The Downside of Imperial Collapse
When Empires or Great Powers Fall, Chaos and War Rise
Japan's gross national product has been expanding at the scarcely believable rate of more than 10 percent annually. It is evident that growth of this sort means major changes in quick succession. By the mid-1970s, if Japan sustains its current economic pace and the rest of Asia also continues at its present rate, Japan's GNP would virtually equal that of all other Asian countries combined, Mainland China included. Herman Kahn has pointed out that projection of present trends will give Japanese a per capita income equal to that of Americans soon after the year 2000.
Even if we assume that these projections will not be fully realized, Japan is already the third economic power in the world and seems to be on the verge of still greater achievement. Yet Japan's concern with the world outside has been largely confined to selling its goods and making money. Such a policy was acceptable when Japan was recovering from its defeat in the War of the Pacific, but the nation cannot continue in this fashion. As President Nixon wrote in Foreign Affairs in October 1967, "Looking toward the future, one must recognize that it simply is not realistic to expect a nation moving into the first rank of major powers to be totally dependent for its own security on another nation, however close the ties."
Prime Minister Sato has stated that Okinawa is the most important foreign policy issue for Japan in 1969. For after 1970 the Japan-U.S. Mutual Security Treaty may be abrogated on one year's notice. Implicit in the Prime Minister's statement was the awareness that the Okinawa problem is essentially up to the Japanese to solve. The Japanese themselves, and only they, are capable of determining their own destiny: What do they want? And why? And how do they propose to accomplish their aims? It is, essentially, a question of national self-definition.
The present leaders of Japan (who will continue to hold power in the early 1970s) have personally experienced the Pacific War and its aftermath of defeat. This experience produced the "postwar hangover," a uniquely Japanese pattern of pathological consciousness compounded of resentment, humiliation and a sense of guilt about the violence and aggressiveness of Japan's militarists in subjugating other nations. (While Japanese feel shame at their behavior toward their neighbors, Hiroshima and Nagasaki erased the sense of guilt Japanese might have felt toward the United States because of Pearl Harbor.) The "hangover" has been particularly pronounced among intellectuals, who had no effective answer to militarism, and who saw the cherished postwar democracy handed to Japan by its conqueror.
Japan's unconditional surrender in 1945 was moral as well as military. Japanese lost the confidence and pride-both good and bad-which they felt during the Greater Japanese Empire period. Japan became timorous politically. The people sought a safe expression of their energies in commerce, but success in that field has raised again the problems of international scope which the nation sought to avoid. Astute foreign observers criticize Japan for its irresponsibility-its extreme, unrealistic idealism and failure to face international issues squarely. Today's leaders, immobilized by their postwar lethargy, resemble mountain climbers who, finding themselves engulfed in mist, sit it out to wait until the fog clears.
Japan probably cannot expect the needed fresh approach to international problems from leaders who have experienced this hangover. Today, however, the younger generation expresses strong dissatisfaction at the psychological set of their elders. This "born-in-Showa" generation-those born since 1926, the year of Emperor Hirohito's accession-now constitute more than 72 percent of the Japanese population.
In any age in any nation the elders talk of the past, while the young look to the future. Japan is no exception. The eyes of the young are far less clouded by preconceptions and prejudices than are the eyes of their parents; their thinking, essentially pragmatic, reflects the influence of the American educational pattern introduced after the war. Contrary to popular belief, most of the young generation in Japan, while seemingly emotional in behavior, are probably more rational than their elders.
In their pursuit of rational analysis, they seriously debate about the very significance of man's existence. The disproportionately influential Zengakuren, like minority radical student movements in many other advanced nations, emphasizes the "alienation" or "cog-in-wheel" status of the individual in a managerial or industrial society; it rejects the present system and seeks its downfall. But most of the younger generation realize that the destruction of the managerial society would probably lead either to complete anarchy or to the building of a new type of managerial society. Most shun anarchy while, however, feeling much emotional sympathy with violent student protest.
The born-in-Showa generation already comprises 57 percent of the voting population. However, because Japan still respects age, this generation will not achieve real power until the late 1970s. Then we may hope that Japan will look upon the international scene with a sense of balance, will establish positive diplomatic and security policies based on true national interest, and will take independent action to achieve national goals.
Since this probing for new national goals will take time, the first half of the 1970s may be regarded as a transitional stage of preparation for the latter half of the decade when Japan's truly self-generated foreign policy may be expanded. During this transitional stage, the younger generation will pressure the older one to discard its ostrich-like postwar attitudes and will continue to criticize existing policies. In the process of defining goals truly appropriate for Japan within the new nationalism sprouting in the country, the younger generation will unavoidably find itself taking the initiative. One striking example shows that this is happening already.
Last year, in elections for the House of Councilors, the Japanese Senate, 35-year-old Sintaro Ishihara ran far ahead of all other candidates of all parties. He garnered over three million votes, which is more than the total cast for all Communist candidates combined and fully half as many as the votes for all nine Komeito candidates elected. Ishihara had written a well- known short story called "Season of the Sun," portraying the animal impulsiveness of his young generation. The term "sun tribe" became popular in the Japanese vocabulary. When Ishihara stood atop his campaign truck, an emblem of the national flag sewn on his jacket, and severely criticized the old habits and hidebound policies of his own party (the Liberal Democrats), challenging his countrymen to rethink Japan's nuclear policy by breaking the taboos on discussion of the atom, elderly and middle-aged people were amazed. Behind this reaction was their traumatic experience during the war. The younger listeners, however, had neither experienced the war nor felt any responsibility for it. They applauded.
Because the political atmosphere and the power structure in Japan can be expected to change markedly between the early and later years of the next decade, we will consider the early and later 1970s as two separate periods.
With regard to the primary issue facing Japan-what to do about the Security Treaty between Japan and the United States-it is a fair certainty that the Government of the Liberal-Democratic Party, which is expected to continue in power in 1970, and the majority of the Japanese people who support it, will choose automatic extension of the treaty, leaving major security decisions for a later time. A second likelihood is that the administration of Okinawa will revert to Japan during the first half of the 1970s, despite difficulties yet to be resolved concerning the use of the military bases. The Japanese and American Governments must deal with already explosive issues such as Okinawa and trade restrictions in such a way as to prevent public outcries which might compel renunciation of the Treaty by Washington or Tokyo.
What should be Japan's policy in the first half of the 1970s? As a matter of basic posture, Japan should and will discard its past escapism and begin to define what role it wants and is able to play, and be ready to pay its share of the price of peace and prosperity. It is only natural to expect this. A great trading nation like Japan is very dependent on world trends and cannot exist in isolation. Specifically, the following policies should be considered with special emphasis:
First, the maintenance of friendly relations between the United States and Japan is vital to the economy, political health and security of the nation. Japan will probably have to, and indeed will wish to, rely on the nuclear umbrella of the United States as it has done in the past. At the level of conventional weapons, however, Japan as an island nation should increase its defense capacity to the point where it could, without the aid of American forces, deter conventionally armed external aggressors or could repel them in the event aggression actually occurred. A strong will for independence among the people and the establishment of their own policy are essential to achieve this. And recently an increasing number of Japanese voices have been calling for independent self-defense.
Japan's defense budget for fiscal 1968 was $1.17 billion, or 0.83 percent of her gross national product. A rough estimate indicates that an expenditure of at least 2 percent of her GNP is required to achieve adequate preparedness for deterrence and defense. In light of the fact that nearly all advanced nations of Europe and America expend more than 4 percent of their GNP on national defense[i] the rate of 2 percent is certainly reasonable.
A second objective for Japan is to make a positive contribution to building the foundations for peace and security, especially in Asia, through coöperation with the developing nations in achieving growth and prosperity. Of course this contribution may not ensure peace and security, but it will help to provide more favorable conditions for peaceful development. Japan's basic attitude should be to respect the nation-states it aids by responding to their requests for coöperation and by aiding and encouraging their efforts to help themselves.
At last year's UNCTAD meeting in New Delhi, it was resolved that aid-givers should set as their objective 1 percent of their GNP. Japan should try to achieve this quickly and even double the present 0.74 percent ($855 million in 1967) to nearly 1.5 percent by 1975. This involves of course not merely increasing the amount of aid, but accumulating experience in how to promote such aid effectively. Japan should, with due understanding of the nationalism in the recipient Asian nations, take the lead among the advanced industrial nations in dealing with the problems of development. This is indeed an appropriate field in which Japan might well strive to be first; in terms of GNP it ranked sixth among aid-givers in 1967, with France the leader. The other advanced industrial nations might hopefully accept Japan's challenge and participate in this peaceful competition.
Within Japan at the present time, the opposition to bold policy proposals such as these probably constitutes an overwhelming majority. Some officials in the Finance Ministry would surely consider it madness to propose giving aid totalling 1.5 percent of the GNP. This is a natural reaction for men in their position. To be sure, compared to other advanced nations, the Japanese economy still has its fragile aspects (low per capita income, foreign currency reserves which are small compared to the scale of the economy, inadequate social capital, differences and inequalities between big business and medium and small enterprises, etc.). For these reasons Japan heretofore has avoided international responsibilities and obligations wherever possible. But if Japan continues to employ such excuses, it will never be able to gain the respect due it as a great economic power, nor overcome the scorn of other nations which consider it a mere "economic animal." And much more is at stake than just the nation's prestige; decidedly more important is the discrepancy between such an evasion of responsibility and Japan's long-term national interests.
As noted earlier, with most of the advanced Western nations spending well over 4 percent of their GNP for defense, Japan's expenditure of close to 3.5 percent on defense and aid together would certainly not be an excessive outlay for the sake of its own peace and prosperity.
Third, U.N. peace-keeping offers Japan an ideal opportunity to make an international contribution-of personnel, materials and funds. Although it has been questioned whether this is in accordance with Japan's Constitution, coöperation in U.N. peacekeeping activities does not contradict the spirit of either the Preamble or Article IX. Japan should not restrict its activities exclusively to the maintenance of its own peace and security, but should continue efforts to link these activities constantly with mankind's great desire to establish and to maintain global peace and security. Any pacifism in any nation which does not take cognizance of this imperative is merely national egoism. Japan should demonstrate this in practice at the same time that it appeals to other nations to secure peace.
Fourth, Japan's geopolitical position as a part of Asia is often noted, but it is equally true that Japan is a part of the whole Pacific community. Certainly, Japan's friendly relations with the United States are vitally important. But for Japan to be too intimately associated with the United States is not desirable for either party. Coöperative relations with Pacific nations other than the United States are clearly desirable for Japan and will help to change the impression at home and abroad that Japan is an American appendage. While firmly maintaining its warm ties with the United States, Japan should strengthen its relations-political and economic- with the other Pacific nations.
Concretely, Japan should consider more intensively the concept of a Pacific economic community and take initiatives toward its realization. As many tentative computations have already indicated, closer economic coöperation of the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Japan would bring great advantage for all the nations in the region. More important, it should also include economic coöperation with the less-developed nations of Asia and Latin America. Japan, particularly, should take the initiative in aid plans for Asia and should work for the promotion and strengthening of coöperative economic structures in the region, such as the Asian Development Bank. Japan must also support close coöperative relations between the Asian nations and the nations of the Pacific community. A greater political responsibility will inevitably ensue.
If Japan is to occupy a firm position as a responsible international power in the mid-1970s, policies such as these will have to be accepted and acted upon by that time. It is better to risk a domestic rebuff now than to continue evading responsibility, which will mean a rebuff from the international community in the future. If the recent growing demand in Japan for autonomous diplomacy is based on the assumption that it will be possible without this amount of cost and sacrifice, then the demand will degenerate into an empty slogan filled with self-righteousness.
By the mid-1970s, a fundamental study of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty will be unavoidable. By then it will no longer be useful or possible to take the Treaty as a given first principle or to simply support or simply oppose it. The Okinawa issue will have been settled, and ensuing events will have changed international relationships as we now know them. Assuming that the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty continues in force after 1970 without change, the Japanese Government will be faced by the middle of the next decade with a fundamental choice in regard to the future of the Japanese- American security relationship. Three alternatives are likely to appear as possible options at that time: (1) renunciation of the Treaty by either Tokyo or Washington and Japanese nuclear armament; (2) revision of the Treaty so that it provides only for U.S. nuclear protection of Japan in return for U.S. base rights, but with minimum contact; and (3) renegotiation of the Treaty leading to a close security relationship on the basis of equality and mutual interest.
Of course, one can conceive of a policy combining conventional armaments with a policy of neutrality, or of a security treaty with either China or the Soviet Union, or both. But neither the former, which would not constitute an effective response to nuclear threats, nor the latter, which hardly seems possible within the conceivable future, is worth considering at any length. The policy of unarmed neutrality, still presently advocated by the main opposition (the Japan Socialist Party), has lost its magical charm. It has increasingly become an object of theoretical and academic interest. The limited support for this essentially evasive policy will be even less by the latter 1970s. So the three options remain the major possibilities.
These options may lead to some revision of the Constitution. The limitations imposed by Article IX of the present Constitution-the so-called "no war" clause which stipulates that "land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained"-will be thoroughly scrutinized. But even should those limitations be cast aside, the spirit of pacifism embodied in Article IX will surely be preserved.
The present Constitution has the unhappy history of having been adopted under the American Occupation, and it is inevitably judged to have been imposed. Consequently, the call for the Constitution to be rewritten, sooner or later, by the Japanese themselves, could even be termed a metabolic demand of healthy national self-assertion. Also, unless this happens, escape from Japan's postwar syndrome will not be complete.
The first of the three options-renunciation of the Treaty and Japanese nuclear armament-would involve a complete break with postwar foreign policy, which has been based on the assurance of U.S. protection. Those favoring nuclear armament are presently very few in number. But incipient nationalism and the consequent desire on the part of many Japanese for a free and independent Japan on an equal footing with the United States will almost certainly lead to a very careful consideration of this option. It will appeal particularly to the many Japanese who believe that the security relationship with the United States was imposed upon them at the end of the war. Moreover, some believe that nuclear arms, as a political weapon, can give nations strength in diplomatic man?uvres. Advocates of nuclear weapons also argue that research and development of such weapons would greatly stimulate the development of the latest technology, raising the overall level of technological competence in Japan. And even if there should be some limitation of U.S.-Soviet competition in nuclear arms, there will be China's continuing progress in nuclear arms to take into account.
It would not be surprising, then, if Japan should opt for nuclear armaments for reasons of nationalism and self-respect, in addition to anxiety for its own security. Even if only in theory, serious consideration will probably be given to the suitability and feasibility of various kinds of nuclear arms programs.
By 1975 the various domestic obstacles to nuclear arms (the Constitution and related laws, the "nuclear allergy" of the public, the noncoöperation of scientists, the financial and economic burdens, etc.) will have gradually lessened; but various international restrictions may remain as before (the danger of nuclear proliferation, the opposition of the United States, the Soviet Union and the Asian nations, the nuclear nonproliferation treaty, the danger of an expanding nuclear arms race between Japan and China, etc.). In such a situation, the choice to be made by the more open-minded younger generation cannot be entirely clear now. Already, however, in discussions on such matters as whether to sign the nonproliferation treaty or whether to enact the "three non-nuclear principles" (not to produce nuclear arms, not to possess them and not to allow them to be brought in) as a resolution in the National Diet, voices of the younger generation are saying: "Leave the choice on nuclear arms to the younger generation" or "Don't arbitrarily abandon our nuclear options." The probability that between 1975 and 1980 they will choose the road to nuclear armament, after carefully weighing other alternatives, is certainly not a small one.
On balance, however, it seems unlikely to be the deliberate choice of the Japanese Government, at least within the 1970s. Termination of the Japanese Security Treaty and the development of a nuclear weapons capability would be extremely costly. Such spending would not be popular in Japan and would be opposed by many politicians, businessmen and bureaucrats because of the adverse impact on Japan's economic growth, prosperity and balance-of- payments position. Nuclear weapons would be even more controversial on moral grounds. Although a majority of the people might well be prepared to support such a move as an act of nationalism and independence from the United States, a determined minority would almost certainly protest with rioting and further dissension.
The termination of the Japan-U.S. security relationship, including withdrawal of the United States from its bases in Japan and Okinawa, would almost certainly mean a reduction of the American involvement in Asia and a reduced willingness and capability to be involved in Asian conflicts. Japan might then be faced with the prospect of assuming responsibility for the security of East Asia. The provision of forces adequate to maintain stability in this area would require additional defense spending and a further amendment to the Constitution-all of which could adversely affect economic development and further increase internal dissension.
This course of action could also have a negative effect on all-important trade, particularly with the United States. A high volume of trade between any two industrialized nations is naturally accompanied by tensions and disputes. Moreover, Japan and the United States are increasingly competitive in the Asian market, which adds to the sense of conflict. Thus far such issues have been settled amicably, in large part because the negotiations have been conducted within the framework of a close alliance. In the absence of a sense of common security interests, trade and other economic relations could easily become strained and lead to actions which could damage the economies of both countries. Thus it is evident that renunciation of the Security Treaty is not an attractive alternative.
The second alternative would call for a continuation of the Japan-U.S. security relationship, but on a very narrow base. In effect, the two governments would agree that in return for American nuclear protection Japan would adhere to the nonproliferation treaty and provide the United States with the bases which it considered necessary to meet defense commitments in the area. Under this approach, there would be minimum contact between the two governments on security matters and minimum discussion of their respective policies regarding the security of the area. Japan would be free to take its own position on Asian matters. This would require the build-up of conventional forces, but it would not require a Japanese nuclear capability or Japanese responsibility for the defense of other countries.
The Japanese-American security relationship, at least until a few years ago, was characterized by an approach similar to this alternative. The Japanese Government described U.S. bases in Japan as a necessary evil and pointed to Japan's inability to prevent the United States from using these bases in support of its forces deployed in East Asia. The two governments engaged in few fruitful discussions of security matters or even of political matters with important security implications. Japan was able to grow dramatically in economic terms, while avoiding the domestic controversy which would flow from a closer association with defense policies.
Attractive as this option is, it has two fundamental difficulties. First is the question of whether the United States would in fact be prepared to continue its security relationship with Japan on these terms. Thoughtful Japanese are becoming aware that many influential Americans, particularly in the Congress, view the Security Treaty as essentially a one-sided relationship in which the United States protects Japan while Japan makes no commitment to the defense of American forces or American territory. The unwillingness of the Japanese Government to associate itself publicly and firmly with the American actions taken to defend the security of the area has clearly added to the sense of irritation in the United States and the feeling that at least the financial demands of the Treaty have to be shared.
However, even if this arrangement were acceptable to the United States it would hardly be compatible with Japan's responsibilities and aspirations. Just as many Americans view the treaty as one-sided, many Japanese describe the treaty in the same terms. They point to the provision assuring the Americans relatively unrestricted use and control of the bases. But until the United States has greater confidence in Japan's willingness to support its military forces operating out of Japan, it is likely to insist upon the freedom that it now enjoys. Finally, it is not fitting for a sovereign nation to lack control over military operations supported by bases within its territory. Either the Japanese Government should support such operations as being in the security interest of Japan, or it should insist that they be stopped. If Japan wishes to be fully sovereign, it cannot continue to pursue policies appropriate to an occupied nation.
The third alternative is most consistent with both Japanese and American security interests. The fundamental principle should be one of close coöperation in security arrangements as well as on political and economic matters. This does not mean that Japan must or should take on commitments to dispatch its forces overseas or to defend territory beyond the Japanese homeland. It does mean, however, that Japan would take the entire responsibility for its own conventional defense, including Okinawa, and that American troops in Japan could be reduced to a bare minimum. The bases required by U.S. forces could become Japanese bases and Japan could assume responsibility for the maintenance of the bases for military operations. It could also assume responsibilty for the maintenance of the necessary ship- repair facilities for the U.S. Seventh Fleet. In this way, Japan's sense of inequality could be eliminated: Japan would be making a genuine contribution and its sovereignty would no longer be infringed.
This approach would require a broadening and intensification of the consultations on security matters which have already begun to develop over the past few years. The framework for such consultation already exists in the joint Security Consultative Committee which was established in 1960, as well as in the frequent meetings of Japanese Prime and Foreign Ministers with their American counterparts. Such discussions should focus more and more on the real security issues in Asia and on the sensible response for both countries. The United States must be prepared to take fully into account Japanese views about appropriate courses of action, but at the same time Japan must be prepared to support visibly those American military moves which the Government believes are necessary for the security of Japan as well as the United States.
This policy has drawbacks, as do any alternatives. An obvious disadvantage to such a close Japanese-American security relationship is that it produces continuing internal dissent and debate. Moreover, the development and maintenance of a relationship which nevertheless permits each country to act independently when it feels compelled to do so require consistent attention to avoid misunderstandings and bitterness. Assuming that Japanese and U.S. interests in Asia are basically similar, a security relationship based on equality and close consultation is the only one compatible with the dignity and the responsibility of both great nations.
[i] The United States spends 9.8 percent; the U.S.S.R., 9.6; Communist China, 9.2; Britain, 5.7; France, 5.3; West Germany, 4.3. (Institute for Strategic Studies, London: "The Military Balance, 1968-1969.")