Call for the Revision of the Constitution of Japan from the United States

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Adviser of JFSS/ Special professor at Reitaku University Yoshihisa Komori

(Provisional translation from the original manuscript in Japanese by JFSS)
 
“The Constitution of Japan had isolated the Japanese people’s way of thinking from those of other countries’ citizens and restricted Japan from fulfilling international responsibilities, thus, the United States should encourage the revision of the Constitution.” – There has been such an opinion in the United States for decades. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will visit the United States on April 10th to discuss issues such as strengthening the Japan-U.S. alliance. However, the biggest obstacles severely restraining the Japanese defense policy have been the constitutional restrictions.
 
On the American side, a hope that Japan becomes a normal nation, which can make fairer contributions to the alliance with the United States by revising the Constitution, have been widely spreading for many years. Through the visit to the United States, Prime Minister Kishida should recognize   such an American trend of thought.
 
Through the years of my activities as a journalist based in Washington D.C., I have been paying attention to the American perception of the Japanese Constitution. To think about the future of the Constitution of Japan, it is essential to follow the American trend. It is because, first, the Constitution of Japan was drafted by the United States; Second, the United States has compensated what Japan cannot perform in its defense, which a normal country does, due to the Constitutional restrictions.
 
The biggest purpose of the Constitution, which was drafted in February 1946 when Japan was still under the U.S. occupation, was “to keep Japan forever unarmed” (according to the testimony of Colonel Charles Louis Kades of the U.S. Army who was in charge of drafting the Constitution). Therefore, the legitimate right of the use of military power which is allowed for ordinary independent states was forbidden. That was based on America’s policy to restrain Japan from becoming a military power at any cost. After many turns, from around the year of 1990, the mainstream opinion in the United States began to expect Japan to become an equal and normal bilateral partner state by the revision of the Constitution.
 
As far as I know, it was not until the year 1992 that the American opinion calling the revision of the Constitution of Japan was mentioned in the official document, intended to be released for public. It was the policy proposal titled the “Re-construction of the ethnic consciousness of Japan: How the United States can contribute to the creation of rather responsible Japan” released by the Heritage Foundation, a major American conservative research institute located in Washington D.C. 
 
Around this period, the Japan-U.S. relations were in turmoil. 31 nations, led by the United States, created the coalition forces upon the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait in 1991 and repelled the Iraqi forces. Japan did not send anyone including its Self-Defense Forces personnel, but donated large sum of funds. This Japanese attitude was criticized as the “Check Diplomacy”. The Japanese government claimed “Japan is unable to send its troops to the conflict zone since the Constitution forbids the country to exercise the right of collective self-defense”. On the other hand, the Japanese economic offensive ever since the 1980s had caused a backlash in the United States. The Heritage Foundation, which had close ties with the then Bush Administration, expressed an unvarnished opinion with a concern about the worsened Japan-U.S. relations that the root of the problem existed within the unique Japanese constitution.
 
My intention of taking up the Heritage Foundation’s policy proposal after 32 years since its release was based on the fact the American recommendation and criticism at that time got to the point on the reality surrounding Japan in these days. Furthermore, this old recommendation also represents the current American perception of Japan, which Mr. Kishida should pay attention to.
 
The most important part of the policy proposal was a recommendation stating “the Bush administration should informally urge Japan to draw up a new constitution by around 1995”. The main points of the policy proposal were as follows: “Japan’s current constitution was a masterwork of Field Marshal Douglas MacArthur. Although the Constitution receives public supports in Japan to some extent, it is based on the document forced by the outsiders. Since a strong two-party system no longer exists in the post-war Japan, basic thought exercises and discussions on its own direction and objectives have been absent. 
 
Japan’s formulation of an autonomous constitution will ignite the thoughts and discussions whether willing or not. Those moves will bring growths to politics based on competing beliefs and will create an opportunity to take up the real will of Japanese citizens in general.
 
“Japan is an exception in the world also from the viewpoint that the quality of livelihood of its citizens is low despite being an economic giant. The cause of this exceptionality is a lack of political debates resulting from the current constitution. Enormous influences of the Article 9 which denies any forms of the use of military forces cannot be ignored. Basic attitude of Japanese citizens towards the outside world was largely affected by the influence. Denials of the use of any force and any types of war made Japan the only exception in the world. As a result, the Japanese citizens stood on the basis of the consciousness that they are exceptional in the world, and their responsible involvement with the issues of the outside world including the discussion on the use of force were never realized.”
 
“The article 9 has prevented Japan from being a completely responsible member in the international society and delayed Japan’s contribution to the U.N.-led peacekeeping missions to Kuwait and Cambodia. The Bush Administration and the following new administration should unofficially encourage Japan’s Constitutional revision to eliminate its consciousness as the world’s exception. Nullification of the Article 9 will destroy the fantasy ‘All Wars as Evil Acts’ and will enable Japan to form real political discussions regarding the use of force inevitable for democratic nations to repel invasions and defend themselves.”
 
That was the beginning parts of the policy proposal - with cold eyes judging the Article 9 as “fantasy”. Of course, some Japanese might react against it, stating that the fantasy was forced by the United States. However, the American attitude has drastically changed. Furthermore, the policy proposal continued:
 
“Of course, Japan has freedom to stick to the fantasy of passive pacifism which denies the use of force for justice and the prevention of invasions. However, the claim that “Japan will repeat its militaristic past without the Article 9” has no sense. There will be no other countries other than Japan that will be more likely to avoid repeating the tragedy of the Second World War. Meanwhile, if Japan itself turns to an aggression, the constitution will have no power to prevent it. The rebirth of the Japanese militarism can only be prevented by a political system based on open competition of various pollical beliefs, not by the Article of the Constitution based on the lie.”
 
“If Japanese people begin to think of establishing their own autonomous constitution, it will be a base for free and diversified politics. As a result, a foundation will be created to liquidate current super-commercialism and the roots of future aggressive policy. If the active political discussion occurs among the people, which has been absent before, the general public, meaning the consumers, instead of the producers and bureaucrats, will decide the basic directions of the nation’s politics and economy. This move is favorable also for the United States. The Unites States should encourage Japan to stop being ‘exceptional’ and instead to become a matured democratic nation with moderate national identity.
 
The proposals recommended the then US administration to unofficially encourage Japan to revise the Constitution. Stressing the word “unofficially” means their consideration that any foreign nation should not intervene another country’s Constitutional matters. However, as I mentioned above, we cannot discuss what Japan’s Constitution should be without the United States ever since its birth.
 
At that time, I was strongly interested in the first-ever American recommendation for the revision of the Constitution of Japan and reported it. Dr. Seth Cropsey, head of the Asia Research Center of the Heritage Foundation, was a main advocate behind the policy proposal. Dr. Cropsey was at his 40s back then, an expert on Asian security policies after various posts such as Assistant Secretary of Defense, Acting Vice Assistant Secretary of Defense, and Deputy Under Secretary of the Navy.  I interviewed Dr. Cropsey and asked for further details. Dr. Cropsey indicated the points below:
 
“Regarding Japan’s Constitutional problems, opinions have been divided among the Americans for many years.  My parents’ generation who experienced WW2 are most skeptical about an idea that Japan becomes a normal country with its autonomous constitution. President George H.W. Bush was probably the last President that belonged to the generation. On the other hand, the memory of the war fades away as time goes by, and a new view that “Japan is the same as other countries and worth complete trust” has spread among the Americans.”
 
“The Constitution of Japan created an artificial boundary between the thinkings of the Japanese and others. It is beyond my understanding that people who can think logically believe any use of force by an independent state and any war are evil and that the world can work without them. The truth is obvious when we think about cases in which we and our children are assaulted by thugs.”
 
Dr. Cropsey’s words sound incisive for Japan, but I feel them closer to the common sense of the international society. Indeed, if you are assaulted by thugs and still not allowed to use any forces for self-defense or counterattack, it is even against the human instinct for survival. Much more, it is against natural laws if the use of force is still forbidden in the face of a thug assaulting your loved ones. 
 
Anyway, such a proposal was made in the United States 32 years ago. Unfortunately, the decades-old claim exactly suits today’s situation of Japan. When we come to reconsider the basics of the Japanese-U.S. relations on the occasion of Prime Minister Kishida’s visit to the United States, we have no choice but to again face the realities of the heresy of the Japanese Constitution and the American perception of it. For the consideration, I dare to use these old materials again.