Leadership: The Gentlemen From Japan Withdraw

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December 3,
2008:
Japan will end its military operations in Iraq at the end of the year.
The 210 Japanese Air Force troops, and the transports they support, will be
withdrawn. Japan withdrew its small contingent of ground troops (who worked on
reconstruction projects) two years ago. Since then, Japan has been providing
air freight services for troops in Iraq. The withdrawal of Japanese forces is
largely due to the fact that the Iraq war is very unpopular in Japan. They consider
it an "American war" that Japan has nothing to do with. But Japan has
long been criticized for not pulling their weight militarily, even in
peacekeeping operations. Despite its huge economy, Japan backs away from deal
with international crises.
This all
goes back to beliefs in Japan that they were not an aggressor during World War
II. Unlike the Germans, who take to guilt quite readily, the Japanese always
saw themselves as victims. For example, when all the encrypted Japanese message
traffic from World War II was decoded (in the years after the war), one series
of diplomatic messages, sent to embassies in the months after the atomic bombs
were dropped, and Japan surrendered, advised diplomats to push the idea that
Japan was a victim of Western savagery. The atomic bomb was to be used to prove
this. Apparently the Japanese diplomats gained some traction with this in the
West, but among their neighbors, the concept of the Japanese as victims was
laughable, and still is.
Before Japan
entered World War II, it justified its aggression in China (which it began
invading in the early 1930s) as an altruistic effort to bring the benefits of
modern political thinking and technology to the backward Chinese. There is
still a lot of anger in China over this. Japan justified its attack on the
United States, and European colonies in the western Pacific, in 1941, as an
attempt to liberate Asians from European colonial rule. But the Japanese just
replaced one set of foreign rulers with another, and the Japanese were much
more brutal. The Japanese saw themselves as a master race (and still do), and
treated lesser races with contempt and brutality. They have toned down the
brutality since 1945.
Since the
1990s, the Japanese government has tried to persuade the world, and
particularly their neighbors, that Japan really is sorry for their bad behavior
before 1945. But many Japanese still prefer the "Japan as victim"
angle. There are enough of these old school Japanese around to keep Japans
worst World War II behavior out of Japanese school books, and those who publish
anything to the contrary in Japan, get a lot of abuse from old school believers
in what Japan really was, and is.
The
post-World War II constitution of Japan, urged on them by the Americans,
forbids Japan from possessing offensive military power. Still, Japan has one of
the most powerful armed forces (called "self-defense forces" in
Japan) in East Asia. That, and friendly relations with the United States (and
33,000 U.S. troops in Japan) have protected Japan from their angry neighbors
(particularly Russia and China). Japan, as it has been for centuries, keeps to
itself, and regards foreigners, and foreign military operations, warily.

 


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