The June 3 issue of The Sankei Shimbun newspaper contained an article by Tokyo University of Foreign Studies Professor Hideaki Shinoda as part of its “Just Arguments” column. It was titled, “Japan’s Absolute Pacifism is Deteriorating.”
Traditionally, Japanese pacifism has been based on the conviction that Japan will never repeat its past acts of brutality, and on the desire to maintain nonviolence and to never invade any other countries, no matter how bad things get.
Nonviolence and pacifism have long been part of human history, and it goes without saying that Gandhi and other eminent figures have stuck to their beliefs. This has been regarded as valuable exactly because it is difficult. Putting aside the question of whether this is a valid way of thinking about national security policy, what they did was valuable and worthy of respect.
However, this absolute pacifism is reduced to a type of escapism when it loses substance. Without sufficient mettle to deal with challenging circumstances and walk difficult paths, people merely make efforts for self-justification. They begin expressing their views with the sole desire to avoid defeat in long-standing ideological confrontations. Rather than having a solid sense of resolve, they simply make requests that are favorable to the other party.
Although Russia is carrying out an obvious invasion in Ukraine, some people claim that Ukraine cannot be without blame. They even whisper that Russia is in the right. Of course they do not honestly explain what mistakes Ukraine has made or how Russia is correct. They simply feel both should be blamed and make attempts to negate both sides in the conflict.
This is the same as saying that persons who are bullied are not totally innocent, that victims were not sufficiently on guard against harm, and that it’s better to join up with stronger adversaries than stand against them. This stance of making sweeping generalizations and stating that both parties are to blame is nothing more than an expression of their desire to deny the complex, difficult reality.
They judge that all parties participating in a war are equally bad. It simply seems they want to defend their ideological position that says Japan must hold to unarmed neutrality and pacifism.
I sense the same motive behind their statements that the war in Ukraine is an American war by proxy. Their slogan is “this war was caused by American imperialism,” an attempt to say that both sides are at fault.
It is even more unfortunate that these people display absolutely no interest in topics like Eastern European history. Instead, they keep talking only about Japanese history from the end of World War II, such as saying that Japan should have promptly surrendered in 1945 or that Japanese soldiers did not protect our citizens in 1945. In other words, they wield their knowledge while praying that the world revolves around this knowledge as well. They work to defend their ideological view of history that includes specific analyses based on Japan’s circumstances in 1945, while assuming that these analyses are universally valuable.
The left wing is attempting to say that both Russia and Ukraine deserve blame. As Shinoda points out, this is because they do not want to see their long-held belief crumble – namely, that Japan will not war with other nations as long as it limits its military force according to Article 9 of the constitution. This theory means Japan will not be drawn into war unless it intends to, and therefore that Ukraine could have prevented the current war. Now that war has actually broken out in Ukraine, they are forced to conclude that Ukraine did something to bring it about. I agree with Shinoda that this is the result of the “ideological view of history that includes specific analyses based on Japan’s circumstances in 1945, while assuming that these analyses are universally valuable.”
We must examine history in a multifaceted way without adhering solely to the thinking that Japan was a bad country for committing acts of aggression around the world. For example, the globe used to be dominated by Western powers that were white, Christian nations. Japan’s victory in the Russo-Japanese War helped partially destroy this stronghold. At the Paris Peace Conference after World War I, Japan suggested that the Covenant of the League of Nations include a provision abolishing racial discrimination. Many were in favor of this, but American President Woodrow Wilson (the chairman of the committee) struck down Japan’s proposal by saying that such an important issue required a unanimous decision. During World War II, Japan helped Asian countries achieve independence from Western colonial rule according to the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere concept. That set off a trend of colonies becoming independent states. Although Japan lost that war, today all nations around the world are independent after a series of wars for independence in Asia. If Japan had not fought against the Western powers, it is highly possible that white Christians would have remained in control, and that countries in Asia, Africa, Central and South America, and the Near and Middle East would still be colonized. We should evaluate World War II while keeping these aspects in mind.
Consequently, the left wing is contradicting itself with its assessments of World War II and Russia’s war in Ukraine. On June 5, The Asahi Shimbun website published an article entitled, “Invasion and the Need to Question Universalism: Talking With Tokyo University of Foreign Studies Professor Emeritus Osamu Nishitani.” It read:
When contemplating war in an earnest way, we must therefore revise our perceptions including the concepts of freedom and independence that have upheld modern society. Why do wars occur in a rational world? Why do people take horrifying actions? I believe we must directly face all of these questions, starting from the root causes.
Considering this, we cannot understand what is happening in Ukraine if we look only at superficial aspects. Of course this war was started by Russia’s violations of international law, but why did it act as it did? We must be open to examining Russia’s state of affairs after being excluded from the reorganization of the international order after the Cold War, and how historically it has been left on the borders of the Western European world.
I am not pro-Russia. I merely feel a sense of doubt about the consistently anti-Russian tone in global spaces of discussion. Speaking philosophically, I am skeptical of universalism.
In response, University of Tokyo Professor Satoshi Ikeuchi Tweeted that, if Nishitani is open to considering Russia’s circumstances even after it has broken international law, then he must fully defend the Greater East Asia War as well. However, Ikeuchi wrote that Nishitani and other members of the left wing will certainly not recognize the significance of the Greater East Asia War. This is a clear double standard. The war in Ukraine is revealing logical inconsistencies on the left wing, which clings to this type of anti-American ideology. Wars should be stopped as soon as possible, but I also believe Japanese citizens must make a major shift at this time in their thinking about our history and national security.
On June 2, the digital version of The Hokkoku Shimbun posted an article titled, “F-15 Crash Caused by Spatial Disorientation? Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) Investigation Shows no Aircraft Malfunction, Explanation to Local Region on June 2.”
The JASDF performed an investigation regarding the F-15 fighter that departed from Komatsu Air Base and crashed in January. According to an interview with an involved person on June 1, the results indicate a high possibility that the pilots experienced spatial disorientation and were unable to determine the altitude and attitude of the aircraft, leading to the accident. Four months after this accident in which two pilots died, the JASDF feels more strongly that it was not caused by an aircraft malfunction. It will work to prevent further crashes, including thorough training about spatial disorientation for pilots. It will also provide an explanation to the local region on June 2.
The interviewee said the JSDF believes it is highly likely that the pilots were focused on operating the radar and lost their sense of balance. The base air traffic controller confirmed an orange light directly after takeoff and contacted the pilots via radio, but there was no answer. No distress signal was sent by the pilots while bailing out.
The pilots who died in the accident were Major General Koji Tanaka, commander of the Tactical Fighter Training Group (age 52), and Major Ryusei Ueda of the same group (age 33).
The JSDF collected the flight recorder and other parts, and the Air Staff Office’s Accident Examination Committee worked to elucidate the causes. The base resumed F-15 flight exercises, which were halted after the accident, on March 11.
The article explains spatial disorientation (also called “vertigo”) as follows:
This was a truly terrible accident. The cause is believed to be an issue with the pilots, not an equipment malfunction. Spatial disorientation can happen to any pilot, no matter how great their experience or abilities. Pilots and people who are well versed in miliary affairs know it is not at all easy to prevent these types of accidents, and state that we must not blame the pilots for what happened. Tanaka, one of the men who was killed, was a truly elite pilot. Some are saying we should stop flying these aircraft if accident prevention is so difficult, but then who would ensure Japan’s safety? The Ministry of Defense’s Joint Staff Office announced that the JASDF scrambled 1,004 aircraft in FY2021. This is the second-largest number in history after FY2016, when there were 1,168 scrambles. Among them, 72% were in response to Chinese aircraft and 26% to Russian aircraft. We must not let down our guard as we defend Japan from the sky.
Russia’s war in Ukraine is having major impacts on global politics, the economy, and other fields. No one predicted full-scale military conflict of this type, which calls up memories of wars in the 19th century or the beginning of the 20th century. Japan’s border touches eastern Russia and it also has a tense relationship with China over Taiwan and the Senkaku Islands. We have no choice but to increase our defense spending and enhance our military strength for better deterrence to ensure peace and safety for our citizens. We must also swiftly revise the constitution so we can smoothly exercise our military strength, and amend the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty into a treaty of mutual aid that allows Japan to independently defend itself. I believe now is the time to begin full-fledged discussions on the topic of constitutional change.
June 14 (Tuesday), 6:00 p.m.