The seventieth anniversary of the current Japanese Constitution will be observed on 3 May 2017. Much has changed in the world since Japan’s post-war constitution went into effect on 3 May, 1947. It is fair to state that the most important reform carried out by General Douglas MacArthur and his staff was the establishment of a new constitution to replace the 1889 Meiji Constitution.
Many believe that MacArthur’s Peace Constitution was imposed on Japan by the occupying forces. That view is not entirely correct. Actually, MacArthur wanted the Japanese government to draft the new constitution. When the Japanese version was submitted, it was rejected because it included only minor modifications to the 1889 Meiji Constitution and did not include many of the principles embodied in a democracy. MacArthur then directed his staff to produce a new constitution in just one week. The new constitution protected the many civil liberties that MacArthur had introduced. Most importantly, it preserved the status of the Emperor as the symbol of the state and the unity of the Japanese people. It should be noted that it was Prime Minister Kij?r? Shidehara who suggested to General MacArthur that the new Constitution should contain an article renouncing war.
The new Constitution was submitted to the Japanese government on 13 February, 1946. On 10 April 1946, the constitution was endorsed in a general election that allowed women to vote for the first time. On 3 November, 1946, it was promulgated by the Diet with some revisions and on 3 May, 1947, came into effect and became the official law of the land.
It is article 9 of the Japanese Constitution that has caused the most discussion and controversy, as it was written in such a way as to preclude Japan from ever initiating a war again. Of course, to put article 9 in proper perspective, a review of key factors that led up to the war in the Pacific is necessary.
There were many opportunities initiated by Japan to achieve a modus vivendi (truce) with the United States over their aggression in China. Based on a review of post-war records, an honorable truce could have been consummated in September 1941. All of America’s objectives in the Pacific, as well as China’s freedom, could have been achieved. Further, Russia most likely would have been prevented from going into Manchuria. What went wrong? To answer that question, you have to review how the United States was engineered into World War II to save the British Empire. It is well documented in Herbert Hoover’s memoir, Freedom Betrayed.
Since 1940, President Franklin Roosevelt had been imposing severe economic and financial sanctions on Japan in an effort to help China. The financial sanctions imposed were more than provocative, as they carried every penalty of war, which no sovereign nation could accept. The Communist undercover agent Harry Dexter White, at the U.S. Treasury, most likely crafted these sanctions. It should be recalled that it was Stalin’s goal to have Japan attack the British, Dutch and American interests in the Pacific. However, starting in May 1941, Japanese proposals for better relations with the U.S. were signaled with the appointment of Admiral Kichisabur? Nomura (who was strongly pro-American) as Ambassador to Washington. U.S. Ambassador to Japan Joseph Grew saw this as a great opportunity to avoid war in the Pacific.
Japan’s Prime Minister (PM) Prince Fumimaro Konoye (served from 22 July 1940 to mid-October 1941) made sincere attempts to meet with President Roosevelt without success. He had authority from the Emperor to conclude a truce on U.S. terms in order to maintain the peace and avoid war!
On 8 August 1941, Ambassador Nomura, on instructions from Tokyo, formally proposed to Secretary of State Hull a meeting between Prime Minister Konoye and President Roosevelt at some location on the American side of the Pacific, e.g., Hawaii or Alaska. The Ambassador stated that PM Konoye had a commitment from the Emperor and the Chief of the Naval General Staff that they would back the PM on any terms he might make to get peace, even in defiance of the Army. The PM separately stated that the Government of Japan (GOJ) conclusively and wholeheartedly agreed with the four principles of the Secretary of State as a basis for the rehabilitation of relations between Japan and the United States.
The PM was confident that all the problems and questions at issue could be disposed of to our mutual satisfaction. This peace proposal was confirmed by a review of the post-war records and by General MacArthur. Further, President Roosevelt had to know of the flexibility that was given to the PM as a result of our breaking the Japanese diplomatic code.
The problem in Washington was that once Hitler attacked Russia in June 1941, President Roosevelt and Secretary Hull, with the help of the Communist undercover agents, ignored basically all Japanese peace proposals. Roosevelt had no intention of meeting with the PM, but purposely strung him along. Incredible! This was not only a tragedy but a “dereliction of duty,” clearly a violation of his “oath of office.” Herbert Hoover’s blunt assertion in his memoir was that war in the Pacific resulted from a “madman’s desire to get into the war” – a clear condemnation of Roosevelt.
No discussion of the war in the Pacific would be complete without discussing the dropping of two nuclear weapons, on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. As we now know, dropping those two bombs was unnecessary since Japan was not only ready to surrender, but had made five separate peace attempts through the Vatican and Moscow. Why Moscow? Russia had signed a non-aggression pact with Japan. When Hitler invaded Russia, Russia did not want to have a two-front war.
Furthermore, two days before the disastrous Yalta Conference, General MacArthur sent President Roosevelt Japan’s proposed surrender terms, which Roosevelt promptly rejected. They were basically the terms that Truman accepted in August 1945. Dropping the two nuclear weapons was not only a strategic mistake, but a humanitarian disaster. Roosevelt’s rejection of Japan’s surrender terms resulted in the loss of thousands of American lives in the assaults on Iwo Jima and Okinawa, plus tens of thousands of Japanese lives. Those losses all could have been avoided. As M. Stanton Evans and Herbert Romerstein write in Stalin’s Secret Agents, Stalin needed Japan’s surrender delayed so his armies could move east to back-up his post-war Asian objectives. The bottom line is that Roosevelt expended our national treasure so that Stalin could achieve a dominant position in Asia. General MacArthur, in the Hoover memoir, clearly states that this was the case.
In light of the history of how we were engineered into the unnecessary war in the Pacific, the question should be raised as to the necessity of the restrictions imposed on Japan as a sovereign nation by article 9. Furthermore, is this still a necessity?
In 2004, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage told a Japanese politician that the war renouncing article 9 of the Japan Constitution is becoming an obstacle to strengthening the Japan-U.S. Alliance. Armitage indicated that Japan must revise the Constitution and play a greater military role for international peace if it wants to become a permanent UN Security Council member. Linking the UN Security Council seat with revising article 9 of the Constitution was inappropriate and not well received.
In 2005, PM Junichiro Koizumi proposed an amendment to the Constitution to increase Japan’s self-defense role in international affairs. Koizumi’s successor, PM Shinzo Abe, vowed to push aggressively for a constitutional revision. However, in 2007, there was little public support for changing the Constitution.
In the 2012 draft, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), addressing the current provision declaring that armed forces and other war potential shall never be maintained, proposed new articles 9-2 and 9-3. They would state that the “National Defense Force” (NDF) shall be established and the Prime Minister shall be its Commander-in-Chief. Further, the NDF cannot only defend Japan’s sovereign territory from a foreign attack, but can also participate in international peacekeeping operations. Clearly these proposed changes are normal for a sovereign state.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe recently concluded a most successful visit with President Donald Trump. The importance of the U.S.-Japan alliance was emphasized by President Trump as the cornerstone for maintaining stability and peace in the Western Pacific. In recognition of the threats posed by China, with their illegal actions in both the South and East China Seas plus the unconstrained nuclear weapons program of North Korea, both leaders agree that their countries must contribute more to military cooperation. In that sense, such expansion of both countries’ military capabilities would serve to raise the level of deterrence. A key factor in raising the level of deterrence would be the approval by the people of Japan of a modification of article 9 that would protect the sovereignty of Japan and its citizens. It would be the Japanese version of “Peace Through Strength.”