Japan's Military System Must Be Crushed


By JOHN F. AISO, Lawyer

Delivered at the New York Herald Tribune Forum, New York City, November 17, 1943

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. X, pp. 136-138.

IT IS with a profound sense of gratitude and pride that I present for your consideration a few modest observations upon the reconstruction of Japan. I and about 75,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry are grateful for the recognition which has been extended to us.

Notwithstanding false reports from irresponsible quarters, the loss of our homes and the loss of economic security through compulsory war-time evacuation, our faith in America remains unshaken. Ours is a determination to see this war through to a United Nations' victory no less than other splendid Americans like General Krueger or Mayor LaGuardia, of German and Italian ancestry.

We hope, in our little way, to prove that President Roosevelt was expounding a verity when he wrote Secretary Stimson, "Americanism is a matter of heart and mind, not of ancestry."

Proud of Body Politic

I am proud and I am sure you must all feel proud tonight of our body politic, the American body politic and its people. When in the midst of a great global war like this, unprecedented in the history of man, you permit me, of Japanese origin, to speak to you upon the reconstruction of our enemy, Japan, you are demonstrating the workability of democracy a In dynamic action. Could you by any far-fetched imagination dream of a performance like this taking place in Japan or Germany? This gathering itself bears dramatic witness to the American reasoning faculties, a commendable restraint and an undying faith in the democratic process of open, impartial and fair hearings upon every issue that may confront us individually or as a nation.

The reconstruction of Japan is but an inexorable corollary to that fundamental truism which has been unanimously propounded by all of the United Nations leaders, like President Roosevelt, Wendell Willkie, Sumner Welles, of the United States; Sir Stafford Cripps, of Great Britain; Queen Wilhelmina of Holland, and Madam Chiang Kai-shek, of China—namely, that the peace must not be based upon vengeance engendered of war-time prejudices, but upon the fundamental principles of justice and equity, upon due recognition of the factors in human nature, and upon common sense distilled from the pragmatic wisdom of all mankind.

The first step in the reconstruction of Japan is to get what Ambassador Grew has called the cancerous growth that has poisoned and contaminated everything healthy in the Japanese people out of their systems. We must cast Japan into a crucible, smelt out the bad and refine the metal with which to recast a new Japan. Without one moment's hesitation we must smash Japan's military might. We must bomb and destroy her arsenals and centers of production. We must invade Japan proper.

Lessons for Japan

Japan and her people must be taught that wars cannot be waged with impunity.

Japan's military masters must be utterly discredited in their impotence in warding off foreign invasions. The myth of the inviolability of Japanese shores by divine edict, arising out of the chance dispersion of Genghis Khan's invasion fleet by tidal wave, must be exploded and the Japanese people freed from their obsession that they are God's chosen people.

Some quarters of American public opinion say, do away with the emperor system in Japan. I beg to take issue. Suddenly take away the emperor system and you create a vacuum for which you can devise no adequate substitute in light of Japanese temperament and social heritage. No republican form of government could function until such time as the populace has been trained for allegiance to concept rather than to rulers. In the interim, we would have a series of internecine struggles, a tinder box which might lead to general wars. If you must mark an advent of a new era in Japanese life, dethrone Hirohito, set up the Crown Prince, Tsugu-nomiya, as emperor under the regency of liberal, Oxford-educated Prince Chichibu. But do not do away with the emperor system.

In order to break the stranglehold the military clique have had upon the Japanese military government, certain constitutional and legal reforms are essential. I refer to their direct access to the throne and their power to control the destinyof cabinets by refusing to nominate or to continue in office a minister of the army or navy who must be of the top two grades on the active service list and without whom no cabinet may be formed or continued in office. It must be remembered however, that constitutional reforms cannot be affected during a period of regency.

Judicial Process Urged

The Japanese propensity toward settling all disputes, private or public, by extra-judicial processes must be sublimated into a greater respect for and faith in the judicial process. In their actual function, Japanese courts must learn to administer speedy justice arrived at by the "rule of law" rather than the "rule of personalities" that they have learned from Prussian courts. They must learn to mete out justice to foreigner and Japanese alike by the same yardstick. They must attain that high degree of dispassionate justice which was marked by the United States Supreme Court recently when it ruled that even an enemy alien, resident in this country, unless in custody as being potentially dangerous, has a right to sue and be sued in the courts of the United States, even in time of war. A healthy respect for municipal law, administered through the judicial process, is a prerequisite for respect for law and order upon the international level.

Certain Americans, like Mr. Bellaire, former head of The United Press in Tokio, and Professor Peffer, of Columbia University have made an interesting observation, namely, that contemporary Japanese civilization is lopsided. The ultramodern, they say, has been conglomerated with anachronisms of a feudal society. And certainly their observations hold true in the realm of public finance. The incidence of taxation wherewith to bear all the cost of modern government and armaments has been shouldered upon the poor, agrarian class. In all except name the Japanese farmer is a feudal serf, tilling his small plot by hand, eternally ridden with debt, and sometimes forced to sell his daughter into human bondage. Deluded into believing that the only panacea for this rural evil is foreign conquest, the conscripts from this farmer class have become the "fire-eaters" and the "hot-headed" younger officers in Japan's army of aggression.

In Japan, as elsewhere, the common man must be given the opportunity to earn, as a free man, a decent living for himself and his family. Modern penology teaches us that keeping an individual or a nation upon a bare subsistence level on the brink of starvation does not conduce to reform and does not conduce to editing moral sensibility.

Education Greatest Factor

The greatest factor in social reconstruction, however, is education. And never was this more true than in the reconstruction of Japan. A reformation in the purpose and the function of the Japanese educational system must be carried out. General Baron Sadao Araki, when Minister of Education, wrote: "The purpose of a Japanese educational system is to train useful subjects of the Emperor, not so much a quest for truth. As a consequence thereof, graduates of Japanese schools are Japanese first and then scientists or scholars thereafter."

Education, however, is more than a matter of mere schooling; it is the free commerce and exchange of ideas. To this real education, the contemporary Japanese common man has never been exposed. He has been kept in intellectual isolation, and isolation just as real as the Tokugawa policy of non-intercourse. By virtue of foreign exchange control, Japanese youth are prevented from studying abroad. Through rigid censorship of the press and the radio the mail and the customs, all ideas deemed inconsonant with the supremacy of the military clique have been banned. A Japanese is not permitted to own a short-wave radio. He reads only those foreign news dispatches received through a semi-governmental agency. This wall of intellectual isolation must be battered down and the Japanese given opportunity to engage in the free commerce of ideas and in international intellectual cooperation.

We have up to this point considered some of the domestic reforms in the reconstruction of Japan. Domestic reforms alone, however, no matter how far reaching, are not in themselves sufficient- in reconstructing a nation. Her relations with her neighbors must be put upon a healthy standing and improved, if she is to have a rebirth.

Japanese Live in Fear

To Americans who have been favored with a friendly Canada on the north and friendly neighbors with whom our relations are fast improving on the south, it is hard to understand why the Japanese people have so complacently and docilely followed the bellicose leadership of the military. It must be remembered, however, that due to her geographical situation, she has in the past, anyway, been surrounded by professed or suspected enemies. The Japanese people have, therefore, always lived in apprehension and fear. The diplomatic memoranda exchanged between the governments of the United States and Japan make a revealing disclosure; namely, that the immediate causes for the rupture of American-Japanese relations were differences of opinion upon, (1) the statuses of China and French Indo-China;

(2) Japan's access to markets in the Dutch Netherlands—I the Dutch East Indies, and (3) Japan's access to raw materials from the United States, namely oil. Here are the real sore spots of American-Japanese relations and unless these are ameliorated, any reconstruction of Japan would be merely nursing that nation back for another bid at world supremacy through the arbitrament of guns, airplanes and bombs.

Full sovereignty should be restored to China, It means that Japan should retrocede Formosa and Great Britain Hongkong. The United States should continue full adherence to its present policy of granting full independence to the Philippines. French imperialism must not be permitted to return to French Indo-China, and greater measure of native welfare promoted in the Dutch Indies. But in this fully sovereign China, Japan should be accorded every benefit of the open door and equal business opportunity on a co-equal footing with every other nation.

Japan Needs Markets

Restoring Japan to a healthy state also requires that she have free access to raw materials and free markets in which to sell her manufactures. Stripped of exaggeration both ways, she does have a population problem of trying to feed 70,000,000 people on an area less than the State of California, only one-fifth of which is arable. The only solution to this problem is intensive industrialization, importing raw materials and manufacturing machinery, exporting manufactures and then living upon the differential.

John Goette, in his book, "Japan Fights in Asia," makes a very interesting observation when he says it was the Japanese yen, at least on the material side, to lead the American way of life that led to Japan's industrialization. The Japanese, no less than the other peoples of the world, are entitled to freedom from want, equal opportunities of earning a livelihood in keeping with her ability to produce goods or render services, unhindered by tariff barriers, boycotts and embargoes.

True, this would give Japan a trade supremacy of consumer goods fn Asia, China and in the East Indies by virtue of geographical propinquity, lower labor costs and lower cost of marketing and transportation. It may mean a temporary sacrifice to the Western nations, but it also means that the natives of the South Sea, Malaya, and even of East Africa, would get shoes, cotton textiles and bicycles, whereas under a system of tariff walls and trade quotas they would have to go without. In this respect, we must go along with Wendell Willkie when he says, "To raise the standard of living of man anywhere in the world is to raise the standard of living by some slight degree of men everywhere."

Would Increase Exports

This would not mean a depression of the American standard of living. It would not mean the end of our trade in the Far East. It would mean greater exports of raw materials to Japan and then through Japan to the other countries; raw materials, such as cotton, pulp and oil. Men like Henry Kaiser and Eric Johnston, of the United States Chamber of Commerce, men versed in the realities of trade and business, point out that industrialization abroad means greater exports of machinery and hence a total boost in our foreign exports. On the other hand, to deprive Japan of access to raw materials and free markets in which to sell her goods is to condemn her to a slow but painful death. Against the prospects of death Japan will wage wars, no matter how expensive.

Finally, in order to let the liberal elements in Japan lead that nation back to peaceful ways of living and friendly international intercourse, we must extend to the Japanese freedom from fear, fear of oppression and discriminatory treatment from the white man. Justified or not, such a fear does exist. Great issues are presented pro and con which I cannot deal with here, but I submit in passing that when in the future we erect a new international security institution like the League of Nations, we must model its basic articles upon the American Constitution and write therein a racial equality clause.

To briefly recapitulate, my thesis is this: Japan's military might must and will be destroyed, but the peace-loving elements of her society must be given opportunity for normal life and growth. Sweeping internal reforms must be effected, but, at the same time, freedom from want, equal opportunity and treatment, freedom from fear in her international life are just as equally indispensable to a fundamentally sound postwar reconstruction of Japan.

Although of Japanese ethnic background, I hold no brief for Japan or her people, a country which never gave my father a chance to earn a decent living and which has always treated me as a foreigner. My American education, on the other hand, has endued me with a craving to seek the truth. My American heritage of freedom of assembly and speech has permitted me to discuss these delicate issues with you. I have tried to discuss them in a spirit of fairness, hewing always to the line of reality. War requires courage to face the grim realities, no matter how personally abhorrent; peace will require no less. It is only by unflinchingly facing the truth and reality that we can hope to lead Japan back to the paths of peace, good will toward all men."