Debate Magazine

Japanese Conservatives Must Affirm the Postwar Regime Change

Posted on the 10 November 2012 by Shahalexander
As the Noda administration appears increasingly lame duck, LDP (Liberal Democratic Party) leader Shinzo Abe is likely to become the next prime minister in Japan. Along with Abe and LDP politicians, conservative voices are rising in the “third pole” led by ultra-nationalist Shintaro Ishihara and populist Toru Hashimoto. Quite a large portion of the above conservative politicians advocate a “reconsideration of the postwar regime”, and many of them openly criticize “imposed” democratization by the United States. It is critically concerned that such a remark will send a wrong message to the global community that Japan is moving toward prewar nationalism.
Rather, I would propose that Japan affirm the postwar regime change for much more active role in the Western alliance. Remember that all LDP leaders since the Koizumi administration supported regime changes in Iraq and Afghanistan led by the United States, both of which are modeled after postwar Japan and Germany. Logically, it does not make sense to support Middle East democratization, while denouncing “imposed” reforms by US led occupational forces. Ever since Junnichiro Koizumi, LDP prime ministers endorsed regime changes to win the War on Terror and stop nuclear proliferation, particularly to terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda. I have no doubt in their sincerity to stand with American forces to overthrow Saddam Hussein and Taliban. Koizumi’s successors were in his cabinet when both wars broke out. Taro Aso advocated the Arch of Freedom and Prosperity, which was in line with the Bush administration’s initiatives. Though the Obama administration decided to withdraw troops from both countries while terrorism is still strong, the global community explores to help their reconstruction and train their security forces, including war opponents like France and Germany. Japan has hosted the International Conference on the Reconstruction of Afghanistan.
Therefore, instead of quibbling over US occupational rule in the past, Japan should act as a role model of model of regime change from the Middle East to China, including Tibet, East Turkistan. That is, Japan can show the successful step toward democracy, and persuade citizens in those countries to follow the same path. This will bolster Japan’s position on the global stage. Remember that there is nothing wring with Japan’s support for regime changes in Iraq and Afghanistan. Japanese leaders should be more confident of it.
I have no objection to change obsolete and dysfunctional regardless of ideology. DPJ (Democratic Party Japan) liberals like Yukio Hatoyama, Naoto Kan, and Katsuya Okada also insisted on reviewing postwar Japanese politics with regard to the US-Japanese alliance and Kasumigaseki bureaucracy, which simply resulted in paralyzing Japanese domestic politics and worsening relations with the United States. It is quite worrisome that the global public will misinterpret the “Reconsideration of the Postwar Regime” as a complete denial of regime changes and democratization in both Japan and Germany. Furthermore, Japan would be isolated from both Asia and the West if such misinterpretation prevails.
Let me talk about US-Japanese relations. Japan handlers in Washington political corridor may be generous to Japanese conservative aspiration to “independence” as ling as they are sincere to develop security partnership against threats in East Asia like China and North Korea, and on the global stage like Al Qaeda, Iran, and so forth. However, not all Americans share such mindsets, and some media may cast doubt on inconsistency to advocate close US-Japanese alliance and collective security against autocracies while denouncing an imposed regime change by Douglas McArthur. This can lead Japan to be isolated from democratic partners both in Asia and the West. The core of postwar regime change is the pacifist constitution. It has already accomplished a historical role to impress the regime change, but that role is over as global security environment has changed. Therefore, I am in full support of changing the constitution.
It is understandable that not everything of postwar occupational rule was good. Also, not everything of prewar Japan was bad. The Taisho democracy was a marvelous achievement. While Meiji reforms are heavily dependent on Western thoughts introduced by elites, Taisho movements are initiated entirely by Japanese grassroots. It was beyond universal suffrage. Women and burakumin (social outcastes) stood up to improve their social position. People’s demand for freedom and equality spread nation wide. Had the Taisho democracy been successful, Japan could have democratized Prussian styled Meiji constitution without any foreign intervention. Regretfully, the Taisho democracy was destroyed by itself, just as the Weimar democracy in Germany did, which gave way to militarism. That is why we have to review the prewar political culture critically.
Currently, Shinzo Abe is most likely to succeed Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda. In view of the lost 20 years, obsolete and dysfunctional systems should be dismantled. But whoever the next prime minister is, or whatever the leader’s ideological standpoint is, it is necessary to clarify the meaning of a “reconsideration of the postwar regime”, in order to avoid unnecessary misunderstandings both globally and domestically. Along with Germany, Japan is a role model to prevail democracy throughout the world, and this is the vital point to for Japan to deepen the alliance with the United States, develop strategic partnership with free nations of the West and Asia, and enhance its presence on the global stage. Remember Iraq and Afghanistan!

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By Hasnain Ali
posted on 19 December at 20:10
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I congratulate Mr. Shinzo Abe on winning the general elections. His services in economic upliftment of Japan is highly praiseworthy. I hope he will adopt cooperative foreign policies with Asian countries.