And Koizumi set about realigning the policies of Japan with the new reality.
Do the various interested parties in the United States understand that the Koizumi shift was conditional, not ideological--and that events since the Afghan War--the new, new reality-- have been resetting the terms of the alliance again?
I sure hope they have.
The United States and other countries (at the urging of the United States) have been asking the Japanese government to increase
a) Japan's military capabilities and
b) its direct participation in international security operations.
One longtime dove argument against such an increase in military capabilities and/or commitment to international security cooperation has been that, in the context of a dependent Japanese alliance with the United States, a more militarily capable Japan would find itself with paradoxically less autonomy than before -- that due to the SDF's greater usefulness, Japan would get dragged into U.S. military adventures.
The U.S. Embassy counterargument was, in grotesque simplification, a lengthy huff:
"Are you saying that you worry that the United States, Japan's ultimate protector, would engage in illegitimate, security-diminishing military adventurism, unthinkingly sacrifice its own blood and treasure, and the blood and treasure of its allies? I' m sorry but you are barking up the wrong tree. The United States is not pre-1945 Japan, sending its soldiers into country after country, chasing after some ever-receding horizon of ultimate security!"
An aside - I hope that the recent mania, particularly the U.S. media's cooperation in the suppression of dissenting views--and the willingness of U.S. elites to surrender their skepticism over a preemptive, non-UN sanctioned invasion of a sovereign nation and the establishment of an intrusive, corner-cutting, torturing, secret police state at home -- finally lets the pre-war citizens of Japan off the war-responsibility hook. Considering what few institutional supports and what little leverage Japanese citizens had under the Meiji Constitution, their record in defense of their freedoms and against the propaganda of the militarists turns out not to have been so poor after all.Since it turns out that the United States can gin itself into a war fever and drag its allies into a murky, blood-soaked adventure without clear endpoint or purpose, have we come to a juncture where purported Japanese foot-dragging and self-limitation on security cooperation no longer looks irresponsible but instead looks prudent? Where Japan's emphasis on contributing to world security through leadership on disease control, global warming, combatting poverty...and Japan's basic acceptance of the sovereignty of all nations...has stopped looking merely smart but indeed begins to look...moral?
The questions in the history courses used to be:
"How could they let this happen? Was there no one to say 'Stop'? Was there some cultural predilection to obedience that made them give up their rights and succumb to war fever?"
The answers turn out to be, in order, "Easily," "No" and "No."
And do the "Japan specialists" advising the two candidates for the U.S. presidency understand that a post-Iraq, post-Abu Ghraib (and many other things too) Japan-U.S. alliance has the two allies on a different footing than before?
I see evidence of an awareness of the shift--but I do not see an acceptance of it.