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In Germany and Japan, the twilight of the pacifist ideal


IIt may seem paradoxical, if not revealing of the state of the world, that the G7 was held this year in Hiroshima, the first city to suffer from the nuclear fire, on August 6, 1945, where is engraved on the monument to the victims: “Never again will we make the same mistake” – “we” meaning humanity. However, in this martyred city where 70,000 human lives were pulverized in one fell swoop, it was the war – in Ukraine and the one that could lead to the antagonism between China and the United States – which was at the center debates.

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Two countries with disastrous pasts, Germany and Japan, former Axis powers defeated in 1945, whose strategic singularity was an open pacifism, appeared for the first time at this G7 as “normal” powers, displaying rising defense budgets and called upon to play a deterrent role in the face of“Euro-Asian despotic axis”.

In these two countries, pacifism corresponded to the definition given to it in the 16e Universal Peace Congress, held in Munich in 1907: a doctrine of action for “to abolish war and settle international disputes by law”. In 1947, Japan introduced into its Constitution an article by which it “forever renounces war as the sovereign right of the State and the threat or use of force as an instrument for resolving international disputes “. Was he forced to do so by the American occupier? The question remains open.

Post-war markers

Despite the virulence of the right, which saw in it a “amputation of sovereignty”, pacifism was, for decades, the doctrine to which the majority of the Japanese adhered by conviction, by fear of a return of militarism or by expiatory resignation. Democracy and pacifism were the inseparable markers of the post-war period.

Adopted in 1949, the Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) is less restrictive. If the preamble states that the “German people” East “animated by the will to serve the peace of the world as an equal member in a united Europe”only the “acts likely to disturb the peaceful coexistence of peoples (…) with a view to preparing a war of aggression are unconstitutional”specifies article 26.

Faced with the German Democratic Republic (GDR) in the Soviet orbit, the FRG had indeed to purge the demons of the Second World War without renouncing to be able to defend itself in the context of the Cold War. As early as 1955, an army – the Bundeswehr – was reconstituted within the framework of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, but from the outset it was placed under close parliamentary control. From the 1990s, its participation in several external operations – from the former Yugoslavia to Afghanistan via the Sahel – did not change the situation: these were limited to actions to maintain peace, and Germany basically remained a “civilian power”in the words of political scientist Hanns Maull.

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