Thinking the Unthinkable:
Toward Japanese Nuclear Armament?
Emmanuel Todd interviewed by
Introduction (below) by C. Douglas Lummis, former professor of Political Science at Tsuda College and author of “Radical Democracy”
The following dialogue reads rather like the classic dispute between the Pacifist and the Realist ( “To protect the peace, prepare for war”; “But one mustn’t . . .” ) carried to a higher level. But quantity becomes quality: when you are talking about nuclear weapons, the conversation is no longer the same as when you are talking about swords or even firearms. This is what Emmanuel Todd doesn’t seem to grasp, while Yoshibumi Takamiya (at least partly) does.
Todd argues correctly there is such a thing as nuclear deterrence, and that it is often effective. This is something that just about everybody knows, though there are many who hate to admit it. Todd is also correct that there are few who are ready to carry the logic of nuclear deterrence to its logical conclusion. But I wonder if he is himself? Nuclear weapons deter countries from attacking countries that possess them; they do not deter countries that possess them from attacking those that don’t. Recent examples: it was only after the United Nations inspection team assured the U.S. that Iraq had no nukes or other weapons of mass destruction, that the U.S. invaded that country. And it was only after the DPRK, presumably learning from Iraq’s experience, began trying to persuade the world that it has nukes and the missiles to deliver them, that the U.S. stopped calling it “evil” and returned to the negotiating table. It may turn out that the DPRK has been one of the most skillful employers of the force of nuclear deterrence in our time.
But for this nuclear — based peace policy truly to work, one would have to go much farther. Surely a world divided into nuclear have — and have not — countries will be far from stable. Wouldn’t it also be necessary to provide nuclear weapons to Chechnya to protect it from Russia, to Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco to protect them from France, to the Palestinian Authority to protect it from Israel, to the Latin American states (especially Cuba and Venezuela) to protect them from the U.S., etc.? Why just Japan? One might respond, Because many of these countries mentioned might become aggressive, whereas Japan would not. But of the latter, I wouldn’t be too sure.
Another difficulty with nuclear deterrence is that to make it effective it must be made believable. This means, you must persuade your potential enemies that you have people within your government who really are capable of destroying entire cities and all within them — civilians, women, children, the aged and infirm together with the doctors and nurses trying to take care of them, foreign ambassadors, foreign tourists, cats and dogs: every living thing. In short, you must persuade your potential enemies that you have people within your government who are mad. (I do not exaggerate: within the U.S. Strategic Command this is known as the “Madman Strategy “.) Without having such people with their fingers on the button, the “threat” is no threat, and therefore no deterrence. And of course the best way to persuade your adversaries that you have such people, is really to have them.
Wakamiya, on the other hand, while he expresses a healthy horror of possessing nukes, also seems to be locked within a contemporary Japanese illusion. That is, everyone knows that Japan is “protected” under the U.S. “nuclear umbrella”. It is true that the Japanese government does not possess nuclear weapons under its own control. But still, the “nuclear umbrella” means that Japan has adopted the policy of nuclear deterrence. Remarkably, this is not mentioned, presumably set aside as a “U.S. problem”, which does not interfere with Japan’s self-image as a non — nuclear and peaceful country.]
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