A Peek Inside the Japanese Military


Lt. Col. Dan Eagle was the fifth US Air Force officer to attend Japan's National Defense Institute in Tokyo, from which he graduated in June. He now commands the 35th Operation Support Squadron at Misawa Air Base in northern Japan. Here are excerpts from a recent conversation with reporters:

On how Japan's pacifist Constitution affects military thinking:

To really understand the Constitution you have to understand the postwar Japanese experience, and you also have to understand some of the things about the culture.... There are two words, called honne and tatemae. Honne is kind of your true feelings, your true heart, what you really believe, whereas tatemae is the face that you present to the public.... Throughout everything in Japan, this honne and tatemae plays very prominently ... and I think there are some aspects of the Constitution and how people think about defense that has a lot to do with that.

On whether Article 9 of the Constitution, which renounces war and use of force to settle international disputes, is tatemae?

I wouldn't go so far as to say that....

On the range of views at the institute on whether the Constitution should be changed:

Most people said it should be amended - that it was not logical given today's post-cold-war world.

On whether members of Japan's military are frustrated with constitutional constraints:

Quite honestly, I think many of them are frustrated. But in Japanese society there is another concept known as nemawashi ... building consensus. Decisions are not made by an individual. They are made by the group, and once the group decides what to do, then that's it. That is the decision.

I think right now there is probably gathering consensus. There is a lot of study being conducted right now on Article 9. The problem is that it's a political problem, and it will be decided within the political confines of Japanese society. So the military folks, I suppose, are frustrated to a certain extent because all they can do is say this is our standpoint... but it will ultimately be a political decision.

On Japan's acceptance of its military:

I do think it will change, but very gradually, because of the constraints on the military within Japanese society.... When I attended school in Tokyo, none of us wore our uniforms to and from the school ... because it was felt that it would be kind of alarming to people. So I think the military needs to explain more to the Japanese populace what its role is.

On military cooperation:

I think we could probably cooperate more. There are some challenges there ... because the American forces think "attack to defend" and the Japanese don't.... There are some fundamental differences..., and so we are going to have to search out the ways that we can complement each other.

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