Monday, August 28, 2006

As Enemies Become Friends

If you remember your World War II history, even just the smattering of it that I have managed to glean over the years, you know that after the U.S. war with Japan was called to a halt, there were some rather severe military restrictions placed on the Empire of the Sun, and incorporated into the Japanese constitution, written at the time the war ended. George Will, writing at, looks at the history of that constitutional prohibition, and how that plays out in the world today. These limits were pretty close to "Thou shalt not have a military"--not quite that extreme, but close enough to require some creative constitutional interpretation over time so that the Japanese could maintain a "defense force." The Japanese are very creative people (which is also why we buy so many Japanese products.) Japan has a substantial military budget.

The post WWII restrictions were designed to prevent further Japanese aggression (they did start the scuffle after all), and at the time the U.S. was pretty determined that these limits be imposed to end Japanese Imperialism. However, a lot has changed in the last sixty years, or so. America is no longer clamouring for such tight controls on the island nation. In one of the twists and turns of the ever unpredictable currents of history, Japan has become a strong American ally, an extreme rarity in East Asia. It's an encouraging example of an enemy, religiously married to the idea of their own superiority and destiny of world domination, relinquishing their ambitions of conquest and becoming our staunch friend. Let us hope it's a scenario that is oft repeated. Okay let me rephrase that. I really don't want any more enemies bent on world domination, but I'd like to see the ones we've got change their goals and become our friends. I realise that it looks pretty impossible right now, but who would have thought in the forties that Japan would turn out to be such a good ally?

Living in a dangerous neighborhood, our ally has some very unsavory characters breathing down her neck. The "beloved" dictator of North Korea is fond of tossing missiles in Japan's general direction, and China is a longtime adversary, and a considerable military threat. The U.S. also could stand to have a little of Japan's muscle in the various places we are currently engaged around the world, the Middle East being a prime example. As our friendship with Japan has grown over the years, our posture toward her military has undergone a similar change in direction. Their own attitude toward it has been undergoing some adjustment as well. Still pacifist (their loss in the Second World War carried some deep lessons), the Japanese are nonetheless aware of the dangerous and changing nature of the world around them. They, as much as anyone in the world, know how advances in technology can shift the balance of power and make fearsome opponents out of what once were mere nuisances. George Will is making the case that Japan's constitutional prohibition against maintaining a military could soon be history, and a decent argument that it should. It's an interesting read.