The Continued Remilitarization of Germany and Japan
In 2022 we have seen major announcements of vast increases in spending on defense by Germany and Japan. By and large the response from other advanced industrial countries, where the sorts of commentators who dominate the mainstream have for many years been calling for such a development, has been enthusiastic, even celebratory.
Considering the implications of all this recently I found myself thinking of how different the situation was three decades ago, when such developments were seen more anxiously — with German reunification panicking Margaret Thatcher and Francois Mitterand to the point of secretly turning to Mikhail Gorbachev with pleas for him to stop the event, or provide them with reassurance against German power; and the way that Japanese politician Shintaro Ishihara prompted alarm with his grandiose declarations in The Japan That Can Say No; and going even further than Ishihara, George Friedman and Meredith LeBard warned darkly of “the coming war with Japan,” and freer still to indulge their speculations, writers in the then-popular military techno-thriller genre routinely envisioned scenarios in which the U.S. had to fight a remilitarized and aggressive Germany or Japan, as in works like Tom Clancy’s 1994 bestseller Debt of Honor. (The second highest-selling U.S. novel of its year according to the Publisher’s Weekly list, it depicted at great length and in great detail the kind of war that Friedman and LeBard discussed in only general fashion.)
Of course, the world has changed greatly since that time, and the more benign view of the development reflects that. Most obviously the Second World War has become a far more remote thing in many an imagination — and so have even the newer fears of the ’90s, namely that the end of the Cold War would see the U.S.-led alliance and trading order give way to cutthroat neomercantilist competition. There is, too, the fact that fear of Russia and China overshadows any fear observers in the U.S. have of Germany or Japan. This would seem in part a matter of Russian recovery and China’s rise, but one should also not forget the fact that Germany and Japan, in relative terms, are much less formidable than they appeared to be back in the ’90s, enough so that in the circumstances they are expected to be not just partners, but fairly junior partners, in the balance of power, and that much less potentially threatening were the amity among them to give way to something else.
Originally published at https://naderelhefnawy.blogspot.com.