Anyone who has followed the progress of the U.S.-led wars in Iraq
and Afghanistan in the last few years would have difficulty in arguing
that the military-led responses to the September 11, 2001, attacks on
the United States have proved successful. Indeed, the truth is quite
plainly the opposite. U.S. military might, based on the Cold War
doctrine of deterrence (mutually assured destruction), no longer seems
to deter anyone. Given the central role that the "global war on terror"
plays in the mass media presentation of the current state of the world,
it can be argued that this is a potentially fruitful moment in which to
criticize militarism. Large sections of the general public in many
countries are cynical and distressed about what the Pentagon and its
allies have done in the Muslim world, and they are hungry to know that
there may be better ways of tackling intractable conflicts.
Belligerence and military threats do not seem effective. Analysts are
more and more urging that attention be turned to employment creation
and economic development as ways to undermine the appeal of the
extremists. Moreover, new developments, such as the recent diplomatic
settlement of the dispute over North Korea's nuclear program, also
provide some hope that conflict does not inevitably spell war.
Article 9 and Its Significance
For all of these reasons, then, it is a promising time to be
building support for the efforts by the Japanese civil society to
protect Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution. The International Peace
Bureau (IPB) has long believed that it represents a vital contribution
to the global effort of restraining militarism and ensuring a
transition to a world free from aggressive wars and interventions.
Furthermore, Article 9 is an excellent model of what can be done at
the juridical and political level to embed a firm nonaggression
position into the policies and the very structure of the state. While
this is not entirely unique--Costa Rica, Haiti, Panama, and twenty-four
smaller states have abolished their armies(1)--it is certainly rare.
While it is true that Article 9 was drafted in very specific historical
conditions--after the defeat of an imperial power at the end of a very
bloody world war--it remains a prime example of how a state and its
people, with some help from their former enemies, can turn the page and
set their face against aggressive military methods.
Japan--a Pacifist State?
It is of course no secret that Japan long ago abandoned (under
pressure from the United States in the atmosphere of the Cold War) the
literal pacifist interpretation of Article 9. It now maintains
Self-Defense Forces (SDF) of more than two hundred thousand persons
(all technically civilians), which gives it one of the larger
collections of military personnel in the world. It also has a Treaty of
Mutual Co-operation and Security with the United States, under which
approximately fifty thousand U.S. troops are stationed in Japan.
Furthermore, Japan's US$43.7 billion per year budget makes it the
fifth-largest military spender in the world, after the United States,
China, the United Kingdom, and France. The SDF consumes some 6 percent
of the government budget or almost 1 percent of Japan's GNP.
Thus, it can in no sense be said that Japan is a demilitarized
society. However, the renunciation of belligerency and the specific
abandonment of nuclear-weapons aspirations (through adopting Japan's
Non-Nuclear Principles and by signing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation
Treaty) represent two very important bulwarks against aggressive war in
the Asia-Pacific region.
Even though Japanese forces have been involved in overseas
operations, they have been small in scale and always unarmed. Even when
the SDF were sent to Iraq, no use of force was allowed; Japanese
personnel are protected by other coalition armed forces. No Japanese
Maritime Self-Defense Forces have ever been involved in armed incidents
near the various islands that are points of territorial dispute between
Japan on the one hand and Russia, China, or Korea on the other. Thus,
we can deduce that, until now at least, Article 9 has acted as an
More broadly, it is important to perceive that the strong
grass-roots support for Article 9 in Japanese society acts to undermine
excessive respect for the military, a fact that is observed in the
relative lack of prestige attached to military careers and status in
the SDF, and the poor social benefits allocated to SDF staff compared
with other sectors. In some sense, Article 9 acts as a common reference
point for the whole country, as a constant reminder of its imperial
past and the disastrous consequences for the entire region--and indeed
for the world. An increasing proportion of Japanese are too young to
have personal memories of the war, and there are signs of impatience
with the restrictions imposed by the postwar settlement. Yet the
experience of Germany since 1945 shows the importance of a legally
grounded framework that holds back any signs of a return to the
aggressive militarism and imperialism of the past.
Article 9--a Moral Beacon
Article 9 also stands as a moral beacon to the world. It
embodies an absolute rejection of the projection of state power through
military aggression. This is a fundamental value shared by religious
and nonreligious pacifists alike. And not only pacifists; many of
those--in every country--who accept the need for self-defense are
firmly opposed to the kind of war fighting forbidden by Article 9. As
was declared at the historic Hague Appeal for Peace conference in 1999,
"Every Parliament should adopt a resolution prohibiting their
government from going to war, like the Japanese article number nine."(2)
This is especially important given the signs on the political
horizon of the dangers of future interstate wars. Not only on account
of nuclear proliferation (the alleged reason for the invasion of Iraq,
and the source of the persistent tensions with Iran and North Korea),
and not only because of severe intercultural strains between the "West"
and the "rest." Most important, it is because climate change and
resource depletion may well lead states in the coming decades to use
force in disputes over oil, water, land, and other precious assets. If
the temptation is there, then both international law and national
legislation along the lines of Article 9 could be important in reining
in the militarists.
IPB and Disarmament for Development
A sense of global history is crucial for successful peace work.
Efforts to constrain violent conflicts are as old as humanity itself,
and though often unsuccessful, they hold valuable lessons for those of
us who feel moved to promote the "no-killing" principle in today's
world. The IPB is privileged to be a very old, established
organization, since it was founded in 1891, even before the creation of
the League of Nations and the International Court of Justice--two
institutions that the early IPB pioneers argued should be set up in
order to avoid recourse to war between states.
Over the decades, the organization, which currently brings together
282 member organizations in seventy countries, has engaged in many
peace initiatives and campaigns. These range from efforts to prevent or
end particular armed conflicts to worldwide disarmament projects and
educational schemes. In addition to its ongoing work in favor of
nuclear disarmament, the IPB is currently engaged in a long-term
program whose full title is Sustainable Disarmament for Sustainable
This work grew out of our earlier activities on human security. It
builds on a long history of research into military spending by bodies
such as the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute
(SIPRI),(3) and political position taking by states within the UN,
notably, the long series of General Assembly resolutions urging the
transfer of financial resources away from the arms race and into
development.(4) Unfortunately, very few of these noble aspirations have
so far been put into practice. No international fund, for example, has
been created to channel monies released from the military sector into
antipoverty strategies. What has been lacking too has been a
coordination of international civil-society efforts in this field--a
gap that the IPB is attempting to remedy.
The amount the world spent on the military in 2006 has been
estimated by SIPRI as US$1,204 billion. The larger part of this massive
sum is spent on personnel, but military bases, weaponry, training,
communications, and so forth, eat up billions more. The United States
alone spends approximately half the total sum, and the numbers are
growing with every additional troop request made by the Bush
administration "for winning the war in Iraq." The UN estimates that
with one-tenth of this overall sum it would be possible to achieve the
Millennium Development Goals--something most economists and analysts
say is impossible "for lack of funds."
Article 26 of the United Nations Charter
"In order to promote the establishment and maintenance of
international peace and security with the least diversion for armaments
of the world's human and economic resources, the Security Council shall
be responsible for formulating, with the assistance of the Military
Staff Committee referred to in Article 47, plans to be submitted to the
members of the United Nations for the establishment of a system for the
regulation of armaments."
Article 26, as quoted above, is one of the lesser-known sections of
the UN Charter, yet it is among the most important. For so long as
member states fail to make serious and systematic attempts to implement
its provisions, the UN's two primary missions (the promotion of peace
and of development) cannot be effectively realized. Symptomatic of the
problem is the fact that the Military Staff Committee has failed to
function. Nevertheless, the UN was able in 1980 to create a
transparency tool known as the Standardized Reporting Instrument for
Military Expenditures, which has been used by more than 110 states and
provides at least a baseline for analysis of the phenomenon.(5)
The Impact of Weapons
Among the most important developments in the disarmament field
in the period since the end of the Cold War has been the enormous
growth in public awareness of the effects of weapons on ordinary
civilians, and the sense that it is possible to do something about
them. This was notably the case with land mines (banned by the Ottawa
Treaty of 1996), but also to a lesser extent with small arms, and now
cluster munitions and even depleted uranium, where some promising
developments are taking place. All of these are weapons that have
enormous human costs and can wreak devastation on poor communities
desperately in need of development assistance. Thus, the way that
militarism undermines sustainable development is not only in terms of
the "opportunity costs"--money spent on weaponry and war preparations
that could have been spent differently--but also through the direct
effects of war on conflict zones and the people who make their
There is a further, and in some ways new, dimension: the
environment. Resources devoted to the military sector--and this
includes private investment as well as government money--could and
should be devoted, in today's world, to preventing the growing threat
of climate change. It is true that the military may be among the most
important institutions equipped to carry out rescue missions when, for
example, dams break and large numbers of civilians are rendered
homeless in freak storms. This kind of protection and rescue work will
always be needed. But it does not normally need to be carried out by
armed personnel and certainly does not require nuclear weapons, space
lasers, massive aircraft carriers, or jet fighters.
Strategies and Campaign Activities
Making an impact on the global system of "wrong investments"
will require a formidable effort on the part of civil society. The sea
change in attitudes to militarism that will be necessary to shift
policies and budgets into different paths is unlikely to be a rapid one
in most countries. The International Peace Bureau's approach is to
encourage the development of "Article 26" or
"Disarmament-for-Development" coalitions and national networks. To this
end we organize, together with local, national, and international
partners in the peace, development, and environment fields, meetings
for an exchange of perspectives and the development of joint advocacy.
Last year, marking the twentieth anniversary of the 1987 UN Conference
on Disarmament and Development, for example, we raised our campaign
issues at the World Social Forum (Nairobi), at the UN Committee for the
Rights of the Child (Geneva), at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina (Egypt),
and elsewhere. In addition, the IPB is publishing campaign materials
and working on a major photographic exhibition, all of which make the
case for a radically different set of priorities.*
We can thus conclude that the strengthening of the Article 9
campaign (both in Japan and overseas) and the construction of an
effective global program to promote Disarmament for Development (that
is, Article 26 of the UN Charter) must go hand in hand. Both are
essentially political endeavors, in that they assert certain collective
choices decided at the political level. However, their promotion does
not belong only in the political realm. They both require mobilization
of a wide range of social sectors that are influential in national
debates--not only parliamentarians and parties but also labor unions;
students', women's, and religious organizations; youth; and
environmental and antipoverty organizations. Even police and emergency
personnel may be able to ally themselves with the argument that human security,
rather than militarism, should be the guiding principle for protecting
the population. The IPB is willing to put its experience at the service
of all who share our perspective, and we look forward to working
closely with Article 9 advocates in the pursuit of our common
(1) Christophe Barbey, La non-militarisation et les pays sans armee: Une realite, (Flendruz, Switzerland: APRED, 2001), www.demilitarisation.org.
(2) Www.haguepeace.org/index.php?action=history&subAction= conf&selection=what.
(4) Most recently, resolution A/C.1/61/L.8 (A/RES/61/64), "Relationship between disarmament and development."
* The IPB gratefully acknowledges financial support from Rissho Kosei-kai in the development of this program.
Warfare or Welfare? Disarmament for Development in the 21st Century (100 pp., 2005, from the Secretariat or at www.ipb.org).
Whose Priorities? An International Guide to Campaigning on Military Spending (forthcoming).
Colin Archer has been a peace, development, and
social-justice activist for more than thirty-five years and has served
as secretary-general of the International Peace Bureau since 1990. He
was heavily involved in the World Court Project and Abolition 2000
(coalitions against nuclear weapons), the Hague Appeal for Peace
conference in 1999, and the Global Campaign for Peace Education.
This article was originally published in the January-March 2008 issue of Dharma World.