Back to the futureJapanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe inherited two bloodlines from the generation of his grandfathers. One is the bloodline of his grandfather, Kan Abe, a pacifist politician. The other is the bloodline of his maternal grandfather, Nobusuke Kishi, a “Class-A war criminal.”
In the 1942 general election, which took place the following year of the Pacific War, Kan Abe ran as an independent and won a Diet seat. He was a defiant politician who won the victory on a platform opposing the militarist government under Hideki Tojo.
Nobusuke Kishi was the Minister of Munitions in the wartime cabinet of Tojo.
Shinzo Abe selected his maternal grandfather as the role model over his grandfather and became an extreme conservative, nationalist and revisionist who promoted the militarist past of Japan. And his appearance has forced the history conflicts between Korea and Japan - and between China and Japan - further into the deep mire.
For Abe, who wants to realize the unrealized dream of Kishi, Article 9 of the Pacifist constitution is a fishbone stuck in his throat. Amending the constitution to make Japan a country capable of war and dominating the world as a great power are not just his dream. It is a feasible goal for him.
The Abe cabinet made a decision in July last year to allow the exercise of collective defense right and passed a package of 11 security bills at the Upper and Lower Houses of the Diet. Japan has been under the consistent pressures from the United States to expand and reinforce its actual roles for the regional security. That’s why the two countries revised and upgraded the defense guidelines through the defense and foreign ministerial talks during Abe’s visit to the United States last year. The guidelines were established in 1978 and revised in 1997 to take into account the nuclear development by North Korea.
The guidelines expanded Japanese Self-defense Forces’ scope of operation in time of an emergency from a regional conflict in the Far East to the global arena, allowing the Japanese troops to participate in a war anytime and anywhere as long as the U.S. troops are fighting there.
Asian countries are uneasy about Japan’s rearmament, because Japan has an unforgettable precedent of having violated an international anti-war treaty. After the end of World War I, the United States and France signed the Kellogg?Briand Pact. Japan’s diplomatic effort allowed the pact to be ratified by the League of Nations. Under the pact, a war started by exercising sovereignty will be a violation of international laws.
And yet, Japan, along with Germany and Italy, started World War II and more than 50 million were killed. As distrust of Japan by its neighbors is deepening, Japan is giving an impression that it has become the 51st state of the United States in terms of military and security by expanding the scope of its self-defense right and reinforcing the U.S.-Japan defense guidelines.
Abe has a specific gene of war. After the Self-defense Forces were established in 1954, a protest against Japan’s attempt to rearm itself kicked off. After witnessing the people’s resistance against the Shigeru Yoshida administration, Abe’s maternal grandfather Kishi joined hands with Ichiro Hatoyama and took down the Yoshida administration. They established the Japan Democratic Party and Hatoyama became the president and Kishi became the party-secretary.
The two argued that the pacifist constitution, created forcibly by the United States, must be amended to establish Japan’s independent constitution and the Self-defense Forces must be transformed into the Japanese Armed Forces to secure true independence. But the party, in the 1955 general election, failed to win enough lawmakers to make a constitutional amendment. It appears that Abe is obsessed with realizing the dream of Kishi.
In the recently published book in Japan, “Ambition of Rearming,” four co-authors said that hardware such as weapons systems and facilities; systems such as laws and organizations; and software such as the human resources, value and strategy are the three factors which would allow a nation to wage war.
According to them, hardware is the first step in Japan’s war mechanism, which follows the military strategy of the United States, and system and software comes the next.
The aircraft carrier with the Izumo-class helicopter and five Aegis-class destroyers with radar covering ranges of hundreds of kilometers, are the classic examples of hardware.
Laws, systems and other software follow the preceding hardware. Abe tried to revise the education system with so-called “reform” in order to end the country’s self-abusive view of history and restore Japan’s self-respect and esteem.
“War seems to be ingrained in human nature, and even to be regarded as something noble to which man is inspired by his love of honor, without selfish motives,” Immanuel Kant said.
Abe wants to make Japan a country capable of war and leaves his name behind the history. His love of honor makes neighbors uneasy.
The Economist published an article on Jan. 5, 2013 to criticize Abe’s ultra-right behaviors, and it is telling that the report’s title is “Back to the future.” In the movie, the character Marty McFly went back to the past of 1955 using a time machine. In the movie, the word, back, means his going back to the past, but Abe in the report by the Economist turns his back to the future. This is an outstanding title. Abe talks about future. But without upright recognition of the past, there is no bright future. JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 2, Page 31
*The author is a senior columnist of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Young-hie
More in Columns
Tales of Chairman Lee
Chinese way of tackling challenges
Time to step up climate action
Finding our place
Diplomacy is about trust