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KYOTO Journal: The Power of an Ideal: Japan’s Article 9 and the Imagination

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A non-profit volunteer-based quarterly magazine established in 1986, Kyoto Journal offers interviews, essays, translations, humor, fiction, poetry and reviews, accompanied by memorable photo-essays, original illustrations and award-winning design. No hype, minimal advertising, maximum reading value.

KJ#72: The Power of an Ideal: Japan’s Article 9 and the Imagination

textbook graphic In two short paragraphs, Article 9 of the post-WWII Japanese Constitution articulates the highest ideal in support of world peace — by actually outlawing war.

“Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.
In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.”

Widely believed to have been imposed unilaterally on Japan by MacArthur’s occupying Allied GHQ, Article 9 was in fact drafted and proposed by Japanese lawmakers, representing a country that understood all too well the folly of aggressive empire-building and the bitter futility and tragedy of war.

Since 1947, and in sharp contrast to its past as a fascist Axis empire-builder, Japan has not committed a single atrocity against the people of another nation, has not re-militarized, has not produced nuclear weapons, nor entered the lucrative arms industry. In part because of Article 9, Japan was able to transform itself into the second largest economy in the world. Moreover, its subsequent ODA expenditures, amounting to 10 to 15 billion dollars (U.S.) each year over the past 18 years — along with the growth of several hundred NGOs active in development, the environment, human rights, and peace — would never have been possible if Japan had remained a militarized nation.

Imagine then the worldwide benefits of taking Article 9 to the global level. The immense financial and human resources unleashed by disarmament could be immediately applied to developing practical solutions to the world’s most pressing problems, focusing on green technologies and green energy, education, solving poverty and health issues, implementing strategies against global warming and desertification, cleaning up toxic waste, converting weapons factories, and the disposal of nuclear weapons.

The seeds for this special issue were planted by the Global Article Nine Conference for Abolishing War, which was held for three days in Chiba in spring 2008, drawing an unprecedented 30,000 participants, including many from overseas. Widely diverse groups recognized common ground, and the positive repercussions that a Global Article 9 would have on their concerns, including nonproliferation and disarmament, expanding nuclear free zones, joint Asian security, reducing poverty, regional conflict resolution, gender equality, peace education, peace-building, human rights and environmental protection.

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The Power of an IDEAL: What Japan’s Article 9 could mean to the world.

The Second World War so deeply affected Morita Michiko, now 90, that before going to bed each night, she sits down before her household shrine in Shikoku and prays for world peace. Her country inflicted shocking devastation — including massacres, forced labor, and sexual slavery — throughout Asia, and misery upon its own soldiers and the Allied troops who fought in the Pacifi c region. Japan itself also experienced widespread destruction: almost every Japanese city was reduced to rubble in napalm-fueled fire bombings. In Tokyo alone, 100,000 people were killed in one night. And the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki seared images forever into the world’s collective memory of the unspeakable suffering of the immediate casualties (as well as the lingering radiation-induced afflictions of the survivors).

After such horrors, the attitude of most Japanese was “Never again.” Thus, in two short paragraphs, Article 9 of the post-war Japanese Constitution articulates the highest ideal in support of world peace by going so far as to relinquish some of Japan’s own sovereignty and actually outlaw war:

Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.

In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.

[Article 9 has restrained militarization even though Japan began to reconstitute its military (as Self-Defense Forces) in the 1950s, and ranked sixth in national military spending in 2008. By law, Japan cannot use military force unless directly attacked. Unlike in China, the Koreas, and the U.S., militarization does not permeate the national culture, society or economy. Instead of creating weaponized robot drones, Japan is building “social” robots for education, entertainment and elderly care.]

In essence, Japan wagered its future security on disarmament and nonviolent international conflict resolution.

The ideal made real — a law that has been implemented successfully, even though only unilaterally, for the past 60+ years. Since 1947, and in sharp contrast to its past as a fascist Axis empire-builder, Japan has not committed a single atrocity against the people of another nation, has not produced nuclear weapons, nor entered the lucrative arms industry. Despite the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty (which necessitates hosting a large number of deeply unpopular U.S. bases on mainland Japan and in Okinawa) it would not be an exaggeration to say that A-9 has been the foundation of East Asian security.

“The rebirth of the Japanese people depended on Article 9,” says author and Nobel laureate Oe Kenzaburo. The vast majority of Japanese have internalized the pacifism articulated by Article 9. In fact, rejection of war forms the basis of post-war Japanese morality and is essential to present-day Japanese identity. In spite of periodic rightwing minority attempts to amend this provision of the Constitution (attempts long backed by many in Washington) — the Japanese people and, importantly, successive governments — have proudly maintained Article 9. One result is that Japan is a leader of the “three non-nuclear principles”: forbidding the possession, production, or introduction of nuclear arms in their country (visits by U.S. nuclear-powered ships or vessels that might be carrying nuclear warheads thus remain controversial). The Constitution also prohibits military drafts and secret budgets.

Some scholars, however, have made reasoned arguments in favor of amending Article 9 to allow Japan to participate in international peacekeeping missions. Others see any such amendment as starting Japan back down a slippery slope toward a full-blown remilitarized society. Regardless, many believe that these 73 words, a gift of hope that arose from the ashes of World War II, can further transform the geopolitical landscape in the 21st century.

The planet’s nations are now evolving unprecedented levels of interdependence and complexity — economically, systemically and culturally. The World Court and the Chemical Weapons Convention are already examples of transnational agreements that are a result of this transformation. It is clear that war as a political solution is obsolete and as an economic framework is catastrophic.

As someone once said, “Winning a war is like winning an earthquake.” The simple truth is that we share a common destiny, and the only rational way forward is to outgrow war. Mark Sommer has written, “the most fundamental shift that needs to occur is not a comprehensive resolution of differences, but a common agreement to accept both differences of temperament and a commonality of fate.”2 Article 9 could be a practical mechanism to keep politicians from stupidly choosing war. When citizens of other nations demand this approach to security from their governments, one after another, the UN will fi nally have the authority to become the peace-keeping institution it was originally meant to be.

In part because of Article 9, Japan was able to transform itself into the second largest economy in the world. It has used part of this wealth in Overseas Development Assistance (ODA), and while many of these programs have been fl awed, some demonstrate what is possible when money is not spent on warfare: in the last two decades Japan gave polio vaccinations to 600 million children and created safe drinking water and sanitation systems for some 40 million people worldwide. Imagine then the benefi ts of taking Article 9 to the global level. The immense fi nancial and human resources unleashed by disarmament could be immediately applied to the world’s most pressing problems, focusing on green technologies and green energy, education, solving poverty and health issues, putting into practice strategies against global warming and desertifi cation, cleaning up toxic waste, converting weapons factories, and disposing of nuclear weapons.

Translating the ideal into reality — a Global Article 9 — would force us to re-envisage our common future. If we are serious about achieving a global peace, we will have to change what we choose to believe about what is possible. Lester Ruiz, secretary of the Peace and Justice Studies Association, urges us to be open to the “(im)possible possibility.”3 Law professor Richard Falk (interviewed in KJ #39) asks us to “not be so arrogant as to exclude unforeseen and unforeseeable positive unfoldings of the future.”4 Consider the improbability of events in recent memory: the collapse of the Soviet empire, the breakup of apartheid in South Africa, the creation of a workable European Union incorporating twenty-seven sovereign state members cooperating for mutual benefi t, even the election of an African-American as the new U.S. President.

Beckoning us like something sparkling on a distant horizon, Article 9 has the potential to inspire our imaginations, to lead us beyond the outmoded confi nes of preconceived judgments (“doomsday” scenarios) about the future. Creating opportunities for a new kind of trust, it belongs to the courageous territory only recently charted by Gandhi and Martin Luther King. International commitment to the ideals of Article 9 would help lay the foundations for what Johan Galtung5 calls “positive peace,” which is not just peace from violence, but a far-ranging peace, one that actively seeks justice throughout society, a more reverential relationship with nature, self-esteem for all, humane institutions, and tranquility of mind.

The seeds for this special section of Kyoto Journal were planted by the Global Article Nine Conference for Abolishing War, which was held for three days in Chiba in spring of 2008, drawing some 30,000 participants, including many from overseas. Members of widely diverse groups all recognized common ground, and the positive repercussions that a Global Article 9 would have on their concerns, such as nonproliferation and disarmament, expanding nuclear free zones, joint Asian security, regional confl ict resolution, gender equality, peace education, human rights, and environmental protection. On this fi rst anniversary of that landmark conference, we think it worthwhile to revisit this compelling movement, and have assembled voices seeking to illuminate both the ideal that Article 9 embodies, and how other nations might adopt their own “Article 9.”

Again tonight, Morita Michiyo will pray for peace. As with preceding movements aiming to achieve apparently impossible objectives, the ideal itself propels us all forward.

—John Einarsen and Jean Miyake Downey

Special thanks to Meri Joyce, Watanabe Shinya, Shirashi Eri, Rey Tanaka, Kimberlye Kowalczyk, Nikki Lee, and Ayelet Maida

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YOKO ONO: WHITE CHESS SET (1966)
UNFINISHED PAINTINGS AND OBJECTS”, INDICA GALLERY, LONDON
PHOTO BY IAIN MACMILLAN
© 1966 YOKO ONO

Through her simple alteration, the artist made it extremely hard for the chess players to  ght each other, and this creates new relationships between the opponents…. Chess is a war strategy game. Article 9 stipulates that the “Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation,” and “the right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.” The spirit of Article 9 resonates with the underlying idea of White Chess Set; if the di erence between the white army and black army is not recognized by a nation, the nation renounces war. Here, the difference of the colors, which created the idea of the enemy, disappears. Then, “the right of belligerency of the state is not be recognized”; so as long as you play, the original idea of belligerency becomes mutual understanding.

WATANABE SHINYA
INTO THE ATOMIC SUNSHINE

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2009-06-20T17:09:19+00:00 June 20th, 2009|Imagine All The People|