Japan Readies for War
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
So how does one spell “living constitution” in Japanese? We ask because of the announcement Tuesday by Prime Minister Abe, who disclosed that, as it was put in the New York Times, his government would “reinterpret” the country’s constitution “to allow Japanese armed forces to come to the aid of friendly nations under attack.” This has been met with silence in the left-wing press here in America and also in the right-wing press. If President Obama, who grew up in Indonesia, has a view of the matter, it has escaped our notice.
As a matter of constitutional interpretation, though, it’s going to be a humdinger. This is because Japan’s constitution, enacted at 1947, contains the famed Article 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 a mean 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.”
Mr. Abe didn’t say how he’s going to “reinterpret” this. We believe, though, he’s going to start by changing the word “aspiring” to the word “despairing” and deleting altogether the word “sincerely.” He may also knock out the words “justice and order” and excise the word “forever.” That would enable him to keep the word “renounce.” He is probably going to insert the words “anything but national and” in front of the words “international disputes.” In the penultimate sentence of the Article, he is likely to delete the letter “n” from the word “never” and, in the last sentence, strike the “not.”
That ought to do it, by Jiminy. And who are we to tell the Japanese they’re wrong? Our own constitutional lawyers are spending all their time in court, trying to defend our rights to, say, “keep and bear arms,” which our Constitutions says shall not be even “infringed.” Or trying to defend the rights of our most religious employers not to be forced to buy medical insurance that pays for the extreme measures of birth control. Or the rights of religious people to walk on a sidewalk within 35 feet of an abortion clinic. Or the right of Citizens United to air a film critical of Hillary Clinton while she’s running for office.
Forgive us. We don’t actually relish being a constitutional stick in the mud. And we understand that the Japanese feel they must do this in an age of American retreat. After all, the idea that they could renounce war was implicitly — or even explicitly, after the pacts signed at San Francisco in 1951 — tied to the prospect that American military power would be there for them. What confidence can there be of this in the Age of Obama. If Japan really wants to change its constitution it can alwasy use the parchment’s amendment process.
Our nightmare, is that we’re at the end of the constitutional age, the age when we put our faith in basic laws and a ratification process that was difficult — and, on an every day basis, nigh impossible — to trifle with. The constitution was going to be the contraption that replaced kings and emperors. We bought into the idea at Philadelphia. We have been spreading the idea like Johnny Appleseed planted pommes. It was our own officers who helped write the Japanese constitution, after all. What were they, just fooling around?