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The Myth of Japan's Technological Superiority - PART 3: Japan Remains a Nation of Timid Samurai Despite State-of-the-Art Weaponr


Left: Apology for the AEGIS accident
Center: AEGIS-equipped destroyer
Right: PAC-3

In the past I have discussed every facet, but technology angle, of defense issues. Now I am going to take up defense technologies in this instalment.

According to Rajan Menon's The End of Alliances (OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS, 2007) the Japan Self-Defense Force is "among the world's best" especially with its maritime unit featuring 44 mostly AEGIS-equipped destroyers, 9 frigates, 16 submarines, 4 amphibious ships, 31 vessels meant for mine warfare, 100 P-3C Orion antisubmarine aircraft, 80 combat aircraft and 155 helicopters.

Everyone, including Menon, thinks this will more or less suffice. The stakeholders in the $40-plus billion defense budget, such as U.S. military-industrial complex and head of Democratic Party of Japan Ichiro Ozawa, are contented with the current level of Japan's arsenal because the Japanese people are pleased to accept it as long as the military spending doesn't overrun the ceiling arbitrarily set at 1% of GDP. China is also happy because the current arrangement is the only way to neutralize its archrival forever as Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger promised Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai in the early-1970s.

These people couldn't ask for anything more on the premise that Japan remains disabled forever to nuclearize itself. So it's been a breeze for media obscurantists to dupe the general population into believing the status quo is the ideal arrangement for all, except for Okinawans perhaps.

Technologically speaking, however, it's becoming increasingly evident that fetishism for the state-of-the-art hardware coupled with cutting-edge software is taking a serious toll on Japan's defense capability. Yet, everyone, from military experts to policymakers, is untiringly up to the same old exercise to effectively asphyxiate this nation in the traditional modus operandi of distracting people's attention from the most important element of technologies: human-ware. Therefore, when discussing Japan's preparedness for external threats, the real question to be asked is: "Are these 250,000 toothless troops really able to handle the most-advanced technologies which are predominantly made in America?" To put it differently, you may ask:

"Is there any reason to believe the second round of Fukoku Kyohei (wealthy nation, strong army) pursuit will succeed without repeating the miserable outcome of the first round (1867-1945)?"

The answer is "No," of couse. It's a delusion to repeat exactly the same thing and expect a different result.

In answering this question, we have to define what kind of human-ware matters most in military technologies. I am not talking about "skills" which are more or less trainable. Neither am I talking about "patriotism" because it's nothing but a word. Even "morale" isn't at issue here because you can easily boost it just by giving these guys handsome salaries and retirement benefits along with permanent job security. In fact, the overall morale seems very high as the Defense Ministry has been taking such measures for quite a while.

I think much more relevant to this question is their perception of the values they have been enlisted for. What if they don't have their own values? Actually that is the case with all the personnel of the JSDF. They are at a loss over what values to defend, and against whom.

If you have some Japanese literacy, you may want to take a peek at an essay written by Toshio Tamogami, former Air Self-Defense Force Chief of Staff. He was sacked for posting the essay titled "Was Japan an Aggressor Nation?" because the Chinese (not a typo) government found it outrageous. I don't agree to his view at all, yet I understand what urged him to write it at the cost of the top position.

In the last six decades, this nation has adhered to the absurd mantra that not a single drop of Japanese blood should be shed in warfare. The same blood-phobic obsession is applied to enemies as well, though to a lesser degree. This pacifism has nothing to do with values. Rather, it has a lot to do with lack of it.

In this convoluted world, it's difficult to tell foes from friends if you don't have an absolute sense of values. When it comes to the Japanese, it's more than just difficult. On February 19, 2008, an AEGIS-equipped destroyer of the Maritime Self-Defense Force killed two innocent people. Since the incident left a blemish on the bloodless history of the JSDF, high-ranking officials had to offer a deep apology before the press corps. (Photo on the extreme left.) Among other things it is noteworthy that the two victims were Japanese fishermen operating in the waters off Boso Peninsula of Chiba Prefecture. Despite its much-touted enemy detection capability, the AEGIS combat system proved incapable of detecting the friendly fishing boat.

Although no pundit dared to say it at that time, the truth is that Japan's real enemy is in hiding inside of this country. And, believe it or not, technological fetishism is the name of the enemy. As I have told you in the previous installments of The Myth of Japan's Technological Superiority series, this fetishism, coupled with the people's propensity toward cherry-picking the Western civilization, dates back to the mid-19th century, to say the least. Japan will remain an unviable nation until it realizes that it should turn the clock back to the 1850s to start over.

Given this opportunism that has, time and again, proved unworkable in the long run, the last thing the Japanese would understand is that any state-of-the-art technology will not work if human-ware compatible with it is lacking.

Remember Ronald Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative? When Reagan started talking about SDI, people ridiculed the president, saying you can't hit a flying bullet with another bullet. They were damn right because his initiative was not supported by viable technology at that time. But a quarter century later, the enabling technologies, such as Patriot Advanced Capability (PAC,) are there to prove you can hit a bullet with another bullet. An initiative is called an initiative because it is followed by an enabling technology, not the other way around.

And now North Korea has announced it will launch a 3-stage rocket, on April 4 at earliest, which may or may not carry a warhead. The JSDF headquarters has raised the security level, and announced that 3 Japanese destroyers along with some U.S. Navy ships would be deployed to the Sea of Japan, the Ground Self-Defense Force would deploy several surface-to-air PAC-3 missiles, and the nationwide network of the Emergency Alert System would be completed by April 4.

I don't know, neither do I want to know, how the weak-kneed Obama would respond to the North Korean provocation, but as far as JSDF's plans to counter the possible attack are concerned, we have already seen cracks everywhere. A report has it that one of those PAC-3 launchpads could not actually be deployed because the truck carrying it had been involved in a traffic accident on its way to the destination. Another report says most municipalities would not be able to ready the EAS in time for possible attack for various reasons. Since in an actual warfare you can't expect your enemy to give you an advance notice more than 10 days before launching an attack, nobody finds it difficult to visualize how a surprise attack would throw the Japanese citizens into a state of panic.

More importantly, the order by the Defense Minister says either naval force or air force should not launch SM-3 sea-to-air missiles or PAC-3 surface-to-air missiles, respectively, until they are 100% sure that the flying object from Musudan-ri, North Korea, is not a satellite and it's going to fall onto Japanese territory, either so intended or by accident. In other words, if it's aimed at Hawaii, for instance, it's none of our business.

The same thing is happening as to the two destroyers of the MSDF which left Kure Base in Hiroshima on March 14 for their anti-piracy mission in the waters off Somalia. All the crew members have been told to guard only "Japan-related" vessels, which means they should just look on if a ship being robbed is not Japan-related. Moreover, in protecting such a vessel, all they are allowed to do after exhausting verbal warning is to fire warning shots at the surface of the water. What if the bandits don't flinch? They can shoot at them, but only after they get killed. This is the inevitable consequence of "defensive defense."

Incoherence in defense posture seen everywhere seems to be inherent to this country. It all stems from the fact that the hardware and software put in place here are totally incongruous for the purpose their users may, or may not, have in mind. If their purpose is deterrence, rather than actual use of these weapons, still incompatibility between ends and means is obvious.

Emboldened by all this, Kim Jong-il is now threatening to strike back hard if Japan hits the North Korean flying object. But I still think the fictitious scenario drawn by Ryu Murakami four years ago is not only realistic, but also desirable. If I were Kim Jong-il or one of his generals, I would launch a brush-fire war against Japan, rather than going nuclear, because that would be enough to cause the all-too-familiar state of paralysis here and topple the terminally-ill economic "powerhouse." Moreover, it can be safely assumed that Obama would not bother to mobilize U.S. Forces to meddle in such a local skirmish. Uncle Sam, or any other country, can't save Japan when it falls apart from within.

Koreans, Japanese, and perhaps Chinese as well, might work hand-in-hand to build a new nation out of the ruins of the Asiatic conflict, as they actually attempted more than 1,300 years ago. This may not happen this time, for better or for worse. But just the same, sooner or later the nation that we now call Japan has to perish simply because of its intractable fetishism for Western cultures.

In yet another surface-scratching book from the West I mentioned earlier, Rajan Menon wrote that Japan is no longer a paper tiger. That is the rationale for his argument that the U.S.-Japanese security treaty should be terminated as soon as possible. But my rationale for the same proposition is 180-degrees different; Japan is a paper tiger, and you can't conjure a real tiger out of paper. The only way out of this impasse is to once destroy the entire edifice hollowed out by fake technologies.


Postscript (4-APR-09):

At 16 minutes past 12 noon, a recently installed state-of-the-art radar detected a flying object ("some kind of path") which the Defense Ministry interpreted as a rocket launched by North Korea and urgently passed the message along through the emergency alert system named Em-Net. This put the entire nation on high alert. But a little after 12:20, the Japanese government retracted the announcement saying the information had proved erroneous.

Now that Japan's missile defense system has proved defective, some well-advised military experts such as Mr. Hideaki Kaneda, former MSDF officer, have emerged from their silence. Kaneda is saying that to tell the truth, a successfully launched Teaepodong-2 ballistic missile flies at the altitude of 10,000 km whereas the PAC-3 or SM-3 antiballistic missile cannot ascend any higher than 200-300 km.. ·

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Japan's Technological Superiority?
Authored by: samwidge on Wednesday, April 01 2009 @ 10:43 PM JST
You bring up some things here that I had not considered and I thank you for that.

I was especially startled to realize that Japanese military equipment tended to be American. Somehow I had not really believed your previous posts suggesting that Japanese scientific advance had faltered.

In America we live with a fuzzy idea that all great advances are ours or stolen from us. Russia's false claims to have invented the automobile and the Rosenberg theft of the atom bomb come to mind. Our preeminence seems natural until examined closely. If true, it is a very ugly thing because other capable free world minds are stifled.

That, in turn, means that the great minds of our enemies and would-be enemies are free to advance far beyond us without our knowing. Vicious surprise may be lurking in the near future.

You ask, "Are ... 250,000 troops really able to handle state-of-the-art hardware and software which are predominantly made in America?"

OOPS! If your people are using our training, our techniques and our equipment, then there is no capability whatever. You are in grave danger because you have not tried to prepare for threats that are unique to Japan.

On another issue, it is interesting that you feel that morale can be boosted with high salaries. American military has done rather well though its people are paid very poorly. I have thought that the only possible way to improve our success is with external thinking. The Japanese were at the front of my mind for this. You have shown clearly that there is no external Asian thinking.

Now the capabilities of both nations look bad to me.

Now we can only wonder what North Korea will do in the next days.

You are right: President Obama seems to have the will of a ground slug. We'll see but I sure wish there were someone better in command.