Abe rocks Japan’s constitutional boat
For those whose inquiry begins and end at "Japan has proven itself capable of self-control. What could be wrong with normalization?" -- the essay's crucial paragraph:
The price of formally amending Article 9 will be high, particularly in terms of Japan's foreign relations. China and South Korea will 'over-interpret' the move as signifying a dramatic change in the status quo and the rise of a potential Japanese military threat. Moreover, Japan will no longer be able to lay a strong claim to being a 'peace state', which has been an important source of its soft power. The proposal to revise Article 9 could, therefore, have a destabilising effect in the region and come at the cost of Japan's international standing and soft power.Due to the absence of regional economic and security structures, due to Japan's being in a bad geo-political neighborhood (think of when Japan exited from the Occupation: no other industrialized states nearby, no other democracy in the region except the chaotic Philippines) -- and due the halt in the program of purging the government of totalitarianism, post-Occupation Japan faced unleapable hurdles to integration (some China-sodden commentators might say "re-integration") into East Asia. The latter half of the 20th century would then most likely have been much like the first half: constant warfare, with an armed Japan in contestation with the Soviet Union and a fragmented China, the dogs of war unleashed by a breakdown, after a decade or so, of Japan's alliance with the world's premier maritime power.
[As to the implications of a martial post-1945 Japan on the process of decolonization in this alternate universe East Asia, the mind boggles.]
Article 9 had a purpose and effect of breaking the chain of inevitability. Japan could integrate into East Asia at minimal cost, both in terms of its own sovereignty and social structure. A de jure shackled Japan had a chance of living at peace with the military dictatorships and expansionist communist states of the region. A demilitarized Japan could be given free rein to permit the rehabilitation of its pre-war elites.
Someone needs to look the PM in the eye and tell him, "Look, your enthusiasm for constitutional revisionism is misguided. The Meiji State was a miserable one for the common people. But forget about them. The only reason your grandfather could walk out of Sugamo Prison alive and hearty to take up where he left off, becoming Prime Minister less than eight years later -- was Article 9. Article 9 made it possible for your grandfather's younger brother to, eventually, succeed him, your great uncle Eisaku becoming the longest serving post-war prime minister. It has allowed you, who have been steeped in a culture of unscientific, ahistorical, backward-looking authoritarian fantabulism, to become Prime Minister not once but twice.
Forget about what Article 9 has done for the average citizen; think about the tremendous service it has done for your family."
The attempt to encourage a reconsideration of a commitment to constitution revision out of simple self-interest would likely fail. However, that does not mean it would be wrong to at least try it.