Thursday, April 9, 2009

Minding the Control

Next week, Shinzo Abe will be in Washington. He will not be alone. Several of his former advisers will be with him, such as Shotaro Yachi and Masahiro Agawa.

They are being hosted by two of the Sasakawa family foundations, the Ocean Policy Research Institute and the Sasakawa Peace Foundation. He will speak at CSIS Pacific Forum conference on US-Japan Sea Power or as the Sasakawa folks call it An Alliance of Maritime Nations

Abe will also speak at Brookings. In his previous Washington presentations he has memorably justified his conservative views. Mr. Abe is not a fan of Japan’s constitution and uses his talks to highlight the document’s inadequacies and ways it might be circumvented. As he said in 2004, to the American Enterprise Institute (AEI):
Perhaps it was because of the trauma of defeat that postwar Japan looked upon its Constitution as an immutable code of laws. In this climate, the dominant sentiment was one that claimed that the Constitution should not be touched or changed in any way. In a sense, the whole nation was victim to a form of mind control. I believe that these tendencies must definitely be abolished.
His view of Japan’s constitution as a form of American “mind control” is common among his conservative nationalist allies. Fired Air Force General Toshio Tamogami and his supporters use that phrase often.

But what did the people who helped draft the Constitution think? The other day on a discussion group for scholars who study Japan’s relationship with the Islamic world, one of them reflected* on the legal antecedents they wrote.

Grant K. Goodman, a Professor Emeritus in History at University of Kansas and former translator for SCAP, wrote:
As a surviving member of SCAP who was present at the creation of the present Japanese Constitution, I have a slightly different take on the events in the Indian Ocean which seem to include a "stretching" of Article IX. To me, having lived as long as I have, I am still astonished and, indeed, overjoyed, that our handiwork of 1946 remains intact in 2009. Certainly in 1945-1946 we were dreamers who envisioned a Jeffersonian democracy springing up on Japanese soil, and our efforts both official and personal were directed to that end. However, I doubt that any of us had the temerity to imagine that nearly seven decades later the Japanese would still be operating under our Constitution. True, we made the amending process as difficult as possible. Nevertheless, once the Occupation ended and Japan was on its own from 1952, anything could have derailed the original document.

Thus to have the broadening interpretation of Article IX does not frighten me given the overall longevity of the Constitution and what I observe to be its almost incredible durability.

I wonder if Mr. Abe understands the aspiration for a Jeffersonian democracy.

*Professor Goodman's original comment was posted in the discussion following Shingetsu Newsletter No. 1338 (April 9, 2008). This is part of a free e-mail list, but it won't appear openly at the Shingetsu Institute webpage until about the end of June. If you are interested, there are two alternatives. First, you may join the Shingetsu Newsletter e-mailing list yourself and receive the messages directly, or else you can return to their webpage at any time after the end of June when the April Newsletters will be posted. See Website:


  1. Great piece! You don't have a citation for that quote from Goodman, do you?

    I find the Article 9 question extremely interesting. On the one hand you can attribute Japan's pacifism to simply being a democracy. Americans cringe at war casualties as well, but we don't attribute heiwashugi to our national character. Indeed, you can hardly attach heiwashugi to Abe's character as well.

    Yet, there is a difference between the average American and the average Japanese person because of the vastly different environment's we grew up in. Cultural identity is something scholars can't ignore, but I also think it's proper spot has not been found yet. Article 9 an its endurance is the epitomy of this question.

  2. I have tried to answer your question. Please look at the end of the post.
    Thank you!

  3. Abe is quite wrong. "Japan" did not look to its Constitution as an immutable set of laws. There has been an active movement since the 1950s to protect the Constitution to protect the principles enshrined in the Constitution.

    However, I would expect that Abe knows what he is wrong here, given that he bitched about this movement in his book. The same book in which he talked about the movie "million dollar baby" as an example of positive affirmation of identity that Japan should emulate.

    He is such a dick...


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