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Essay and Opinion


"Transformation" of the U.S.Forces and Self-Defense Forces

November 5, 2007

Prof.Hideki Mori
<Professor of Ryukoku University,
Japan Institution of Constitutional Law Visiting Researcher>

A U.S. movie "Clear and Present Danger" was made in 1994. Staring Harrison Ford, it is just a typical Hollywood action hit. I like it because the dark inside of the CIA was portrayed. I was amazed by the way the title was translated into Japanese; "Ima-sokoniaru-kiki - the crisis that is right there." Many people know that the expression "clear and present danger" is a law term; U.S. standard for judging whether the Constitution allows abridging freedom of speech in each particular case. Japanese law academies have translated the term directly word by word. Though "crisis" and "danger" are not exactly the same, I admire the wording "that is right there," because it is much easier to understand, than "clear and present." I found that academic groups have preferred academically translated jargon no matter how difficult it is for ordinary people to understand.
A recent Hollywood movie "Transformer" was co-produced by Michael Bay, who produced "Armageddon," and Steven Spielberg who produced "War of the World." As "Transformer" was advertised as a great SF work, it used computer graphic and other techniques formidably to the full extent. However, the story was dull. Numerous lives from outer space invade the earth, they change into various machines. And the U.S. military troops fight against them. To make the story a little sophisticated, some of the aliens fight on our side for justice and sacrifice themselves. It is easy to understand that the movie tries to positively portray the U.S. military activities after the 9.11 tragedy: big cities in the U.S. were attacked and battles take place in a desert in Qatar.
The title "Transformer" was just put into Japanese characters phonetically without translation. However, on the caption, "transform" was translated correctly into Japanese when the invaders transform. The word "transform" reminds me of recent U.S. military policy. A big change is taking place in the structure of global deployment of the U.S. military forces, which is pushing Japan to change its Constitution. The U.S. government prefers to use the word "transformation" to describe the whole process, while Japanese major news media use saihen or reformation. In case the formation of the U.S. forces is changed, that should be called reformation. However, what is taking place right now is more drastic one, far more dangerous than reformation.
Partly because of the budget deficit, the U.S. is trying to drastically cut its huge 200 thousand troops stationing overseas, while improving its ability of prompt military actions in what they call "Arc of Instability," the vast arc area which consists of East Africa, Middle East and Korean Peninsula. Japan's role is vial for this transformation. Japan is expected to play a vital role in this transformation by having key military functions for commanding, dispatching, retreat and maintenance on its land. The U.S. troops can not act promptly in the Arc of Instability if they have to start from their mainland which is too far. Japan, which is conveniently located on a strategic point in the Arc of Instability, is so safe, stable and loyal that the U.S. may regard it as its 51st state. Therefore, the U.S. plans to reinforce its military presence in Japan until the archipelago becomes a huge never-sinking aircraft carrier, while recalling its overseas troops elsewhere.
If you call this dramatic change "reformation," it is so misleading that it can be defined as a misinterpretation. Japan's Foreign Ministry translates it in a better way and uses "change." We may borrow the conception of "transform," meaning "metamorphose," from the Hollywood movie to explain people what is actually taking place.
U.S.-Japan Security Consultative Committee (SCC) meetings, the "2+2" meetings, were held in Washington D.C. to finalize their plan. On October 29, 2005, the day after the LDP released its draft of new Constitution, they announced in an interim report that they had reached a basic agreement. On May 2005, three days after Japan's cabinet approved revision of Education Fundamentals Law, they issued the final report and disclosed the details of the agreement. Military cooperation with the U.S. and revision of fundamental laws must have connections. Japan-U.S. Security Treaty has grown far beyond the official purpose of defending Japan or the area around Japan. The objective of the Japan-U.S. military alliance now is to work together for "global security."
With that basic policy, the Japanese government is spending a portion of this year's budget to purchase some latest models of weapons of mass destruction such as plenty of PAC3 land-to-air missiles in order to install missile defense system. One PAC3 costs 600 million yen. Japanese government is now considering spending a trillion yen to purchase 40 of 25 billion yen stealth fighters in the next fiscal year. The decisive development is that some of the U.S. military bases in Japan are newly having commanding functions, which have been only in the mainland of the U.S. Another devastating fact is that the U.S. is forcing Japan to bear 3 trillion yen, the cost of construction and moving of U.S. military facilities: to move an army command to Zama and an air force command to Yokota, and to construct a new offshore base with the highest level of functions in Henoko area, Nago City, to make up for Futenma base which is to be closed and returned.
Major news media plainly call this massive military transformation "reformation," making it difficult for people to realize how serious it is. However, there is a small lucky development; the disclosure of the bribery affair of former Vice Defense Minister Moriya, in which the corrupt and immoral defense official was treated and entertained by the suppliers of military equipment. Moriya's case is not only a domestic corruption case. We have observed that the military supplies which Japan buys from the U.S. are outrageously expensive. It is almost obvious that trading companies and highly officials receive their portions out of the huge military budget. We must change this evil scandal into a helpful tool to disclose the nature of the military transformation which is taking place.
Here is another encouraging development. Japan's Maritime Defense Force is retreating from its logistics or fueling service to the U.S. military. The fueling started as the first major step in the military transformation. It is clear that the public opposition was a major factor in stopping it. I hope that this positive change paves the way to the thorough investigation of the nature and realities of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and of the dubious financial structure of Japan's fueling service in which Japan buys oil from U.S. major companies to give it free to the U.S. forces, and to the reexamination of the Japanese government's senseless explanation that logistics is not a part of military activities.
In these years, the SDF continued to expand their actions abroad. Their recent retreat from the Middle East is remarkable. However, the crisis remains right here, as there is a chance that they may join in military activities again. In China, where Chinese characters were invented, weixian (kiken in Japanese), danger, and jihui (kikai), opportunity or chance to evade dangers, combine and form the word weiji (kiki), or crisis. Let's make the "crisis that is right there" a good opportunity to keep Japan away from military operations forever.

Editor's Note by the secretariat of Japan Institute of Constitutional Law.
The Self Defence Forces' fuelling operation in the Indian Ocean ceased when the anti-terrorism law expired. However, the Diet later passed the new law, and the SDF's replenishment ships left Japan for the Indian Ocean again in January 2008.
March ,17, 2008