Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Call It "Japanese Military Restoration"

After several rhetorical fits and starts, I've decided that the best description for the overall process of Japan's recovery of its full security sovereignty (exports of military equipment and technology, alliances, collective self defense, offshore military adventures, etc.) is "military restoration".

"Remilitarization" doesn't fit for a country that was already a global top-ten military power.

"Security reconstruction", apparently the Abe administration's term of art, I think somewhat overstates the amount of heavy lifting needed to enable the Self Defense Force to operate effectively in Japan's near beyond, especially since the US military isn't going anywhere and is in a position to provide as much backup as any aspiring regional power would like.  It's somewhat more than slapping new labels on a few airplanes and frigates; on the other hand, it's not like Japan is turning the neighborhood watch into a global fighting force.

As to "becoming a normal country again" or "recovery of full sovereignty", my personal feeling is that Japanese exceptionalism is as hardy a plant as American exceptionalism, especially among Japan's ruling elites.  Japan's end objective is not to become a normal, fully sovereign country like Belgium or the Philippines; it desires a regionally exceptional ability to project its power and get its way (like the United States and China).

As for "proactive pacifism", sorry, I'm not going to go there.

"Military restoration", on the other hand, I think fits the objective and process: Japan wants to restore its doctrine and capabilities to something resembling its situation in the early part of the 20th century when it was a respected and effective regional military power, before the military's headlong assault on civilian rule and the unfortunate setbacks of the Pacific War.

I might point out that an alternative formulation, "security restoration" would highlight the contradiction that Japan is already quite secure thanks to the security treaty with the United States and the sizable US military presence.  Japan is not trying to "restore" its security; one might argue Japan is actually incrementally weakening its security in pursuit of military freedom of action vis a vis the PRC.

"Restoration" also gives a historical tip o' the hat to another episode in which Japan extracted itself from under the shadow of foreign (actually, US--funny coincidence) domination to claim the initiative in East Asia: the Meiji Restoration.

I ruled out calling the 21st century process the "Abe Restoration" because it's bigger than one man--way bigger--and I don't want him to get a swelled head.

So, from now on, "military restoration" it is.  Herewith decreed on this eight day of January, two thousand and fourteen.