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Commentary: Japan and World Order

As a child, late on the afternoon of December 7th 1941, I was sitting with my father in the balcony of a movie theatre called the Brooklyn Paramount. It had a large ornate interior much like the Paramount movie theatre then on Broadway. The movie we were watching was “One Foot in Heaven”. It was a period piece set in 1917, and I believe the star was Fredric March, as the head of a happy family. I recall I was thinking that afterward I wanted to go to the Horn and Hardat restaurant for their apple pie when suddenly, the picture on the screen started to flutter and stop. The house lights went on and a man in (to the best of my recollection) an army uniform walked out to the middle of the stage, looked into the audience, and told us that Pearl Harbor had been attacked. He told all the service men that they must return to their base immediately. The lights went off, the movie flickered on, and the characters on the screen were celebrating the end of WW I. I began to cry, thinking that my father, although not in the army, would leave us.

In September of 1945, I saw, I believe in Life Magazine, the historic picture of the signing of the unconditional surrender of Japanese forces. A cloth covered mess table had been placed on the deck of the battle ship the USS Missouri (which then was the last battleship commissioned into the United States Navy), anchored in Tokyo Bay, along with over two hundred other allied warships but no aircraft carriers. There were four or five men in uniform (Japanese and allied) standing on opposite sides of the table, signing. Thus began five and half years of American occupation of Japan.

On 27th September of that year, in a photograph, the towering figure of General Douglas MacArthur (hero of the Pacific war) is shown standing next to the Japanese Emperor Hirohito, for their first meeting. MacArthur has his hands in his pockets and the Emperor, ramrod stiff, in formal attire.

MacArthur’s title was Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers, and to the world he was the leading figure in all that took place in the ensuing years, until he was “fired” by President Truman. MacArthur forgot (or ignored the fact) that there was a Commander-in-Chief of American forces who also happened to be the President of the United States. He never diminished the growing impression that whatever flowed from his office in Tokyo had its inception under his direct command. What I learned, only recently, was that there was concentrated planning in Washington for the eventual defeat of Japan and its “rehabilitation” two years prior to its actual defeat and occupation.

By 1946, the Japanese government, under U.S. military occupation, thought it was MacArthur’s intention that they draft a new constitution for the emerging postwar, post occupation nation. Upon review by MacArthur’s team, it was immediately rejected and MacArthur ordered (without consultation with any of the US Allies) a government section of his occupying forces to draft a constitution, to be ready for submission within a matter of weeks.

Two items of the new constitution, adopted in 1947, are of particular importance today. The first is that the Emperor, under the newly proposed constitution, would lose the position of ultimate authority, although remaining as head of state. In essence, what real political power he previously exercised would be abolished, and the rights of peerage would be abolished. In principal, Japan became a constitutional monarchy. The second element, Article 9 of the Constitution, is presently in the forefront of a political challenge for modern day Japan. Historically, not one coma in their Constitution has been changed in over 70 years, and the constitutional challenge for Japan and its people has international implications.

Article 9 of the Japanese constitution is commonly known as the “peace clause”. The clause requires that Japan relinquish and abandon any right to wage war or to maintain a “war potential” military force. Its military might is limited to defensive measures only. As we enter 2019, Japan’s regional neighbors are clearly more hostile than the world order was at the time the constitution was formally adopted in 1947. Today, Japan’s partnership with the U.S. in that region is crucial to the national security of both nations. Russia’s submarines are increasing their patrols in the seas north of Japan. North Korea’s nuclear and missile development and expansion creates a dangerous and hostile environment. China’s military program, its cyberwar, and stealing foreign held trade secrets is producing an unacceptable security setting in that enlarging geographic area.

To modify Article 9, the Emperor, similar to the Queen of England, is a mere bystander. That task falls to the elected members of both houses of the Diet, their legislative branch of government. The Prime Minister views Article 9 as an impediment to Japan enlarging its military forces, so that they have the ability to play a more proactive role in regional security and on the world stage.

In an excellent article by Adam P. Liff and Ko Maeda, they contend that it will be next to impossible for the Prime Minister to effect change for at least two reasons. The first is the procedural process, which is very difficult. It requires a two-thirds majority vote by both houses of the Diet and then a national referendum. Second is the population of Japan, whose position on the issue of modifying their constitution runs from “pacifisms to the fear of being entrapped in a U.S. war far from home” Let me propose a third almost unspoken position. I have met Japanese, who although not born at the time of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, have said they have no desire to bring a child into a world that has the potential for the use of an atomic bomb. That memory gets passed down through generations of Japanese.

American military might is stretched thin. It can no longer effectively fight on more fronts than it is now engaged. We need the military power of the Japanese to be at the ready and to be aggressive, when necessary, if China, North Korea or Russia threatens regional or world order. I think of Kosovo, when there was a genuine humanitarian crisis, and the U.S. led intervention. We need able and willing partners throughout the world, not just in the far Pacific, not just in the mid-East but as unanticipated events occur that demand our moral, political and military attention.

Richard Allan — Editor:     P.S. — As I began my final edit and posting of this Commentary, ISIS supporters threaten attack during the holiday, and the President abruptly announced, against the advice of the military and members of his own party, the withdrawal of 2000 American troops from Syria. David Sanger wrote in a front page article for the NYT that what we have learned through the hard lessons brought home in the post 9/11 years “…that deployed forces are key to stopping terrorists before they reach American shores and vital to maintaining the alliances that keep the world safe.” The Kurds, if abandoned by the U.S., responded that they will release 3200 ISIS in their prisons. And then the resignation of General J. Mattis. President Trump’s tax break has fizzled, his tariffs are pounding Middle America and the stock and bond markets are flashing red lights as the Feds see an economic downturn next year. Mr. Trumps is impeding our ability to maintain our security at home and abroad. RA

Commentary– What Will Be Wrapped For Christmas?

 Thanksgiving is over — both eating and leaning what the early settlers ate—and it wasn’t turkey.

There was little, if any, political discussion before and during dinner, but looking around the very large double dining room table, I quickly realized the majority of those present were age 16 to 24. It was then that my internal worry button was pressed. I have long stopped worrying about the world as it is or will impact upon my children and their spouses, but it is the life of the younger generation that will feel the blunt of today.

The world is turning nationalistic, and although that is worrisome enough, it is just below the radar screen supporting that movement that is unsettling. It is the growth and flourishing of a prime industry: the manufacturing and distribution of military hardware including the proliferation of nuclear bomb making knowledge and material.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute –“After 13 consecutive years of increasing in global military expenditures from 1999 to 2011, and relatively unchanged spending from 2012 to 2016, total global military spending rose again in 2017.” The total amount spent worldwide in 2017 was an astonishing 1.7 trillion dollars. This would represent in 2.2 per cent of the global gross domestic product. Translated it means that worldwide, each person would theoretically have spent $230 towards the purchase of military hardware. The increases in spending are partially due to China, India and Saudi Arabia and their race to dominate their region or world competition.

Not surprising, the US spends more money on military expenditures than any other nation. But surprising to me was learning that we spend more money than the next seven highest spenders—combined! And under President Trump that number is growing, notwithstanding that there are almost 40 million people in the United States living under the poverty level. In addition, not lost in the global picture is that although Russian military complex is the leading edge of its world political posture and aggressiveness (its present naval attack against the Ukraine), its military expenditures have been reined in by its economic stagnation since 2014, and actually fell in 2017. In the 10 countries in the Mideast, Israeli is number 8 in military spending.

Not only are these worldwide spending numbers staggering, one particular item creates the greatest risk–more than guns and tanks, jets and submarines is the amount spent on the nuclear arsenals. And while there is abundant knowledge of what has been spent, there is a wide area that the amount is not known. This presents a far greater global threat than any fighting unit of tanks or squadron of jet fighters.

In 1987, the US entered into a treaty with Russia that prohibited either country from positioning missiles with a firing range from approximately 320 miles to a bit over 3400 miles. Many military strategists believe this treaty eliminated nuclear missiles from the European continent. It is Trump’s position that the Russians have been violating this agreement for years, and with China’s globally strong entry into the political/military equation, US international strategy must change. Thus, this agreement became irrelevant. Trump is in the process of unilaterally cancelled the agreement with Putin.

More than two dozen nations have nuclear power. Only nine possess actual nuclear weapons: Russia, the United States, China, India, Israel, France, North Korea, Pakistan and the United Kingdom. Combined, they represents a present day arsenal of 14 plus thousand nuclear warheads, a significant reduction from an earlier high of over 70 thousand.

At least two issue major issues are apparent to me. The first, within the group that possesses an actual nuclear weapon; there are two that I fear have a dangerous political posture in their control and stockpiling of these weapons. They are not being held as deterrents against would-be aggressors but as offensive weapons in their expanding arsenal—North Korea and Pakistan.

Second, recently reported in some of the press, the CIA has raised the question of whether the Saudis are preparing for the building of their own atomic bomb. The Saudis crown prince (the one accused of ordering the killing of a journalist) has been in negotiations with both the United States’ Department of Energy and the State Department for the sale of nuclear “designs”. The deal is worth some allege 80 billion dollars, contingent upon the ultimate number of nuclear plants to be built. One demand by the Saudis has produced flashing red lights. They have demanded that instead of their purchasing nuclear fuel abroad, they produce their own. The New York Times reported that that the Saudis could purchase that fuel in the open market at a cheaper cost than generating it at home. What concerns those familiar with the negotiations is that if they produce their own nuclear fuel, it would be possible for them to covert the end product into an atomic bomb without any UN oversight or limitations. This places Washington and the West in the same dilemma that was presented prior to the conclusion of the Iran nuclear accord in 2015. The open competition for a bomb making between the rival Saudis and Iran would become a reality.

So on this gloomy Monday morning, with the caravan of immigrants being turned away at our boarder, with tear gas in response and the haunting picture of an immigrant mother fleeing from tear gas with her child, what rings hollow and violates my sense of logic and humanity is the world spending 1.7billion dollars for military destruction. What have we become and what are we leaving to our grandchildren?

Richard Allan,

The Editor