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Reflection on 2009 - by Eiichiro Ochiai, Chair of VSA9

Major changes in 2009

We have seen changes in the administration of the two countries of our concern: USA and Japan. Mr. B. Obama was elected enthusiastically by the US citizens in Nov., 2008. People in the US (and also of the world) hoped that he would act on his promise during the campaign, i.e., to bring about “changes”. People were expecting that he would put forward legislations to help people and to end wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Unfortunately, he has not delivered any of these changes. He continued the policies of the previous administration to help the Wall street (rather than the main streets), and expanded the Afghan war.

The Japanese people rejected the long-standing LDP (liberal democratic) and elected overwhelmingly DPJ (democratic party of Japan) members in the Aug. 30 lower house election. The new government led by Mr. Y. Hatoyama has instituted a number of new measures to overhaul the administrative structures and public work policies, and is trying to establish the Japanese own policies about the US bases in Japan, particularly in Okinawa. The Japanese media have reported that a strong pressure is exerted by the US defense administration against such a move by the Japanese government, but it turned out not to be true. Hopefully, the current Japanese government would show its determination to change the US bases in favor of the people of Okinawa.

The People’s republic of China celebrated the 60th anniversary of its establishment. It demonstrated its economic power and displayed its military might. Russia’s economy did not seem to have been much affected by the financial downturn in the West.

The Afghan War seems to be attracting more participation by the NATO countries. This is a very worrisome sign that the West is interested in the central Asia, perhaps for its oil and gas resources and also it’s being a strategic position between China and Russia. The powerful West (US, Britain, France, etc) is still dominating the world by force; they are also providing the world with about 80%of all the weapons. On the other hands, economically the newly emerging countries are increasing their influences.
How Japan should behave under this circumstance might be a difficult question.

What VSA9 should or could do

Well, the whole world needs to reconsider what would be beneficial to the majority of people, not only the so-called economic elites. Would most people like to live without fear of war (1) or would most people not mind waging war if they gain financially (2)? Option (2) would not work for the majority of people; the majority of people would only be victims, and only a small fraction of people (elites) gains benefits from wars (without losing their own lives). Hence for the majority of people there is only one option, option (1), if they want to live. Suppose option (1) is indeed what people want, how would we be able to attain it? Throughout the whole history of humankind, force has been used to settle most international disputes. However, many wars were fought not to resolve conflicts, but to exploit the resources or expand territories; that is, a major motivation for wars has been “greed” of the people (corporations) who gains from the wars at the expense of ordinary people. Aggression has to be defended. Hence, defense is the excuse by which nations arm themselves and militarism has escalated. It has become likely today that humankind may not escape devastation by nuclear weapons if a major war takes place. Even if it is not a major war, devastation of an entire nation is likely, as nuclear power plants are good targets for initial attack. Destruction of nuclear power plants amounts to a nuclear bomb attack.

There are basically two different levels of solution for abolishing wars; one at the people’s basic ethical mentality and the other at the national and international political level. The first is perhaps a very basic issue for humankind; i.e., to change their ethics from egotistical to more people-caring. This has been one of the basic themes in most religious traditions, but “lure of wealth or power” has strayed people from this ideal. In most cultures, particularly in the West, attaining one’s desire (wealth, power or otherwise) is regarded as a “virtue” and hence people would pursue it. Changes in this regard (basic ethics) would, if any, come very slowly.

Hence, we need to pursue political avenues to attain the goal of abolishing wars. Article 9 of the Japanese constitution is one of the good ways to achieve this goal. It declares to the world as well as the Japanese people themselves that Japan would never resort to wars to resolve international conflicts, and that she will not maintain military in order to accomplish it. Unfortunately, the Japanese government has built up a military in the guise of “Self Defense Force” (SDF) under the pressure from without (USA) and within. Yet, because of Article 9, the SDF has so far not been allowed to engage in a combat. In other words, this article could and indeed has restricted the activities of the military force within the confine of self-defense (against a military attack from another nation). It functions as a self-imposed restraint to the urge to use force.

As more and more nations adopt such a constitutional clause, more nations including Japan would feel less threatened and would reduce military machineries. This suggests our activities. One is to watch the movement of the Japanese government and keep pressure on them not to change Article 9, and to spread the message of incorporating Article 9 or the like into every nation’s constitution by all means.

Many people would argue that yes it is ideal, but too unrealistic to achieve. This method, nonviolent resolution of conflicts, is indeed more realistic in terms of safe-guarding ordinary people than violent confrontation. Violent confrontations inevitably put ordinary people in jeopardy.

Unfortunately, powerful nations are still pursuing their egotistical goals by force, and induce counter terrorism, though most of such activities are indeed resistance against aggression. Resistance can become terrorism easily, as the aggression is difficult to defeat. To reduce this kind of aggression requires a fair international organization to pressure such aggressive nations. A movement to make the UN be a fairer representative of the people of the world is one way; this is pursued by “World Federalists Movement” (NGO).

Beyond achieving a long-lasting peace on earth, the humankind is facing a dire problem: whether we can sustain our civilization. That is another big issue, please refer to the following links (a1~a11, b and c1~c6).

Eiichiro Ochiai, Chair of VSA9

Link (a1)
Link (a2)
Link (a3)
Link (a4)
Link (a5)
Link (a6)
Link (a7)
Link (a8)
Link (a9)
Link (a10)
Link (a11)

Link (b)

Link (c1)
Link (c2)
Link (c3)
Link (c4)
Link (c5)
Link (c6)

Eiichiro Ochiai is a retired chemistry professor; taught chemistry and conducted research in Japan, Canada, USA, Germany and Sweden. Currently involved in a movement to “Save Article 9"and “World Federalists Movement”, and is a citizen reporter for an Internet medium: reporting on various issues including politics, economics, health and sustainability.

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