Article 9: a concrete platform for the peace movement.Participants at the WILPF National Congress at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in June voted to support a resolution proposed by two Boston branch members. Jiyoung Ahn and David Rothauser submitted the resolution based on Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution. The accepted Resolution reads:
Article 9 of the Constitution of Japan forbids Japan to make war again. It was written 65 years ago, under the direction of U.S. occupation forces. Since that time, Japan has had no civilian or military losses in war, nor has Japan declared war. WILPF U.S. will work to add a similar amendment to the U.S. Constitution in hopes that, following such an adoption, the U.S. and Japan can form a coalition to work within the U.N. to abolish war-making as a political and economic tool. The controversial Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution, to which this resolution refers, reads: "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."
At its core, Article 9 strives to prevent the militarization of Japan. The militarization of a nation leads to decreased public sensitivity to weapons, military forces, and war, and thus to a greater acceptance of armament, including nuclear armament. Therefore, this clause of the Japanese Constitution effectively prohibits Japan from becoming a heavily militarized, nuclear state.
The Japanese Constitution was established in Japan on May 3, 1947, during the post-WWII occupation of Japan by U.S. forces. General Douglas MacArthur, the acclaimed "Supreme Commander" of the U.S. occupation forces, assembled a mixed group of 24 people (16 officers and 8 civilians; 4 women, 20 men) to expand on three main ideas that he had proposed for the post-WWII Japanese Constitution.
This team, assigned the monumental task of composing a constitution for a nation they knew very little about, created the document within their one-week deadline. Although more than a dozen versions of the new constitution had been submitted by various Japanese political parties before the U.S. team began its work, MacArthur and his colleagues dismissed each version. As a result, the Japanese Constitution was formed and accepted without the consent of the Japanese people. The formation process of the new constitution was contradictory to democratic values, as was the process by which the previous constitution, the Meiji Constitution, had been adopted 60 years earlier. Despite this disparity, the constitution has worked sufficiently for the Japanese since 1947. Additionally, it is one of the most progressive, equitable constitutions in the world. It includes an equal rights clause and a universal suffrage clause, in addition to the controversial Article 9.
Although the U.S. imposed the new constitution on Japan, the raw reality of the two nuclear bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki ushered in a period in which the Japanese people were accepting of a non-military state. However, around 1950, only a few years after the constitution was formed, the United States attempted to coerce Japan to desert Article 9, as it became involved in South Korea and sought military assistance. In spite of this pressure, Japan ardently refused the call to abandon Article 9 and maintained its status as a non-belligerent state. Japan' s 65-year span as a peaceful state is a powerful declaration in an increasingly militarized world.
Even with Article 9 in their constitution, the Japanese are not immune to militarization. The meaning of this clause clearly prohibits Japan from maintaining military forces, but that nation currently supports a large number of land, sea, and air forces--the Self-Defense Forces (SDF). Although Japan does not take part in offensive military measures, it contributes to many peace-keeping operations around the world. The increasingly visible presence of the SDF also contributes to the militarization of the government, society, and daily life of Japan. With the expansion of the SDF, the potency of Article 9 is slowly being eroded by the Japanese government and the ruling elite.
At this critical time, in the aftermath of natural and nuclear disasters, when a reliance on security forces is necessary for clean-up and rebuilding purposes, and when fear, anger, and uncertainty are rampant, we must caution against the expansion of militarization for security purposes. Militarization desensitizes citizens to war and subtly leads to increased acceptance of military needs and values. The tenets of Article 9 must not be abandoned at this juncture; they must be fortified and preserved. In light of this, we need to use our voices to stand with our sisters and brothers in Japan. It is our duty to focus our attention on the fortification of Article 9. One way to accomplish this is to highlight the relevance of Article 9 in the United States.
The Resolution adopted at Congress called on WILPF members to work to amend the U.S. Constitution to include a clause similar to Article 9. This is a lofty goal with many obstacles; foremost, the language of Article 9 as it stands in the Japanese Constitution clearly violates some of the content in the U.S. Constitution, such as the right of Congress to declare war. For proposing ideas like this, peace activists often garner criticism for being starry-eyed and unrealistic. However, by approaching matters of disarmament and the implementation of Article 9 realistically and with flexibility, activists have the opportunity to debunk that type of criticism. Article 9 is an important example for the peace movement, and it can be used as a concrete, viable example of workable peace.
We need to affirm that our goals are attainable. As we incorporate the tenets of Article 9 more thoroughly into the U.S. peace movement, we will need to evaluate the approaches to disarmament that the peace movement has used in the past. By doing this, we can determine what methods have been successful, and what components of Article 9 are reasonable for our use in the future. Do we use the ideas
== behind Article 9 in the U.S., while using the specific text as a working example? Because many in our militarized society often dismiss pacifism, we must carefully demonstrate how Japan's Article 9 might be tailored as a feasible and relevant option for the U.S.
We can begin this process by keeping the public abreast of the reality of the situation in Japan, truthfully illustrating the dangers of nuclear power and nuclear armament, and their connection with militarization. It is crucial that we work to keep stories about Japan at the forefront of the news, and in the public consciousness. It is within our power to continue to show the inherently destructive nature of nuclear power and nuclear armament through the evolving situation in Japan. We must do this by contacting and bonding with other organizations who share our similar goals and moving forward as a united front, even if we approach the issue from different angles.
We are at a crux in the peace movement and the antinuclear movement in the aftermath of the tsunami, earthquake, and subsequent nuclear disaster in Japan. The peace movement must use this as an opportunity to strengthen our calls for an end to nuclear power, nuclear armament, and militarization. We must think about the relevancy of Article 9 to our lives and to our nation, today. In light of our government's appetite for nuclear and non-nuclear weapons, we must continue our call to decrease our weapon' s arsenal. In order to continue to push for this disarmament, we need to propose concrete methods to back up our calls; Article 9 is a platform from which we can confidently move forward.
John W. Dower, Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II (NY: W.W. Norton &, 1999).
Joseph Gerson and Bruce Birchard, The Sun Never Sets: Confronting the Network of Foreign U.S. Military Bases (MA: South End, 1991).
Chalmers Johnson, Nemesis: the Last Days of the American Republic (NY: Metropolitan, 2006).
Arjun Makhijani, S. David. Freeman, and Helen Caldicott, Carbon-free and Nuclear-free: a Roadmap for U.S. Energy Policy (MD: IEER, 2007).
Molly Cyr is a student at Wellesley College; she interned in the U.S. WILPF national office this past summer and travelled to Costa Rica for the 2011 International Congress.