Naoki Sakai, East Asia expert and professor of Asian Studies at Cornell University, discusses the implications of the Abe Shinzô Administration and its policy toward Japan’s collective defense.
“Since the return to power in December 2013, the second Abe Shinzô Administration has signaled its desire to change the so-called Peace Constitution that was promulgated in 1947 under the Allied powers’ occupation.
“One feature to be found in every policy proposal put forth by the Abe Shinzô Administration is reactive, regardless of whether it is in economics, defense, nuclear energy or diplomacy. His administration is reacting to the overwhelming sense of nostalgia that dominates Japanese society today.
“In the last two decades, the Japanese saw an unambiguous feeling of economic decline in contrast to the high-growth economies of South Korea, Taiwan and China; the loss of its status as the only genuinely modernized society in Asia; and the glory of a subsidiary empire which Japan continued to enjoy under the United States containment policies during the Cold War.
“The recent proposal about collective defense contains nothing new in this respect. In the 1950’s and the 1960’s, Japan could refuse to send its troops overseas on the grounds of the very Constitution the United States imposed upon her. Now the Abe Shinzô Administration proposes accepting the United States policies of collective defense. But, why do they want to sacrifice their own troops and, more importantly, risk Japanese killing of local people in Asia once again?
“What is glaringly obvious here is the absence of historical perspective. Without solving the problems of postcoloniality with peoples in East Asia, today’s Japanese leadership simply believes that the past glory of the 1960’s will return. Now their motif is not merely reactive. Precisely because of this absence of historical rationality, they are reactionary.”