Media Mix, Nov. 22, 2015

SDF soldiers making roads in South Sudan

SDF soldiers making roads in South Sudan

Here’s this week’s Media Mix, about divisions within the nominal Japanese left wing regarding whether or not to revise the Constitution with regard to Article 9, which currently prevents Japan from taking up arms. As everyone knows, Japan has taken up arms, and, if Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the conservative Nippon Kaigi have their way, will take up more in the future, so the purposes of what might be called the more “realistic” members of the left wing, which is to acknowledge and clarify the role of the Self-Defense Forces in the national charter, could either make Abe’s mission more difficult by setting legal limits to the SDF’s activities, or help him out, since it would at least establish the SDF’s legitimacy to exist. In a sense, these matters are mostly academic, as columnist Minako Saito points out, because the Japanese establishment has never been very conscientious in its adherence to constitutional limits. The security bills that allow the SDF to engage in collective self-defense overseas is a glaring example, but so are a lot of everyday judicial decisions that clearly violate individual rights outlined in the Constitution.

The issue, however, may become less academic with the rise of terrorist groups that disregard borders. It seems obvious that the group known as the Islamic State carries out terrorist attacks to provoke revenge and get Western countries more involved in their fight, since such involvement drives more Muslims and dispossessed people in the Middle East and Asia into their arms. In the eyes of the IS, Japan effectively belongs to the decadent West, which is why they murdered two Japanese last spring. If Japan sends the SDF overseas to help the U.S. or other Western countries in this struggle, and allows Japanese troops to use their weapons, Japan will be drawn into this apocalyptic struggle, which means it will become a target. Some are saying that Japan is already target, but in any case once Japanese troops start shooting they will belong to this struggle, as will the people of Japan, whether they like it or not. The SDF is in South Sudan as part of the UN peacekeeping mission, but when the ceasefire was broken, peacekeepers from other countries were freed to use their weapons to defend themselves. Japan’s cannot because of Article 9. Something similar happened when the SDF went to Iraq to build roads and other infrastructure. Though it wasn’t reported widely in Japan, the Japanese troops were often the target of local militias, and a few times were actually attacked. Luckily, none of these incidents led to casualties, but since the SDF was not allowed to fight back they were in a very difficult situation that apparently placed immense psychological stress on its members.

Then there’s the Japan-U.S. alliance. If North Korea ever decided to use that military of theirs, it would have to attack American capabilities in the region, and one of first targets would be Okinawa. At the height of the Vietnam War, Okinawa was the base for the B-29s that were bombing the country, so by the rules of war Okinawa could have been targeted if Vietnam had the capability to attack overseas, which they didn’t. So the security alliance also violates the Constitution. The LDP and Nippon Kaigi want to normalize the Japanese military, and these are the kinds of things that Japan will have to accept in the future–threats from enemies of the countries Japan allies itself with, and an increasing potential to become part of the so-called global war between civilizations. It’s not an academic debate any more.

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