Wouldn’t it be great if we never had any need for a military? Failing that, how about a military forever sworn off of war? Japan’s military has done this for the last 50 years. This will soon change, however, as they enter the war in Iraq.
Article 9 of the constitution of Japan states:
“The Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes.”
This is interpreted as permitting a standing army known as the Self-Defense Forces (SDF), but has prohibited those forces from being deployed outside of Japan or possessing nuclear weapons.
Still, with nearly 240,000 military personnel and an annual budget of nearly $50 billion in 2002, Japan’s military outstrips Britain’s in total spending and manpower. [source]
In the past Article 9 prevented the SDF from participating in military conflict and limited Japanese involvement to mostly financial support.
However, just as the United States wrote that constitution, Japan is slowly amending it under U.S. pressure.
“With each global ‘crisis,’ the Japanese government has taken the opportunity to enact new legislation to circumvent Article 9 and its clear renunciation of war.
One of the larger circumventions was the Peace Keeping Operations Law of 1992 which was passed during the Gulf War. This law allowed Japan to take part, if in a limited way, in United Nations-led peacekeeping operations. Other laws that have eroded the force of the Peace Provision are the 1999 law on Japan-U.S. security cooperation in dealing with emergencies around Japan, and the 2001 anti-terrorism special measures law.
The terrorist acts of September 2001 and the subsequent pressure from the United States has provided the latest opportunity for the Japanese government to pass legislation increasing the country’s legal right to conduct war.” [source]
Following the lead of the United States, the meaning of “self-defense” has now been expanded to include “pre-emptive” attack. In February 2003, Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba warned that Japanese military would launch a pre-emptive military action against North Korea if it had firm evidence Pyongyang was planning a missile attack. It would be “a self-defense measure.”
This is not the first time Japan has cleaned up after a U.S. war. Japan gave $13 billion during the first Gulf War in 1991, but did not send troops. More recently, Japan deployed an SDF demining team to Afghanistan.
Yesterday’s New York Times reports that deployment for Iraq is scheduled for early next year.
That July article notes that the Japanese troops will help “resettling refugees, rebuilding and providing fresh water supplies that.” The Times, also states that the Japanese will “engage in unwarlike activities,” though ominously matches the article with photos of Japanese soldiers in camouflage make-up, members of an “antitank unit” during exercises in Japan.
The Times article also notes:
“Not one Japanese soldier has been killed, or has killed, in combat since the end of World War II.
That remarkable fact is being repeated here often these days, precisely because, as Japan prepares to send ground forces to Iraq, things could change in the near future. The death of a soldier, a sad though common reality for most nations, would be a pivotal point in Japan’s postwar history.”
The “harmlessness” of military service, a deception implied by U.S. recruiting material, is actually thus far depicted honestly in SDF materials. Here are some links to some images of SDF posters. While U.S. recruiting posters sell adventure spiced with danger and travel, the pitch here displays neither — instead mixing the adventure with uniforms, aviation, and naval technology.
The posters also seem to sell the SDF as something like a sports club, a way to impress your country, kids, and co-eds, and, recently, a distinguished career option for women. And then there’s that bizarre sci-fi poster. But then I can’t read Japanese so could be totally misinterpreting the signs.
As the Japanese military is a “Self-Defense Force,” their logo brands them as keepers of peace. The SDF are “Peace People Japan.”
The posters have been removed from the SDF site so the links above point to the Web Archive.
However, this small collection of cuddly cartoon characters is still online.
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