Following Japan’s defeat after the second world war, the Japanese have not been allowed to build up a defensive force. This was understandable at the time, since Japan had been aggressively using their military force until two atom bombs forced them to cease their aggression. The fact was that Japan was not to be trusted, therefore without a military presence, they cannot do any harm. Fast forward to 2015 and the country is in a very different environment. The United States has developed a strong alliance with Japan and has vowed to defend them if need be. The Japanese people have been very favorable towards this relationship. However, these policies are not sustainable over the long run. Ending Japanese pacifism seems to be the platform of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. He has attempted to send rules through the Diet (Parliament) that would allow Japan some military presence in the area when it comes to defending themselves and their allies. Here is a list of the pros and cons of the end of Japanese pacifism.
- Japan would no longer be reliant on the United States for protection all the time. If Japan needed to have a swift response, they would have the capability to do so, rather than having to wait to see if the United States decides to jump to actions.
- If their allies were under attack, Japan would have the capability of helping them in a quick manner.
- Increased sense of pride and security for the nation.
- Not favored by the majority of Japanese people.
- Risks escalating conflict with China over the South China Sea.
- Cost would be high in a government where spending has already been historically high.
Meeting somewhere in the middle would be ideal. Japan should be looking at a capability to participate in a collective defense in the region. This means building up a moderate military capability only to be deployed in circumstances where allies or the nation itself is in danger. Although this is not what the Japanese people or the Diet favor, it is necessary in modern times. On the side of caution, the use of the forces could be determined through a vote of not only the Diet and the Prime Minister himself, but also the popular opinion of the people. The real issue is having the ability to defend yourself “just in case.” This is a capability that the Japanese do not have. They rely solely on the United States and although trust between the two nations is important, Japan should have a Plan B. If China were to increase aggression in Japanese waters, what would the United States do about it? China knows that the United States is constrained by distance and has little motivation to enter into any military conflict, especially with one of their largest trading partners. Having Japanese force (although minimal) will be a symbol to the other players in the area that they will not be taken advantage of and will be ready in a terrible situation of conflict. Deterrence by pacifism is a great strategy, but each nation can choose to be strictly pacifist while at the same time at least having the capability to fight, even if they do not plan on doing so.