Fifty-two years ago, the United States and Japan signed the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security. Forged just 15 years after a brutal, racially charged war between the two nations, the treaty was an exercise in realpolitik. It was written with an eye toward not only Japan’s security but the containment of communism across Asia. The U.S.-Japan alliance is credited with nipping a resurgent Japanese militarism in the bud, providing a backbone of stability for postwar Asia, and giving the United States a base from which to confront China, Russia, and its satellites.
Today, Japan has fully recovered from the war to become the third-largest economy in the world. The threat of communism has evaporated. Yet despite the alliance’s past successes, it’s hard to conclude that it continues to serve the United States and Japan well. The alliance freezes the relationship in time, forcing both to adhere to antiquated policies. It views the regional security environment through a Cold War lens, distorting how other countries are perceived. Perhaps most importantly, it prevents Japan from evolving into a modern state and accepting the responsibilities that come with it.