About nine months have passed since U.S. President Barack Obama came to power. The president enjoyed massive public support around his inauguration. But he is beset by a host of challenges at present on the domestic and foreign policy fronts, notably the military operation in Afghanistan and his Medicare reform effort. As dissatisfaction grows that it is unclear what he is really thinking about, the president is criticized for his alleged indecisiveness. It is said that the general public's view toward the president is changing.
President Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize this year ostensibly for his speech in Prague in which he made clear the U.S. commitment to achieving a world without nuclear weapons. But he has achieved nothing in terms of nuclear disarmament, much less for the elimination of nuclear arms. This is a widely known fact. However, he should not be blamed for delaying of his visit to Japan because it should be attributed to Japan's political situation in which the Liberal Democratic Party's exit from power in the August general election had long been foreseen.
In this context, Japan should give much importance to the president's visit. Obama is obviously hoping to confirm Japanese leader's views firsthand in order to establish the basic line of Washington's Asia policy for the next seven years.
Dr. Edward Luttwak, a noted U.S. strategic theorist, has been a friend of mine for 30 years. He recently visited Japan and presented his advice for Japan's diplomatic policy at a lecture organized by the Japan Forum on International Relations (JFIR). At the meeting, he said that Japan should become a "normal country" as soon as possible, and fulfill its international obligations and responsibilities. In response to a question from the audience, "What will happen if Japan remains unchanged?" he said that the U.S. will not be able to confront China in Asia without Japan's cooperation. He predicted that Washington will come to take an appeasement policy toward China.
The JFIR recently came up with a set of policy recommendations, titled "Positive Pacifism and the Future of the Japan-U.S. Alliance," completing about a year of discussions by its Policy Council. The JFIR submitted the recommendations to Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama on Oct. 22 and ran a full-page opinion ad of the text of the recommendations in the Oct. 23 issues of The Sankei Shimbun, The Asahi Shimbun and The Nikkei. The English version of the text was published in The Japan Times and International Herald Tribune/The Asahi Shimbun on the same day.
The ad attracted a variety of comments from readers in many parts of the country, by letter, e-mail and facsimile. These comments included a very impressive letter from a retired Japanese diplomat I greatly admire. Just like a musical sense, whether someone has a sense of national determines his or her ability to understand national security. This is what he wrote in the letter and I readily agreed with this view.
The latest policy recommendations can be likened to a symphony played by the JFIR "orchestra" with me as its conductor. The words of this person vividly speak for the views of the readers as the audience. I sincerely hope that Prime Minister Hatoyama and leaders of his Democratic Party of Japan have the same sense concerning national security.
The keyword of the latest policy recommendations is "positive pacifism". I was the first person in Japan to use this term. When Saddam Hussein and his Iraqi regime invaded Kuwait in August 1990, I introduced a thesis that Japan should shift from the one country pacifism of the past to positive pacifism. A bill for Japan to cooperate in United Nations –led international peace efforts was presented to the Diet in October the same year. The bill was killed in November, however.
I attended public hearings sponsored by the Budget Committees of the House of Representatives and House of Councilors, and made clear my position in favor of the bill. When I appeared on a debate program aired by NHK, Japan's public TV network, on Oct. 21 that year, I stressed the need for Japan to dispatch the Self-Defense Forces on overseas missions. I spoke against four other participants expressing different views. My remarks during this period were explained in detail in my book "Japan's Response to the Two Shocks," published in 1991.
What is positive pacifism? Passive pacifism, the exact opposite, is the pacifism that Japan used to kill the bill for cooperating in United Nations-led international peace efforts in 1990. This may be called "one-country pacifism," too. The position of this pacifism is that there is no problem as long as peace is secured only for Japan, with everything to be considered in negative propositions.
Nineteen years have passed since then, and SDF personnel have set foot on Iraqi soil and Japanese naval vessels have continued a refueling mission in the Indian Ocean. These were the realities of being a member of the international community that Japanese people have finally come to understand. But this is a wavering or indecisive international contribution and in this sense, Japan remains under the influence of what happened 19 years ago.
Our latest policy recommendations urged the Japanese people to face up to the realities of the international community and look squarely at Japan's position in the world.
What must be done to embody a philosophy or doctrine underlying positive pacifism?
We made specific proposals in this regard in the policy recommendations. There is not enough space here for me to explain our proposals in detail. Please visit our Web site at < http://www.jfir.or.jp > for more information.
Our proposals can be summarized into nine points. We called for reviewing Japan's Basic Principles of National Defense, including the Three Nonnuclear Principles, and cooperating in the U.S. military transformation process and approving the exercise of the right to collective self-defense. We proposed a thorough review of the three principles on arms exports, and we stressed the need to improve and strengthen the national system of intelligence gathering and analysis. We called for taking the initiative in promoting dialogue and cooperation in East Asia, strengthening and developing Japan-U.S. strategic cooperation toward China, and confronting the existing cases of infringement upon Japan's national sovereignty. We also proposed establishing a "general law" for international peace cooperation and contributing to global collective security, and simultaneously pursuing the three goals of nuclear nonproliferation, nuclear disarmament and strict control of nuclear power for peaceful purposes.
Prime Minister Hatoyama should precisely understand the meaning of President Obama's visit. A haphazard attitude to the current difficulties could create a gap in relations between the two leaders that can never be closed. Just before the outbreak of the Pacific War between Japan and the U.S. in 1941, Prime Minister Fumimaro Konoe asked for an emergency top-level meeting with U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt. But the president harbored a deep distrust of Japan and as a result, the prime minister's request was turned down. It would be too late for the two leaders to scramble to meet in such circumstances.
In a policy address to the Diet on Oct. 26, Prime Minister Hatoyama stressed the need to establish close relations on an equal footing between Japan and the U.S. But the belief that this can be achieved by repeating "no, no, no" to various options will have serious consequences for Japan-U.S. relations. This could amount to a repetition of the mistake Japan made 19 years ago. Japan should get rid of its illusions of passive pacifism, and firmly uphold the flag of positive pacifism. This is my request to Prime Minister Hatoyama.
[This article appeared in the November 13, 2009 issue of The Japan Times]