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The Revival of Japanese Militarism
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Per on the ongoing crisis over North Korea's nuclear program, and the dispute bewteen Japan and North Korea involving kidnapped Japanese citizens, this is something to watch:

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi says he will unveil proposals for revising the country's pacifist constitution later in the year.

Japan's constitution has not been changed since it was drafted by the United States after World War II.

It renounces the use of force to resolve international disputes and limits Japan's military to defensive operations.

The Government wants Japan to play a greater role in world affairs and is keen to revise the constitution.

Mr Koizumi says he will release some proposals for change in the second half of the year, although he does not expect any actual revisions will be made for at least two years.

It is an extremely sensitive issue, inside Japan and outside it.

Countries such as China and South Korea are worried about a revival of Japanese militarism.

China and South Korea may be worried about it (and many Japanese are as well), but the reemergence of Japan as a military power, and perhaps even superpower, is something we should welcome.

Strategically, it makes perfect sense. We need to be fast and fleet militarily, but maintaining large permanent forces overseas is incredibly expensive. There is also, of course, the principle. Japan can easily afford to defend itself, and there is a need for a military counterpoint to North Korea, and possibly China, in the future.

There were two strains of thought on Japanese militarism from the Japanese that I discussed it with when I lived there. Predominantly, women were against the reformation of a strong Japanese military. Many think it's a macho waste of money, and that it will only bring eventual war to Japan. While I lived there, North Korea tested a two-stage missile by firing it over Japan (into Japanese airspace). They said it was an accident. It was no accident. When I asked the more pacifist Japanese about this incident, the reaction was generally, "But they didn't hit us, did they?" They apparently did not care about the provocative nature of the launch and it's obvious implications.

The other type were typically middle-aged or older Japanese men. They thought Japan had lost its spine. They thought it was humiliating for the US to continually have to base soldiers there, with all of it's attendant problems (American GIs occasionally committing violent crimes, such as rape). They lamented the soft, passive nature of young Japanese men. But aren't you worried that something like WWII might happen all over again? I asked them. Was the Japanese culture, with its strict hierarchical society, its reverence for authority, its disciplined single-mindedness, inherently susceptible to the militaristic abuse of power? We're not like that anymore, they'd say. We've learned our lessons.

And maybe they're right. Japan is now a fairly mature democracy, mitigating the risk of lapsing into a militaristic police state. That's not to say it couldn't happen, and couldn't happen here, too. But it's a risk the Japanese should be willing to take, for their sakes, and ours.

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