After the end of World War II, and under occupation by a foreign military, Japan wrote a new constitution. One of the most controversial parts of the new constitution is Article 9 which states:
“ARTICLE 9. (1) 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.
(2) 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.”
Basically, what it is saying is that Japan gives up all military power and now fully embraces peace. But many powerful groups now look to repeal Article 9. And while it may seem very black and white, this argument is much more nuanced than it may seem on the surface. So, here are 3 arguments for and against Japan rearming.
Please be aware, these are not my personal beliefs, but things I hear when I discuss this topic with people.
Japan in the near century after the World Wars has changed dramatically. Its new weapons are trade, business, and manufacturing capability. Japan does not need to be expansionist anymore because it can generate more wealth through mutually beneficial trading alliances. East Asian countries are crazy for Japanese goods and culture. While things like terrorism and rising developing nations are indeed worrisome, the world is actually much accepting now than it has ever been. We are living in a golden age of world culture. As this age of communication continues, people will be more accepting of others and war will become less common.
Since the fall of communism and the end of the Cold War, the world has been undergoing a massive power shift. During the Cold War, when there was one unified threat, great military alliances with more powerful nations made sense. But today is very different. Power is not as accumulated as it once was. Power is reverting to a much more natural equilibrium, in which world power subdivides into several regional powers. Southeast Asia is up for grabs, and it looks like China is going to get the prize. And China is not overly fond of Japan and has an ax to grind. Furthermore, North Korea is consistently a problem and a threat to peace.
Since the end of the war, Japan has been occupied by an ever-shifting number of American military personnel. My own father and uncle served in Okinawa many years ago. There are numerous American bases (partially funded by Japanese taxpayers). These troops serve as a barrier to aggressions by neighboring states. If any country were to attack Japan they would also be attacking American military, thereby also starting a war with the history’s biggest and most powerful military. There is no country that would willingly poke America in the eye. To start a war with America would be an act of suicide.
It is dangerous to be over-dependent on America for protection. America is traditionally an isolationist nation, while its recent history as “world’s policeman” would lead you to believe otherwise, the American’s people’s natural inclination is to not get tangled in overseas alliances and not “go abroad in search of monsters to slay.” After America’s disastrous involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, many Americans are turning away from the interventionist policies of previous presidents. More and more, America is looking to cut its military spending, and Japan is one possible place they might look to cut ties. Furthermore, all of America’s goods are made in China and Southeast Asia, and American businesses are making a lot of money there, so who’s to say they would come to Japan’s aid even if it were attacked?
Japan’s economy is shrinking precipitously. Each year the GDP shrinks along with the population. Part of the reason for Japan’s post-World War II boom was that the economy did not have to shoulder the weight of military spending, and was able to fund business and economic growth. If Japan wants to build a modern military, it will take an incredible amount of capital. Where would the government get such money? More loans? Japan is one of the countries with the highest amount of debt. In order to build a military, taxes will have to go up, and taxes in Japan are already too high!
Imagine the cost of doing nothing. Imagine that an American president is elected and that he decides to close bases in Japan, and an aggressive Southeast Asian nation decided to attack. Would America help? Maybe. Maybe not. Japan would be on its own. How would Japanese people defend themselves from an aggressor? With DVD players, game machines, and pop music? Japanese people are weak, they don’t have the traditional martial spirit of their grandfathers. Mandatory military service would improve the entire country. People would come together more, and be more willing to sacrifice for the greater good.
The future of Japan and its Article 9 is one of the most important issues facing Japan today and really needs to be discussed more than it is currently. Japan needs to have a real national conversation about this topic. But when I bring it up to people, I find a disturbing cognitive dissonance. Most people just say something like, “I don’t know.” Or, “It’s too complicated.” So please discuss this with your Japanese friends, and whatever side they fall on, push them to really consider all sides of the issue. Because it is very important. It could be a life or death question.