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Tadae Takubo

【#644】Amending Constitution is the Only Way to Cope with Great Transition

Tadae Takubo / 2019.12.24 (Tue)

December 23, 2019

The year 2019 saw a great transition in the world’s postwar regime. It does not matter whether the transition is right or wrong, or whether it meets the established values or not. Among leaders in the world at present, German Chancellor Angela Merkel may be the only self-proclaimed democracy leader, while having become a lame duck.

Autocracies are not limited to China, Russia and North Korea but seen in Iran, Turkey, Poland and Hungary. Given such autocracies coupled with growing populist movements in Europe, I suspect that the international community is experiencing a sea change.

Trump phenomenon growing dominant

The interpretation of the current situation as a rapid transition from internationalism to nationalism is easy to understand but falls short of explaining the entire picture. The greatest contributor to the transition is U.S. President Donald Trump, whose real intention to fully promote his “America First” foreign policy has begun to globally be understood at last.

Trump has not hesitated to promote the revision of internationalism, the fairer sharing of defense spending among allies and the correction of trade imbalances. Given that Trump is a stormy politician, what would happen before the U.S. presidential election in November 2020 is still uncertain. However, great changes in the American society and spirit indicate that the Trump phenomenon to change America is growing dominant.

When resigning as defense secretary, Jim Mattis recommended Trump to emphasize alliances. This recommendation might have been off the point for Trump who is determined to promote the “America First,” opposition to internationalism and each country’s self-defense on its own. A commander-in-chief with such determination naturally makes light of U.S. allies. Mattis might have misunderstood Trump who has remained coherent and consistent.

Postwar collective security system is shaken

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the largest postwar collective security regime, is now “brain dead” as correctly described by French President Emmanuel Macron. Most NATO members are irresponsible as only nine out of 29 members have attained the target of increasing defense spending to at least 2% of gross domestic product. Speaking of Trump, he pulled out U.S. troops from northern Syria without any prior consultation with NATO allies, allowing Turkey, a NATO member, to attack Kurds who had been allied with the United States. Consequently, Russia has become the only beneficiary while doing nothing new.

While the Japan-U.S. alliance that depends heavily on U.S. military power remains unchanged, Japan should urgently respond to changes of the times. Top national security priority should be given to the development of the Self-Defense Forces into true national armed forces. Japan could not survive without attaining constitutional amendments that would pave the way for the development.

Tadae Takubo is Vice President of Japan Institute for National Fundamentals and a professor emeritus at Kyorin University.