Hegemonic Spread and Lethal Creep: The Case of Japan


Earlier this year, the people of Japan took to the streets to oppose Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s proposal to reintroduce the possibility of military engagement abroad. After the horrors of World War II, memories of the victims of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 were etched unforgettably on the psyches of the Japanese people. War as a means of resolving international disputes became taboo, with Article 9 of the Japanese constitution explicitly renouncing the offensive use of force.

The prime minister’s proposal to “open up” Japan to the possibility of military intervention abroad was met with vehement opposition. International networks aired the protests, but in the United States mainstream media outlets were largely silent—perhaps because the US government so heartily approved. In the end, the protests did not alter the executive’s decision to do what he had already decided to do.


Just as the mass protests against George W. Bush’s proposed war on Iraq in 2003 did nothing to deter the hawks, in Japan, too, the bellicose few were unmoved by the outpouring of dissent. When the leaders of democratic nations claim to know better than the people themselves what the people need, then so-called democracy is on a downward path to its worst perversion: demagoguery.


Japan can now become militarily engaged in the world once again, because Prime Minister Abe said so and his cronies went along with what he wanted. Sound familiar? The next step is of course to emulate the US war makers by acquiring the tools of twenty-first-century warriors. The number one choice in the Drone Age, needless to say, is the unmanned aerial vehicle.

No surprise, then, that Japan will be acquiring three shiny new RQ-4 Global Hawk remotely piloted aircraft. Will they be armed? Sooner or later, no doubt. The Predator and the Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles were originally surveillance drones with the “R” designation (for “reconnaissance”)  as well, but eventually they were adapted to the true purpose implied by their names.  For the Global Hawk, the “upgrade” to “M” is only a matter of time.


For more information and related criticism, see We Kill Because We Can: From Soldiering to Assassination in the Drone Age, Chapter 4: Lethal Creep; Chapter 9: Death and Politics; Chapter 10: Death and Taxes; and Chapter 12: Tyrants are as Tyrants do