Thursday, May 3, 2012

Gavan McCormack: "The Okinawan Alternative to Japan’s Dependent Militarism"

Hundreds of thousands of people are still homeless in Tohoku; unemployment, hunger and poverty are on the rise in Japan, especially among elders (40 percent live on incomes of less than $1,000/month); 28 percent of Japanese in their twenties consider suicide; Unit 4 of the Fukushima Nuclear Plant is not just a domestic, but also a global nuclear hazard.

Yet, to the detriment of attending to these urgent issues, Tokyo is focusing on and spending billions of dollars in Japanese taxpayer money to support US military build-up in Africa (building Japan's first military base since the Pacific War in Djibouti) and the Asia-Pacific (building a joint US-Japan training facility on Tinian, the Pacific atoll that was the launching point of the nuclear bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and before that, a site for a Japanese Pacific War base. "Most Japanese will think of this as a new base, so there is some irony in that, in fact, we would be going back to one of our old bases,” said Takashi Kawakami, a Takushoku University military affairs professor.

Given this preoccupation with military spending and build-up at a time of multiple domestic crises in Japan, Gavan McCormack's "The Okinawan Alternative to Japan’s Dependent Militarism" published at The Asia-Pacific Journal in 2008, is more relevant than ever:
In the post-Cold War world, the US has called for Japan to play a greatly stepped up military role (from the 1996 “Guidelines” to the 2005-6 “Beigun Saihen” or US military realignment), and governments in Tokyo have done their best to comply. My understanding of this is that these measures deepen and reinforce Japan’s dependence and therefore its irresponsibility, transforming the long-term dependent and semi-sovereign Japanese state of the Cold War into a full “Client State.” Far from pursuing its own “values, traditions, and practices,” (as other scholars have argued) 21st century Japan scraps them in order to follow American prescriptions, and the present political confusion stems at root from this identity crisis.

US Officials...offer Japan a steady stream of advice – pushing, pulling, and manipulating it in the desired direction, to “show the flag” and “put boots on the ground” in Iraq, to send the MSDF to the Indian Ocean (and keep it there), to revise Ampo de facto and the Constitution explicitly. Yet few ordinary Japanese people share these priorities. It is as much these days as most can manage to cope with livelihood problems – pensions, welfare, and jobs - and so governments, torn between their desire to serve Washington and their need to seem to be serving their own people, always incline to attach priority to the former.

In the post Cold War decades, the contest in Japan between civil society and state power has nowhere been sharper than in Okinawa...

It is just 400 years since the Okinawan (Ryukyuan) king enunciated the principle of Nuchi du takara or non-resistance, in the face of the Satsuma samurai’s Sengun, initiating the process of forceful incorporation by Japan.

Sengun militarism has been the bane of Okinawa ever since - under Satsuma, the modern Japanese state, the US, and now the joint US-Japan regime. Article 9 was in 1946 a new and astounding reversal for mainland Japan, but for Okinawa it was a reversion to an ancient ideal, and to the centuries when the culture of these islands was a byword for sophistication, culture and peace...

"Only a recovery of Nuchi du takara values (and within them, presumably, a reassertion of cooperative, non-market, yuimaru values) can hope to save it. Plainly the Yambaru can be either militarized or protected, can follow either “Sengun” or Nuchi du takara, not both."

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