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'Collective self-defence' is a threat to Japan's future peace

Publication Date : 05-07-2014


On Tuesday, the Japanese cabinet approved a dramatic change in the defence policy of the nation. The long-held limitation on the use of armed force, which according to longstanding enumeration of the “Peace Constitution” was strictly limited to the self-defence of Japanese territory, was expanded to allow “collective defence.”

This means that Japan's armed forces will henceforth be allowed to join in the defence of allies when the “life, freedom, and pursuit of happiness” of Japanese citizens is put under threat. The quote, itself tracing back to the US Declaration of Independence, was explained as a reinterpretation of Article Nine of the Japanese constitution, in which Japan renounced the right to wage war.

The government in 1972 defined the nation's defence policy as being strictly limited to direct threats to its territory and people and specifically forbid “collective defence.”

The Abe government's move is a perversion of the venerable pillar of modern Japan, rooted in the horrors and sufferings of war, that came to define the identity of that nation. With 50 per cent of Japan's people opposed to Abe's move, according to a Nikkei poll, it is time for this generation of politicians to forgo their short-sighted push to make Japan supposedly more free from war.

These moves, disguised with slogans that sound patriotic and powerful, cannot help but betray both ignorance and the unwise return to active tit-for-tat struggles against admittedly problematic neighbors such as China.

Abe countered criticism by saying that this is intended to promote peace instead of making the nation more likely to wage war. He appealed to the traditional idea of “deterrence,” saying that by projecting Japan's power more broadly it will help stem the tide of war.

The move toward this was a while in coming, with the Abe administration taking incremental steps to loosen the safeguards put in place seven decades ago to suppress the vanquished Asian power. Just a few months ago, the current Japanese cabinet lifted restrictions on exporting weapons based on the same reasoning.

Those safeguards turned out to be to the benefit of the nation during the turmoil of those seven decades, as it grew into a prosperous nation and an economic giant.

“A fundamental change to the way of being of a country that does not engage in war, a fundamental change to Article Nine of the Constitution,” the head of the Japanese Lawyers Association said of the move.

Abe tried to make a distinction between the cabinet decision and full-scale commitment to overseas engagement by saying that “there has never been any change to the principle that under general circumstances, the Self-Defence Forces will not engage in combat overseas, and will not be permitted to fight with the goal of protecting other countries.” However, the first part of the statement is meaningless as there could be countless loopholes present in “special circumstances.”

The second part is bound to be tangled up in the fog of war, we can easily expect an open-ended argument about the difference between fighting on behalf of a friendly country and fighting for one's own citizens WITH that friendly party.

The government lists as an example the possible participation in the defence of American fleets that come under attack while having Japanese citizens on board.

As the Hokkaido Shimbun put eloquently in its editorial published on July 1 titled “Let's take back true Pacifism,” “not one member of the Japan Self-Defence Forces died in combat in the last sixty years, and the Japan Self-Defence Forces did not have to kill a single foreigner.”

The Hokkaido Shimbun further challenges the claim that the difficult peace Japan has maintained was mainly the result of US protection.

Article Nine itself is, very possibly, what allowed Japan a strong position in denying requests for the joining of wars such as those in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the Hokkaido claim sounds more plausible to us.

The Asahi Shimbun accused Abe in its June 28 editorial, titled “Abe's defence policy initiative represents gross constitutional shenanigans,” of in fact lacking the courage to challenge Article Nine by amending the constitution. Therefore, he is doing it the covert way by tackling the interpretation of it.

This move by Japan, an indispensable piece of the puzzle that is peace in Asia, is troubling. We wish for the Abe administration to consider the true meaning of Japan's postwar progress and remember part of the lessons taught by the savagery of war.


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