Today the US Defense Secretary, Robert Gates, spoke at a university in Tokyo about Japanese involvement in international security missions. He was very pointed about Japan’s necessary engagement in the North Korea nuclear negotiations, and also mentioned broader Japanese security roles globally.
There are two very different views of Japan based on two entirely different motivations.
There is the view that Japan is a first world nation that has even more m Australia, the more Center EU states (which would include France now), etc. The motivating factor for this view is that peacekeeping is a pretty expensive undertaking and Japan should bear some of the burden, particularly since its the only Asian country (or likely, soon, France). The Successfully Freedom-Having Country Club would like to see their Asian cousin join the fun every now and then.
There is the opposing view that Japan is a naturally evil country filled with wretched, soulless, repressed robot ninja samurai killers who are waiting for any chance to rebuild an army and run around atrocitying the world. This view is held exclusively by South Korea, North Korea and China. The motivation for this view is money, pure and simple. The more evil any of those three makes Japan out to be, the more money they get from Japan in several forms including tax breaks, political assistance, fiscal assistance, public works funding, etc. As big as the Chinese economy is, they are not an honest broker, and very little business can go on in Asia without the Japanese brokering it somewhere as an insurance. China needs and wants Japan, but they want Japan to be low in some way, always and forever. Of course, that is China’s eventual goal for the entire world, but that is beyond the scope of this article. South Korea, while much more honest in business than China (not that that’s saying much), is motivated by an indirect form of monetary gain for the leadership. The more one bashes Japan in South Korea, the better you sound. This can, and usually is, in complete conflict with reality, but reality has never been the point in South Korean politics. North Korea wants to see Japan just go away. Its the only country nearby that is allied with the US, and its a mighty big US ally to have next door when you’re trying to be under the radar with all the evil stuff you want to do, such as destabilizing the Middle East, wage a proxy war against Europe and the US through Iran, etc.
Note that none of these last motivations have anything to do with World War II. That was a long time ago already and nobody in power today actually gives a crocodile penis about that stuff anymore. Its just a great, and I mean great, political wrapping for whatever you want to say in the DPRK, South Korea or China. Its like hating George Bush if you are a Democrat in the US. For example, in the US we hear things like “This healthcare bill will give children (and lazy adults) free healthcare… and help us bring down George Bush!” In South Korea you would hear something like “This healthcare bill will give children (and angsty adults) more US subsidized public free stuff… and help us kill all the Japanese!”
So we have Japan being pulled in two different directions politically. The stronger countries in Japan’s own region are very against any Japanese military role in anything (or any Japanese role in anything, more precisely) because they feel it will undermine their future dominance, regardless how preposterous a Korean dominance of Asia actually is. Don’t tell a Korean that, South or North, because they believe they won World War II by themselves somehow, despite having been a contributing colony during that period… They’ve got some pretty interesting history books…
Why should we promote an increasing Japanese role in international security missions? Its fairly simple. Asia is fundamentally more powerful than the rest of the world. Whoever controls Asia in the future will by proxy control the world, whether by intention or not, much in the same way that America (and in some cases Europe) largely control events in the world, whether by intention or not. There are only two countries out here socially stable enough to control and lead Asia, China and Japan.
The Chinese political intention has always been that its right and proper for the masses to work for the benefit of the top 300 on the country. They would like to extend this to the world and have the whole world work for the top 300 living only in China. This is directly in line with Chinese history and culture too, and most marginally educated Chinese think this is a good idea. Japan, on the other hand, has largely adopted the ideals of democracy and personal freedom and these days, the idea of the masses breaking their backs for the top 300 would never work out. Japan also has absolutely no plans of domination, whereas China is currently actively in pursuit of it. It is likely that if Japan were in primacy here, they would not recognize it for quite some time and likely continue to follow the American lead. China, on the other hand, has very specific plans to control internal politics in all the surrounding Asian countries to the extent that when Thailand and Vietnam are considering a new trade policy, they will consider Chinese interests first.
As we have a choice between China or Japan to lead Asia, its fairly obvious that Japan would be the better choice… which is why we have had Gates up there today talking about a stronger Japanese international security role, and have had over the last six years or so a concentrated push to get Japan out into the world more and more. Change is going to happen whether we like it or not, so its better to manage the change and go with it than let it happen on its own and go the wrong way.
Once again, I didn’t insert a ton of references. If someone wants to push me to it, I will. I’m just running low on time these days.