Re-Examining the ‘Myths’ About Japan’s Collective Self-Defense Change

(Co-authored with Bryce Wakefield – published in The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, Sept. 8, 2014)

In a recent article in the Diplomat, Michael Green and Jeffrey Hornung claimed that critics of the Abe government’s “reinterpretation” of Japan’s constitution, to end the ban on the use of force for the purposes of collective self-defense, were “basing their opposition on myths about the change.” This allegation that resistance to the “reinterpretation” of Article 9 is based on nothing but “myths” is increasingly heard, and so it is worth examining their arguments, and the so-called myths that they purport to dismiss.

Green and Hornung argued that the changes to be made through the “reinterpretation” were actually slight and that the immediate implications were far less problematic than alleged. There is a grain of truth to this as it relates to imminent strategic consequences, but it also misses the essential point. Yes, at least in the short term, changes to the roles and the missions of the nation’s Self Defense Forces resulting from “reinterpretation” will probably be modest; and yes, the changes will not likely lead to militarism, regional adventurism, or various other scenarios that the article examines and dismisses. But this focus on the intended policy shifts misses the far more significant issues raised both by the unconstitutional nature of the move and the possible longer-term and profound systemic ramifications of the “reinterpretation.”

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 The Hyuga – DDH 16 – Hyuga class helicopter destroyer (credit-World Politics News Review)

It is precisely because the immediate strategic implications of the Abe Cabinet’s announcement will probably be relatively modest that the implications for constitutional practice in Japan should be the focus of the debate. Perhaps the changing strategic environment in Asia will require Japan to consider relaxing some of the constraints imposed by Article 9. However, so fundamental a change to the nation’s constitution should only come after broad debate and pursuant to formal amendment procedures as provided for in the constitution. As explained below, the so-called “reinterpretation” process has in fact weakened constitutionalism, the rule of law, and fundamental principles of democracy in Japan, an argument that Green and Hornung, and many other defenders of the “reinterpretation”, never seriously address. In short, the harm is to the Constitution, and so focus on strategy is no answer.

Let us re-examine some of the “myths” that Green and Hornung so quickly dismiss. … Read more…

Undermining the Rule of Law – Tokyo Shinbun Interview

(Interview with Yoichi Takeuchi, in the Tokyo Shinbun, Jun. 30, 2014)

Martin-TS.Interview-Jun.2014

法の支配揺るがす ≪解釈改憲≫ 米の法学者はこう見る(東京新聞6月30日)

安倍政権は集団的自衛権の行使容認に向け憲法9条の解釈変更を7月1日にも閣議決定しようとしている。米政府や識者の多くは日本に集団的自衛権の行使容認をかねて働き掛けており、支持している。だが、政府の独断による解釈改憲は「日本の法の支配を揺るがす」と異を唱える法学者もいる。米中西部カンザス州のウォッシュバーン大学法科大学院のクレイグ・マーチン准教授(53)に聞いた。(アメリカ総局・竹内洋一)

-第1次安倍内閣の当時から解釈改憲には反対を主張してきた。その理由は。

「解釈改憲は憲法の改正規定を犯している。時の政権が不都合な条項を思い付きで簡単に変えられるなら憲法はもはや最高法規ではなくなる。『法の支配』を支える最も基本的で本質的な原則にも反している。法の下の平等だ。改正手続きを無視して解釈改憲を閣議決定すれば、内閣を法の上に置くことになる」

-閣議決定までの手続きも有識者会議や与党協議だけだった。

「憲法に定められた国権の最高機関である国会、違憲審査権を持つ最高裁には諮られていない。内閣の独断で改憲を宣言するのは、完全に違法で無効だ。憲法改正には国会での審議が必要だ。選挙に勝利した与党の協議でも、違法な手続きは正当化されない」

-安倍政権は「日本を取り巻く安全保障環境の変化」を憲法解釈を変える理由の一つに挙げているが。 … Read more…

How and Why Japan Should Amend its War-Renouncing Article 9

(Published in The Japan Times, Aug. 4, 2012)

The pressure is mounting to either amend Article 9, the war-renouncing provision of Japan’s Constitution, or to increasingly disregard it and so make it irrelevant. In April the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) published its proposal for amending the Constitution, and the dangers it posed for Article 9 was analyzed here on June 6 (“LDP’s dangerous proposals for amending antiwar article”). But the response to such amendment proposals by the supporters of Article 9 continues to be one of complete denial — that is, a categorical argument that Article 9 should not be amended at all.

This position is misguided. There are both strategic and legal reasons why the left must develop realistic alternative amendment proposals that would preserve and strengthen the core elements of the provision, but eliminate those elements that undermine it. In a chapter in the book “A Time for Change? Japan’s ‘Peace’ Constitution at 65,” published last month by the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars (the chapter is available online: http://bit.ly/MWGF8T), I explain why Article 9 should be amended, and provide draft language that can serve as a basis for beginning a discussion on alternate amendment proposals.

Flat out rejection of any and all possible amendments to Article 9 is dangerous as a strategic matter. The national security environment of Japan has shifted in the last couple of decades, with the emergence of a nuclear-armed North Korea, and the growing military strength of China. In addition to these perceived threats, there is an increasing sense that Japan should be doing more to fulfill its international responsibilities. Moreover, the Japanese Self-Defense Force (SDF) has participated in non-combat roles in such conflicts as Afghanistan and Iraq with no adverse consequences. … Read more…

LDP’s Dangerous Proposals for Amending Antiwar Article

(Published in The Japan Times, June 6, 2012, and in Comparative Constitutions blog, June 11, 2012)

The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) published its new draft constitutional amendment proposal in late April. The draft reflects a number of significant changes above and beyond those advanced in the proposal unveiled by the LDP in 2005. The proposal includes a complete overhaul of Article 9, the war renouncing provision of Japan’s so-called Peace Constitution. These changes to Article 9 are important, and on balance, dangerous. The nature of these proposed revisions, and how they would likely operate, deserve to be examined in some detail.

Before addressing the changes, it is helpful to recall the meaning of the current provision. Article 9 has two paragraphs, which contain three essential elements. Paragraph one provides that 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 represents an incorporation of international law principles on the use of force into the Japanese constitution, to constrain future governments of Japan from ever again dragging the nation into a disastrous war of aggression.

Paragraph two contains two clauses. The first provides that Japan will never maintain land, sea, and air forces, or any other war potential. This is a unique provision, purporting to prohibit the maintenance of any military forces, and was designed to reinforce the prohibition on the use of force by making such use of force impossible. The second clause of paragraph two, which provides that the rights of belligerency will not be recognized, is even more novel. This was the incorporation of principles of international humanitarian law relating to belligerency, to further ensure that as a matter of constitutional law Japanese forces would not enjoy the rights and privileges of combatants in armed conflict. … Read more…