Council on Foreign Relations: Japan & Article 9: “70 Years of Politically Shifting Goal Posts”

My latest analysis of Japan’s debate about the Constitution’s Article 9 “peace clause” has just been published in the Council on Foreign Relations’ Asia Unbound blog.

The piece offers an overview of the “politically shifting goal posts” that have allowed Japanese leaders to assert formal or de facto reinterpretations of Japan’s constitution over the past seventy years. It thus provides historical context for both the Abe administration’s past actions–e.g., the 2014 “reinterpretation” of Article 9 to assert the constitutionality of “limited” exercise of collective self-defense for the first time–as well as its current efforts to formally amend Japan’s never-revised 1947 constitution.

I thank CFR Senior Fellow for Japan Studies Dr. Sheila Smith for commissioning the piece as part of her series Will the Japanese Change their Constitution? My brief analysis was originally written in Spring 2016, but (I think) has held up fairly well despite developments over the past year.

  • Seventy Years of Politically Shifting Goal Posts.” Asia Unbound (blog of the Council on Foreign Relations), May 10, 2017. (Part of a guest-blogger series entitled Will the Japanese Change Their Constitution?)
  • Excerpt:
    • In recent years a widespread narrative presents post-2012 changes to Japan’s security policy and Article Nine’s interpretation as fundamentally unprecedented and “All About Abe.” The reality, however, is that Japan’s security policy has been undergoing evolutionary, incremental reforms for decades—under both conservative and moderate Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and opposition leaders. Practically significant, de facto change—albeit within remarkably “sticky” normative bounds so far—has occurred repeatedly in response to changing external threat perceptions and shifting domestic political winds.