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'Rethinking a Rearmed Japan'

October 18, 1987

It is always a pleasure to read a column by Norman Cousins, who was recently honored in Japan for his efforts on behalf of the victims of Hiroshima.

As consultant to Gen. Douglas MacArthur during the American occupation, Cousins played an important role in shaping MacArthur's recommendations to Japan urging that nation to adopt a constitution renouncing war and its technology. Japan did so. Now it seems that the Reagan Administration would have it otherwise.

Cousin's article ("Rethinking a Rearmed Japan," Op-Ed Page, Oct. 7) warns of the danger that lies ahead if our government urges Japan to become a military power once again. Within a decade Japan could challenge our dominance in the Pacific arena.

A concomitant of this policy would be the marshaling of Japanese willpower, brain power and yen power to build an armament industry that would rival our own.

At present, Japan is giving its highest priority to the education of its young. English is rapidly becoming its second language, as is presently the case in Russia and Israel. We, unfortunately, have abandoned requiring our college students to learn a second language in order to attain a bachelor's degree. Consequently our students majoring in business and the sciences cannot read foreign journals produced by the leadership of those countries.

For the present, the people of Japan have chosen to heed the words of Walt Whitman, their favorite American poet, who, back in 1874 urged America to insure its future, saying, "To girlhood, to boyhood look, the teacher and the school." ("Leaves of Grass," "An Old Man's Thoughts of School.")

As Cousins astutely observes, Japan indeed has "discovered and put to work history's greatest truth--that the primary resource is the human mind." When will we give to the education of our young, the highest possible priority?


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