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Interview with National Defense Academy
President Makoto Iokibe

President Makoto Iokibe

Would you tell us about your career before your appointment as president of the National Defense Academy?
While I continued to conduct research and education in the history of international relations and the history of Japanese diplomacy and politics at schools including Hiroshima, Harvard, and Kobe Universities, on occasion I was asked for my views on foreign policy by the government. Before I took part in the Council on Security and Defense Capabilities, under the cabinet of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, I was hesitant about joining this council, since I'm not an expert on national security affairs, but Yasuo Fukuda, who was then chief cabinet secretary and is now prime minister, helped me to make up my mind with the comment, "Aren't you always stating the opinion that we should consider security affairs from the people's vantage point in a broad historical view?"

After becoming president of the academy, what were the most memorable episodes of your work?
I was uneasy about moving into an organization and culture totally different from the scholar's world, but I have been able to do my job comfortably thanks to the support I've received from those around me.
    I recall being impressed by the progress cadets made. Although one-third of first-year cadets could not swim when they entered the academy in April, all were able to complete the eight-kilometer course in a swimming competition held that summer. At first I was concerned that maybe they were being forced through exceedingly Spartan training, but then I learned that it was achieved as the result of individualized instruction thoughtfully geared to each person's level, including starting with playing in a swimming pool.
    While taking trips to observe training that the students received at various places, I volunteered to ride an F-15 fighter and got a taste of acceleration at five gravities, and I also tried creeping forward on my belly. While sharing the experiences of cadets as much as I can, I hope to continuously think together with them on what kind of leaders the SDF officers of the twenty-first century should be.

What are your thoughts on the future shape of the National Defense Academy and what message do you have for students?
I wish to realize an "open defense academy" dedicated to fostering human resources suited to the internationalization age and capable of enlisting the sympathy of the public.
    I hope that our cadets don't forget warmth in their strict lives. The Self-Defense Forces have a monopoly on the ultimate power. For that very reason, the organization needs to be rigorous and at the same time to have warm relationships, like those in a family. I want cadets to acquire the proactive attitude and free sensibilities required of a leader while maintaining discipline.
    One of the female students approaching graduation said, "Life at the academy has been truly hard, but my valuable experience of having withstood the strict life is a treasure." I sense that the academy is the "spiritual home" of those who graduate. When the country faces a crisis, they need strong spirits to resolve never to run away. For this reason as well, I hope that they will never lose the spiritual base that the NDA gave them.