Links: War, Dermer, and Japan’s pesky pacifist constitution

This song is kind of great.


Whenever I read about Ron Dermer, I just think the guy’s name suits him so well. It sounds like a high school putdown.  I can just hear Alicia Silverstone in Clueless: “come on, Tai. don’t be a Dermer…”


I used one of my three free FT reads this month to take in A tipping point for Japan’s foreign policy. The author, David Pilling, lays out the difficulties Japan PM Abe faces in responding to the hostage crisis. Mainly, it seems a matter of overcoming or bypassing a pacifist constitution and public (and am I wrong in reading a bit of a sneer in that word pacifist?)

First, I don’t buy the main premise here — that one kidnapping would force Japan to change the way it interacts with the rest of the world. And Pilling’s choice of phrases (and options) bothers me a bit. He seems to be suggesting a faux Chamberlain-at-Munich crisis that I frankly don’t see for Japan.

  • “Mr Abe is trying to nudge Japan towards taking a stand
  • the nasty business of defending Japan has been outsourced to the US”
  • “geostrategic faultlines have widened with the rise of China and the 9/11 attacks on the US” [Wait. Who should Japan be preparing to attack as a consequence of 9/11?]
  • “He will try to use the incident as evidence that Japan needs to stand up for itself more. Unlike many other nations, it has no commando unit ready to mount a rescue mission [wh-aaa-ttt???] nor any constitutional leeway to take military action against foreign forces who seek to harm its nationals.”

I am the first to admit I am not an Asia expert, nor am I the target audience of the FT, but maybe as such I can be helpful and point out some of the erroneous and/or dangerous presumptions here. First, “taking a stand” and “standing up for itself.” This is the language of the schoolyard, completely lacking in nuance. Kinda neocon too? So very 2001, at any rate. To me these phrases smack of the toxic atmosphere of reckless belligerence in the months after the attacks on the towers and the Pentagon. Every pundit found his inner Churchill and fourteen years and trillions of dollars later it appears, to me anyway, that all the mad energy, mobilization, death and destruction made the world a way worse place.

But then again these things created a fine living for a lot of folks.

To certain (most) readers of the Financial Times, I suppose, a highly militarized Asia is a terrific opportunity. Contracts! Hardware. Security Expertise in demand! It’s almost like people are forgetting why a pacifist Japan is a good thing. It is. Japan needs “a commando unit ready to mount a rescue mission” like a fish needs a bicycle.

I am trying to knock these morning dispatches out in an hour, so won’t say any more about Andrew Bacevich’s Save Us From Washington’s Visionaries except that it’s a good companion piece to this. Doing nothing: always an option.

Links: War, Dermer, and Japan’s pesky pacifist constitution

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