Gwynne Dyer: Gutting Japan's Article 9

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      Fifty-five years ago Nobosuke Kishi, Japan’s prime minister, resigned just after winning the battle to push the treaty revising the country’s military alliance with the United States through parliament. The demonstrations against it were so massive and violent that his political capital was exhausted.

      Today his grandson, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, is waging a quite similar battle, but he will probably get away with it. More’s the pity.

      Abe, like his grandfather, is on the right of Japanese politics, and his target this time is Article 9 of Japan’s post-war “Peace Constitution”. That clause undermines his vision of Japan as a “normal country” (like the United States, Britain, or France) that sends its troops overseas to fight wars.

      The language of Article 9 is clear. It says that “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....Land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained.”

      It would take a pretty sharp lawyer to get around that.

      Moreover, it’s very hard to change the Japanese constitution. It would take a two-thirds majority in each house of parliament, plus a national referendum, to change or drop Article 9.

      Abe would certainly lose that referendum: 80 percent of Japanese like Article 9 just the way it is.

      This is deeply ironic, since it was written into the post-war Japanese constitution in 1946 by the American occupation authorities, who feared that otherwise Japan might re-militarize and become an international threat again.

      By the mid-1950s, however, the United States was locked into the Cold War confrontation with Communist China and the Soviet Union, and it badly wanted Japanese military support in Asia.

      But by then the Japanese population had fallen in love with Article 9. After three million war dead, followed by the atomic bombings at Hiroshima amd Nagasaki, they wanted nothing more to do with militarized great-power politics. Article 9 became their foolproof excuse for staying out of the whole stupid, bloody game.

      Those are the opinions of ordinary Japanese, however. They are not so widely held among the elite—and Japan has an elite like few other countries.

      A Japanese historian once told me in confidence that he reckoned around 400 people—politicians, industrialists, and senior bureaucrats—make almost all the decisions in Japan. Moreover, they have been inter-marrying for generations, and are almost all distantly related to one another.

      Which explains, perhaps, why the grandson of a “Class A” war criminal is now the prime minister of Japan.

      There’s an interesting contrast between Nobosuke Kishi, who became Minister of Munitions in the Imperial Japanese government in 1941, and Albert Speer, whom Hitler appointed as Minister of Armaments and War Production in early 1942. Both men were arrested at war’s end, and Speer was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

      But Kishi was never charged, and while Speer languished in Spandau prison, Kishi was freed, helped to found the Liberal Democratic Party that has dominated Japanese politics ever since, and was elected prime minister in 1957.

      In fact, the great majority of the “400” of that era were back in business by the mid-1950s: the United States needed to get Japan back on its feet in a hurry, and it had nowhere else to turn.

      So here we are, half a century later, and their descendants are still in charge. Japan is a democracy, but the voters mainly get to choose between members of the “400”. Kishi’s brother, Eisaku Sato, was prime minister for eight years in the 1960s and early 1970s, and his grandson Shinzo Abe became prime minister for the first time in 2006.

      It’s safe to say that most members of the elite have always wanted Japan to become a “normal country” that is free to fight wars again. They aren’t thinking about aggressive wars, of course; only “just” wars, probably alongside their American allies. The big stumbling block has always been popular opinion—but Shinzo Abe has found a way around that.

      If you can’t win a referendum on constitutional change, then don’t hold one. Just “reinterpret” Article 9 so it means the opposite of what it seems to say. Shinzo Abe’s cabinet did that last year, declaring that Article 9 really allows the military to go into battle overseas to protect allies—so-called “collective defence”—even if there is no direct threat to Japan or its people. That covers just about every contingency you can imagine.

      Last week Abe pushed two bills through parliament that reshape military policy and structures in accord with that “reinterpretation”. The opposition parties walked out and thousands demonstrated outside the parliament building, but the deed is done, and there won’t be any referendum about it.

      Unless some mass movement arises to protest against this cynical manipulation of the law, Abe will get away with it. The “Peace Constitution” will need a new name, and the United States will finally have a Japan willing to fight by its side.

      No doubt that will make the world a safer place.

      Gwynne Dyer is an independent journalist whose articles are published in 45 countries.



      I Chandler

      Jul 22, 2015 at 12:17pm

      DYER:"A Japanese historian once told me in confidence that he reckoned around 400 people, make almost all the decisions in Japan.

      Were any of those 400 people in the ÇIA? Tim Weiner’s Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA notes how the CIA ensured that Nobusuke Kishi became Japan’s prime minister:

      DYER: "55 years ago, prime minister Kishi, resigned after winning the battle to push the treaty revising the country’s military alliance with the US through parliament. The demonstrations against it were so massive and violent that his political capital was exhausted."

      Prime minister Kishi had already angered the public by insisting that Japan's Constitution did not ban the development of nuclear weapons. Kishi's younger brother Eisaku Sato became prime minister and privately supported Japan starting its own nuclear weapons program:

      "Matsutaro Shoriki, president of Japan's largest newspaper, worked closely with the CIA to bring nuclear power to Japan as part of Eisenhower's effort to sell the benefits of the peaceful atom in order to justify use of nuclear weapons."

      "Abe is a notorious denier of history, having questioned the veracity of Japanese atrocities toward China and threatened to rescind Japan's apology to women forced into prostitution to service Japanese troops."

      SPY vs SPY

      Jul 22, 2015 at 4:14pm

      Prescott Bush - Could have been classified as a Class One Nazi Supporter for his activities as a Nazi Financier

      That ended in 1943 when the Banking Empire he was apart of was dissolved when the USA Government discovered, Union Banking Corp was still funneling money to Hitler as late as 1943.

      JT Watson - Could have been classified as a Class One Nazi supporter for all the assistance IBM gave Nazi Germany - especially in organizing the Holocaust!! (Please read IBM and the Holocaust)

      The USA government did absolutely nothing to Prosecute Prescott Bush or JT Watson!!

      It seems that there can be Banks Too Big To Fail and Industrialists - Too Big For Jail!!!!


      Jul 23, 2015 at 3:40am


      Why are the opinions of the elites so different from the population's? Is it the business opportunities of war? The international power/prestige of being a military power?

      I'm surprised no nation has taken a non military approach to interventionist policy. I mean, armies are not the only way, if you're willing to put in that kind of money. A country the size of Japan willing to sink 2-3% of their GDP (US, UK, Russia military spending) into non military foreign adventures could gain a lot of influence. There is less competition.

      Rather than being somewhere the 10th biggest military power, they could be the no. 1 at something else. Being the number one emergency response nation would take just a small portion of that. IE, the ability to mobilize 10k emergency workers in the case of a tsunami, earthquake, etc. "The japanese are here, everything will be OK."

      10k professionals of this sort, trained ready to respond anywhere, immediately is a force that has never existed on earth. Lots of prestige, national pride, opportunities to show off and even power to be had. 10k troops ready to intervene in Iraq would have made them junior partners in a war most participants wish they had skipped.

      More than one way to skin cats


      Jul 23, 2015 at 9:06pm

      China's leadership are a bit ahead of you there. Beijing declared 2006 "The Year of Africa", and their economic and political investment in sub-Saharan Africa over the last ten years has been absolutely staggering.


      Jul 26, 2015 at 7:41am

      ARTICLE 9 doesn't mention extra-orbital defensive space platforms either, for dropping peacekeeping thunderbolts very precisely on the heads of enemies of freedom...