The Participation of Japanese Military Forces in U.N. Peacekeeping Operations

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Leitenberg, Milton
In September 1992, the first Japanese military forces were committed to participation in a U.N. peacekeeping mission, the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC). This occurred under new Japanese legislation enacted in June 1992. It was followed by other short-term deployments with U.N. contingents in Mozambique in May 1993, in Zaire in 1994, and most recently with U.N. Peacekeeping forces on the Golan Heights in 1996. In September 1994, the Japanese Socialists reversed their policies of decades, accepting all that they had opposed before in regard to the Japanese Self-Defense Forces (SDF), including its basic constitutionality and legitimacy. However, the constitutional question has always been a proxy for a less symbolic and more basic issue: How can the Japanese public and political leadership guard against a resurgence of "militarism," the accretion of both forces and political power that would permit the use of Japanese military forces for aggressive purposes? Has the discussion of this question been realistic? Could such a process any longer take place without the approval and direction of the government? Is any incremental step toward the involvement and integration of the Japanese military in international collaborative activities, such as U.N. peacekeeping, the initiation of unavoidable and inevitable military independence, and the loss of control over the military by Japanese civil society and government? What would be the most desirable policies to follow so that the Japanese military behaved in accordance with international norms for the indefinite future? Is the most likely inhibitor of its misbehaving in the long term its integration with the military forces of other Asian and worldwide militaries, after 50 years of isolation, or attempting to maintain that total isolation indefinitely? And what does the question of a thoroughgoing and heretofore essentially absent Japanese national understanding of the practices of its armies in Asia between 1931 and 1945 have to do with these questions?