Japan's "Original Sin"

Japan's "Original Sin" Can We Do Anything About It?  By Tetsuya Kataoka   Japan's decline has been proceeding for a long time, but it has accelerated with the end of the cold war, which coincided with the bursting of the Bubble Economy. The acceleration has been caused by the fact that the ruling Liberal Democratic Party has singularly refused to reform itself, the economy or Japan's foreign policy. It is as if the LDP is hell bent on committing a collective suicide. How can we explain this odd conduct? And is there anything we can do about it?   The LDP's first line of defense against those who challenge the status quo is the no-war constitution, which has struck deep roots in the Japanese nation. Embodying pacifism, the constitution serves well the role of national ideology in that it is everywhere in the public domain, almost as if it were air we breathe.   To hold at bay those challengers who believe in the constitution and its no-war mandate, the LDP does not need to do very much-the constitution is self-enforcing. The case in point is the Democratic Party in the opposition during the general election of November 2003, a contest played up as an occasion to introduce Japan to a two-party system with chances for Democrats to throw out rascals. But something strange happened. The Democrats chose to attack "the bureaucracies"-a third party-rather than the LDP, thus blurring their differences from the adversary. The LDP was an easy winner, even though Democrats increased their seats in the Diet by 40. Some pundits said they both won.   It seemed that while Democrats did wish to threaten the governing party, they did not want to win. The reason was because the issue of deploying Japanese military to Iraq was waiting for the new prime minister to act on. Should Democrats have won, they would have impaled themselves on the horns of a grave dilemma. Washington would demand Japanese troop presence in Iraq posthaste. But a sizable number of Democrats were dyed-in-the-wool pacifists, dead set against involving themselves in a combat mission abroad. If a Democratic prime minister acceded to Washington, he would have split his party down the middle, forfeiting his tenure. The party would not recover from such a disaster.   To draw an analogy, the LDP is comparable to Nixon over the issue of detente with China. Jack Kennedy might have wanted to try his hand at it, but could not for fear of conservative Republicans. Only Nixon, safe on his right flank, could do it with impunity. Likewise, LDP leaders are at bottom nationalists, who stand on the right-wing of political spectrum. For strategic, external reasons that will be explained below, they nonetheless use the constitution as a cover to avow pacifism. This gives them the added domestic payoff in neutralizing the opposition to the left of them, who dare not move to the right of the LDP on constitutional hot-button issues. The LDP is vulnerable only to nationalists who are open about their belief.   It is for this reason that a serious challenger to the LDP comes only from within. It is probably no coincidence that all those who chose to challenge the LDP establishment placed constitutional revision on their planks. Past challengers are Ichiro Hatoyama, Nobusuke Kishi, Kakuei Tanaka, Yasuhiro Nakasone, Ichiro Ozawa and Junichiro Koizumi, the incumbent prime minister before he was compromised. Because these are strong-willed men committed to changing the whole system and founding a new one in its place, preaching to them the virtues of "constitutionalism" would be worse than useless-some stronger medicine is needed. The LDP has been employing different tactics to deal with each case. Sometimes Washington would do the dirty work for the LDP, as happened in the case of Hatoyama. Mr. Tanaka was dispatched on the issue of corruption.   Mr. Koizumi represented a major threat to the LDP, because he campaigned on the promises of "political realignment," "reform that leaves no stone unturned" and "constitutional revision." To cut off his legs, the ruling party resorted to a set of rather complicated tactics. It employed the New York Times editorial to incite anti-Japanese sentiment in China and South Korea on the issue of Japan's "original sin," as the Japanese call it. It refers to the fact that several of Japan's wartime leaders were found guilty of "crime against peace" and executed.   The LDP's tactics in dealing with Mr. Koizumi is summarized in the Times editorial of July 31, 2001: "With his informal manner, high energy and ambitious agenda, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi cuts a striking contrast with Japan's stolid postwar leaders. . . .Regrettably, Mr. Koizumi has coupled his calls for economic modernization with an improbable nostalgia for Japanese nationalism, as in his support for ending Japan's constitutional ban on making war [or] his plans to visit Tokyo's Yasukuni shrine. The shrine, once a symbol of Japan's militarist ideology, is a place where several men convicted and executed after World War II for war crimes are honored. . . .A visit there would signal the kind of strident nationalism that alarms and angers neighbors like South Korea and China . . ."   It can be seen that the constitution is the centerpiece, and the concept of "class A war criminals" is a prop to reinforce it. It is easy for the LDP to defend itself against the pacifists, because the constitution enforces itself against them. However, for the purpose of defending the LDP against constitutional revisionists, an additional prop called the "original sin" is needed. This issue is a taboo, not open to debate in the public domain in Japan. It is even more of a taboo in the dialogue between Japan and America. The most a Japanese prime minister would say about it in public is to repeat the formula that evolved over time: "I shall leave it to the judgment of historians in later generations." The formula suggests that there is room for debating the issue, but the point is to cut it off. I can well think of another nation more worldly-wise, say, the Jewish, that will find a way to putting the taboo on the chopping bloc, if necessary, but not the Japanese.   They are too closed-mouthed, and they suffer the consequences in stoic silence.   Naturally there is a tension between the LDP's being a party of closet nationalists and its demagoguery against "class A war criminals," not to speak of inciting China against them. I know of no one in the LDP's higher echelon who believes that the Far Eastern International Military Tribunal has had a legal standing. Then, how do LDP leaders overcome the tension? Not easily, I surmise. They seem to hearken to distant history and to those who founded the LDP, such as Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida. He is known to have actively assisted the allied prosecutors in the preparation of indictment against General Hideki Tojo, and moreover talked the general into sacrificing himself at the trial. Yoshida's purpose, with which MacArthur might have concurred-had he known of it, was to spare Emperor Hirohito from prosecution.   Today the widely acknowledged champion of the constitution is Mr. Kiichi Miyazawa, who has just been forced into retirement by Prime Minister Koizumi, ostensibly because of his venerable age of 85, but in fact because he and his friend Joseph Nye of Harvard have had something to do with that Times editorial, cited above. Mr. Miyazawa has had a very long career in government, since he became a career bureaucrat just before Japan's defeat. His portfolio includes finance minister, foreign minister, MITI minister and prime minister. All his life he has been a dedicated defender of the constitution. In his remarks quoted below, he clearly shows the tension between his defense of the constitution and its malevolent effect on the body-politic:   To tell you the truth, when I was a foreign minister, I quizzed all the senior officials from administrative vice-minister on down, saying, It seems to me that Japan has declared its intent to renounce war by its constitution, and made it the diplomatic policy to befriend all nations. That is my understanding. Is this correct? In the Preamble to the constitution, it honestly says, "Trusting in the fairness and justice of all nations." . . .Now if we are to actually befriend all nations, we cannot help but conduct a very amoral diplomacy . . . .   To befriend any nation means refusing to apply sanctions and stand by her, no matter how horrible, unjust or inhumane things she is doing. Isn't this amoral diplomacy? . . . . If the offending party were to cease and desist in response to our protest, well and good. But if she does not, what then? . . .It does not do much good just to protest with words. That's wholly ineffective. But Japan cannot use military force, threaten, or send a crusade. What do we do then? . . . . In the last analysis, amoral diplomacy is all Japan can do. I suspect the people in truth want that-diplomacy that refuses to pass value judgments.   But that is a fraud as far as diplomacy goes. . . . If we ever make value judgments, we do so only about benefit and losses. In any case, without value judgment, we wouldn't be able to say anything. Nor can we say anything. If someone hits us over the head, we just duck. We feel the wind in the world and follow. This is what Japan has been doing.   Mr. Miyazawa talks of the constitution as if it were a jail in which Japan is incarcerated against its will and which is forcing her to be obtuse to justice or velue-free. It is hard to find a more damning indictment against the constitution than one authored by its chief defender.   But precisely what is it that gives the constitution that jail-like character he imputes to it implicitly? Why cannot the Japanese people change it to something much healthier of their own free will? Mr. Miyazawa's more recent remark gives a clue. Today, in his private capacity, he is orchestrating a crusade to oppose Mr. Koizumi's attempt to deploy the Self-Defense Forces in Iraq-to have "the boots on the ground," as President Bush is asking. In a press interview, he was asked if it would give rise to tension if Japan was to turn Bush down. "We have to be straightforward," he said, "and ask them [Washington] to understand the fact that we cannot do what is forbidden by the constitution. . . .The reason is because Japan has a very special constitution and has gone through a very special experience as a nation in the second World War."   Now, what is that experience that gives Japan's constitution a "very special" character? Two things: Hiroshima/Nagasaki and "crime against peace" by which her leaders were convicted. Both have been defended as retribution against Pearl Harbor, which is the generic issue. And this is where the Japanese are distinct from the Germans, who were tried on the charge of "crime against humanity." Mr. Miyazawa is pointing to Japan's "crime against peace" as a "very special experience" that in turn justifies the constitution. Only "crime against peace" deals with Pearl Harbor.   But what could Mr. Miyazawa be talking about? What comes to my mind is what Douglas MacArthur, the father of the constitution, has said on Japan's "original sin." When he was dismissed by President Truman in 1952, the Republican Senators, who were looking to him as a possible presidential candidate, decided to give him a lavish hearing and an occasion to vindicate himself. During the hearing, the general surreptitiously inserted the following remarks into the record.   Yes, sir. In the Pacific we by-passed them [the Japanese]. We closed in. You must understand that Japan had an enormous population of nearly 80 million people, crowded into 4 islands. . . . They feared that if those supplies were cut off, there would be 10 to 12 million people unoccupied in Japan. Their purpose, therefore, in going to war was largely dictated by security." . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   Well, the German problem is a completely and entirely different one from the Japanese problem. The Germans people were a mature race.   If the Anglo-Saxon was say 45 years of age in his development, in the sciences, the arts, divinity, culture, the Germans were quite as mature. The Japanese, however, in spite of their antiquity measured by time, were in a very tuitionary condition. Measured by the standards of modern civilization, they would be like a boy of 12 as compared with our development of 45 years.   The German was quite as mature as we were. Whatever the German did in dereliction of the standards of modern morality, the international standards, he did deliberately. He didn't do it because of a lack of knowledge of the world. He didn't do it because he stumbled into it to some extent as the Japanese did. The general had an extended private meeting with Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida at his headquarters in the early spring of 1949.   They had been enemies up to this point, because Yoshida objected to MacArthur's constitution. But from this meeting they emerged as bosom friends, and they remained so to their last breathe. From this meeting also, Yoshida emerged as an ardent advocate and friend of the constitution. I am virtually certain that the general made the same point to Yoshida that he was to make in the U.S. Senate later.   Now what else did the general say, to sell the constitution to the defiant diplomat who was such a fierce nationalist and royalist as to sacrifice Tojo in order to defend the throne and the emperor? MacArthur was a military man, and a good one at that. The most obvious question for him to address in selling this constitution to a rather skeptical prime minister had to be this: how would Japan look after its own national security if she agrees to be bound by a war-renouncing vow? It so happens that the Japanese government has since this meeting began to sell economic benefits as the primary reason for adhering to the constitution. But would the warrior-commander have sold the constitution on that ground? I doubt it. That was a Japanese addendum.   Rather, I presume that he started from the premise that Japan is innocent of "crime against peace." As noted above, this was the major difference between the Japanese and the Germans, who were charged with "crime against humanity." The Holocaust was so massively heinous and shameful that the Germans owned up to their crime, apologized, made amends, were born again and free. But the Japanese could not and would not do that-to this day. That would naturally sow a seed of suspicion in the American mind that the vanquished might be harboring a revanchist scheme. What then should Japan do? "Do not rearm, Mr. Prime Minister," the general might have said, "as the Defense Department is now and the State Department will soon be pressing you to do, as the peace treaty gets on the agenda. Rest your case for rejecting them on this constitution, and stay disarmed. That is the only way to disarm America's suspicion of Japan." On this line of thinking, the United States is virtually the only source of threat to Japan's national security, because Japan with its unrepentant attitude threatens the      United States in the first place. No other country on earth could even touch Japan, if she remained a U.S. protectorate. America alone poses a threat.   This, I believe, is the only explanation for the seemingly sacrosanct character of the no-war constitution to the LDP's leadership. This is the only way whereby Japan's disarmament can have a strategic significance conducive to its national security. This is the only way whereby all the other matters are relegated to a secondary place-as if Japan is "sleeping on money," as the favorite American one-liner goes. This is the only reason-if indeed there is a reason-why Japan appears to be suicidal in clinging to pacifism.   I must point out that the foregoing reconstruction of MacArthur's rationale for pushing his constitution is my own inference; there is no direct evidence to prove its veracity. All I can say is that no circumstantial evidence including Mr. Miyazawa contradicts it. For additional circumstantial evidence, take a look at Japan's strenuous, determined rejection of nuclear weapons in spite of the fact that Japan is the only country in the world that has been threatened with nuclear blackmail since the fall of the Berlin Wall.   Throughout the cold war years the Japanese government would point to the "nuclear allergy" of its citizens to brush off the issue of nuclear armament. But that posed no political problem, since all of America's allies-including even small nuclear powers-had to have recourse to U.S. nuclear umbrella to face up to the massive Soviet capabilities. They were all protectorates in a sense. But the end of the cold war exposed Japan to nuclear blackmails from North Korea and China, who held Japan hostage to neutralize the U.S. forces in regional conflicts over Taiwan and Korea. The North Koreans, without a missile that can reach the United States, can nonetheless neutralize it. Only China and North Korea can strike first, the United States cannot-unless Japan acquires its own nukes. Japan cannot retaliate against China or North Korea in kind, hence it cannot deter their first strikes.   But Japan fudged, obfuscated and dodged until November of this year, when she formally decided to build the theater missile defense (TMD) system. Japan's objection to nuclear arms has consisted of oblique reference to alleged U.S. objection to them.   Avoiding nukes and choosing TMD instead rests on that rationale. To clear the fog and confusion surrounding the issue, Vice President Dick Chaney weighed in earlier this year with his advice that Japan should go nuclear. I was surprised by the number of opinion leaders in Japan who professed to disbelieve him by saying that he was using Japan to send a warning to China or some such thing. They remained convinced that the United States would not permit Japan to go nuclear. In a private interview with me, they cited the "original sin" as the reason.     America is fearful of a nuclear-armed Japan, they said. It is best not to provoke it. Let me summarize the foregoing. The LDP's leadership is seized with a sense of mistrust toward the United States. Prime Minister Koizumi was obviously out of the loop when he proposed to visit Yasukuni as a campaign tactic, in violation of the sacred taboo. The small circle of elite consists of two strands, who together are called the "conservative mainstream." One is the group of professional politicians in the faction founded by former Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka, a faction which still manages the LDP today. Mr. Tanaka was undercut in mid-career by a leak about his taking graft from the Lockheed Corporation, a leak made by Senator Frank Church's Subcommittee on Multinational Corporations of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1972.   Mr. Tanaka's daughter and Mr. Koizumi's first foreign minister obviously believes that the leak was not inadvertent. Today's LDP is run by politicians who witnessed the trauma of their revered leader when they were cutting their teeth in business.   The other strand in the mainstream consists of Mr. Miyazawa and his friends, who can trace their genealogy to the so-called Yoshida School of imperial civil servants who founded the postwar Japan.   Together the mainstream leaders have presided over the so-called "second defeat" Japan is said to have suffered at the hands of the United States in the course of the U.S.-Japan trade war that encompassed the second Reagan administration, the Bush administration and the Clinton administration. If the mainstream leaders are sore losers, that is fine with me. Being sore at losing is what launched Yoshida on the path to rebuilding Japan as an economic superpower. But I find today's mainstreamers pathological in their suspicion of America, a suspicion that is self-sustaining because they refuse to discuss it openly. They imply a three-fold desideratum that says that, because of Pearl Harbor and the Tokyo Trial, no permanent reconciliation between the two countries is possible, that Japan must remain a U.S. protectorate, and that Japan must stay the present course of decline as a power. I am certain that should these issues be put to voters in a referendum, the mainstreamers will be outvoted overwhelmingly.   The mainstreamers as the chief beneficiary of the constitution are also the engine that drives and enforces "orthodoxy" in history. As Funabashi of the Asahi who acts as their mouth piece puts it, "Japan's war crimes have been determined by the Tokyo Trial. . . .The government of Japan has 'accepted' the verdict of that trial through the instrumentality of the San Francisco Peace Treaty. And through Article Ninety-eight of the constitution, the government of Japan assumes the 'duty to honor international treaties' it has concluded." Funabashi and the LDP mainstreamers wish to keep Japan locked up in Mr. Miyazawa's anti-American jailhouse.   But I do not want to be in it. Japan needs a new history to liberate itself. Let me suggest a simple basic standard in writing it: with respect to Japan's war with the United States, Japan ought not criminalize itself, nor should it be compelled to do so. We have to tell ourselves and our children at school that, in order to defend its honor, Japan has had to initiate the war with strategic preemption and in keeping with all rules of war, that nonetheless Japan was overcome by the superior enemy, that the two nations came to terms with each other by a peace treaty, and that we are now military allies ready to go to help each other if either party is attacked by a third party. I would also add this injunction: don't initiate a war unless we are reasonably sure of winning.   I fully realize that there are some loose and embarrassing ends to the standard, and they must be worked out. But I must also point out that I have openly held to that thesis, and that in all the years I have spent in America I have yet to meet a single native who demanded that I own up to Japan's "crime against peace." I suspect that the most strident enforcers of the Tokyo Trial verdict are Japanese pacifists like the Asahi newspaper, and that their self-flagellation is part and parcel of the axe they are grinding against the United States.   President Bush has done the right thing in asking Prime Minister Koizumi to take him to Yasukuni shrine during his 2002 state visit. He is also correct in seeing to it that his stand be publicized in Foreign Affairs for Japanese audience. I have said so in public. And that is because I believe the United States faces a choice today between two alternatives over Japan. It can stay with the New York Times and let things fester in Japan until China's Japan bashing touches off a wild conflagration. Or it can patiently appeal to Japan's good senses, so that it will break out of the logjam and stalemate.   I realize that the New York Times and American liberals mean well in coddling Japan in the protectorate status. But they must realize that by shielding Japan from issues of war and peace, they are prolonging the political life of those who-whatever is their stripe-obstruct reform. I say to the Republican administration: take Japan to war, if you want democracy in Japan. If you continue to shield Japan from war, it will invite a military assault by its neighbor some day soon. And then all bets are off.   Tetsuya Kataoka is a senior research fellow (retired) of Hoover Institution. He is writing a book to explain Japan's decline as a power. 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