A Pacifist Japan Starts to Embrace the Military
GOTEMBA, Japan — The Japanese soldiers jumped out of the jeeps, unloaded the antitank missiles and dropped to the ground. Within minutes, they aimed and fired, striking hypothetical targets nearly a half-mile away.
The audience of more than 26,000, crammed into bleachers and picnicking on camouflage-patterned mats on the ground, clapped appreciatively, murmuring “Sugoi!” — or “Wow!” — during live-fire drills conducted over the weekend by Japan’s military here in the foothills of Mount Fuji.
Pacifism has been a sacred tenet of Japan’s national identity since the end of World War II, when the United States pushed to insert a clause renouncing war into the country’s postwar Constitution. But there are signs that the public’s devotion to pacifism and its attitude toward the Japanese military, known as the Self-Defense Forces, have begun to change, in part at the urging of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
In the aftermath of the horrors it committed in WW2 Japan has been in a pacifist state. It has been satisfied with others protecting its national interests and not meddling a lot in world affairs. It has been unpretentious about its power.
But Japan is still a major power. Despite its economic stagnation it remains one of the world's largest economies, and most advanced. Despite its demographic decline its society remains strong and able to weather many crises. Despite its pacifism it has a re-surging and highly advanced military.
The extraordinary thing about Japan is its ability to undergo rapid changes without any major social uprisings. It went from an agrarian society to one of the world's biggest industrial powers in just a few decades. A highly militarized society to a pacifist one in an even shorter time. A boldly rising economic power to a humble, stagnant one. All this in just a century. All this without any social revolutions.
So it shouldn't be assumed that Japan's state of pacifism is eternal. It has national interests, like any other country. It has undergone the strategy of having others protect it so it doesn't have to involve itself much in global affairs. That can only be a temporary strategy. Eventually, as has been increasingly been the case, when it faces more security threats, it will have to take matters into its own hands. It'll have to control its own fate and reassert itself. And when it reasserts itself, that's when the true face of its power begins to show.