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article imageOp-Ed: A creepy hark back to Japan's dark past

By Paul Iddon     Feb 1, 2013 in Politics
The Japanese Prime Ministers recent statement with regard to the nations 'official' view of the Second World War is slightly creepy and chauvinistic.
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a hawkish conservative, has recently announced that he intends to release a statement that will essentially reshape the official Japanese attitude towards its dark past. This coupled with Mr. Shinzo's pledge to make amend the constitution Japan has had since 1945 is certainly cause for some concern. And in this writers opinion reflects a very appropriate point in time for some reflection on Japan's history and where it is at present.
Upon its defeat in World War II and its subsequent occupation at the hands of the Americans Japan was transformed from a feudalistic system to an emancipated democracy. The constitution that it adapted during the American occupation period saw Japan's defenses limited to the degree that it could maintain a formidable military force, but was obliged not to project military power in the region as a show of strength or to make a political statement.
Mr. Abe has been notorious for his contention that Japan should downplay the 1995 declaration Japan made to its neighbors which saw the island nation come to terms with its brutal, colonial and aggressive history. Then Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama had declared that Japan during those dark colonial days had “caused tremendous damage and suffering to the people of many countries, particularly to those of Asian nations.” The Prime Minister accordingly on that occasion expressed “deep remorse” for that fact.
While the current conservative Prime Minister still holds to those sentiments he nevertheless wishes to revise aspects of Japan's constitution and general outlook on the region. This comes at a time when we're seeing a potential rising global power in China and a more threatening and menacing North Korea. Mr. Abe, as a nationalist, seems to be calling for foreign policy initiatives that will see Japan make a firm stand against China's increasingly prevalent role and influence in the region.
Furthermore Mr. Abe and others from that general political ilk want to revise Japan's official outlook on the regional neighbors -- neighbors which it had in its imperial days invaded, plundered and committed mass rape and murder in. The idea being that it is now the 21st century and the crimes the Japanese Empire leveled against the Chinese and Koreans were several decades ago. The Japanese have made amends and are ready to move on. Therefore foreign policy changes can be amended to the extent that Tokyo could amend the overall doctrine of its 'self-defense' armed forces and possibly initiate a Sino-Japanese arms race.
Anyone who knows anything about Iran's nuclear program would have heard about the possibility that Iran may not be pursuing nuclear weapons, but may in turn be seeking to develop the capacity in which to build a bomb should the regime there feel the need to do so, like Japan. Japan has a complex nuclear program and could very easily develop nuclear weapons if it feels threatened. However after the Fukushima disaster of 2010 there have been strong anti-nuclear tendencies demonstrated, literally, by large swaths of the Japanese public. Furthermore the instigation of a Sino-Japanese nuclear arms race is certainly something one doesn't want to welcome the prospect of, as it would serve to ratchet up what are at present very latent tensions between the regional powers.
Japan, like Germany, is haunted by its dark past. As with German society Japanese society also has an obligation of sorts to try and grasp what it was that its forefathers did, what they thought and what led them to do the ghastly deeds that they done. Nevertheless the powers that won that war the Allies, particularly the western powers, also have an obligation. That is to recognize that 'fascism' can arise in any society. If the Germans and the Japanese have an obligation to learn from their past and understand the nature of the deeds they had leveled against so many different peoples then the western powers also have an obligation. That is an obligation of understanding that fascism can arise anywhere under certain circumstances. The west must grasp the reality that the nature of fascism doesn't make it unique to any particular group, culture or society. This rule of thumb, in my view, applies to any country and people.
Whilst conservative political elites in both Seoul and Beijing may exploit Japanese war guilt for shallow political reasons of their own it is important that Japan be wary of certain elements within its own society that could give rise to a hawkish and chauvinistic culture that stills exists there. As this could potentially see Japan trying to assert itself more so militarily than diplomatically which could potentially lead to one of the many undesirable scenarios I mentioned. This could also in turn see to it being more reactionary when it comes to responding to, instead of ignoring what time and again prove to be shallow bluffs, the bellicose threats and confrontational rhetoric emanating from the regime in Pyongyang.
I'd contend it could become reactionary through military posturing which would serve to give credence and power to the militaristic and chauvinistic sub-culture that still exists in today's Japan. This would be wholly counterproductive and serve to lead to the rise of the militaristic sub-cultures that also still exist in their different forms in North Korea and China. All of that regional tension would in turn be caused by Japan getting down to the shameful low-level that the North Koreans have been brought down to by the reactionary and fascistic entity that has ruled and stultified that people for over half-a-century -- interestingly enough North Korea's 'high culture' is derived not only from age-old Korean high culture but also to a lesser extent from the militant ideology of their old imperial Japanese masters. This would be a shameful outcome for the truly noble Japanese people, a people who should be proud of their civility and upstanding and admirable nature -- which they unequivocally demonstrated they had during the widespread goodwill and solidarity that prevailed in Japan following the devastating chaos of the tsunami that ravaged large parts of that country back in 2011.
As the old and simple idiom aptly warns us, 'If you lie down with dogs you will get up with fleas'.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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