May 28, 2017

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My Conversations With Americans About Japanese Pacifism

I have discussed pacifism with a couple of Americans, and I have noticed that their views on peace and the typical Japanese view on peace are different. For example, one day when I was talking to an American about Article 9, she told me that she did not think Japan is really pacifist. She insisted that Japan can avoid using armed force because the US fights on its behalf. In her view, Japan only remains pacifist because the US deploys its military to fight Japan’s enemies. She supports Japan’s exercise of its right to collective self-defense.

Many in Japan who oppose the security legislation allowing the Japanese military to fight in foreign countries claim that they oppose war and value peace. Based on my discussions with Americans, it seems like many Americans think the US military wages war mostly to achieve peace. There are some wars waged by the US that even Americans don’t think are legitimate (such as the Iraq War). But, in general, many Americans view the US as a force for good in the world, even in war.

I think for Japanese people, a country is considered peaceful if it does not wage war itself. And if all countries adopt a pacifist stance, then the whole world would be at peace. Japan sees its role as spreading a norm of pacifism throughout the world. However, for Americans, peace includes maintenance of global order, and in order to maintain global order, a country inevitably needs to exercise armed force to protect people around the world. It seems like military personnel are regarded as heroes in the US.

Another American who I spoke with mentioned that he thought that Japanese people were naive and blowing out of proportion the security legislation. For him, it is perfectly normal for a country to have a military, since most countries have one. Moreover, he felt like the establishment of a right to collective self-defense is such a minor issue, especially since it is already a capability that most countries have. For him, the Japanese people are overreacting.

I only talked to a couple of Americans about pacifism, so it does not represent the whole of Americans’ opinions. However, I was surprised about how their views on pacifism are quite different from Japanese perceptions. I personally like Japanese pacifism and believe that Japan should spread pacifism. But, I was surprised to know that this pacifism can sometimes be regarded as either selfish or an overreaction by some Americans.

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