To the Editor:
Jennifer Lind ("The Perils of Apology," May/June 2009) argues that Japan should avoid making formal apologies for the atrocities it committed before and during World War II, because doing so would cause a nationalist backlash that would be counterproductive to reconciliation between Japan and its former enemies. But Lind's solution would not only be deeply disappointing to the victims of imperial Japan; it would also make it impossible for Japan to garner the respect it deserves for its peaceful rise as an economic, technological, and cultural power since 1945.
The Japanese have yet to confront their ugly history and reach a widely shared understanding of it that is acceptable to their former foes. Japanese politicians repeatedly make outrageous comments defending Japan's colonial rule of Korea and its invasion of China, nationalist comic books glorify Japan's past militaristic adventures, and TV commentators passionately deny the government's role in recruiting thousands of Asian women and girls as sex slaves for Japanese soldiers.
To say that Japan should not apologize to the victims of its wartime atrocities to avoid a domestic nationalist backlash is akin to arguing that the police should not crack down on domestic violence because doing so might anger the abusers. A national debate, education, and sincere apologies are necessary not only to show Japan's moral decency to the world but also to help the Japanese come to terms with what their country did in the past. Only that will prevent a nationalist backlash from gaining mainstream acceptance.