Can Pacifism Lead us to Peace or More War

It’s now been over 70  years since the end of the second World War.  The first World was was meant to be the ‘war to end all wars’, clearly this wasn’t the case.  However there was a huge global impact and two nations almost immediately turned pacifist both modifying their constitutions to reflect this.

The first country, was Japan and a couple of years later, the central American county of Costa Rica followed their example. The reasons for the  Japanese change are well documented, but less so the country of Costa Rica.

The leader of the country Jose Ferrer, seized power in a very bloody military coup – not an unusual occurrence in South America in the last century.  However what was unusual was the almost instant change in politics – militarism was thrown out and instead pacifism embraced.  He announced that the military would be disbanded and the headquarter’s turned into an art museum.

The pacifism of Costa Rica is arguably easier to sustain, a smaller, relatively poor country it has nowhere near the responsibilities or interests of the gigantic Japanese economy.  Also it can be argued that Japan exists in a much more volatile area – rising superpowers like China and the dangerous , erratic North Korea to name two examples.  It is very much an area of trouble, mistrust and growing dangers to world peace, even in China people routinely use VPN and security services like this  because they are constantly monitored and logged when online.

Costa Rica’s stance on arms hasn’t brought it wealth that’s for sure.  However it is a beautiful, peaceful place to live and ranks as the happiest country in the world according to the Happy Planet Index.  It has wonderful green credentials too with nearly 25% of it’s land mass legally protected against commercial and industrial encroachment.

Was postwar Japan over nominally pacifist? “Land, sea and air forces, in addition to other war potential, will never be preserved,” says Article 9. The Self-Defense Forces as well as their state of the art weaponry, backed by a substantial American military presence, appear to mock that pious vow. The fact remains, however, that the military in Japan has worked under legal and constitutional constraints that hobble no other sovereign country’s armed forces. Whether those restraints qualify as pacifism is an open question. Certainly they do not by the standards of Costa Rica. A better question might be: Can the standards of Costa Rica be made worldwide?

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, since taking office in December 2012, has made no secret of his intent to steer Japan in the contrary direction. This is consistent having an assurance he had made the previous September to the United Nations General Assembly. Japan, he explained, “will just bear the flag of proactive contribution to peace.”

Thus was born “proactive pacifism” — enlarged interaction under fewer restrictions with more countries’ armed forces in more far-flung international battles — raising, necessarily, the question: How much “proactivity” can pacifism bear without slowly, imperceptibly (if not fast) evolving into its opposite — specifically, militarism?

John Jennings