Judging from the total lack of response to my last two postings, I trust no one will be terribly troubled if I go back on my word to make my next post about the implications of RMB revaluation, and write instead on Japanese constitutional reform.
This morning’s Asahi print edition carried the results of the newspaper’s latest nationwide poll, which, in addition to the normal questions about support of political parties, contained a large number of questions about possible constitutional revision. (I had originally intended to translate the entire results and post them, but there are too many questions and too little time.)
One thing the poll data reveals is an interesting paradox in public opinion with regard to the relationship between the SDF and Article 9. Although close three quarters of respondents indicated that the Constitution should be revised to either recognize the SDF’s existence (58%) or make it into a regular army (12%), when asked directly, a majority opposed revision to Article 9 (51%), with only slightly over a third favoring revision (36%).
At the risk of oversimplifying things, it appears that although the Japanese like the SDF, and are increasingly in favor of revising their constitution, they remain wary of touching Article 9, which arguably prohibits the SDF’s existence. The Asahi argues that this paradox is rooted in the Japanese public’s acceptance of both Article 9 and the SDF.
With regard to the SDF, only 7% of respondents said its existence was unconstitutional and should therefore be abolished in the future. Additionally, over half of the respondents said Japan should recognize the SDF’s ability to participate in UN peacekeeping operations, while one-third said they would do the same for SDF support for reconstruction in a country with an ongoing war.
Concerning Article 9 on the other hand, 32% of all respondents said that out of the entire contents of the constitution, they were most concerned with Article 9, and just over three-quarters said they believed that Article 9 had played a role in [creating and maintaining?] peace and stability in Japan.
This belief was even stronger (84%) among the 51% who opposed revision of Article 9. And even among those 58% of total respondents who believed that the constitution should recognize the SDF and that Article 9 had played a role in Japan’s peace and stability, nearly half of this group opposed revision of Article 9.
That’s a lot of numbers to think about, and of course there are the usual caveats about the reliability of poll data, but there are a few other things worth considering here.
First, one wonders if public support would remain high for UNPKOs and especially for reconstruction assistance in a war-torn country if a few Japanese peacekeepers met with the same fate as Belgian UN peacekeepers in Kigali in 1994.
One might also wonder if Japanese politicians would be willing to risk political capital to put SDF forces in harm’s way. My guess is that given the lack of a past failure (i.e. no dead Japanese soldiers), and given that the ruling coalition was able to get away with the mission to Iraq, whatever public or opposition party resistance might exist would easily be overcome the first time around.