Wednesday, May 31, 2017
Abdication and Constitutional Confusion in Japan
This is, I think, why so much of how Japan is politically organized makes little sense to most people. Personally, I tend to be rather rigid on issues like this such as the fundamental question of where ultimate authority and independence derives from. We call this “sovereignty”. In the old days, it was perfectly simple; Japan was a monarchy, the Emperor was the sovereign and head of state, all government authority being based on his “divine right”. This is technically though not effectively the way it works in the English-speaking monarchies. However, according to the current Japanese constitution, the Emperor is not the head of state, though he effectively fulfills that role, and he is not the sovereign as under the new constitution Japan is, like the United States, based on “popular sovereignty” (which is a nonsense we have talked about before here). Other monarchies are based on popular sovereignty and I think it is just as silly for them as it is for Japan. It is not real, it is basically an example of sophistry and if everyone is the sovereign it effectively means that no one is the sovereign and I find that to be a big problem.
The problem this brings up in diplomatic terms is that there is no reason for any country to want to form an official military alliance with Japan and, to date, the only official military ally of Japan is the United States. This is because such alliances are based on the promise of mutual self-defense or that one country will aid the other country if it is attacked. However, Japan is currently not allowed to go to war or engage in hostilities with anyone unless Japan itself is directly attacked. So, who would want to form an alliance with Japan in which they would have to help Japan if Japan was attacked but Japan would not help them if they were attacked? Obviously, the answer is no one but the United States and, as stated, has urged Japan to strengthen itself since the 1970’s on the quite simple grounds that only a strong ally is worth having whereas a weak ally is only a liability.
Anytime that issue comes up, however, the opponents of any change will usually say that the alliance with America makes any concern over national defense unnecessary. This is, again, stupid and short-sighted. As mentioned, a strong ally is a help whereas a weak ally is a hindrance. Furthermore, there are those on both the left and right in Japan who maintain that their problems with their neighbors could all be solved if it were not for the close ties between Japan and America. Personally, I doubt that, however, the possibility is worth considering simply from the American perspective. After all, in economic terms, China is far more important to America than Japan. Japan has little to no natural resources, buys far less from the United States than Japan does and relations with China as well as Russia, a resource-rich country America has no reason to be at odds with, would undoubtedly improve dramatically if America removed its bases and military forces from Japan, something Russia and China have been calling for practically since the end of World War II. There is certainly a case to be made on a purely dispassionate, self-interested basis. In any event, it should at least show that no country should depend entirely on another for their national defense. That is true regardless of the situation and, if the Japanese themselves deem it preferable to end the alliance with America, a constitutional change would be necessary if they were to choose to instead put their trust in a system of alliances with countries such as Taiwan, The Philippines, Vietnam or India to back them up in case of trouble.