ARTICLES // Revolution # 9 (2006)

What does mankind gain from conditions such as war and occupation? It is rare indeed to find occurrences in human history where something positive can be found in the aftermath.

WWI begat WWII, which in turn begat the Israel/Palestine issue. The French occupations of Algeria and Indochina (Vietnam) led to violent and bloody resistance movements, blowing up into an even bigger conflict involving neighbouring states (Cambodia, Laos) and an international superpower (US) in the case of Vietnam. The Korean War led to the partition of the peninsula and one of the most heavily landmined places on Earth. British occupation of India may have produced a largely nonviolent resistance movement, but independence led to further wars and the division of the subcontinent. Issues still remain here, including the Kashmir question and the ongoing rise and fall of the standoffs between nuclear armed India and Pakistan.

The Asia-Pacific theatre of the Second World War was rife with its own horrors, such as the acts committed by the Japanese Imperial Army across East Asia and the American attacks on Japan, culminating in the Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Japanese, exhausted by the war, surrendered to the US and submitted themselves to an American post-war occupation.

Yet under American rule, one small seed of hope was planted that laid out a blueprint for all nations to avoid the scourges of war.

That seed was Article 9 of the then newly written Japanese Constitution. Coming from a nation (UK) that seems to need little prompting to engage in warfare (even within my lifetime during the post-imperial era – witness the Falklands and Gulf War I), I was astonished to discover such a feature in national life as I found in Japan. The country forbids itself from ever going to war again or maintaining a regular army.

What an incredible element to weave into the fabric of a nation! Of course, the sad reality is that Article 9 has been under threat almost since its introduction, with the greatest challenges to it coming now under the current administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Learning about Article 9 and the threats to it compelled me to write the piece found below, in the hope that I could raise further awareness of a tool that could benefit all nations and of the challenges that it faces.

The article was first published online here and an edited version later appeared in the Canadian quarterly ‘Peace Magazine’.

The Japanese NGO Peace Boat is co-ordinating a global campaign to raise further awareness of Article 9 and the threats posed to it. The campaign site can be found here.

Peace Not War Japan, the organisation I founded in 2004, provides further information about issues relating to peace and Japan, and also has a collection of great peace-related songs by Japanese artists.

Keep the peace, people!

Photo of A-Bomb Dome in Hiroshima by Dom Pates


Revolution # 9

‘Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.

In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.’

(Article 9, Japanese Constitution)

In the journey through life, individuals maintain allegiances to friends, family, lovers, employers and educators for help along the way. A wider bond is often also upheld – that of a sense of belonging to one’s nation. Of just over 6.5 billion humans on Earth, most would consider themselves as being part of at least one of the roughly 190 nations whose territories (‘countries’) cover the planet’s land surfaces. Members of these ‘nations’ are usually distinguished by at least a common identity, and often a common origin such as ancestry.

A nation can simply be a state of mind. A state, however, is much more tangible. Comprised of buildings, hierarchies and officials it is designed to represent both the nation and the country. Given the immense power held over the lives of individuals by ‘the state’, it is crucial to have a system of checks and balances to ensure that the power wielded is not abused. More fundamentally, it is vital for the interests of the people that are represented by that nation, and peoples of other nations too, to have the principles and rules by which they are governed clearly defined and agreed upon.

A constitution is just that, a system that covers the principles and rules by which an organisation is governed. Certain powers are granted to that organisation on the grounds that it abides by what is set out in that constitution. Most commonly, a constitution is a set of rules that define the nature and extent of government.

The Constitution of Japan was established after World War II and was intended to replace the country’s previous imperial system with a form of liberal democracy. Written under close supervision of General MacArthur and the occupation forces, the Meiji Constitution, the demands of Japanese lawyers and the opinions of pacifist political leaders were taken into account and the document came into effect in May 1947.

The implementation of the Japanese Constitution came during an international trend towards the outlawry of war. For example, Article 12 of the Costa Rican Constitution, put into effect in 1949, stipulates that ‘armed forces as a permanent institution is prohibited’. Since then, Costa Rica has never maintained armed forces.

Article 9 is the unique provision within the document whereby Japan both renounces war and is prohibited from maintaining a military force. It was a strong and clear promise by Japan to the world, and particularly people of the Asia-Pacific region that the imperialistic aggressions acted out during WWII would never be repeated. It also served as a brake on Japan’s arms build-up during the post-war era, which has provided a sense of security for the entire region.

It is the main reason why Japan has been able to live through such a long period of peace and stability, with the country having militarily not taken part in a war in over half a century.

It has made a strong contribution towards attempts at the resolution of international problems of disarmament and the abolition of nuclear weapons. A UN General Assembly Special Session on Disarmament in 1978 declared the desire for complete disarmament of nations. The Hague Peace Conference of 1999 stated in its final document that every national parliament should adopt a resolution that renounces war like Article 9.

It is no less than a blueprint for how to save future generations from the scourge of war.

The previous century was the bloodiest and most violent in all of human history. It contained two world wars, three decades of arms-fuelled tensions between the world’s superpowers, and hundreds of genocidal purges, civil wars, armed invasions, military coups, revolutionary struggles, border disputes and localised conflicts, and led to the deaths of over 100 million people. As the new century gets underway, prospects for major downturns in this trend are not looking too good.

Article 9 is under serious pressure and has been since its inception. Even whilst Japan was still under US occupation, moves were made towards creating some sort of military organisation. Thus the creation and development of what became the Japan Self Defense Forces (SDF), which has seen constant court battles between government and critics over its legitimacy. Extensions of Article 9’s ethos, such as Japan’s non-nuclear principles and ban on arms exports, face strong and active opposition from those keen to remilitarise the country.

The US has continued into the 21st Century to encourage Japan to abandon what it adopted after WWII. The Japanese military were dispatched to assist the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan and utilised for refuelling U.S. and British warships. In July 2003, Japan’s parliament passed a law authorizing the use of Japan’s SDF in Iraq, as long as they were confined to conducting humanitarian missions.

While some consider the removal of Article 9 as a natural stage in the evolution of post-war Japan, this would undoubtedly have a serious effect on the foreign policies of Asia’s most powerful states. If Japan were to again become a military force to contend with, it would undoubtedly reinvigorate China’s push for a powerful military. Russia could see an increasingly powerful Japan as a possible threat to its territory and interests in East Asia, and North Korea could feel itself backed even further into a corner. Memories of Japanese wartime aggression are still fresh even in South Korea, and the normalisation of good relations still has a long way to go.

As the prospects rise of a future with more wars over ever dwindling energy supplies, a world of environmental refugees fleeing within their own national borders, nuclear proliferation across the planet and the unravelling of the meticulously constructed systems of international law and order, it is vital that the signposts and beacons to a better and more peaceful future that we currently have within our possession are upheld, maintained and built upon. In the interests of a peaceful future for Japan and the rest of the world, for today and long into our distant tomorrow, Article 9 must be maintained and its principles spread.

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6 Comments

Filed under 2006, Articles, Features

6 responses to “ARTICLES // Revolution # 9 (2006)

  1. Anonymous

    Interesting stuff – I had never heard of clause 9 before. Didn’t West Germany have a similar clause in their constitution? However I can’t help thinking that you are being a little naive in thinking this could ever be adopted by any other major/important countries (Costa Rica – come on!). From what you have written even in Japan, with troops being posted abroad, it seems to be failing. From what you wrote the Japanese only adopted the clause because they had to – on US insistence. Could you imagine any political party winning an election with this in it’s manifesto? I certainly can’t see people voting for it. I am sure you have been asked this a million time before but what if an extreme right or left wing (or religious zealot) dictator emerges in a country next to yours? With no military – are you not incredibly vulnerable? How would countries defend themselves against possible attack? Presumably you would not want to rely on a sympathetic superpower and the UN have hardly been effective have they?

    Apologies if this sounds like I am having a pop at you/your writing (I like your stuff a lot!) and I am not suggesting that it would be a good thing for Japan or any other country to build up armies/weapons – but it strikes me that peace movements would be more effective if a more realistic and less idealistic approach was taken. But I know very well that it is much easier to knock ideas than it is to come up with them! Maybe it is me that is being naive!

    Best wishes

  2. Globalism

    Anon,

    Many thanks for your comments and contribution to this post – it’s certainly the longest one I’ve received yet.

    I’m delighted to hear that you enjoy my writing and when these things are online, they’re there for people to ‘take a pop’ if they so wish. Not offended though – I appreciate the opportunity to answer the points you raise!

    When I wrote the original article, it included much more information than is in this piece, which had been gathered through my research. Unfortunately, in order to get an article considered for publication, one sometimes has to be pretty strict in the editing. Therefore, some useful information gets omitted.

    Toshihiro Yamauchi, a Law Professor at Ryukoku University, described many national constitutions established after WWII that reflected the international trend at the time toward the outlawry or war as revealed in the UN Charter. West Germany in 1949, as you rightly mention, included a provision or article in their new constitution renouncing war as a means of renouncing international conflict. As did the French Constitution of 1946 and the Italian one of 1947. The Austrian Constitution stipulates permanent neutrality. The Philippine Constitution of 1987 included non-nuclear principles and disarmament provisions were included in the Mozambique Constitution of 1990.

    All of these however (Costa Rica aside), still permit or permitted the nations to maintain armed forces, distinguishing them from the Japanese Constitution. There are 26 nations that do not maintain armed forces of any sort. They may be small states, such as Panama or Maldives, or have a security treaty with another nation, but they are nevertheless countries. Of roughly 200 states on the planet, that makes over 10 per cent that have no armed forces.

    The inclusion of the clause may have had a strong American push behind it, but it was also strongly influenced by pacifist leaders within Japan (such as Kijuro Shidehara and Shigeru Yoshida). It has not been adapted since its inception in 1947, even though the Occupation started to backtrack as early as 1948, wishing for a more independent partner in the US struggle against communism.

    Asian scars run very deep however, and a non-militarised Japan has gone some way towards letting those scars heal slightly (on the minor scale) and could be said to have held back an East Asian arms race (on the bigger scale of things).

    If Japan remilitarises, would China not hugely up its nuclear arsenal? How would Taiwan react to China having as many nukes as the US? Would South Korea hold off in the face of China, Japan, North Korea and Taiwan holding such arsenals? This would then mean nuclear armed nations running right across from Japan to Pakistan, and that’s before we get to the Middle East and the Israeli bombs. How would South East Asia, from Burma, through Thailand and Vietnam, down to Indonesia and Malaysia, react to so many highly destructive weapons so close to them?

    Does it not follow that the more nations have nuclear weapons, the greater the chances of even one of them being used? No one on Earth should have to go through what the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki went through.

    You suggest that I am being naive by thinking that ‘major’ nations would ever adopt such a clause into their own constitutions. I am not for a moment imagining that there any likelihood in the current power brokers of the Earth doing such a thing. The US is more likely to collapse under the weight of its own military-industrial complex than even consider such an idea. The British establishment is equally hard-wired to the concept of the benefits of militarism, and arms are one of the few large export industries left in the country. However, having to dismantle an empire rather than allowing it to collapse perhaps has left some lessons in ‘hard power’ there.

    Politicians in many countries are equally unlikely to include such an idea in a manifesto as their opposition would frame them as ‘weak on defence’ and they would be likely destroyed in the media. Most politicians tend to be short-termist in their thinking anyway, concentrating only on single election cycles.

    If we as a species are still to think only within national frameworks, I fear that we will be forever bound by conflict. Always looking over our shoulders at our ‘enemies’, and needing to have such enemies in order to create justifications for whatever it is that keep them in power.

    I believe that we need to look beyond the small-mindedness of only thinking within our national borders and reach out to the rest of our species, building new or strengthening existing international institutions that bind us to viewing ‘the other’ as ‘my brother’ (excuse me if that sounds like a platitude!).

    Article 9, as my piece suggests, is a signpost to ways forward from our hunger for killing each other. What other species on Earth attempts so systematically to wipe itself out? To paraphrase Einstein, we might not know what WWIII will be fought with, but we can be pretty sure that a WWIV would be fought with sticks and stones.

    Given that we have the capacity (and increasingly looking like the tendencies) to wipe ourselves out several times over, do we really want to cause our own extinction?

    Just a thought, anyway! Any better ideas?

  3. Anonymous

    Thanks for the additional information – all interesting stuff!

    “Does it not follow that the more nations have nuclear weapons, the greater the chances of even one of them being used? No one on Earth should have to go through what the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki went through.” – does not history tell us otherwise? is it not the case that the only time when nuclear weapons were used was when only one country that had them? I guess we can only hope that I am right about this – as we can’t un-invent nuclear weapons now!

    “Politicians in many countries are equally unlikely to include such an idea in a manifesto as their opposition would frame them as ‘weak on defence’ and they would be likely destroyed in the media. Most politicians tend to be short-termist in their thinking anyway, concentrating only on single election cycles.” – I totally agree but it does not mean that their opposition would not have a pretty strong case in stating they were ‘weak on defence’. I am guessing that the media would only be able to destroy a Party that adopted this policy as it would be a view shared by much of the public (whatever Murdoch is for example, he is a populist).

    “The British establishment is equally hard-wired to the concept of the benefits of militarism, and arms are one of the few large export industries left in the country. However, having to dismantle an empire rather than allowing it to collapse perhaps has left some lessons in ‘hard power’ there”. I don’t understand your last point – I am a bit of a thicko, you know!

    “If we as a species are still to think only within national frameworks, I fear that we will be forever bound by conflict. Always looking over our shoulders at our ‘enemies’, and needing to have such enemies in order to create justifications for whatever it is that keep them in power.” I suppose an optimist would say the world changing, getting smaller, more people travelling, the internet etc and we will be thinking outside of national framework etc but the opposite could also happen. People could feel threatened and become more nationalised (eg the increased interest in devolution in Scotland and Wales), or more interested in religious fundamentalism. And if my neighbour was a power mad or a religious fundamentalist dictator – well, you bet I will be wanting to look over my shoulder – well I certainly would not lend him my lawnmower anyway.

    “Just a thought, anyway! Any better ideas?” Um no (I did say it is easier to knock ideas than to come up with them!) I spend all day coming up with ideas and having to justify them only for others to knock them or to try to block them! That is my job. I can’t solve world peace in my lunch hour (when would I get to eat my egg sandwich and crisps!)

    On a positive note if 20 years ago somebody had told me there would be peace in Northern Ireland I would have told them they were nuts. It just goes to show that peace and the impossible can be achieved.

  4. Globalism

    “Does it not follow that the more nations have nuclear weapons, the greater the chances of even one of them being used? No one on Earth should have to go through what the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki went through.” – does not history tell us otherwise? is it not the case that the only time when nuclear weapons were used was when only one country that had them? I guess we can only hope that I am right about this – as we can’t un-invent nuclear weapons now!

    Yes, it’s true that nuclear weapons have only been used by one country. That same country has also come dangerously close to using them on other occasions too. They were almost used in Korea. Kennedy had his ‘Cuban Missile Crisis’, when the world teetered on the precipice of all-out nuclear war. Nixon was apparently tempted too, in his own Asian misadventure. USA vs USSR (Reagan’s ‘Evil Empire’)…

    India and Pakistan’s ongoing nuclear stand-offs, to take the heat off the US for just a moment, have hardly been a source for stability on the subcontinent either.

    History tells us that we fortunately haven’t had any more Hiroshimas, but we’ve come perilously close on many occasions.

    History also tells us that there are many other nations that have either decided that possession of nuclear weapons is simply too dangerous a game to play or been encouraged out of it – Brazil, South Africa, New Zealand, even Libya.

    It is true that we certainly can’t uninvent them, but that’s effectively what non-profileration or disarmament treaties are designed to do.

    Sadly, as the American imperial giant throws its weight around, these kind of international agreements are increasingly unravelling. No reason to abandon the idea though. We can’t uninvent opposition to nuclear proliferation either.

    “Politicians in many countries are equally unlikely to include such an idea in a manifesto as their opposition would frame them as ‘weak on defence’ and they would be likely destroyed in the media. Most politicians tend to be short-termist in their thinking anyway, concentrating only on single election cycles.” – I totally agree but it does not mean that their opposition would not have a pretty strong case in stating they were ‘weak on defence’. I am guessing that the media would only be able to destroy a Party that adopted this policy as it would be a view shared by much of the public (whatever Murdoch is for example, he is a populist).

    And this could perhaps be seen as one of the flaws in nation-based politics – it only thinks within its own borders. This view might be ‘shared by the public’ as it is the media that tends to drive public opinion anyway. If the mass media were to get behind the idea of disarmament (as unlikely as that might sound today!), how would public opinion go then?

    Although they are accused of ‘greenwashing’ their image, are major corporations (even NewsCorp) not starting to follow the groundswell of public opinion when it comes to climate change?

    “The British establishment is equally hard-wired to the concept of the benefits of militarism, and arms are one of the few large export industries left in the country. However, having to dismantle an empire rather than allowing it to collapse perhaps has left some lessons in ‘hard power’ there”. I don’t understand your last point – I am a bit of a thicko, you know!

    Sorry, I tend to drift into metaphor at times and forget about making an argument still easy to follow! Have to work on that…

    I was referring to the end of the British Empire and how the inability to maintain such a vast domain led Britain to at least learn a couple of lessons in the use of force.

    Even now in Iraq (at least in the earlier stages of this particular conflict), the British Army is portrayed wearing berets and trying to take the ‘hearts and minds’ approach, whereas the US Army is often portrayed as killing indiscriminately (witness Falluja).

    If we go just a little further back, I’m sure that Kenyans living through the ‘Mau Mau Uprising’ (for example) would find many parallels with how they were trated by the British and how ordinary Iraqis are being treated by the US in the face of another ‘insurgency’.

    Although we can also cite the Falklands or Gulf War I as recent examples of Britain still going to war, the British tendency in international relations leans more towards the use of ‘soft power’ (diplomacy, etc) than ‘hard power’ (militarism, etc) for resolving conflicts. A lesson learned, perhaps, from having lost the biggest empire the world has ever seen.

    Saying that, Blair’s done a very good job of turning those tendencies around!

    “If we as a species are still to think only within national frameworks, I fear that we will be forever bound by conflict. Always looking over our shoulders at our ‘enemies’, and needing to have such enemies in order to create justifications for whatever it is that keep them in power.” I suppose an optimist would say the world changing, getting smaller, more people travelling, the internet etc and we will be thinking outside of national framework etc but the opposite could also happen. People could feel threatened and become more nationalised (eg the increased interest in devolution in Scotland and Wales), or more interested in religious fundamentalism. And if my neighbour was a power mad or a religious fundamentalist dictator – well, you bet I will be wanting to look over my shoulder – well I certainly would not lend him my lawnmower anyway.

    The world is indeed going through a period of unprecedented flux at the moment, with the combined might of economic globalisation and the digital revolution eclipsing even the Industrial Revolution in terms of social impact.

    Such a time of flux undoubtedly leads to many great uncertainties, but it also presents opportunities too. I believe that a combination of internationalist and localist outlooks offer us a way out from the conflict ridden ‘nation state’ model.

    I’d be wary of the same neighbour too, but my inclination would be to try and talk to him or engage with him somehow before thinking about building a much higher wall in my garden.

    Or I’d like to think that I would anyway!

    “Just a thought, anyway! Any better ideas?” Um no (I did say it is easier to knock ideas than to come up with them!) I spend all day coming up with ideas and having to justify them only for others to knock them or to try to block them! That is my job. I can’t solve world peace in my lunch hour (when would I get to eat my egg sandwich and crisps!)

    Of course, it’s much easier to knock something than find a new solution or come up with a good idea that everyone likes! Coming up with ideas also means having to defend them too, which isn’t always easy either.

    Amongst my many reasons for expatriating was that I’d gotten a bit tired of always having my ideas knocked – British cynicism is both a blessing and a curse at times!

    (…here comes the platitude…) None of us can create world peace in our lunch times, but together, when many voices speak as one, we can bring about positive change.

    On a positive note if 20 years ago somebody had told me there would be peace in Northern Ireland I would have told them they were nuts. It just goes to show that peace and the impossible can be achieved.

    Exactly. When I was young, my father told me that against his expectations, he’d lived through the (relative) emancipation of African-Americans brought on by the Civil Rights Movement, and that I too might live to see the end of apartheid in South Africa. As a kid, I never thought I’d see that either.

    Enjoy your crisps and egg sarnies!

  5. Anonymous

    This view might be ‘shared by the public’ as it is the media that tends to drive public opinion anyway. If the mass media were to get behind the idea of disarmament (as unlikely as that might sound today!), how would public opinion go then? Although they are accused of ‘greenwashing’ their image, are major corporations (even NewsCorp) not starting to follow the groundswell of public opinion when it comes to climate change?

    The media can have an impact on public opinion but does not ‘drive it’! I would argue that most people have a set of core values and the reason the media (at least in the UK) back strong defence is that it merely reflects public opinion. We need to be careful not to assume that just because we may think that we are more knowledgeable/well read than the ‘public’, that they would agree with our views if they were as knowledgeable/well read. The reason the UK never backed disarmament is because the public do not agree with it and has never voted in sufficient numbers for a party that has advocated it (and they have had the chance!) – not because of the pesky media!

    Your point about climate change is correct but that surely only backs my argument that the media is not to blame for public opinion on disarmament! Interesting to note that the Mail on Sunday won an award from Stonewall about their coverage on gay issues – who would have thought that? (although it was probably influenced by Peter Tachtell’s occasional columns in the paper).

    None of this is to suggest that people should not have the right to campaign to change public opinion of course!

    I’d be wary of the same neighbour too, but my inclination would be to try and talk to him or engage with him somehow before thinking about building a much higher wall in my garden. Or I’d like to think that I would anyway!

    Of course if your neighbour wants to kill you and everyone in your family because of your religion, colour, race or nationality etc and will not talk or engage with you, you have no way to defend yourself, and you become aware that he has a machine to knock down the wall – what do you do then? Would you still be trying to convince your benign neighbour on the other side to get rid of the weapons they have bought for their defence? It was not that long ago that Hitler was elected and it could happen again (obviously not Hitler as he is dead – unless some kind of time machine is invented. In which case I would hope that bringing back Hitler would not be high on the agenda).

    On a positive note if 20 years ago somebody had told me there would be peace in Northern Ireland I would have told them they were nuts. It just goes to show that peace and the impossible can be achieved.

    Exactly. When I was young, my father told me that against his expectations, he’d lived through the (relative) emancipation of African-Americans brought on by the Civil Rights Movement, and that I too might live to see the end of apartheid in South Africa. As a kid, I never thought I’d see that either.

    Agree with you about apartheid as well! However, I suppose where we differ is that for Northern Ireland/South Africa politicians and other interested parties could only bring about these solutions because of the very specific nature of the problems there. It was possible to see what people needed to do in order to achieve peace even if it was very unlikely they would do those things. World peace on the other hand, whilst being terribly worthy, is just too woolly a concept for me to buy!

    Also I am convinced that the greenham common camps and Brian Haw did far more harm than good to the success of peace movements – at least in terms of gaining popular support.

    Best wishes

  6. Globalism

    This is becoming quite a fascinating dialogue Anon – thanks for being the first reader to engage with me through this blog and for challenging my opinions (thus giving me an opportunity to defend them too)!

    It does seem to be becoming slightly complicated though, so I’ve divided my response into sections.

    The Media

    The media can have an impact on public opinion but does not ‘drive it’! I would argue that most people have a set of core values and the reason the media (at least in the UK) back strong defence is that it merely reflects public opinion. We need to be careful not to assume that just because we may think that we are more knowledgeable/well read than the ‘public’, that they would agree with our views if they were as knowledgeable/well read. The reason the UK never backed disarmament is because the public do not agree with it and has never voted in sufficient numbers for a party that has advocated it (and they have had the chance!) – not because of the pesky media!

    Your point about climate change is correct but that surely only backs my argument that the media is not to blame for public opinion on disarmament!…None of this is to suggest that people should not have the right to campaign to change public opinion of course!

    I guess that in terms of media influence, it depends which side of the fence you’re on. Some would argue that the media informs or guides public opinion whereas others could argue that the media merely reflects it. It could also probably be argued that both could be true (if that doesn’t sound like a complete contradiction).

    If we take the example of the US media recently, it seems to be much more driven by vested interests these days and seen to act very much as a mouthpiece for the current administration. Both the visual and print media were mostly very much in favour of the invasion of Iraq, with the ’embedding’ of reporters guaranteeing that a pro-war point of view was what was promoted to the general US public. In the initial stages at least, the US public (psychologically wounded by the 9/11 attacks) were very much in favour of the war.

    Admittedly, this could be seen as an example of even the US media reflecting public opinion, but the mainstream media did almost nothing to deny the administration’s charges of a link between Iraq and Al-Qaeda and thus a large proportion of the American public still thinks that Saddam Hussein was responsible for the attacks.

    Here in Japan, the media is very much a driver of public opinion. The government was very keen on pushing the ‘North Korean threat’ and the media was certainly complicit in building up the stories here. A while back, few people seemed that troubled by the abduction of Japanese nationals about 30 years ago. Abe, now Prime Minister, pushed the issue hard and with plenty of back up in the press and on the TV, the issue rose in peoples minds to the point where I’ve since heard Japanese suggesting that Japan might now need a nuclear deterrent.

    The British media was (fortunately) on the whole more sceptical of the invasion of Iraq, which may have been one of the reasons for greater British opposition to it. I would agree that many (if not most) British people have a set of core values and a great deal more cynicism than seen in many other nations, but I would certainly not consider that the UK media is some sort of benign information service that fills in the gaps for informed citizens. Why is it a kiss of death for any mainstream British politician to fully embrace the European project? Is it because that all of them are truly against deeper integration or does it also have something to do with the fact that Murdoch would withdraw his support in an instant?

    Of course we shouldn’t assume that those of us who consider ourselves to be ‘better read’ would be in line with the thinking of an equally ‘better read general public’ – as you refer to, that’s part of the point of campaigning to change public opinion.

    Finally, I’d say that the British people may have had the chance to vote for unilateral disarmament (the Labour Party of the 70’s and 80’s) but to my knowledge, they’ve not had the chance to vote for a mainstream party advocating multilateral disarmament. Not that I’d expect any mainstream party to advocate that either these days!

    Metaphorical Neighbours

    Of course if your neighbour wants to kill you and everyone in your family because of your religion, colour, race or nationality etc and will not talk or engage with you, you have no way to defend yourself, and you become aware that he has a machine to knock down the wall – what do you do then? Would you still be trying to convince your benign neighbour on the other side to get rid of the weapons they have bought for their defence?

    A tricky proposition indeed! I hope it doesn’t sound pedantic but I’m going to pull the metaphor apart a little in order to be able to better answer your point!

    Realistically, if I had a neighbour in the house next door to me wanting to kill me and my family, I would naturally be both concerned and probably rather scared by the prospect. However, if he was actively threatening me/my family, I’d still consider taking steps (at least initially) that would save me having to arm myself to the teeth just in case he did something whilst I was asleep.

    This would mean getting a third party involved in order to either mediate or reduce the threat. In the case of the person in the house next door, that would most likely mean involving the police. In the case of a neighbouring country, the best bet we have at the moment (however ineffectual they may be at times, how much worse would it be if nothing like them existed?) is international institutions like the UN.

    If I arm myself to protect myself from the man in the house on my right, how is my other neighbour on my left going to feel about me being suddenly becoming armed and willing to use them? Even if I have a good relationship with him, is he not also going to suddenly feel threatened or at least less secure, and possibly consider arming himself against me in case I too start using my weapons in my own defence or he gets caught in crossfire?

    In this knock-on scenario, one man ultimately causes the weaponisation of the entire street and the likelihood of a weapon being used somewhere and someone getting killed that had nothing to do with my original neighbour, even in accident, increases significantly.

    A third party involvement, particularly one neutral to the dispute, increases the chance of a peaceful resolution.

    Everything is connected. No man nor nation is an island. With every action, a reaction.

    World Peace

    …I suppose where we differ is that for Northern Ireland/South Africa politicians and other interested parties could only bring about these solutions because of the very specific nature of the problems there. It was possible to see what people needed to do in order to achieve peace even if it was very unlikely they would do those things. World peace on the other hand, whilst being terribly worthy, is just too woolly a concept for me to buy!

    Also I am convinced that the greenham common camps and Brian Haw did far more harm than good to the success of peace movements – at least in terms of gaining popular support.

    Yes, Northern Ireland and South Africa were in comparison smaller situations to tackle, but neither of them were solved in a bubble either. White South Africa didn’t just get a change of heart and decide to release Mandela and cede power on their own accord. It largely happened because they had become international pariahs that could no longer sustain themselves in the face of the global opposition to what they were doing. Much of the domestic opposition was either in jail or exile by the latter years.

    Agreed that ‘world peace’ can be seen as a woolly concept or just too pie-in-the-sky to ever happen! I’m not saying that it’s something that I ever expect to happen within my lifetime or even my great-grandchildren’s lifetimes.

    However, I would counter that we are at a crucial point in the history of our species where the capacity we have to wipe ourselves out several times over (along with most of the other species on the planet) is becoming more and more easy to imagine happening.

    Global Warming, depending on the degree of impact, will either cause us to gradually adapt or take a whole load of us out and force the remainder to evolve. Nuclear War is much more likely to destroy the species in one fell swoop.

    If we can imagine the worst, should we not also imagine the best too? World Peace is a marathon, not a sprint. If it can be built at all, it will be slowly, carefully, cautiously, step-by-step. If we can find inspiration in the resolution of the Northern Ireland/South Africa problems, imagine the impact a resolution of the Israel/Palestine issue would have!

    Part of the responsibility of the peace movement is not just to show the opposition to war, invasion and imperialism but to actually provide alternative visions of a better future, to give a better vision for people to strive for, to imagine. There’s anti-war and there’s pro-peace, and while the two may be mutually complimentary, they’re not the same thing.

    As a matter of interest, why do you think that Greenham Common and Brian Haw did more harm than good? Is it simply that they appeared too woolly or ridiculous to further the causes they were advocating into more mainstream acceptance or is there another reason?

    Peace

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