JAPAN MUST REBUILD SELF-CONFIDENCE BY REVISING POSTWAR CONSTITUTION
It goes without saying that the world is now undergoing a significant sea change. The US, a vital Pacific ally that Japan has consistently relied on for more than 70 years, still remains strong but its inward-looking policies are gradually reducing its leadership role as it pursues only what most suits its national interests.
Sharing common values, Japan must continue to earnestly protect its relationship with the US. But rather than simply relying on its “big brother” all the time, Japan must act more as an equal, stepping up to assist its partner as necessary. From this time on, Japan must more readily put into practice what it can for mutual benefit.
The minute the US takes even a tiny step backward from the world’s center-stage, China and Russia will attempt to fill the ensuing political gap, ready to take the world by storm with values totally alien to the free world’s.
As a responsible leader of the democratic world, Japan will be among those called on to play its part in preventing this nightmare. As to its specific role, Japan should among other things be willing to shoulder the difficult task of drawing up a new set of rules for the international community. In the past, Japan tended to give the impression that it was totally disinterested in such a role. But in reality Japan is quite capable of playing a key role well, if it really sets its mind on it.
Late last year, Japan managed to reach a deal with the European Union in principle on a mega economic partnership agreement (EPA) designed to create a free trade zone that will account for some 30% the world’s economy. Currently, Japan is exercising leadership in finalizing the Transpacific Trade Partnership (TPP) agreement among eleven nations. (Minus the US, which pulled out when Donald Trump came into office a year ago.) Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had this to say about the agreement with the EU:
“Even more than the reduction of tariffs, I think it is significant that Japan has been instrumental in drawing up new trading rules for the 21st century.”
Crafting new rules is all about which universal values will be promoted. In this vein, the EPA reflects the firm resolve on the part of the democratic international community to practice free trade and follow the fair rule of law. They adamantly will not allow their economy, law, or way of life to be influenced by other competing values—namely those of China.
The huge economic zone being formed under the EPA is designed to grapple squarely with a world dominated by the opaque Chinese system. Things will get even better for the world when the TPP eleven join forces.
Xi Jinping demands that all foreign companies in China, Chinese and foreign alike, set up Chinese Communist Party (CCP) cells in-house. In other words, he wants all private corporations guided by the CCP. But China’s objectives encompass far more than that. The Chinese want to change the basic principles of international relations and international law, including conventions concerning territorial lands and waters. The Chinese want to change history itself. They are the avatars of historical revisionism.
“Policy of Extirpation”
I wish to note here that there is one thing Japan must resolutely change if it wants to face China squarely in a joint effort with the US to safeguard the freedom and democracy of the world. I am talking about the present situation under which many Japanese do not, or cannot, duly appreciate our motherland or our history.
The “pacifist” constitution, given to Japan in 1947 at the start of the seven-year American occupation that followed our defeat, reflects Washington’s “policy of “extirpation,” as pointed out by American historian Samuel Huntington in The Soldier and the State (Belknap Press; 1981). Isn’t it because most Japanese still feel at the back of our minds that Japan waged an evil war that we have been afraid to change even a word of the American-written constitution for more than 70 years?
In point of fact, Japan did not fight an evil war. General Douglas MacArthur himself called it Japan’s war of “self-defense” during testimony at the joint Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations committees in 1951. To understand the true causes of the war and why it was not an evil war, I recommend the following books: 1) President Roosevelt and the Coming of the War 1941: Appearances and Realities by renowned historian Charles Beard (Yale University Press; 1948); 2) Freedom Betrayed, by President Herbert Hoover (Hoover Institute Press; 2011); and 3) The Memoirs of Cordell Hull, by Secretary of State Cordell Hull (Macmillan; 1948).
Less than a decade after Roosevelt’s death, when Americans still held him in high esteem, Beard clarified in his monumental work the part played by Roosevelt in instigating the bitterly fought war. Beard, who died four months after his book was published, faced criticism from many quarters, including from fellow academics. But subsequent developments have substantiated the validity of the case he made.
As regards the ten-point note Secretary Hull presented to the Japanese side on November 26, 1941, commonly known as the “Hull Note,” Beard had this to say: “At no time in the history of American diplomatic relations with the Orient, if public records are to be trusted, had the government of the United States proposed to Japan such a sweeping withdrawal from China under a veiled threat of war and under the pressure of economic sanctions likely to lead to war. Not even the most brazen of imperialists under Republican auspices had even ventured to apply this doctrine officially in the conduct of relations with Japan.”
Based on a meticulous analysis of a vast array of wartime diplomatic records and press reports, Beard recounts that on November 20, 1941, Japanese Ambassador Kichisaburo Nomura and special envoy Saburo Kurusu submitted a compromise “Plan B” to Hull following instructions from Tokyo, which badly wanted to enter into broader negotiations for peace in the Pacific. But Hull took no notice of the envoys’ entreaties, the author points out.
Justice Radhabinod Pal from India, the only one of the eleven judges of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East to find all of the Japanese defendants innocent of war crimes, brushed aside the Hull note as a “diplomatic outrage.” (Masaaki Tanaka in Why Judge Pal Pronounced Japan Not Guilty. Kodansha, Tokyo; 1963). Pal, who argued that the US had clearly provoked the war with Japan, maintained that Hull baffled Nomura and Kurusu by abruptly confronting them with outrageous provisions that the two sides had never taken up during the previous eight months of their bilateral talks.
Rectifying Japan’s Twisted Spiritual Backbone
Although relying on sources different than Beard’s, Hoover in Freedom Betrayed (translated into Japanese last August) reaches the same conclusion by holding Roosevelt and some key members of his administration, including Hull, responsible for the outbreak of hostilities between the US and Japan.
Hoover frequently introduces vivid conversations within the Roosevelt administration. For instance, on November 25—one day before the Hull note was delivered to the Japanese side—Roosevelt summons Hull, Secretary of War Henry Stimson, and Secretary of Navy Frank Knox, among others, for a conference, remarking: “The question is how we should maneuver them into the position of firing the first shot without allowing too much danger to ourselves.”
Hull is quoted as stating during a November 28 meeting of the War Council
while reviewing the proposals presented to Nomura and Kurusu two days before: “There is practically no possibility of an agreement being achieved with Japan.” This statement was without doubt Hull’s admission that he was convinced that he had offered conditions absolutely impossible for Japan to accept.
A telegram Roosevelt sent to Emperor Hirohito on December 6 asking for peace is another case in point. Hoover reveals the remarks Hull made in drafting Roosevelt’s message:
“…its sending will be of doubtful efficacy, except for the purpose of making a record.”
In his own memoirs, Hull barely touched on the outbreak of hostilities or his ten-point demand. Without referring to the fact that Japan repeatedly requested continued negotiations for peace with the US and that he chose to ignore these Japanese overtures, Hull states:
“Diplomatically the situation was virtually hopeless. We on our part, however, wanted to exhaust all means to find a peaceful solution and to avert or delay war…On the other hand, Japan was calling for a showdown. We stood firmly for our principles; the Japanese were unyielding and intimidating in their demands…we labored desperately (during the next two weeks), striving to the last for peace or at least more time.”
The falsehood of Hull’s recollections has been established thanks to research by the likes of Beard and Hoover. Japan made the mistake of siding with Germany, but should not arbitrarily be accused of having been belligerent and imperialistic when it comes to the opening of hostilities between Japan and the US in the Pacific.
By coming to grips with the historical truths that Beard, Hoover, and others like them have recorded, we Japanese will become that much wiser and capable of restoring our self-confidence. Such knowledge will enable us to revise our postwar constitution—the real first step towards rectifying the twisted spiritual backbone of our motherland.
(Translated from “Renaissance Japan” column no. 786 in the January 18, 2018 issue of The Weekly Shincho)