“Article Nine is now becoming dangerous to Japan because it hampers collective defense with its allies. North Korea’s nuclear weapons threaten Tokyo and the world, and China is expanding its military reach. Japan needs a military with offensive capabilities that can take part in joint military action when Japan isn’t directly under attack.” (THE WALL STREET JOURNAL. May 8, 2017)
Do we really have to change the constitution? Japan is now facing the really important turning point of its history under the Abe’s administration. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took a gamble when he called early elections in 2017. After, his party and coalition partner won more than two-thirds of the seats in parliament. He the win is a vote of confidence from the public – one he sees as a green light to change Japan’s pacifist constitution. Abe is particularly keen on the move given the threat posed by nearby North Korea. But what would a stronger Japanese military mean for the region?
To look at this phenomenon through the glass of International Theory, I’d say Japan is now walking towards more realistic point of view. Under the threat of North Korea, and the rise of China, we Japanese citizens are slowly understanding the power transition of the world. Plus, as in the Wall Street Journal article says, and under the presidency of Trump, the U.S. is basically pushing Japan to change its constitution again. We could say, if Japan will actually change the constitution in near future, that would be the second time changing the constitution somehow by the intension of the “foreign actor” United States.
Therefore, I’m thinking of applying political realism to this phenomenon, Japan’s constitution revise movement and its Abe’s attempt.
The current Constitution of Japan was promulgated on November 3, 1946, and came into effect on May 3, 1947. One of the Constitution’s distinctive features is its embrace of pacifism. Article 9 of the Constitution, which renounces war, is considered unique. Japan is allowed Jieitai, the Self Defense Forces (SDF): the Air SDF, the Maritime SDF, and the Ground SDF. They cannot be called land, sea and air forces (gun) because article 9 prohibits Japan from maintaining military forces. However, the SDF were named, many have believed the SDF is military and the existence of the SDF is, in essence, unconstitutional. Of course, the government has interpreted the Constitution in a manner in which the SDF would not be unconstitutional. The government has developed a somewhat unique interpretation of article 9 and its related rules in order to legalize the existence of the SDF, and has also put limitations on the SDF in the spirit of article 9. As the government’s interpretation of article 9 has developed further, many think the interpretation has begun to deviate too much from article 9’s language. The government interpretation has emerged at a time that the United States has demanded more cooperation from Japan in maintaining Japan’s military security. The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which has been the ruling party for most of the era after the Second World War, has discussed amending the Constitution, especially article 9, but resistance has been strong. It once looked impossible to amend article 9 because the majority of Japanese people would not support the amendment. However, global political and security issues impacting Japan have changed, as have the viewpoints of the Japanese people. Recently, there are realistic opportunities to amend article 9. (liberty of congress: https://www.loc.gov/law/help/japan-constitution/article9.php)
In the process of reading articles about article 9 revision movement to it, I actually encountered really interesting hypothesis that mainly argued by Japanese scholars. There is the question “Who’s actually the proposer of article 9”. I personally believe that Shidehara Kichijiro the PM at the time was the proposer of article 9. Here’s the two theories that mainly argued.
Who proposed Article 9?
The new constitution including Article 9 was written substantially by the GHQ, but there are various opinions about where the idea of Article 9 came from, and two opinions among many are well-known. The first one is that it came from Douglas MacArthur, and the second is that it came from then prime minister Kijyuro Shidehara.
About the MacArthur theory, both MacArthur and the United States were concerned about the rearmament of Japan, so to avoid that, they included the clause of pacifism in the Constitution. The article of renunciation of war, stated in MacArthur’s three principles (also known as MacArthur Note), is as follows:
2. War as a sovereign right of the nation is abolished. Japan renounces it as an instrumentality for settling its disputes and even for preserving its own security. It relies upon the higher ideals which are now stirring the world for its defense and its protection. No Japanese army, navy, or air force will ever be authorized and no rights of belligerency will ever be conferred upon any Japanese force.
However, on the side of the Shidehara theory, Prime Minister Shidehara visited MacArthur on January 24, just before the announcement of MacArthur’s three principles, and Michiko Hamuro, the daughter of Ohira, heard from her father what Shidehara talked about with Komatsuchi Odaira, the Privy Councilor, and regarding this conference, she wrote:
Shidehara said that starting from the idealistic position that the world should not maintain any military, to make a society without war we should renounce war itself. Then, MacArthur suddenly stood up, and grasped Shidehara’s hand with both hands, and, full of tears, he said, that is right. Shidehara was a little surprised by this. … MacArthur seemed to think about doing something good for Japan as much as possible, but some parts of the U.S. government, some members of GHQ, and also the Far East committee began an argument that had a tremendous disadvantage for Japan. Countries such as the Soviet Union, Holland, and Australia feared the institution of the Emperor itself. … Therefore, they insisted that to abolish emperor system, the Emperor needed to be judged as a war criminal. MacArthur seems to have been troubled about this very much.
Therefore, MacArthur thought that the idealism of Shidehara, the announcement of renunciation of war, need to be done as soon as possible, and show that Japanese people do not cause war in the world and get trusts of foreign countries, and clearly define that Emperor is a symbol of Japan in the constitution, so we can start to keep Emperor system without the interference of various countries. … Both of them agreed that there is no other method to keep Emperor System in Japan, so Shidehara made up his mind to accept this draft.
In addition, MacArthur tells in his autobiography Reminiscences (1964) that the article of war renunciation was suggested by Shidehara, supporting the opinion that Article 9 was proposed by Prime Minister Shidehara. However, Shigeru Yoshida, who became the prime minister after Shidehara, denied this theory in the book The Yoshida Memoirs (1957), and mentioned that General MacArthur had declared his intentions earlier than Shidehara. (Shinya Watanabe: http://www.shinyawatanabe.net/en/writings/content238.html)
The Non-pacifist Progenitors of the Japanese Constitution and Article 9
The most influential figure in the process of creating the new Japanese constitution was undoubtedly General Douglas MacArthur, who was appointed by President Truman as the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers (SCAP). It is reasonable to begin this discussion with MacArthur, who was not only the most influential among the figures involved in the creation of the constitution, but also the one who ultimately had the final say in this matter as in others. Quite surprisingly, according to MacArthur’s 1964 memoirs, the idea of Article 9 was actually proposed to him before the release of his famous three notes (the so called “MacArthur Notes”)16 by Prime Minister Shidehara Kij?r? on January 24:
Shidehara then proposed that when the new constitution became final that it include the so-called no-war clause. He also wanted it to prohibit any military establishment for Japan—any military establishment whatsoever. Two things would thus be accomplished. The old military party would be deprived of any instrument through which they could someday seize power, and the rest of the world would know that Japan was never intended to wage war again. He added that Japan was a poor country and could not really afford to pour money into armaments anyway. Whatever resources the nation had left should go to bolstering the economy (MacArthur 1965: 346-347). (Guy Almog: 2014, http://apjjf.org/2014/12/36/Guy-Almog/4177/article.html)
I will later discuss the possible discrepancies between this statement and other accounts, but for the time being, let us consider this statement true. Assuming Shidehara had indeed promoted this line of thought, there was nothing “pacifist” about it, as the reasons he voiced to MacArthur did not derive from a moral attitude that deems the participation in any war as impermissible. The reasons he presented were much more a matter of preference and practicality. Japan should ban “any military establishment whatsoever” not because it was inherently immoral, but because this action would satisfy the other nations, and at the same time prevent the former militarist leaders who had led Japan to disaster from regaining strength. In addition, Japan could not afford the creation of new armaments given its wretched postwar economic condition in which 64 cities were destroyed by fire bombing and two by nuclear bombs.
Thus, if these were the reasons behind Shidehara’s proposal, we can safely determine that he was not truly a pacifist, but rather a very practical person. This practicality can be seen in an interview made years later with Shidehara’s son, Michitar?, who stressed that the point of his father’s suggestion to MacArthur was a “universal disarmament” but certainly not a “unilateral disarmament,” since he did not dwell in “illusory idealism” (McNelly 2000: 107). Indeed, who would not desire an eventual “universal disarmament”? The road to this dream, however, seems very different in the eyes of the pacifist and the just war theorist. Pacifism demands “unilateral disarmament” regardless of other nations’ actions, since it totally forbids any participation in war (and without arms, one cannot participate in a war). Although JWT strives to eventual peace, it does not support such notions. (Guy Almog: 2014, http://apjjf.org/2014/12/36/Guy-Almog/4177/article.html)
Shidehara Kijuro (1872-1951) was an important figure in Japan’s modern history as a diplomat, bureaucrat, and politician. Shidehara was envoy to the Hague in 1914, ambassador to Washington between 1919 and 1922, minister for foreign affairs between 1924-1927 and 1929-1931, and Japan’s first postwar prime minister under the occupation (1945-1946) and instrumental in introducing in Japan’s postwar constitution Article 9, dealing with the abolition of war. (Japan in the World: Shidehara Kijuro, Pacifism, and the Abolition of War: A book review by Dr Erik Paul)
And Shidehara himself was a realist, he considered the world situation and with all the realistic way of critique to the world, he finally reached his answer “article 9”
Once my grandfather told me how important article 9 is, My grandfather has been served as a member of Japanese military in Manchuria ??since when he was 18, around 1940 to 1945. He spent all his youth in there as an army, and he told me once that article 9 is the crystal of blood, tears and sweats of Japanese citizens and all the victims of the war around the world.
And now, Abe is claiming that he’s going revise the constitution by 2020 because the constitution, article 9 is not realistic enough and old fashion so it doesn’t fit the time we’re living right now.
But, what if the constitution has made already in a super realistic way? Shidehara has even said this article 9 is truly a far-seeing article.
We can even look at Macarthur ‘s retirement speech.
He predicted everything just like he knew what’s going to happen for the next 70 years, Macarthur himself was also a realist.
As for MacArthur, calling him a “pacifist” would be utterly grotesque. He was an active and experienced general who had participated in his fair share of wars, which he believed to be necessary and moral. MacArthur of course subsequently commanded the United States’ troops in the Korean War until his dismissal from command by President Truman (due to several pugnacious public statements regarding China). In addition, MacArthur ordered (or “allowed”) the creation of the Japanese NPR (National Police Reserve),18 which later became the JSDF (Japan Self Defense Force). (Guy Almog: 2014, http://apjjf.org/2014/12/36/Guy-Almog/4177/article.html)
Then how could article 9 be the antique pacifist constitution that has imposed by the US?
No, article 9 is actually a super modern constitution that goes way ahead of us. Shidehara and Macarthur GHQ has created article 9 because they believed that abolition of war is the only realistic way in order to achieve world peace.
Shidehara at the time he already knew that having “power” against “power” isn’t realistic strategy anymore, he knew that article 9, abolition of war would be the next “power” to this anarchy of the world, he as an elite even considered domestic situation then finalized this answer. Therefore, we could even say that this article 9 is a master piece that we can be proud of as a world most developed constitution.
Now as I said, Abe and even US is trying revise this article 9,
As I said, this would be the second time that the Japanese constitution would be change by the US. And this time it seems like it’s in a really bad way. As a fact, Japan haven’t had any war with the other nations for the last 70years since we established the new constitution. We could say it’s because of article 9, It has been prevented japan from war and even to the region.
The application of Neoclassical Realism to the case of Japan, particularly the constitutional reinterpretation reveals that there are a number of causal mechanisms between structural force (cause) and the constitutional reinterpretation (outcome). In particular, the constitutional reinterpretation is a quintessential example to serve as a channel between international and domestic politics and an analytical lens to examine the interplay. The institutional obstacles with the constraints of the past interpretation give reasons as to why structural forces hitherto had not been properly reflected in an outcome. The examination of domestic institutions illuminates the difficulty to reach a consensus due to the nature of ideological difference and the role played by the Legislative Bureau. Moreover, as the constitutional reinterpretation regarding the SDF is still not welcomed by the public so that securing political stability through other means seems imperative to divert the attention of publicly unwelcomed policy and wriggle out of and keep at bay the opposition parties. Despite such an ordeal, it is also hard to deny that the public opposition has arguably waned, compounded by the disenchanted and weakened opposition parties, which helped pave the way for pushing for the legislative bills. These particularities – be it temporarily or not – account of what is referred to ‘radicalism’ in security policy development in Japan.
Although much depends on the domestic political situations, Japan’ security policy will be further expanded and enlarged through future constitutional reinterpretation or possibly the revision – making Japan lean towards more of a neo-realist type of behaviour. If this happens, the period of the post-cold war and the time of revising the constitutions will be characterised as ‘a slow, yet fundamental transformation into a normal country’ with the possibility of escalated tensions in the Asia-Pacific – the second Cold War.
Moreover, what is crucial to capture an overall trend of Japan’s security policy is the accumulation of the constantly evolving constitutional reinterpretations – to the policy makers, the collective self-defence is a logical extension in adjusting to the aggravating strategic environment. Therefore, the case study analysed in this paper elucidates a critical juncture where ‘incrementalism’ meets ‘particularities’ or what one might call ‘radicalism’ by highlighting conditions under which constitutional reinterpretation takes place to have a substantial impact on security policy in Japan. While some attribute the constitutional reinterpretation to Abe’s ideological stance and leadership, this paper puts forward that political particularities on an incremental foundation of the interpretations are largely responsible for, whereby Abe with his leadership and ideology works as a ‘last piece’ to complete the process. All in all, the conclusion departs from the existing literature that often drives a wedge between incrementalism and radicalism or constructivism and realism, in that it incorporates these contested debates into a single theoretical framework while preserving predictive values. (Yuki Watai: http://papers.iafor.org/wp-content/uploads/papers/iicj2017/IICJ2017_35536.pdf)