Consider what Prime Minister Abe wrote about the anti-treaty demonstrations in 1960 (forgive my rough translation):
The encircling of my grandfather’s house by demonstrators
On June 18, 1960, the day before the automatic passage of the US-Japan Security Treaty, the Diet and the Kantei were surrounded by demonstrators whose numbers approached 330,000.
My grandfather, confined at the Kantei, was conscious of death, but said while drinking wine with my great uncle (Sato Eisaku, at that time finance minister), “I am by no means mistaken. Even if it kills me, I am satisfied.” Immediately after signing to begin the work of revision, forces of opposition around the Socialist Party intensified conflict inside and outside the Diet.
At that time, I was still six years old, and it was before I had entered primary school. To my grandfather, I was, together with my older brother, who was two years older, very cute. We would always go to play at my grandfather’s home in Shibuya’s Nanpeidai district.
But, there too was often surrounded by demonstrators. “Ampo, hantai!” was shouted in unison repeatedly, and stones, screws, and burning newspaper were thrown at the house. At that time, my father, who was a member of the House of Representatives, was also confined there, and my grandfather, who could not go outside and was bored, summoned us.
My brother and I, with our mother, boarded a newspaper company’s car flying the company flag and went to my grandfather’s house.
My brother and I, as children, heard the voices of the demonstrators from afar, and thought that it sounded like the band at a festival. We stamped out, as a joke, before my grandfather and father, “Ampo, hantai, ampo, hantai!,” to which my father and mother joked, “You should say, ‘Ampo sansei.'” My grandfather, while smiling at that, seemed happy.
I asked my grandfather, “What’s ampo?” I dimly remember that thereupon he answered, “The Mutual Security Treaty [ampo] is a treaty so that Japan will receive protection from America. Why everyone is opposed to it, I don’t understand.”
(Utsukushii kuni e, pp. 21-23)
For the prime minister, for all Japanese politicians, the questions surrounding the constitution and the alliance are fundamental to their identities as politicians, not to mention Japan’s identity as a nation. It is a mistake for Japan to rush into revision — and for the US and foreign observers to urge Japan on — without a clear sense of what’s a stake and what the participants bring to the table.
One point that comes out early in Packard’s book, in his discussion of the 1951 ratification of the initial US-Japan treaty and the debates on Japan’s foreign policy that followed, is that the pursuit of independence was the fundamental goal shared by all participants in the debate, even as they differed tactically. (Conservatives, whether of a pragmatic or revisionist variety, felt that independence could be achieved via alliance with the US; socialists sought de jure independence via unarmed neutrality and rapprochement with Beijing and Moscow.)
While the rhetoric might lead observers to think otherwise, I think there’s good reason to think that independence has been the consistent goal of all Japanese governments throughout the postwar era right up to today, even as successive prime ministers have talked about how valuable the US-Japan alliance is to Japan. While Japan has evinced fears of abandonment often and continues to do so today, fears of entrapment, if voiced less frequently, are just as real and are perhaps more important as a determinant of Japanese alliance policy over the long term.
All of which goes to say that American alliance managers should approach revision with a sense of caveat emptor: alliance managers may think that a Japan that has accepted collective self-defense via revision of article 9 will result in a kind of “roles-and-missions plus” arrangement (roles and missions being the new ideas about an alliance division of labor pushed in the early Reagan administration), but the US may be getting an ally that is eager to break out of the old framework and flex its muscles. That need not be a disaster for the alliance, if the US is prepared for a Japan that might become more like De Gaulle’s France after revision. If the US is unprepared for a more independent Japan, however, the alliance could break at the first sign of a crisis during which the US expects Japanese support — which Tokyo fails to provide.
I will be writing more about this as I read through Packard, especially his notes about Prime Minister Kishi.