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From a Grobal View

How is Japanfs eArticle 9f seen from abroad? Here are some columns written by non-Japanese people living in Japan, and by both Japanese and non-Japanese journalists, students and researchers, etc., living outside Japan.


Anthony DiFilippo is Professor of Sociology at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, USA. His most recent book is Japanfs Nuclear Disarmament Policy and the U.S. Security Umbrella (Palgrave Macmillan, 2006).

It did not take Shinzo Abe long to make clear after he became prime minister in September 2006 that constitutional revision would be at the forefront of his more inclusive program to make Japan a gbeautiful country.h In his first policy speech given three days after taking office, Abe emphasized that his administration would begin to address the issue of collective defense, which the existing constitution is understood to prohibit, in order to increase the effectiveness of the U.S.-Japan security alliance. In this speech, Abe emphasized that the existing 60-year-old constitution had been written during the Occupation Period and that it necessary to have one gthat befits a new era.h Accordingly, Abe expressed his desire for gan early enactment of a bill on the procedures for amending the Constitution.h

Since 2000, conservatives and nationalists have tagged Article 9, the constitutional clause that has been interpreted as prohibiting Japanese military forces from participating in collective security initiatives, specifically with the United States, as being in need of revision. In the past revisionist interests have appeared from time to time. However, in recent years not only has the pressure for change been consistent and increasing but it has generally coincided with the call to make Japan a gnormal country,h one with a strong and capable military that can assist the United States in international security initiatives. Once Abe became prime minister, the revisionist call to change Article 9 immediately grew louder; seen from his nationalist perspective, for Japan to become a beautiful country it has to assume the military responsibilities of a normal state that is prepared to exercise them both regionally and globally.

However, Japanfs July 2007 election has dealt a crushing political blow to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Liberal Democratic Party. A recent Asahi Shimbun/Tokyo University poll indicates that the July 2007 election has put the proponents of constitutional revision at a distinct disadvantage. For the first time in several years, there is less than the required two-thirds majority present in the House of Councillors to begin the process there for revising the constitution. What is more, the Democratic Party of Japan, the main opposition party and the big winner in the July election, has indicated that it does not intend to deal with constitutional revision in the immediate future. While the desire remains strong among Japanese nationalists and their conservative sympathizers to revise constitution, most especially Article 9, the elections have brought this objective to a grinding halt, at least or the time being. Abe will therefore need to devote his attention to domestic social and economic issues viewed by the Japanese people as far more important than the nationalist-driven attempt to accelerate the push in the legislative process for constitutional revision.

At the same time that the electoral defeat has created a major setback for Abefs nationalist agenda, it has given staunch supporters of Article 9 the opportunity to guard and preserve this war-renouncing clause in the Japanese constitution. But this window of opportunity is not likely to remain open indefinitely. So acting wisely and without haste is imperative.

Especially for peace activists and organizations, it is necessary to make it perfectly clear to the Japanese people that amending Article 9 will not serve the countryfs interests. Right now, peace activists and organizations have an advantage on this matter, since many Japanese people currently understand that Article 9 has kept Japan free from war for decades. The present political environment in Japan gives peace activists and organizations more time to hone and focus their efforts on further educating the Japanese people about the benefits of preserving Article 9. Because the Japanese people must ultimately decide in a special referendum whether or not to amend the constitution, it is very important for peace activists and organizations to make maximum use of this recently acquired time.

For starters, peace activists and organizations need to stress that had Article 9 not been in place in its current form when the Bush administration invaded Iraq in 2003, it is very likely that Japanfs Self Defense Forces would have been a combat-engaged part of the Bush administrationfs gcoalition of the willing.h They need to point out that, despite Japanfs long-held commitment to the United Nations and the fact that this global body did not sanction the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, former Prime Minister Koizumi justified it anyway. It should be emphasized that the Koizumi governmentfs willingness to skirt the pacifist constitution, first by actively supporting U.S. troops fighting in Afghanistan and then by sending Japanese Self Defense Forces to Iraq, even though in a noncombat capacity, strongly suggest that had Article 9 not been in place things would have been much different for Japan.

There is a danger in doing nothing, since it is considerably better than an odds-even bet that the revisionists will soon regroup and, as Japanese postwar history has shown, will again be seeking to amend Article 9. Indeed, right now the revisionistsf motivation is stronger than in the past, since far too many of them hold tenaciously to the belief that it is imperative for Japan to become a normal country | an objective that is integral to Abefs idea of a beautiful country. Amending Article 9 and participating in what would amount to U.S.-lead security initiatives would allow the revisionists to demonstrate to the international community that Japan is a great power in the traditional meaning of the phrase and this, in turn, would help them win the necessary support for it to become a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council. Although there is nothing intrinsically wrong with Japan being a permanent member of the Security Council, holding such a position should not mean that its role there would be merely a mirror reflection of Washingtonfs global security interests and objectives.

Thus, supporters of Article 9 must articulate to the Japanese public that the normal-country reality for Japan has been to have this war-renouncing constitutional clause in place. In other words, Article 9 has been instrumental in making Japan a beautiful country. They need to stress and thoroughly explain to the Japanese people that amending Article 9 will remove the existing restraint that has served to check the objective of nationalists and their sympathizers for Japan again to become a military power. But peace activists must go beyond underscoring that becoming a military power unrestrained by Article 9 carries with it great risks to the nationfs security. Indeed, they must emphasize that should Article 9 be amended, it will be considerably harder, or more likely impossible, not only for the Japanese government to promote nuclear disarmament but also to maintain the aversion relating to Japan itself acquiring nuclear weapons.

Peace activists and organizations would be remiss if they failed to take advantage of the present political situation in Japan. There is a symbiotic connection between Article 9, the fact that Japan has not been involved in a combat role in any major international military conflict in more than sixty years and its promotion of nuclear disarmament. Although Japan can do much more to promote nuclear disarmament, the revision of Article 9 would not bode well at all for it making much progress in this area.

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