Japan, Article 9 and the Self-Defense Forces

EDITORIAL, 19 Sep 2011

#182 | Johan Galtung

“How to Deal with the Military” (Speech given at Ritsumeikan University, Kyoto, Japan)

Dear Participants,

The Japanese Self-Defense Forces, SDF, one of the strongest in the world, is based on physical direct violence, or the threat thereof, to counter violence, or a threat.  In a better world it would not exist; the focus would be on unreconciled traumas and unsolved conflicts underlying violence, with efforts to reconcile and mediate; like solving problems of disease identifying causes and removing them.  And building peace through cooperation for mutual and equal benefit.

But Japan is faced with major external challenges and internal changes.  In the global context three major trends evolve: the fall of the US Empire and US decline with the decline of the West in general; the rise of the Rest–Latin America-Africa-Asia–and China; and the decline of the state-system and the rise of regions, except for the biggest states: China, India, Russia, USA; but not Japan.  For the first time Japan was not on Forbes Asia’s top 50 companies.  China had 23; in 2005 Japan had 13 (The Japan Times, 13 Sep 2011).

The world’s center of gravity is moving East, but Japan is linked to an US-dominated West militarily powerful but economically declining, with decreasing political power.  Japan is located in East Asia, yet rejects an East Asian Community.  Prime Minister No. 6 in five years, Yoshihiko Noda, declares as Foreign and National Security Policy:

–deepening and developing the Japan-U.S, alliance;

–strengthening bilateral relations with neighboring countries;

–Japan seeks to normalize its diplomatic relations with North Korea through the comprehensive resolution of outstanding issues of concern, including the abduction, nuclear and missile issues, and settling the unfortunate past. (The Japan Times, 15 Sep 2011 p. 4)

“Unfortunate past” is a highly undiplomatic expression for the brutalization by Japanese imperialism 1895-1945 and the Pacific War 1931-45.  And “bilateral” rejects any East Asian Community.

This is a rigid, static, uncreative foreign policy, favoring a falling empire over a rising region.  The obvious solution is Both-And!, embracing an East Asian Community–after having reconciled with China and the two Koreas–and keeping good relations with the USA.  Peace rather than military alliances, neither with China, nor with the USA.

At the same time Japan undergoes six dynamic domestic revolutions against a state dominated by the male graduates of two universities, Tokyo and Kyoto: the rise of women, of the young and the old, of the graduates of lesser universities or none at all, of NGOs, of local communities, and by the change from life-long employment to contract.

Result: A country in deep spiritual crisis between an old, rigid, demoralized elite still in power, and new, but not yet crystallized social forces.  And this happened long before Japan was hit by the 3/11 seaquake-tsunami-radioactivity Fukushima disaster.  The true nature of those nuclear power plants was stated by the former Minister of Defense (under Fukuda), Shigeru Ishiba, in an interview in Sapio (May 10 2011): “Nuclear power plants as “potential nuclear deterrents” since nuclear arms can quickly be developed; without nuclear plants one has to start from scratch. Better maintain that deterrent potential,” he argues.

Anyhow, 3/11 proved again an alternative use of SDF: for disaster relief, with no violence, no threat.  Can this also be peace-building?  Yes, between countries threatening each other (“deterring” each other) with SDF helping a North Korea suffering from partly self-inflicted ecological calamities, and with North Korea’s (and China’s) military helping Japan after 3/11, like the US Army did.  The latter was used as propaganda for the alliance, but a military can help also outside alliances.  But, just as the USA did not permit Cuban disaster relief after Katarina in New Orleans, there was no such peace-building after 3/11.  Nevertheless, disaster relief is a possible opening for SDF.

How about SDF for development?  Problematic, development has to come from the inside, basically.  But, if reciprocal, inviting others to help Japan develop lagging sectors, it may be peace-building.

Searching for more, let us bring in the A9 (Article 9) of the Constitution:

“The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized”.  This is not a peace article, but an article punishing Japan by ruling out offensive war for aggressive purposes.  A9 does not rule out using the military for purely defensive defence inside the Japanese archipelago, with short range, non-offensive, non-provocative weapons combined with militias, and nonmilitary defense.  One more possibility, a negative peace–neither violence, nor positive peace–guided by the Golden Rule: do not deploy weapons you do not like others to deploy.

But how about offensive defense, fighting a war, when attacked, on somebody else’s land? and defensive offense, preemptive warfare, against offensive capabilities abroad?  Certainly against the spirit if not the letter of A9 because long range capability is itself offensive, making others fear aggression, offensive offense.  And extending the Self to include an aggressive country, like the USA in Afghanistan, ally or not, seems clearly in material breach of A9.

How about a fourth possible use of SDF, as a nonviolent peace force?  Without arms, of course, protecting civilians, accompanying them, based on solid training, exercises, courage?  They might even be superior to nonmilitary often short on those three.  Should be added.  But basic social change, like the “Arab Spring” (coming to Israel late summer, but not yet to the USA) has mainly to come from the inside.

Disaster relief, development, defensive defense, nonviolent peace force–all preferably reciprocal–could transform the military on the way to its abolition, like in the 30 states without armies.  Add training in reconciliation, mediation and peace-building and Japan would have a formidable peace force.  But for that to happen the six revolutions would have to develop further, create a new foreign and security policy for the (Democratic Party of Japan- DPJ or even the Liberal Democratic Party- LDP!; and act politically.

This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 19 Sep 2011.

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4 Responses to “Japan, Article 9 and the Self-Defense Forces”

  1. I agree with Mr. galtung.

  2. satoshi says:

    Prof. Galtung has briefly and clearly described, in his editorial above, one of the taboos of the contemporary Japanese society. But the reality he discusses is too complicated and too difficult.

    The “A9” is the symbol (or at least one of the symbols) of Japan’s act before, during and after WWII, especially in southeast and east Asia. Jesus said the Golden Rule: “Do what you would like others do to you.” Confucius said the same thing in the reverse way, “Do not do to others what you would not like them do to you.” In any case, what Japan did was against the Golden Rule of both wise men.

    One more thing to add although Prof. Galtung did not mention it clearly in his essay above. What is it? Koreans in Japan or the so-called “Zainichi.” Imagine the untold tragic modern history of these people over many decades, nearly a century, behind the economic prosperity of Japan! As the Emperor of Japan admitted some time ago, the so-called “main stream of Japanese”, including the Royal Family, are descendents of Koreans coming to Japan more than two millenia ago.

    Japan has entered into a new era that does not allow her to cover up the history both modern and ancient, while looking toward the future for making friendly relations with any nations, in particular, with neighboring nations.

    What Japan needs now includes the regional perspective, the global perspective and perhaps, the cosmic perspective. (As to the cosmic perspective, see Prof. Galtung’s editorial, http://www.transcend.org/tms/2011/02/think-cosmically-act-globally-eat-locally/ .)

    May peace and friendly relations be with all nations and individuals!

  3. A propos of aid given by the US military, I have read recently that they were happy to do so also because it was the perfect training ground for them to understand how to react should a ‘dirty’ radiological bomb ever be unleashed on them. Here’s the link:


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