April 25, 2001

A new day for Japan

"The earth is shaking" – this is how Junichero Koizumi, the man almost certain to be the new Prime Minister of Japan, described his apparent triumph over the old party bosses who have dominated the country since the end of World War II. And not only the earth, but also the heavens, by the time he is done. His election as President of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party is a signal event: a turning point not only for Japan, but for the whole of Eastasia. Let Washington sit up and take notice: the real threat to its regional hegemony is not China, but the land of the rising sun. Japan is finally getting up off it's knees – and it's about time!


I had held my opinion of Koizumi in reserve, until now: that is, until he came out with the stunning announcement that the so-called Peace Constitution of 1951 – which prohibits Japan from having an army – is "abnormal" and must be amended. For years, in accordance with the mythology of Japanese war guilt, government policy has been to deny that the "Self-Defense Force" is an army, and indeed in most respects it is not. That same myth has dictated a policy of servility and self-abasement not only toward the US, but toward China. The recent controversy over the visit of Taiwan's ex-President caused turmoil in Tokyo: the Chinese were furious, and demanded that the Japanese authorities deny Lee Teng-hui a visa. Tokyo dithered for what seemed like weeks, until finally granting him permission to come for medical treatment – but not without apologizing, explaining, and backtracking every five minutes. Given the "no army" clause of the Japanese constitution (written on the back of an envelope by one of MacArthur's underlings), how can you blame them? After all, could a defenseless Japan really count on the Americans to save them from a Chinese attack? Many think not.


This, then, is the official rationale behind the rearming of Japan: as a deterrent against the alleged threat of Chinese aggression. But every Japanese knows that the real threat to their sovereignty is not in Beijing, but in Washington; they know that their sovereignty and dignity are being assailed and violated every day, not by Chinese soldiers but by Americans – whose recreational activities on the island of Okinawa have led to so many rapes, murders, molestations, and other violent acts that I can no longer keep count of them. I hasten to add that these American soldiers are not representative, either of their countrymen or their comrades-in-arms, but that does nothing to ameliorate the burning resentment many Japanese feel. Japan has been a conquered country all these years, a province of the American Empire both geostrategically and culturally. But Japanese rearmament changes the terms of the equation: no longer a conquered people, the Japanese are now on equal terms with their occupiers. The Chrysanthemum has been reunited with the Sword.


What this means is that the American occupation cannot continue – for there can be only one armed force within the boundaries of a single state. That is the first law of power: a state must have a monopoly on the use of force within a given geographical area. The old Japanese state – a system with the Emperor at its core – ceased to exist at the end of the war, and what grew up in its place was not really an independent state, but a US colony, occupied and administered by the so-called MacArthur Regency, with the Emperor held hostage, so to speak, a prisoner in a gilded cage who existed to legitimize the rule of the American Shogun. The Japanese "governments" of the past 50 years acquired all the trappings of a state, including elections, political parties, a central bank, a Prime Minister and a Cabinet, but in reality it was all an elaborate game of make-believe, like some stylized Noh drama, a pretense performed for the benefit of Washington – which could never admit to its postwar role as the New Rome. Now that era has come to an end, and the sun is rising on a new day: the first day of the second half of the Showa era, so rudely interrupted by Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the European colonial powers.


Naturally, events will not transpire all that quickly: we are, after all, talking about Japan, where indirection is the rule and passivity has been bred into the people as a result of the occupation. The two armed forces, Japanese and American, will co-exist for a while, albeit uneasily. But soon – perhaps far sooner than anyone in Washington now imagines – the request that the Americans downplay and limit their presence will turn into a demand that they leave – and what then?


Junichero Koizumi represents the spirit of the new Japan: the Japan that can and must say no to the policy of occupation and subordination pursued by his predecessors for half a century. But the reunion of the Chrysanthemum and the Sword of the Samurais is not the only aspect of Japan's necessary transformation. In abolishing the old political system, and setting up a Western-style democracy in its place, the conquering Americans also set up a New Deal-style system of economic administration, a command economy modeled on the Keynesian vision that animated FDR's planners. With an official interest rate hovering somewhere around zero percent, Japan is the perfect illustration of the inherent problem with massive bank-credit expansion as a solution to economic problems. The Japanese banking system is plagued with bad debts, and the cracks in the financial system have already begun to appear: this is the legacy of Japan's colonial bondage.


But if anyone can pull Japan out of this crisis, it is Prime Minister Koizumi. He is a free-marketeer who clearly understands the affliction at the heart of the economic malaise, if not its origins, and he is pledged to go up against the established interests: the state-privileged cartels who have benefited from the hyper-inflation (being the first to receive the newly-minted money in loans), the subsidized and politically protected class of bureaucrats and "office men" who have supplanted the entrepreneur and the samurai as the dominant national archetypes. Koizumi opposes bailing out the banks with government money, and has come out for the privatization of the Japanese "post office" – which is, in effect, the biggest of the banks, where a major chunk of the national savings is ensconced. His election as head of the Liberal Democratic Party – which virtually ensures his election as Prime Minister – points toward the revival of that previously moribund party, long seen as the haven of hacks and dullards, the bastion of the special interests who have profited from Japan's ignominy as a conquered land.


The great problem of Japanese nationalism is that it has, in the past, shown no understanding of economics. Koizumi breaks the mold – and, because of that, may yet break the chains that bind his nation. This is not a threat to the legitimate national interests of the US: far from it. A strong Japan is a much-needed counterweight to China, and the weakness fostered by the occupation is a distortion of the natural balance of power that would have occurred if not for the US presence. The renewal of Japan is, however, a threat to any nation – particularly a Western one – that has the arrogance to believe that it must dominate the region. Time to start thinking about bringing the troops home, half a century after their victory – better late than never.

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Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of Antiwar.com. He is also the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement (with an Introduction by Patrick J. Buchanan), (1993), and Into the Bosnian Quagmire: The Case Against US Intervention in the Balkans (1996). He is an Adjunct Scholar with the Ludwig von Mises Institute, in Auburn, Alabama, a Senior Fellow at the Center for Libertarian Studies, and writes frequently for Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard.


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