2006 revision to the Basic Education Law “now clearly states that a right to education in Japan is restricted to “us [sic] Japanese citizens” (ware ware Nihon kokumin — i.e., excluding foreigners)”. Nonsense

      Then, give me some evidence that Fundamental Education Law provides the clause for foreigners or non-Japanese. You’re talking about the interpretation of “We the people” in Japanese context. Does it apply to non-Japanese–or not? Explain it to me with specific reasons if you are 100% confident on your claim.

      • Specific reasons – like the existence of foreign children in Japanese public schools, you mean?

        Article 4 of the new law specifically states “The people shall be all be given equal opportunities to receive education according to their abilities, and shall not be subject to educational discrimination on account of race, creed, sex, social status, economic position, or family origin.” Granted it does not specifically state “…or nationality”, but does any similar law anywhere state that? No reasonable interpretation of the law could conclude it explicitly states “Japanese Only”, nor that the intent was “Japanese Only”, nor is there any documented case of this law, or its predecessor, being used in practice to keep foreign children out of Japanese schools. Pressure from misguided school principals and/or teachers to place the child/children in international schools, yes. Absolutely. But anecdotally those cases are decreasing, not increasing, and when push comes to shove children have not been denied a chance for public education.

        The law very clearly does *not* state, contrary to Arudou’s assertion, is that “only Japanese nationals are eligible for public education”. If anyone needs to present evidence of their claims it is the writer of this article, not I.

      • Toolonggone

        Right. National Constitutions do not make specific distinction based on race or nationality. That’s not just for Japan–it’s virtually most countries in the world. This means that interpretation of constitution is solely based on framer’s mind. It’s totally up to the legislative and legal branches that will make or break the tradition or interpret the meaning differently from the predecessors. Sure, the Constitution does not say exactly what he quotes…, but does it also mean his opponents are correct in suggesting that Japan’s Education Fundamental Law also guarantees the rights of non-citizens–despite the issue of uncertainty with legal powers???

        >nor is there any documented case of this law, or its predecessor, being used in practice to keep foreign children out of Japanese schools.

        It’s naive to expect them to show physical evidence because perpetrators always take advantage of any type of legal loopholes in the first place. Do you really believe the perpetrator(s) are stupid enough to leave any documented evidence to cover up their misconduct??

        >Pressure from misguided school principals and/or teachers to place the child/children in international schools, yes. Absolutely. But anecdotally those cases are decreasing, not increasing,

        Where’s you evidence to support this unconvincing claim? And are school principals and teachers the only ones to be blamed!?

      • Toolonggone

        Right. The national constitution generally leaves question of ambiguity to the people at the time–and that’s why its meaning has changed throughout the period,
        depending on how the state legislation and Diet will interpret framer’s mind. It is true that the 1947 Japanese Constitution does not explicitly say “kokumin is Japanese” nor make a separate distinction between “shimin” and “kokumin” or “Japanese” and “foreigners,” contrary to what he states. But does that mean the Fundamental Education Law or School Education Law guarantees “non-citizens”,
        whether automatically or implicitly, guarantee the rights for education throughout the century? Or should it be considered secondary since it is rare? If your point is leaning toward either of these two, you are still being morally obligated to clarify your point and/or present evidence to support your claim.

        >Pressure from misguided school principals and/or teachers to place the
        child/children in international schools, yes. Absolutely. But anecdotally those
        cases are decreasing, not increasing, and when push comes to shove children
        have not been denied a chance for public education.

        Where’s your evidence to support this unconvincing claim? And why do you think
        schools and teachers are the only ones to be blamed on academic discrimination?

  • Fight Back

    Readers who are new to this site may not be aware that many of the negative responses to Mr Arudou’s column are in fact orchestrated by a small clique of Apologists who spend an inordinate amount of time on-line trying to sully Mr Arudou’s reputation.

    Apologists and their ilk are often NJ who have, by hook or crook, gained themselves a slice of the small pie that is meted out by the Japanese to certain obsequious individuals who are then obliged to denounce and denigrate other NJ in order to keep their tenuous ‘social position’ and hold on to the scraps of dignity they are thrown from their host’s table.

    What Debito Arudou represents, is a fair deal for each and every NJ, regardless of the need for desperate brown-nosing or the one upmanship that dominates the Apologist discourse.

    Of course this column is merely astute political observation, but it has been unfairly politicized by those who feel threatened by the fairness and everyman ethos that Debito represents. A fair deal for all and a call to be vigilant in the face of rampant Japanese nationalism makes eminent sense to me and most of the intelligentsia of the NJ community. It’s time to purge this Apologist nonsense that has gained so much traction through the sheer art of noise.

    • Jim Di Griz

      Fight Back is right. Most of the comments against Debito posted here are by the regulars at anti-debito slam site, where they have reproduced the comments posted here due to believing that they had been removed by moderators (when, in fact, the moderators were simply slow). They regularly write letters under the same pseudonyms to Japan Times calling for the end of Debito’s column, and are disproportionately vocal, given that they are infamously known for being merely ‘a dozen’. The 21st century uncle toms are an embarrassment to the human rights struggle in Japan.

      • A bit rich for a fictional character from a science-fiction novel series to complain about people using “pseudonyms”, now isn’t it?

      • Jim Di Griz

        Just as much as you using a handle from BBC’s ‘Dad’s Army’ Ken. Mainwaring was (IIRC) a fat old blustering bufoon. If the cap fits…

      • Sam Gilman

        It’s a terrible shame that the reasonable point you made originally about the author’s nationality has been entirely undermined and more by your bizarre resort to the language of racial paranoia. “One of their own”, “uncle Toms”, “scraps from the Master’s table” – you write as if criticising an article in the Japan Times is an act of race betrayal! (The mind boggles). Quite apart from the silliness of that, you appear happy to make an issue of Debito Arudou’s ethnicity when it suits you, but object vehemently when others do the same. If he is “Japanese”, then, surely, he is not “one of their own” to for foreigners to victimise. You can’t have it both ways. (Personally, I don’t think the kind of passport he holds matters as to whether he’s right or wrong.)

        It’s also disturbing (or perhaps just comical) that you support suggestions that critics of this article should be silenced and “purged”, and you yourself suggest they are less deserving of basic human rights. When Debito is arguing that Abe represents a return to Japanese fascism, the irony is glaring.

        As to your main charge, I don’t think any conspiracy forced Debito to make such wild exaggerations as to compare the current Prime Minister with wartime leaders (such as Hideki Tojo, presumably), nor to get the 2006 changes to education law horribly wrong, nor to get wrong what it is that Abe has controversially said about the war, nor to get constitutional procedure wrong, nor to wholly misunderstand the Senkaku dispute, nor – incredibly in 2013 – to write as if China’s military assertiveness doesn’t exist. That’s all his own work.

        Perhaps instead of paranoid name-calling (I echo another commenter who suggests you don’t understand what “apologist” means), you could address some of the criticisms made by what looks like a diverse group of people making a diverse range of comments. Otherwise Fight Back’s and your support of Debito looks autonomic and cult-like. A cult of personality perhaps?

        I wouldn’t have bothered writing this response (I actually thought at one point your praise of Debito was so effusive as to be sarcastic) if I hadn’t discovered that you and Fight Back are indeed genuine respondents on Debito Arudou’s personal website, and apparently quite typical of his school of thought. Perhaps you should invite him here to respond? He might make a better, less racially-charged fist of it than you.

      • Jim Di Griz

        Sam, I’m not saying that disagreeing with Debito’s JBC is an act of ‘Race-betrayal’ (as you put it), but rather than focusing on the contents of the JBC, the ’12’ sock-puppets who appear on the anti-debito slam site are here denigrating Debito for ‘not being Japanese’, or ‘being Japanese, but not being in Japan’. I’m saying they should debate the issue, not the man. If they can’t do that, then readers should be questioning their motives.

      • Guest

        Jim, as an epithet, if you use the term “Uncle Tom”, you are accusing people of race treachery. It’s as simple as that.

      • Sam Gilman

        Sorry – this was from me; I accidentally pressed post as I was beginning my reply. I thought I had deleted it, but Disqus kept the comment.

      • Sam Gilman

        Jim, the term “Uncle Tom” is a very well-known and offensive accusation of race treachery that comes out of the African-American experience of slavery. There’s no modern ambiguity to it. When you tell me you’re not making such accusations, I’m not inclined to believe you. What, for example does “taking scraps from the master’s table mean”, if it isn’t an attempt to compare westerners like myself as in a master-slave relationship with Japanese? If you can’t take responsibility for the words you use, please use terms you are more at home with.

        (The disturbing thing is, an archive search on the term “uncle tom” shows me that Arudou used it in the same Japan Times article where he introduced the term “apologist” for people don’t agree with his rather unorthodox views on Japanese society. It’s almost as if you and Fight Back are parroting everything he says. It looks really weird from the outside. it genuinely appears cult-like.)

        The thing is, when I asked you to address various criticisms people have made of/errors found in this article (I listed several), you didn’t. You made further paranoid comments about “sockpuppets”, and continued to obsess about the meaning of Debito Arudou’s nationality and ethnicity and who said what on some site or other. If anyone here is guilty of not addressing the content of the article, it’s you and Fight Back. It’s as if you’re trying to distract people’s attention as a form of defence. So what if someone suggests he’s not good at Japanese history, or failed to jettison age-old ingrained western colonialist attitudes, or is out of touch because he’s returned to the states (which is what people are trying to say, not that his DNA disqualifies him from comment) – these are just attempts to explain why he’s written what he did. How about you, like me, try to address what he’s written. That’s where the argument should be instead of these ad hominem attacks that you are joining in with.

        Look, the only substantive point you make yourself is that China has zero responsibility for the increase in regional tension. Given that the government in Beijing recently sponsored anti-Japanese riots, has repeatedly violated Japanese territorial waters, has been concealing evidence that undermines its territorial claims, and most recently had one of its helicopters lock weapons radar on a Japanese ship, I don’t see how you can reach this conclusion. These events happened both under Noda and under Abe. (No one here, by the way, is saying “Abe is a great guy” – a point that seems to have flown past you. No one is playing down what he has done or said. Some are trying to correct Debito’s factual errors about Abe, but that’s not apologism). Other countries in the region are also highly worried about Chinese expansion and cooked-up territorial claims. What you write about China – now that’s apologism according to the standard definition – trying to play down the controverisal. Do you really think China has no responsibility? How does that square with recent Chinese actions?

    • James Reilly

      Fight Back, I very much doubt that there is a conspiracy by a shadowy “clique” to flood this comments section with negative responses. It strikes me that many of those
      responses are instead simply the product of well-reasoned criticism of the many flimsy points in this article, such as GMainwaring’s astute exposure of Arudo’s lack of research on the Basic Education Law. Contrast this with the currently few comments that directly support the article’s thesis; the silence says much about the strength of Arudo’s conclusions.

      It is debatable whether Arudo has done anything that substantially bettered life in Japan for foreign residents who are truly victimized by racism, but that topic should not displace this article as the focus of discussion, nor should Arudo’s activities shield his publicly stated opinions from criticism—indeed, the
      purpose of a comments section is to provide a forum for intelligent debate.

      Unfortunately, this article amounts to little more than scaremongering. If we were to take Arudo’s hyperbole at face value, we would expect to see mobs of Japanese citizens smashing the windows of Chinese-owned restaurants and droves of young people
      enlisting in the Self-Defense Forces. This, however, has yet to be seen. Certainly, there are Japanese politicians who can be classified as sabre-rattling hawks, but without an equally hawkish populace to back them up, they won’t be marching on Beijing anytime soon. The rightists’ black trucks come and go as they always have, and pretty much all Japanese on the street ignore them, as they always have. I suspect that Arudo’s living outside of Japan has put him out of touch with the country’s real public sentiment.

      If Arudou really believes that Japan is on the path to becoming a military state a la the 1930s, I should think that he, as a Japanese citizen and an activist, would
      want to try to change this dangerous course by warning the people who are in a position to change it— his fellow citizens and the Japanese government—and by offering constructive solutions. Instead, he directs his warning to “outside observers” and offers one-liners about a man’s bowel trouble in place of constructive suggestions. The territorial dispute between Japan and China is a serious issue
      that needs to be resolved amicably as soon as possible, but I see nothing in this article that contributes toward such a solution.

      • Fight Back

        I strenuously disagree. Debito Arudou is a well-respected academic in his field and a columnist for the Japan Times. If he says it’s a fact then it’s a fact. I think we can all do the courtesy of trusting in the one person who has been a bulwark for human rights in Japan for over 20 years.

        The sheer fact is, that if it weren’t for Debito’s vigilance there would be no-one to stop Abe’s hawks rounding up, deporting, or even detaining NJ at will, a distinct possibility given Japan’s dramatic lurch to the far right. Many NJ in Japan have already felt the heat being turned up with more aggressive attitudes by the civilians and the requirement to join in anti-Chinese sentiment. Debito can lead us through this but he can’t do it alone. We need to be as vigilant as he says to.

        Social media is a tool we can all use to reach the English-speaking world and let them know what’s really happening in Japan rather than what’s being reported in the state-owned media. A no tolerance policy for apologism and apologists is also a logical step. I’m sure we all know one or two NJ who denigrate Debito, let’s make this unacceptable in today’s society. We need to move forward as a community, now not just for ourselves, but for the prosperity and security of Asia as a whole.

      • ChrysanthemumSniffer

        “Debito Arudou is a well-respected academic in his field”

        What, you mean English teaching?

      • Fight Back

        Debito Arudou is a well-known researcher who has published several books on the NJ-experience in Japan. He runs a robust and vigorous human rights website that provides up to the date information for those in need of it with regard to human rights in Japan. He is also very well known.

        Can you seriously say you come close to matching any of that? And what of the real topic of this article, that Abe’s hawks need to be kept close tabs on? Are you really trying to say this is wrong?

  • azooisaprison4animals

    Late to the party that I am, I will be brief, and not sugar coat my message.

    Jim Di Griz – keep on keepen on brotha.

    eido inoue – you are a snob. You may very well speak Japanese/English better than others, but your complete lack of compassion is what disgusts me. You not only use your (apparent) language ability to justify your point of view, but at the same time you go out of your way to unnecessarily belittle and mock those with opposing points of view. Shame on you. No one is an expert at everything. Be humble. You just might learn something.

    Now, to the article: Regardless of what is written on a piece of paper, Japan should “man-up” and provide for its own defense (offense?). Lets face facts. The U.S. economy and military is in decline. Japan can no longer depend on “big brother” to protect it. Japan needs to grow its military, and fast.

    All this fear-mongering needs to stop though.

    • I assume you’re replying to me pointing out that the original author did not thoroughly read his own sources that he provided. Debito revealed his source for his claim that the revision to the 2006 Fundamental Education Law removes individuality and education for non-Japanese, and it turned out that upon further inspection of that source, it said no such thing. I wasn’t the first, nor was I the only one, to notice this very bad oversight.

      If that makes me a “snob” for pointing out that the article in question has source comprehension and interpretation errors in it, then yes, I’m guilty as charged. I thought I was being generous to Mr. Arudou for assuming his error was due to not completely reading the original Japanese or the translated English which he provided; another possible explanation, that he read and understood all of it yet deliberately chose to mislead Japan Times readers, is a much more sinister accusation which I didn’t make.

      I do expect that when you have a conclusion for an article, especially one that makes rather serious and controversial claims, that your supporting facts be correct and not misinterpreted or distorted. In the word of academia and journalism, it is expected that your facts be true and correctly interpreted, and it is expected that you will be criticized when you fail to live up to that core tenant. You don’t get partial credit for wanting something to be true so it can conveniently support your hypothesis or world view. In Debito Arudou’s world of academia and journalism, criticism of your work is invited and expected. I’m think that Mr. Arudou is actually grateful that people are proofing his theories for obvious errors, as this will help him with his research.

      Your last paragraph in your reply was the most interesting. Japan already has the Self-Defense Force (SDF), and compared to most (not superpower) militaries of the world, it’s actually quite capable (although not well tested outside of domestic emergency situations) given the percentage of GDP that’s put into its budget. As for an offensive force, well, that’s not constitutional according to most interpretations of Article 9.

      So it seems like you’re actually calling for an end to the Security Treaty Between the U.S. and Japan, which would probably mean Japan would need to increase the size, readiness, and capabilities of its forces to deal with regional threats in absence of guaranteed and unconditional U.S. support. If that’s what you’re in favor of, then it looks like you agree with Prime Minister Abe and the Liberal Democratic Party, and you disagree with parts of Debito Arudou’s opinion of the current administration.

      Anyway, thanks for your opinion!

      • azooisaprison4animals

        It is not what you said, it is the way you said it. And I did not base my accusation solely on one of your comments.

        If Japan’s military is “quite capable”, then why are there dozens of U.S. military bases spread throughout Japan?

        If Japan can defend itself, and the U.S. can’t afford to project power so far away from home, it is time for time for the treaty to be revised/revoked. Or maybe it is time Japan told the U.S. it is time to end the treaty?

        Abe and the LDP want to increase the military, which I am fine with, but they they lose my support when they and their supporters voice their hatred for China, Korea, foreigners, etc. They could love and defend their country w/o using hate, but they don’t. They will latch on to any event and spin it to their advantage.

      • Japan has a military force that is sized and designed to be “quite capable” of protecting itself, with America’s help, from a local attack. But even if it changed its military power balance so that it could protect itself from attack without an allies’ immediate assistance, it still couldn’t constitutionally participate, get involved, or help in other countries’ defense (that “Self” in “Self Defense Force” is there for a reason) — something that the U.S. is capable of doing. The reason there are dozens of military bases throughout Japan is not just for its benefit.

        The U.S. has a vested long term economic interest in seeing that not just Japan, but all the countries near Japan, remain stable and peaceful. While Japan cannot get involved militarily, even for defensive purposes, with other countries due to its Constitution, the U.S. is often obligated (by treaty or agreement) to protect other countries relatively close to Japan, and many of these countries that have complex and difficult relationships with histories of military conflict with their neighbors. Taiwan and South Korea are two with U.S. defense pacts which come quickly to mind.

        Your statement about the U.S. not being able to afford to project power overseas anymore is a good one. However, the opposing opinion is that the U.S. cannot afford to not project power in this area, because if something major happened and the U.S. wasn’t within the figurative arm’s reach, it would cost the U.S. (and the world) far more — both in dollars and lives — in the long run. Not to mention the horrible thought of the worst case scenario: an escalation into multiple wars due to interlocked alliances or interests that might have be prevented or ended quickly by a strong local U.S. military superpower presence as a deterrent.

        Now, you can argue that some of the bases can be moved to other territories, including U.S. Pacific territories such as Guam, especially given that 21st century military technology allows for faster logistics and movements and quicker and farther projection of power. All of these are very good ideas, but are very complicated with no perfect or simple solutions and have their own set of pros and cons.

  • Garth Marenghi

    Keep up the good work Debito