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Hirohito And The Making Of Modern Japan
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Winner of the Pulitzer Prize

In this groundbreaking biography of the Japanese emperor Hirohito, Herbert P. Bix offers the first complete, unvarnished look at the enigmatic leader whose sixty-three-year reign ushered Japan into the modern world. Never before has the full life of this controversial figure been revealed with such clarity and vividness. Bix shows what it was like to be trained from birth for a lone position at the apex of the nation's political hierarchy and as a revered symbol of divine status. Influenced by an unusual combination of the Japanese imperial tradition and a modern scientific worldview, the young emperor gradually evolves into his preeminent role, aligning himself with the growing ultranationalist movement, perpetuating a cult of religious emperor worship, resisting attempts to curb his power, and all the while burnishing his image as a reluctant, passive monarch. Here we see Hirohito as he truly was: a man of strong will and real authority.

Supported by a vast array of previously untapped primary documents, Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan is perhaps most illuminating in lifting the veil on the mythology surrounding the emperor's impact on the world stage. Focusing closely on Hirohito's interactions with his advisers and successive Japanese governments, Bix sheds new light on the causes of the China War in 1937 and the start of the Asia-Pacific War in 1941. And while conventional wisdom has had it that the nation's increasing foreign aggression was driven and maintained not by the emperor but by an elite group of Japanese militarists, the reality, as witnessed here, is quite different. Bix documents in detail the strong, decisive role Hirohito played in wartime operations, from the takeover of Manchuria in 1931 through the attack on Pearl Harbor and ultimately the fateful decision in 1945 to accede to an unconditional surrender. In fact, the emperor stubbornly prolonged the war effort and then used the horrifying bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, together with the Soviet entrance into the war, as his exit strategy from a no-win situation. From the moment of capitulation, we see how American and Japanese leaders moved to justify the retention of Hirohito as emperor by whitewashing his wartime role and reshaping the historical consciousness of the Japanese people. The key to this strategy was Hirohito's alliance with General MacArthur, who helped him maintain his stature and shed his militaristic image, while MacArthur used the emperor as a figurehead to assist him in converting Japan into a peaceful nation. Their partnership ensured that the emperor's image would loom large over the postwar years and later decades, as Japan began to make its way in the modern age and struggled -- as it still does -- to come to terms with its past.

Until the very end of a career that embodied the conflicting aims of Japan's development as a nation, Hirohito remained preoccupied with politics and with his place in history. Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan provides the definitive account of his rich life and legacy. Meticulously researched and utterly engaging, this book is proof that the history of twentieth-century Japan cannot be understood apart from the life of its most remarkable and enduring leader.

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DEDICATION

To Toshie, and my grandchildren—

Maia, Isamu, Lily, and others who may follow

CONTENTS

Dedication

List of Maps

Acknowledgments

Hirohito: The Making and Remaking of Modern Japan

Introduction

PART I

THE PRINCE’S EDUCATION, 1901–1921

1    The Boy, the Family, and the Meiji Legacies

2    Cultivating an Emperor

3    Confronting the Real World

PART II

THE POLITICS OF GOOD INTENTIONS, 1922–1930

4    The Regency and the Crisis of Taishō Democracy

5    The New Monarchy and the New Nationalism

6    A Political Monarch Emerges

PART III

HIS MAJESTY’S WARS, 1931–1945

7    The Manchurian Transformation

8    Restoration and Repression

9    Holy War

10  Stalemate and Escalation

11  Prologue to Pearl Harbor

12  The Ordeal of Supreme Command

13  Delayed Surrender

PART IV

THE UNEXAMINED LIFE, 1945–1989

14  A Monarchy Reinvented

15  The Tokyo Trial

16  Salvaging the Imperial Mystique

17  The Quiet Years and the Legacies of Shōwa

Notes

Index

Photo Section

About the Author

Copyright

About the Publisher

LIST OF MAPS

Manchuria, 1931–1933

The Far East, 1930–1941

The Japanese Advance South, 1942

War in the Pacific, 1941–1945

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

My principal thanks go to my wife, Toshie, to whom this book is dedicated. Her hard work is reflected in the wealth of materials I was able to cover and in insights that found their way into the text.

Sam Hileman, an artist and former editor who lives in relative solitude in the Shenandoah Valley, in Millboro, Virginia, deserves special credit for brilliantly commenting in detail on the entire manuscript. He not only improved the flow in every single chapter but was a fertile source of ideas, a keen critic, and a good friend as well. I owe him a vast debt for enriching the book. Tim Duggan of HarperCollins was a splendid editor: incisive in his criticisms, patient, and supportive in every way. To him too I am greatly indebted. I particularly want to thank Susan Llewellyn of HarperCollins for her wonderful copyediting of the entire text. My literary agent, Susan Rabiner, made it happen and gave her support throughout.

John Dower offered wise counsel; he also made valuable comments on early versions of two war chapters. More than a decade ago, while on a visit to Sheffield, England, another old friend, Nakamura Masanori, gave me a copy of his book on the postwar Japanese monarchy; around the same time Glenn Hook, who lives in Sheffield, sent me the emperor’s Monologue. These two works started me off. David Swain provided critical feedback during the initial stages of my research and writing. Martin Sherwin commented incisively on an early version of the manuscript, and Mark Selden, who has always been unstinting with his help over the years, commented on the last chapter. I am grateful to all of them, and to Feroz Ahmad, Brian Victoria, Ed Friedman, and Jon Halliday, for leaving their marks on the text. Noam Chomsky kindly made insightful suggestions for improving the countdown to war. Andrew Gordon helped by enabling me to return to Harvard University for a year of teaching

I extend thanks to Harvard-Yenching Library and Hitotsubashi University Library, where I did my research; to Elly Clay for reading an early draft of chapter 7; to Jonathan Dresner and Christine Kim for responding to numerous requests for materials from the Harvard libraries, and to Kikuchi Nobuteru for his computer skills and helpful participation in my course on the Shōwa monarchy.

A research fellowship from the U.S.–Japan Educational Commission (Fulbright Program) enabled me to launch this project at Hitotsubashi University in Tokyo in 1992. There I met Yoshida Yutaka and Watanabe Osamu, both of whom have written extensively and brilliantly on the metamorphosis of the modern monarchy. They discussed their views on Hirohito and shared with me their profound knowledge of the military, political, and constitutional history of modern Japan. Over the years they answered my queries and were always understanding and generous in their help. Awaya Kentarō, another old and valued friend, made available materials on the Tokyo trials and was a rich source of ideas and suggestions. Were it not for them, I am sure that this book would be less than it is, and that I would also have overlooked scores of important Japanese sources. Toward the end of the decade, I joined the faculty of the Graduate School of Social Sciences at Hitotsubashi, and in that most ideal environment completed the research and final rewriting of the manuscript.

Okabe Makio and Yamada Akira also deserve my deepest gratitude for sharing materials and discussing issues. Many other distinguished historians helped me make sense of Hirohito’s life through their extensive writings, but Tanaka Nobumasa and Fujiwara Akira deserve special mention, as does Tanaka Hiromi, who made available the unpublished memoirs of Gen. Nara Takeji. To Akagawa Hiroaki I express thanks for his support and for supplying materials.

Over the ten years in which I pursued this project, my father-in-law, Shigeaki Watanabe, shared his recollections of early Shōwa. Mrs. Yoshida Ryōko also cooperated by sending a constant stream of Japanese-language materials.

Parts of chapter 13 derive from my essay Japan’s Delayed Surrender: A Reinterpretation, in Diplomatic History (1995); many passages in chapters 14 and 16 come from Inventing the Symbol Monarchy in Japan, in the Journal of Japanese Studies (1995). I owe thanks to both journals for permission to use my material.

HIROHITO: THE MAKING AND REMAKING OF MODERN JAPAN

The reprinting of Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan prompts me to reflect widely on the role of the American military in shaping and deforming postwar Asian affairs and Japan-U.S. relations more particularly. The multiple civil wars and great power disputes that have been radically altering the world give this subject new urgency. Reinforcing this urgency is the U.S. military’s steady encroachment on civilian life here, in Japan, and elsewhere throughout the globe.

We need to begin by focusing on events in the life and reign of the Showa Emperor Hirohito (1901–89). Here a brief statement of the book’s principal themes may be helpful. The first is the emperor, treated as a human being, an ideology, and an institution. All three had the objective of expanding and defending Japan’s national interest. The Meiji era’s oligarchs constructed the monarchy in stages, making sure that it imparted direction and gave meaning to their imperial state. Among its key elements were a cult of the virtuous emperor commanding the armed forces, an imperial court, and a peerage class. After their Constitution was promulgated, the whole organization, not just the emperor, was imbued with a sacred character. The pyramidal structure thus formed, with a politically empowered emperor at its apex, shrouded in myth, illuminated a political system unconstrained from accountability, able to elude civilian ministerial control.

Racism and the domestic disease of racial prejudice constitute the second major theme.¹ I focus on how framing international affairs in antagonistic racial terms affected Japanese and Americans alike. In war and peace it underpinned their colonialism and influenced their conduct. In post-1945 Japan, the racist ultra-nationalism of the imperial way that had powered Japanese aggression disintegrated.

Constitutionalism, the third theme, refers to modern Japan’s two constitutions and how they shaped the modus operandi of the Japanese state and defined the nation and the people. The Imperial Constitution of Great Japan, known as the Meiji Constitution of 1889, was grafted on to an absolutist system of power. It ascribed to the sacred and inviolable emperor enormous military and civil powers, defining him as superintendant of the powers of sovereignty—a monarch whose judgment and will was supposed to penetrate all the groups in the ruling system.² Restraints imposed on the parliament and the traditions established by and inscribed in other documents such as the Imperial Rescript on Education also prevented a true constitutional monarchy from evolving. The cardinal rule of Japanese constitutionalism was that responsibility for decision-making lay not in the emperor, wherein real power and authority actually resided, but in his cabinet, composed of ministers who were supposed to be collectively responsible for the advice that they gave the emperor but in reality were not.

By contrast to this extremely convoluted, dysfunctional pre-surrender system, the 1946 Constitution of Japan redefined the Japanese people as citizens, rather than eternally loyal subjects. Though not without flaws, it at least upheld the values of democracy and peace.³ The Constitution’s greatest merit was to have renounced war totally, without reservation, in keeping with public opinion at the time it was adopted. It also strengthened the position of the prime minister, stipulated that he and other ministers of state must be civilians, guaranteed civil liberties, and enfranchised women. Each constitution had profound consequences for Japanese political development, and Hirohito occupied the throne under both of them.

Japanese imperialism and war, unfolding concurrently, in competition with American imperialism in the same regions of the world, is the fourth principal theme. Emperor Meiji’s policy of alignment with Britain and the United States set the stage for the overseas colonial expansion that followed. Expansion was rooted in realpolitik concerns but also occasioned domestic class struggle. In both late-modernizing, capital-and-resource-poor Japan as well as in heavily industrialized, capital-exporting America, imperialism generated grassroots dissent and strengthened the propensity of ruling elites to suppress dissident voices. Hirohito broke completely with Meiji’s alignment policy when he sanctioned preparations for the destruction of Anglo-American military power in Asia.⁴ But at all times Japan’s expansion was rooted in realpolitik concerns.

The fifth theme concerns the entanglement of politics and myth. Hirohito was indoctrinated in the same foundation myths as his subjects. The notion that he was a living god, the descendant in a bloodline of succession from the Sun Goddess, who was the mythical progenitor of his imperial house, was put forth in the nation’s primary and military schools.⁵ So too was the idea of the unity of politics and religion. Up until the end of Hirohito’s apprenticeship as regent for his ailing father, and perhaps beyond, he carried these received teachings within himself.⁶

Several key events, foreign and domestic, marked Japan’s road to Pearl Harbor and its ultimate military defeat without state collapse. Along the way, Hirohito performed as an active, dynamic, interventionist ruler intent on playing his part in policy-making, and he and his court entourage applied his power in different ways. During the first two decades of his reign—1925 to 1945—their actions led repressive responses to dissent at home and to rising nationalism abroad. Eventually they led to the loss of millions of lives and unprecedented disaster for [the Japanese] people and those of the countries they invaded.⁷ Furthermore, while Hirohito operated within a decision-making system premised on the myth of his divinity, he was too skeptical to believe fully in this self-serving myth. Yet he felt it was quite appropriate for his subjects to believe in it and to be duped, for it helped him to control them. On the other hand, although the emperor was more akin to an absolute rather than a constitutional monarch, he was not by nature a combative man eager to start wars. Neither was he a dictator or a Western-style wielder of despotic power like Hitler or Mussolini. Hirohito operated within a bureaucratic monarchy protected by his Meiji Constitution, and advised by his palace entourage or court group. Not until the late 1930s did Hirohito become a real war leader, actually exercising his constitutional prerogatives of supreme command.

In September 1931, insubordinate officers, fearing that Chiang Kai-shek’s campaign to reunify China would soon spread the country’s civil war to all three of its northeastern provinces, resolved to defy the young emperor’s wishes, stage an incident, and begin the conquest of Manchuria. This vast area, over which a rising Japan and American concession hunters had once contended for railway rights, had been divided into Japanese and Soviet spheres of influence. Hirohito acquiesced in its conquest. He did so despite deep misgivings about his senior officers’ reckless actions in violation of recent international law, such as the Nine-Power Treaty, which was supposed to guarantee China’s territorial integrity, and the Kellogg-Briand Pact, which was supposed to prohibit wars of aggression but lacked specific sanctions. The emperor punished no one for insubordination; he overlooked the harm they did to Japan’s standing in the West, and, as the army’s successful aggression progressed, he became a willing participant. Concurrently, Hirohito agreed with the decision of his cabinet and entourage to treat the fighting in Manchuria as only an ‘incident,’ thus avoiding a declaration of war.

But while Hirohito, on the advice of his protectors, publicly embraced the bellicosity of senior officers, his and their tolerance for allowing professional politicians to share power was short-lived. Failed coup attempts by army and navy officers and civilian extremists disrupted normal politics. They were followed by attacks against the residence of his chief political adviser and the assassinations of leading business executives and of another prime minister on May 15, 1932. Finally, Hirohito abandoned the 1920s experiment in party-based cabinets and presided over a shift in the balance of power among the elites in the bureaucracy, the military, the national parliament, and the business community. This shift was designed to fortify the throne by entrusting power to elderly admirals. Unfortunately, the national unity cabinets that the admirals established failed to end extremism in the army and restore military discipline.

In snow-blanketed Tokyo on February 26, 1936, another signal event occurred. "[J]unior-rank army officers commanding more than fourteen hundred fully armed soldiers staged another, more spectacularly bloody, mutiny. It was the largest army uprising in Japanese history" and resulted in the murder of the emperor’s closest advisers.⁹ Hirohito ordered the insurrection to be immediately suppressed. Afterwards he acted to exert stronger control over the decision-making process.

The following year, Japanese politics remained in flux, and in addition, domestic political events unfolded in an altered international context. In July, Hirohito sided with hawkish army staff officers who wanted to expand a flare-up of fighting in the vicinity of the Marco Polo Bridge in North China, against nonexpansionist officers on the General Staff who wanted to resolve the incident locally. Although worried about Japan’s ongoing conflicts with the two leading Western imperialist powers, Britain and the United States, Hirohito sanctioned a general offensive that included the bombing of Chinese cities and all-out, though undeclared, war against Chiang Kai-shek’s Kuomintang (Nationalist) regime in Nanjing, the walled city that became the place-name symbol for Japanese atrocities in China. In the U.S. Congress, the China war intensified the demonization of imperial Japan. The American media used the war, the loss of Chinese and American lives, and the harm inflicted on American economic interests in China to express a punitive, racist attitude toward Japan. At the same time, the media untruthfully presented the United States as the lofty champion of freedom and democracy in Asia.

Hirohito knew a great deal not only about Japan’s imperial history but also about the history of Anglo-American racial discrimination against undifferentiated people of color, especially the division between the whites and the yellows.¹⁰

As crown prince he had been told about the Allies’ emphatic rejection of Japan’s proposal on racial equality at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919.¹¹ Unhappy (in historian Mark Mazower’s words) with the discriminatory and humiliating immigration policies confronting Japanese people everywhere around the Pacific Rim, from virulently anti-Asian Australia to equally racist Canada and the U.S., the Japanese delegation sought to have inserted into the League’s Covenant a guarantee of equal treatment for all member-nations. President Woodrow Wilson, unable to tolerate the thought of racial equality, ruled against them.¹² Japan’s political and intellectual elites, liberals and anti-liberals, soon divided over the League, with some supporting it and others viewing it as an instrument for maintaining in China a Western imperialist status quo.

Before Hirohito became emperor in his own right, America’s rising anti-Japanese movement had culminated in Congress’s passage of the 1924 Immigration Act. This statute created the immigration quotas that discriminated mainly against so called genetically inferior eastern European Jews, Italians, and Japanese. Whether or not Hirohito understood the specific forces driving the eugenics mania in Western nations, as an amateur marine biologist, he knew about racialist social Darwinism and was likely to have heard about the Japanese literature on eugenics. In any case, after World War I, the American upper and middle classes, like many of their English counterparts, succumbed, herd-like, to the absurd notion to the belief that racially inferior groups were adulterating their respective white gene pools. One solution was to exclude them; the other was to forcibly sterilize them against their will, on a mass scale.¹³

Many Japanese people were naturally deeply offended at being considered racially, biologically inferior. Some even felt that the proponents of anti-Japanese immigration had declared war on Japan. The problem was that not only did Japan lack the power to do anything about it, its own national ideology was fixated on the purity of bloodlines and on the felt need of many educated Japanese to improve the physical and mental capacity of the Japanese people.¹⁴ Thus Western eugenics concepts, public health measures, and colonialism were considered parts of the modernization process and adopted together.¹⁵ Concurrently, the early and mid-1930s witnessed not only Tokyo’s formal withdrawal from the League of Nations and preparations for war on the continent but also attempts by Japan’s elites to reconstruct the national identity.

One form taken by this national reconstruction qua mobilization was the campaign to clarify the national polity, which focused on the teaching of national and constitutional law. The campaign began in 1932 and heated up in 1935, when army leaders joined the united front of right wing demagogues focusing on the idea that the emperor had the right to rule the state directly as an absolute monarch. The upshot was to destroy completely the previous organ theory of the state—a relatively progressive constitutional interpretation crafted around the time of Meiji’s death by law professor Minobe Tatsukichi. Its aim was to guarantee the legitimacy of political party cabinets and keep the military within its proper sphere. Meanwhile, Japanese propagandists repeatedly asserted a right to safeguard Asia from the West. They glorified hierarchy by stressing that each nation sought its proper place with Japan—the Yamato race—on top, and that Manchuria/Manchukuo served as the antiracist model of a society in which different races could live together in harmony.¹⁶ But no propaganda could disguise the brutal reality of Japanese imperialism.

In December 1941, four years after Tokyo’s policies of regime-change and the installation of puppet governments in China had weakened Chiang’s forces but failed to produce victory, Hirohito extended the deadlocked, though still undeclared, China War. He sanctioned the attack on the Pearl Harbor naval base in the American colony of Hawaii and was deeply involved in the planning of this attack, which inflicted an unprecedented defeat on the U.S. Navy. The Navy had viewed Imperial Japan as a menace from the time it gained recognition as a Great Power, but, hobbled by their racism, senior American navy and army officers were psychologically unprepared for Japan’s military successes. Conversely, Japan’s own view of itself as a racially superior people shaped its wartime foreign policy and contributed eventually to the war crimes perpetrated by its armed forces.¹⁷

Hirohito was extremely well briefed on the Asia-Pacific war and actively participated in its execution whenever he chose to do so. He restrained the influence of his military leaders and made it impossible for them ever to exercise complete dominance over the political process or the conduct of the war.¹⁸ The military leaders, Hirohito, and the Court Group all contributed to Japan’s defeat.

Most Americans still accept the surprise dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki as the decisive cause of Japan’s surrender. They also incorrectly regard these acts as militarily necessary. Tsuyoshi Hasegawa’s Racing the Enemy: Stalin, Truman, and the Surrender of Japan (2005) argues that Soviet entry into the war against Japan was ultimately more decisive.¹⁹ Hasegawa documents the lies, evasions, and Machiavellianism of American and Soviet war leaders who were racing to end the war. He adds further to our understanding by showing that at Potsdam, Stalin expected to be asked to sign the ultimatum that called on Japan to accept the terms of unconditional surrender of its armed forces, and he knew it would serve as a declaration of war against Japan. In Hasegawa’s words, Given that Japan was pinning its last hopes on Moscow’s mediation, the Soviets’ joining the ultimatum would shock Japan into surrender.²⁰ But President Harry S. Truman had the atomic bomb in hand and was absolutely determined to use it both to check the Soviet advance against Japan and avenge Pearl Harbor. He carefully avoided inviting Stalin to sign.

So with Truman in a hurry, inclined to vengeance and bigotry—and anxious to send a message not only to Japan’s leaders but even more to the Soviet Union—it is difficult to say which of the two shocks brought about Japan’s unconditional surrender. Was it the atomic bombs dropped deliberately on civilian targets within undefended cities? Was it Soviet entrance into the war? Or was it both? Neither event exonerates Hirohito from contributing to the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. When a senior statesman, Prince Konoe Fumimaro, pleaded with him on February 14, 1945, to surrender immediately because defeat was inevitable, Hirohito firmly brushed him off, reportedly saying, If we hold out long enough in this war, we may be able to win, but what worries me is whether the nation will be able to endure it until then.²¹ Hirohito alone had the unique constitutional power to proclaim orders to bring the war to an end. Yet, until late July, when U.S. air had left few Japanese cities to be destroyed with bombs and incendiaries, he remained wedded to the die-hard militarists who wanted to continue the war.²² Thereafter, carefully constructed myths, the destruction of documents, and MacArthur’s protection of Hirohito served to obscure his true part in the war.

Following Japan’s unconditional surrender, all the good that came with the restoration of peace was attributed to Hirohito, and, assisted by the Occupation authorities’ imposition of strict censorship to prevent the clarification of his role during the war. General Douglas MacArthur relied on the emperor to legitimate extensive occupation reforms and further his own political ambitions. Hirohito needed MacArthur at his back, because at home and abroad there were calls for abolition of the monarchy and for his own abdication. Furthermore, he was extremely cognizant of the possibility that he could be indicted at the International Military Tribunal held in Tokyo. For these reasons the two opportunists cooperated with and protected one another. But as the Occupation unfolded, their interests diverged and for Hirohito a new problem arose.

The national Constitution was drafted under MacArthur’s supervision, with strong input from progressive Japanese lawyers and debate by the final imperial parliament. Once it went into effect on May 3, 1947, Hirohito was stripped of power, diminished in authority, and constitutionally redefined as a symbol. Obviously wounded by his new status, the postwar symbol emperor thereafter could only intervene in political affairs secretly, which he did in violation of the letter and spirit of the national Constitution.

However, Hirohito and MacArthur did sometimes find themselves united. When Hirohito conveyed his offer to MacArthur’s GHQ to allow U.S. military bases on the Okinawa islands or Ryukyu Archipelago for twenty-five to fifty or more years, it was an expression not only of his own strategic judgment but the consensus of Japanese conservative politicians, the U.S. State Department, and the newly established Joint Chiefs of Staff. They all agreed on the need to sacrifice the Okinawans in order to buttress American domination of the Pacific.²³ It was the old guard of Japanese conservative politicians, not just Hirohito, who are responsible for this legacy of subordination to U.S military interests. To this day, Japanese citizens living in Okinawa prefecture continue to suffer from the operations of unwanted U.S. military facilities and from the crimes and injustices perpetrated by U.S. military personnel. Today service members number 25,843, or about the same number, 26,282, who were there in 2003. Their unwanted presence is felt everywhere.

Biographies exist of course to be revised. So, when mine first appeared in the summer of 2000, I knew it could never be the final word on its subject. Since then, new materials have emerged that allowed me to get a better picture of Japan’s complex process of surrender and, more broadly, a clearer picture of the nature of the postwar Japan-U.S. relationship. I believe the history of Japan’s experience in the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries can furnish perspective for understanding our own present condition of incessant, endless, out of control militarism and wars that keep on adding to America’s shame. In that sense it has unique importance.

In this seventy-first year since the end of World War II, the government of hawkish Prime Minister Abe Shinzo continues to prioritize his own vision of the future while neglecting the moral lessons of the past. In July 2014, the cabinet violated the Constitution by misinterpreting its deeply important Article 9. This fundamental principle of Japanese diplomacy was written to reflect the most important lesson from World War II. Article 9 stipulates, The Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes. To accomplish this aim, land, sea, and air forces . . . will never be maintained and the right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized. Up to now Article 9 has been the true symbol of Japan, supported out of keen awareness of the country’s modern war experience. It inspires effort and commitment in citizens who believe that pacifism constitutes a support for democracy and a great advance for humankind.²⁴ No wonder many Japanese remain to this day hostile to militarism.

But the new, vaguely worded reinterpretation of Article 9 could someday be used to authorize unnecessary wars of choice, just as the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) has been used repeatedly in lieu of a declaration of war, whenever presidents, on their own authority, in violation of the Constitution, commit the country to wage wars of choice and justify them as being fought for self-defense or some other usually specious reason. In 2015, Japan’s neoliberals illegally rammed through the Diet new security laws that make it legal to support American global military operations. American Japan experts participating as advisers on the U.S. National Security Council and in various Washington think tanks applauded this move. We can only speculate as to where Abe’s slow, step by step, construction of a Japanese national security state will lead.

Ironically, it is the Imperial Household Agency that has been instrumental in unearthing more truth behind Japan’s involvement in World War II. In September 2014, it announced the release of Hirohito’s official biography, Showa tenno jitsuroku, to the general public.²⁵ Subsequent publication of the Jitsuroku in eighteen volumes arranged in chronological order has made available enormous amounts of material on the emperor. Historians concerned with clarifying Japan’s decision-making process for war and peace are finding it helpful, for it tells them exactly whom the emperor met, and when, where, and how often he met them. It also introduces new facts about the number of Imperial Headquarters meetings in the emperor’s presence. Contemporary readers can now assess the sources used in critical academic histories of Hirohito’s reign. But precisely because it is official history about his role during the war years, this text does not tell us everything we need to know.²⁶

Drawing on the Jitsuroku’s huge trove of more than three thousand documents and diaries, historian Toyoshita Narahiko authored Showa tenno no sengo Nihon: ‘kenpo, AMPO taisei’ ni itaru michi (2015), a study focused on the postwar symbol emperor.²⁷ Historians have disagreed about the importance of Hirohito’s role in the various postwar crises that he confronted. Toyoshita maintains that Hirohito was a realist in that he eventually saw he had no choice but to collaborate with the Americans. True enough. But it’s important to note that realism and truthfulness differ. Hirohito was indeed a realist of sorts, though he was not by any means a person dedicated to truth telling. Still, few would disagree with Toyoshita’s claim that when it came to protecting the monarchy from the threat of Communism, Hirohito never hesitated about having a foreign army serve as his protector. Of particular interest in Toyoshita’s account is Hirohito’s role in the making of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty.²⁸ Many Japanese view this treaty as the most controversial legacy bequeathed to them by Japan’s conservative party leaders.

The sixteen-year interval between the publication of my book and today is an arbitrary span of time within which (a) the United States initiated a new cycle of aggressive wars, i.e. wars fought not in self-defense but in blatant violation of international criminal law and UN Charter Art. 2(4), which enjoins member states from threatening or using military force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state; (b) China rose up as the world’s second largest economy; and (c) Japanese public debate on its lost war was rekindled.

That the world was on the verge of a new, extended period of American criminal aggression, bombing, and brutal occupation of Muslim lands was unclear to me in 2000. It became clear a year later on September 11, 2001, after Osama bin Laden’s fanatic jihadists suddenly launched murderous suicide attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. These terrorist actions were their payback counterattack for much earlier U.S. military interventions. President George H. W. Bush, for example, waged war against Iraq (1990–91) for its invasion of neighboring Kuwait. He sent thousands of U.S. troops into Saudi Arabia ostensibly to defend the kingdom from possible Iraqi attack, and for many years kept them there. Soon after the elder Bush launched his one-sided air war against Iraq and called on friendly governments to stop importing oil from Iraq and sanction it economically, LDP Prime Minister Kaifu Toshiki complied and provided substantial funding for the war because of Japan’s need for oil. A few years later LDP Prime Minister Koizumi Junichiro gave Baghdad loans in another aid-for-oil deal and, also at U.S. request, dispatched a small number of Ground Self Defense Forces on a two-year deployment to Iraq. Under U.S. pressure Japan was injecting itself into Middle East conflicts, thereby undermining its peace Constitution.

The first, short and destructive Iraq War led on to decades of U.S.-UK terror bombing that devastated Iraq civilian society. The second Iraq War, which began in 2003, never really ended. After years of democratic protests against the illegal U.S. occupation, the Iraqi people forced the U.S. to sign a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) that specified the withdrawal of the bulk of U.S. combat troops and civilian contractors by December 2011—subsequently pushed forward by the U.S. until December 2012. But Obama still kept reinserting small numbers of troops there to fight the insurgency and prop up Iraq’s government; and Japan continued to give Baghdad assistance loans in return for oil.

In 2000, China’s spectacular economic rise, based on its huge, underutilized population and formidable manufacturing capacity, began to shake the world. It’s not because China is a single-party state, increasingly hostile to democracy, and lacking freedom of thought that Japan added a military component to its foreign policy. Nor is it because China, like many other developing and rich nations alike, is contemptuous of the rule of law ideal.²⁹ Rather, Japan responds because as China’s economic power grows it gains the economic means and the military capability to protect its vital commercial trade.³⁰ By controlling sea-lanes rather than territory, China competes with Japan, the U.S., and Europe to secure resources in all the world’s continents. At the same time, fully aware of the superior U.S. and Japanese naval forces arrayed against it, China expand[s] westward with extensive investments and careful moves toward integration with Central Asian states that are willing to cooperate with it. In Noam Chomsky’s words, China is constructing a modernized version of the old silk roads, with the intent not only of integrating the region under Chinese influence, but also of reaching Europe and the Middle Eastern oil-producing regions.³¹

Japan and the U.S. perceive as a threat the Chinese quest for control of sea lanes and have allied to prevent China from upsetting the current international order that allows the US. to have land bases for its fleets plus floating military platforms (i.e., nuclear-powered aircraft carriers) and vast spheres of interest in Pacific seas while denying the same right to China. China’s reclaiming of lost territory and building of airstrips and port facilities for berthing large ships in the Spratly Archipelago and Paracel Islands of the South China Sea provoked the Pentagon to repeatedly warn China to exercise restraint in pursuing its claims to sovereign control over disputed shoals, rocks, and artificial islands. For the past three years, the United States and Japan have also been striving to check China’s geopolitical power by backing the rival maritime claims of Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Malaysia. All of them have their own domestic political reasons for participating in the strategic encirclement and containment of China.

When the U.S. tries to keep China from altering the status quo in areas of the high seas far beyond its coast, China’s rulers are reminded of the day when the U.S. invaded the Pacific Ocean, turned it into a virtual American lake, and no nation could dare do anything about the implicit assertion of an American right of conquest. So they are apt to reframe the problem, focusing on Washington’s actions and its double standards, when in fact both sides unashamedly and openly pursue imperialist objectives. Beijing’s leaders reason that America has no right to continue to act as if it is the neutral arbitrator of Asian-Pacific affairs, for the right Americans arrogate is simply that of the stronger. Does not China have a prerogative to decide what counts as its vital strategic interests in the South China Sea and to protect them? In Washington, policy-makers see themselves as the guardians of the maritime order that the U.S. constructed, unilaterally, to its own advantage, for the entire Asia-Pacific region. Unwilling to accept China’s construction of artificial islands in the Spratly Archipelago to bolster its claim to most of the South China Sea, they challenged Beijing by sending warships to cruise nearby the Chinese-built islands and flying B-52 strategic bombers near them.³² Then they rationalized these actions by claiming to be impartial defenders of the rules that they laid down unilaterally at the end of World War II. In effect, the United States is telling China that it will react strongly to any state that challenges its so-called right to enforce maritime law. China responds by deploying anti-aircraft missile launchers not on one of the Spratly Islands but on an island in the disputed Paracel chain that for the past forty-two years it controlled and had defense facilities on.³³ Domestic politics on both sides make this situation doubly dangerous.

However, the degree to which the U.S., Japan, and China engage in bilateral, mutually supportive trade greatly complicates their quarrels.³⁴ Japanese and American policy-makers remain fearful of independent China, even though its growth has slowed and its economy is repositioning away from excessive reliance on both exports and inefficient state-owned deemed to be industries. On the other hand, both Japan and America desire a financially stable China so that they can eventually share in its future economic growth and long-term development. The giant U.S. and Japanese carmakers, for example, depend on China for the manufacture of important automotive parts and accessories.³⁵ Japanese automakers continue to register rising sales in China; Japan continues to benefit from soaring Chinese tourism; and business people in both Japan and the U.S. hope China will serve as a market for the investment of their surplus capital.³⁶ In a time of global recession they would like to stimulate their own economic growth by bringing in Chinese foreign direct investments and deepening commercial ties.³⁷

What America’s conflicted relationship with China really expresses is the tension between corporate and military management of national affairs. More concretely, it may be read as an expression of this country’s two main interests: big business and government. Wall Street, representing the interests of the richest capitalists, is a semi-independent epicenter of power. The capitalists of Wall Street, their money managers, and lobbyists lean in one direction. Leaning in a similar direction are the U.S. Treasury Department, the Federal Reserve Bank—a misnamed private corporation owned by profit making commercial banks—and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), a U.S.-dominated creditors’ cartel which, on behalf of Wall Street and international banking centers in other affluent countries, preys on the financial systems of weaker states.³⁸

On the issue of imposing new sanctions on Russia there is a divergence of views between capitalist and military elites, even though their worlds are fused.³⁹ The heads of the scandal-ridden CIA and the Pentagon’s different branches incline in a direction opposite to Wall Street. They tend to subordinate markets and diplomatic considerations to their own priorities. This means that they mainly serve their own parochial group interests but have far fewer qualms about confronting and encircling China with military bases or about defining Russia, the traditional enemy, as an existential threat and also encircling it with both nearby and far-flung bases.⁴⁰ With presidential concurrence, senior military officials can also use their own slush funds for Overseas Contingency Operations against potential enemies around the world.⁴¹ The problem of the Pentagon brass is to justify enormous, socially irresponsible military budgets—$600 billion in public budgets and $10 billion in secret budgets—that harm the American people and bring about a distortion of priorities in the rest of the world.⁴²

No less efficacious for the Pentagon is the president’s hyping of the nuclear threat from isolated North Korea. The nuclear policy of dictator Kim Jong-un is a defensive reaction to Washington’s long-standing policy of regime change. Obama’s strategy is one of increased economic punishments combined with a refusal to even consider a second, diplomatic track. China and Russia support negotiations to replace the current armistice on the peninsula with a peace treaty. And China is determined to prevent the Kim regime from collapsing into chaos. Thus, on the Korean peninsula, as in Central Asia, the U.S. superpower’s options are limited.

Meanwhile, Japan follows the U.S. interventionist course. Its relationship with China, however, does not generate the same degree of domestic conflict as China does in the United States. Japan’s armament manufacturers are few in number. Being latecomers to the arms export game they are not always successful in securing large foreign military contracts, as the Australian government’s award of a 50 billion dollar contract to a French company to build a fleet of nuclear powered submarines attests.⁴³ Above all, Japan’s merchants of death have a limited ability to exploit crisis situations for their own advantage because they must contend with Article 9 and its continued hold on the consciousness of the Japanese people.

In recent years, the Abe Cabinet hardened its stance toward China after Beijing declared, in November 2013, an Air Defense Identification Zone over the uninhabited, disputed Senkaku (Diaoyu) islets and surrounding waters of the East China Sea. These rocks, administered by Japan, are located about 200 nautical miles east of the Chinese mainland and about the same distance southwest of Okinawa, the largest of the Ryukyu Islands. Okinawa was once a tributary to China before its king became a vassal to the lord of the feudal domain of Satsuma in southern Kyushu. In 1879 the Japanese government abolished the Ryukyu Kingdom and established Okinawa Prefecture.

In the more distant South China Sea, maritime territorial conflicts also have increased. Beijing is intent on pushing ahead with land reclamation to expand outposts in the South China Sea, where its main rivals are the United States and Japan. Tokyo has indicated its determination to protect not only its strategic interests in the Senkaku rocks and their surrounding waters but also its desire to develop military ties to nations seeking to check China’s projection of power in reefs and rock formations in the South China Sea.

We come to the third issue, the growing role that unresolved issues from Japan’s wartime past still play in the country’s politics. There are political players who seek to recover historical memory, just as there are those who pervert it to suit their needs. In December 2000, the Women’s International War-Crimes Tribunal met in Tokyo to consider the Imperial Japanese Army’s sexual violence against women and girls. The tribunal’s goals were to render justice to the comfort women of Asian and Pacific nations, and to demand accountability from the Japanese government. Seven years later, historical awareness of the comfort women issue had deepened and spread to the United States, where, in July 2007, the House of Representatives voted on a resolution calling on the Government of Japan to accept historical responsibility for the sexual slavery practiced by the Imperial Armed Forces during their occupation of Asia, the Pacific Islands, and beyond.⁴⁴ The hypocrisy of the U.S. government in condemning Japan on an issue of historical responsibility was glaring, but more significant is that Japan’s internal conflicts over its past had spread far and wide. The memory of women and young girls sold into sexual slavery and victimized by armed forces is no longer suppressed, and in many countries outside Japan the campaign to honor them has elicited wide support. This issue may eventually be defused now that Japan and South Korea, under intense U.S. pressure, finally reached a compromise.⁴⁵

Historical memory of the war takes many forms, and the process of recovering it seems to be ignited by unexpected events. As I’ve mentioned, the reinterpretation of Article 9 signals a commitment by Japan’s ruling elites to right-wing historical revisionism and an inclination to return to militarism, though this time with civilian politicians in full control and the Self Defense Forces (SDF) assisting the U.S. military. Despite every regressive turn in conservative politics, an overwhelming majority supported the peace Constitution, believing that it kept Japan from being easily induced into supporting America’s wars and becoming a national security state.⁴⁶ Article 9 also gave Japan international influence as the only power in the world to formally embrace pacifist principles.

It would be a mistake to think Japan’s turn to right-wing historical revisionism occurred suddenly. In fact, it was part of the effort to legitimate neoliberal structural reforms. In April 2001, for example, the popular LDP leader and Prime Minister Koizumi Junichiro was elevated to prime minister, ending a decade of political instability in the camp of the conservatives. With the help of minor parties, Koizumi pursued the privatization of the postal service and of four leading universities. Early in his term he made the first of many visits, extending over six years, to Yasukuni Shrine, which had once channeled religious energy into war and where the spirits of Japan’s war dead, including war criminals, are enshrined. Koizumi’s very public initial pilgrimage incited angry statements of protest from the governments of China and Korea. Although his visits drew much media attention, they soon proved to be merely a sideshow.

More important were the neoliberal privatization policies, and especially the military preparedness measures, which Koizumi and the LDP leaders wanted. These policies signified an increased degree of Japanese moral complicity in America’s wars and nation-destroying interventions. After the criminal atrocities of 9/11, President George W. Bush became the perpetrator of crimes against peace, a concept already implicit in Kellogg-Briand and later explicitly defined in the legal guidelines for determining what constitutes a war crime based on the Nuremberg principles.⁴⁷ Bush’s wars and occupations, together with his sanctioning of torture in the name of fighting terrorists spread death and destruction throughout large parts of the Arab world. Ignoring these facts, Koizumi pledged Japan’s support for Bush and his policies, though he carefully avoided meaningful military intervention in the disastrous wars that Bush initiated. It seems Koizumi regarded his Constitution’s pacifist principles as a mere inconvenience that he could work around. Three days before stepping down from office in September 2006, when his term was up, Koizumi authorized new Guidelines, drafted in Washington, for Japan-U.S. defense strategy to counter threats from China and North Korea. And with that, two changes occurred: the shift already under way in Japan’s place in the modern world accelerated and the gap widened between the conservative politicians’ conception of the state and the view held by the great majority of the Japanese.

Koizumi’s successor, Abe Shinzo, the current prime minister, is the product of decades of U.S. pressure on Japan to revise its constitution. He was appointed a special adviser to the parliamentary league of the far-right-wing Nippon Kaigi (Japan Conference), formed in1997, to which Koizumi was also affiliated. In accordance with this organization’s embrace of nationalism and of revisionist history, Nippon Kaigi rejects official admissions of war guilt and seeks a national referendum on constitutional revision. Abe’s ideas were similar to Nippon Kaigi’s. When he took office in 2006, he enjoyed strong support from Nippon Kaigi and from a diverse group of businessmen, as well as the Shinto Politics League, which advocates a return to pre-1945 State Shinto. Xenophobic citizens living in large cities also lent him support. During his one-year in power, Abe continued the LDP’s pursuit of neoliberal economic policies of market deregulation and privatization of public services. He made promises but left office having failed to realize his dream of preparing Japan to someday become a proactive military power.⁴⁸

But, in September 2012, in the midst of the Japanese people’s attempt to recover from nuclear disaster and reconstruct the northeast coast, the Diet selected Abe for a second time. He promised economic reforms that would end decades of sluggish growth. The LDP has stuck with him despite his ebbing popularity: Abe’s policies include prioritization of the nuclear industry, which has alienated voters suffering from the effects of the March 2011 earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear reactor meltdowns at the Tokyo Electric Power Company’s (TEPCO’s) Fukushima plant. Five years after this disaster the reactors continue to spread radioactive water into the environment and the Pacific. TEPCO’s deliberate deceit of the public on the extent of the damage is well known. Public demonstrations and lawsuits filed against Abe’s government to prevent the restarting of idle nuclear facilities continue.

Another act of bad judgement from a democratic viewpoint was Abe’s endorsement of the secretive U.S.-proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), touted by Obama. This astonishingly rapacious, antidemocratic plan to forcibly open the economies of twelve Asia-Pacific nations with the U.S. Congress and press shut out. TPP is a twenty-first century example of American ruling elites forcing onto other nations their vision of the world’s future. The future they portend would sacrifice ordinary people to the interests of the biggest American and Japanese corporations. For the governments of Asian-Pacific nations that join it, the TPP may appear to open new roads to wealth. For the majority of their citizens it is likely to result in lower wages, increased unemployment, and eroded labor and environmental standards. Devised in accordance with neoliberal ideology, the intellectual property rights features of the agreement extend copyright and patent protections, thereby rais[ing] the price of the protected items in the same way that tariffs on imports raise prices. These features also defend the creation in law of artificial monopolies in the production and retail of life saving drugs. Public health systems in member states are sure to be adversely affected. Moreover, the TPP’s alleged benefits may harm not only Japanese and American workers but workers and farmers in all member nations. Since most trade barriers have already been lifted, it is questionable whether the TPP will significantly boost trade.⁴⁹ What it will do is build new patterns of exploitation and guarantee enormous advantages to large corporations and disadvantages to small and medium-size ones. There is even a stick of dynamite tucked into the TPP, in the form of Investor-State Tribunals, which can spring into action and override domestic courts when ever companies and private investors challenge sovereign government decisions to protect public health and the environment.⁵⁰ Other TTP language could deny workers [in the tech industry] the ability to change jobs.⁵¹

Critics of American foreign policy are also sensitive to the TPP as a geopolitical organization that intentionally excludes China and is key to Obama’s Asia policy. To a far-right revisionist like Abe, the point of militarization is to be a good ally of U.S. imperialism and a more effective supporter of the globalized world economic order. It means removing constitutional restrictions on the use of force, and it implies a willingness to reshape Japanese political development to suit the corporatist priorities of the Pentagon and the U.S. government. In Abe’s view the restoration of Japan’s health requires militarization, constitutional revision and intensified nationalism. This has led to attempts to whitewash imperial Japan’s harsh colonial past.

Worried about the rise of China and wanting to spur growth and gain the support of strategic allies in Southeast Asia and in India, the Abe cabinet lifted the ban on military exports and pushed through new security laws that now allow Japan to join in America’s wars. In 2015 it approved another small rise in Japan’s defense budget of $42 billion (in U.S. dollars).⁵² This figure is a mere 7 percent of the U.S. (grossly under-) estimated budget of $601 billion, the largest in the world. If spending on nuclear weapons were included, the figure would be even higher. A question that needs to be asked, though, concerns Japanese spending on defense: Will it wasting taxpayer money that is needed to meet the more pressing needs of the Japanese people?

When Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev finally ended (1989–91) the cold war, Japan’s political and business classes missed an opportunity to begin realigning their relationship with the U.S. But rather than encouraging public debate on Japan’s modern history and foreign policy, they bound themselves tighter than ever before to the United States. The more rational course would have been to conduct a policy that widened the strategic framework in which Japan operates. An omnidirectional policy would have served the Japanese Public Good while taking account of the inherent impermanence of America’s Asian empire, based on overwhelming military and financial power. This power was already being negated in thought when the Cold War ended. Over the next two decades, as people had their eyes opened to American behavior in the world it would be increasingly challenged empirically. Whenever opportunities arose Japan’s leaders should have strengthened cooperation and upgraded diplomatic ties with resource rich, nuclear-armed China and Russia. But maybe it was unrealistic to expect policy makers, ruling a nation as demographically weak as Japan and so long habituated to taking orders from Washington, to break out of their satellite orbit and publicly resist American pressure. Why rock the boat and jeopardize a friendly relationship when paying for protection is cheaper?

The conflicts in present-day Asia have many separate causes that bear on the continuing role U.S. military forces play in shaping and misshaping postwar Asian affairs. Some conflicts arise from disagreements over territorial and maritime boundaries. Others stem from the Kurile Islands (Northern territories) issue with Russia, a problem left unresolved from World War II; the more recent Russian Federation’s illegal annexation of the Crimean Peninsula, which violated international law, even though President Vladimir Putin justified it as peaceful; and the U.S. policy of keeping Korea divided, refusing to end the state of war on the peninsula keeping Korea divided, and consistently threatening the repressive, isolated dictatorship in Pyongyang. In recent decades the only governments in Seoul that the United States has supported were those that took a hard line toward the North. Historically, only South Korea governments that took a hard line toward the North earned strong U.S. support.

Abe’s focus on national security, his reliance on cabinet resolutions to bypass the Diet, and his emphasis on rearmament alarms Japanese citizens of all ages. Lawyers and many university-based academics also actively participate in the struggle against LDP policies. Mothers with children and refugees forced to move from their homes because of the possibility of harmful radiation, distrust the government, and some of them even speak-out publicly against LDP policies. Anti-nuclear activists continue their work of enlightening the public as to the twin dangers of nuclear weapons and radioactive waste produced by nuclear reactors.

The backlash against Abe’s policies has also led to the creation of the Students Emergency Action for Liberal Democracy (SEALDs). This youth group rejects mainstream politics and left-wing radicalism have been effective in organizing demonstrations to oppose constitutional revision and collective self-defense, which they correctly see as the LDP’s attempt to legitimize the use of force. SEALDs activists have also opposed Abe’s efforts to crush the democracy movement in Okinawa.⁵³ Their demonstrations call attention, as well, to the Abe government’s reorganization of the entire welfare and educational systems. But, at this moment, whether SEALDs or any other youth group has really raised peace consciousness to a higher level seems doubtful. The youth protests are a reaction against the Abe cabinet’s partial reorganization of most of the national universities, reforms that I noted briefly above. In sum, grassroots opposition to creeping militarization and the threat it poses to freedom of thought persists, as does student campaigning for social and political change especially in the private universities. But this activism cannot be likened to the radical student activism that in 1960 helped to topple Abe’s grandfather and role model, former Prime Minister Kishi Nobusuke.

Today, Abe faces a political challenge from the genuinely democratic, grassroots movement to stop new base construction in Okinawa prefecture. Residents are forced to bear a hugely disproportionate burden of U.S. air bases and military personnel in Japan, amounting to 74 percent. Abe is determined to crush their resistance to building the new U.S. Marine base at Henoko Bay on the northern coast of Okinawa Island.⁵⁴ According to a telephone poll of Okinawa residents in late 2015, nearly 80 percent of Okinawans support prefectural governor Onaga Takeshi’s efforts to cancel the Henoko project.⁵⁵ Many mainland Japanese, accustomed to treating Okinawans prejudicially on the basis of cultural and historical differences, abet the Abe government’s mistreatment of them. How long Abe will go on investing resources to defeat this movement of peaceful civil disobedience, how many lies he will tell in the process, and what the financial and human costs will be, we cannot foresee. What is clear is Abe’s decision to emphasize the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty and the recently revised, American-drafted guidelines. Abe’s rigid adherence to the guidelines, the Security Treaty, and the colonial-like Status of Forces Agreement tends to pull Japan backward toward another era of face-offs between nuclear powers. His protector, President Barack Obama, is intent on maintaining U.S. global hegemony and policing much of the world from U.S. overseas bases. While Abe wrestles with his problems, Obama moves ahead with his Asian pivot, part of which entails binding the TPP nations closer to the United States in order to contain China in every possible way.⁵⁶ It has been widely reported that when the pivot is completed, some 60 percent of U.S. naval resources could be based in the Asia-Pacific region.

Japan’s postwar history needs to be understood in connection with the larger role in foreign affairs that America’s expansionist-minded policy-makers have assigned our all-volunteer, congressionally unaccountable military. Past American policies led to presidential wars and interventions in Korea and Indochina, and to coups in the Caribbean, Latin America, and the Greater Middle East.

Clearly, America’s wars, coups, and incessant meddling in the international affairs of other nations stimulated the growth of the U.S. military-industrial-congressional complex that had arisen during World War II. The direct economic beneficiaries of this network of interests turned out to be not only large, profiteering corporations: for example, Northrup Grumman, Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, Raytheon Company, and Boeing, but also private companies in Silicon Valley. Today, the advantages derived from our military-industrial-congressional-surveillance complex have spread widely. The Complex has come to serve the needs of ruling elites in foreign nations like Japan, which for over half a century profited from America’s wars and, in the process, learned quite well how to cultivate the use of U.S. armed force.

There was a time when the dynamics of militarism and imperialism, as well as constantly recurring myths of national uniqueness and divine emperorship, played important roles in luring the Japanese people into war. When thinking about the temporal disconnect between Japan then and the United States now, we need to be clear about the many stark differences, but we also cannot discount the sobering parallels. After all, the counterpart to the myth of the unique Yamato race is American moral exceptionalism. But how did Japan’s Self-Defense Forces come to be trained to fight in tactical support of American policies that undermine democratic movements and spread terrorism throughout the world?

If we wish to comprehend the relationship between Japan and the United States, it makes sense to fix its origin in the occupation era, when Japan became a U.S. client state, and then jump forward in time to the post–cold war 1990s. By then the bilateral relationship had evolved and become too economically complex to be described as simple vassalage. Over the course of this first post-Cold War decade President Bill Clinton, his policy-makers, and some senior generals and admirals came to believe they had could apply force unilaterally, at their pleasure, in violation of the federal Constitution’s strict limits on the president’s war-making power. By 1999, when the Clinton administration got around to bombing Kosovo and Serbia, their disregard of international humanitarian law and the UN Charter was on full display. So too was Clinton’s dishonesty in invoking humanitarian concern (R2P) to justify his military actions. American foreign policy in the Balkans, especially Clinton’s Kosovo precedent, presaged the Bush-Obama military campaigns of the twenty-first century as well as the August 2008 Russo-Georgian War in the Caucasus region.

Turning Abe and the LDP, they continue to prepare the groundwork in law and educational policy for entangling Japan in the rising tide of local, secret, unpopular wars that the U.S. government has been fighting unsuccessfully for so long. Being on the side of the United States should not mean following Washington’s pro-war foreign policies. Nor should it mean planting military garrisons abroad, claiming that they protect Japan or further humanitarian aims. Yet Japan now has an SDF base in tiny Djibouti, in the Horn of Africa, and has stationed an SDF brigade in war-torn, oil-rich South Sudan. In the Middle East Abe hopes to negotiate with his coalition partner Komeito the legal details for permitting Japanese minesweepers to operate proactively in the narrow, strategically important Strait of Hormuz. In East Asia too, Abe is invoking the rhetoric of collective defense to justify support for repressive regimes that stand in opposition to China. At the request of Obama, made in the context of his policy of encircling China, Philippines President Aquino III signed an agreement that brought U.S. troops back into his country. Aquino seeks a similar arrangement that will also allow Japan, another former colonizer, to preposition military equipment and personnel in the Philippines.⁵⁸

Why has the Japanese public or civil society been unable to make the nation’s leaders alter course? Japan’s economic weakness relative to the U.S. is a factor. The Abe government’s effort to foster egoistic nationalism is another. The centuries-old tendency of people to forget the past and to venerate the most militarily and economically powerful state cannot be overlooked. The slow roll back of democratic reforms, and the erosion of academic and press freedom that Abe and the LDP have been enacting should also be noted. Perhaps the