Public lecture video by Institute of Contemporary Asian Studies (ICAS). This lecture was held on June 8, 2016. Speaker was John Wright, US Air Force Major and Mansfield Foundation Fellow.
For 70 years, Japan has conducted an experiment in statecraft. This experiment is characterized by a diminutive military relative to its economic power, reliance on a great power for its national defense, sensitization of the population to the evils of warfare and violence, and a complete absence of a national policy that utilizes threats and the use of offensive force in pursuit of national interests. The use of force is the most conspicuous outlier in this experiment; despite multinational agreements and international law attesting to the opposite, among the world’s major nations only Japan has publicly and practically renounced its sovereign right to utilize force in international affairs on behalf of the state except in cases where it is clearly the victim of aggression. Not only is this refusal a characteristic of post-war Japanese policy and popular sentiment, it is also strictly enshrined in the Japanese constitution, as penned by the American victors. What, then, are we to make of the first-class military Japan has developed in the face of these restrictions? And why does Japan possess some of the best weapons the world has to offer, but lacks the corresponding national will to use them?