1 Introduction

Discussions of the ethics of war and peace have been dominated by traditional theories such as realism, pacifism, and just war theory.Footnote 1 Some philosophers are interested in the role of utilitarianism in the ethics of war and peace, and the relationship between utilitarianism and these three traditions. For example, Brandt (1972) discusses the rules of war from the point of view of rule utilitarianism; Heinze (2005, 2006) develops a utilitarian or consequential argument for humanitarian intervention; Whitman (2007) argues that utilitarianism is a better moral theory than deontology for the moral foundation of just war theory and the war on terrorism. While these philosophers focus on specific issues in war ethics, Shaw (2011, 2014a, b, 2016) develops a more generalized moral theory of war and peace based on utilitarianism.Footnote 2 When comparing utilitarianism with the traditions mentioned above, Shaw argues that it supports just war theory more than realism and pacifism, and that the principles in just war theory should be treated as intermediate moral principles that are subordinate to utilitarianism. Shaw also defends the principle of legitimate authority and the right of national defense.

By careful analysis and investigation, I argue that Shaw’s utilitarian approach to war ethics can be developed further. Shaw’s discussion of the relationship between utilitarianism and the just war theory is not complete. There are new developments in the ethics of war and peace which fall between the just war tradition and traditional pacifism. Contingent pacifism can be considered a new understanding of pacifism from within the just war tradition. I argue that utilitarianism should accept contingent pacifism rather than merely the traditional just war theory. Moreover, I argue that utilitarian contingent pacifists should only endorse individual self-defense and not national defense. Therefore, utilitarian contingent pacifists should not endorse the right of national defense, even only as a legal or instrumental utilitarian right.

The above positions are not only theoretically important but also have practical implications. Indeed, one practical implication drives this paper, which discusses a real-world case in detail: the debate on whether Japan should keep or amend Article 9 of the Constitution. The unique situation of Article 9 is that Japan, as a state, constitutionally gives up the right to wage war. There are two sides to this debate. On the one side, realists believe that Japan should amend or even abolish Article 9, because it limits the power of the Japanese government, and turns Japan into a country with “incomplete sovereignty.” On the other side, idealists believe that Japan should keep Article 9; it is the most important part of the Constitution, as it shows that Japan is willing to give up military force and become a country of peace. This is a practical debate on the legitimate authority of war and the right of national defense.

Utilitarian contingent pacifism provides a moral foundation to justify keeping Article 9. The debate on Article 9 shows that the assumption that national defense is important is questionable. Utilitarian contingent pacifism contributes to the debate by arguing that the Japanese Constitution is a part of the pacifist plan in the global institution, and it is morally important to both practical and global politics. Moreover, since we are now living in a non-ideal world, this institution also involves the Alliance between Japan and the U.S. (hereafter “the Alliance”). While the contingent concept in contingent pacifism can explain the necessity of the existence of the Alliance, utilitarian contingent pacifism tells us how to develop the Alliance into a better pacific union.

The schedule of this paper is as follows. In next section, I further discuss Shaw’s ideas on utilitarianism and the ethics of war and peace. In Section 3, I explain why Shaw’s ideas should lead us to utilitarian contingent pacifism rather than simply utilitarian just war theory. In Section 4, I argue that utilitarian contingent pacifism should endorse self-defense but not national defense. In Section 5, I turn the discussion to the debate on Article 9 and how utilitarian contingent pacifism justifies keeping rather than amending the Japanese Constitution.

2 Utilitarian War Principle and Just War Theory

According to Shaw, a general principle of war can be deduced from utilitarianism. He calls it the Utilitarian War Principle (UWP):

It is morally right for a state to wage war if and only if no other course of action available to it has greater expected well-being; otherwise, waging war is wrong (Shaw 2016, 47).

In essence, UWP is the application of the principle of utility to the ethics of war and peace. Shaw follows classical utilitarianism in treating well-being as the sole good and the ultimate value. He argues that only expected but not actual well-being matters (21–23). Although he also emphasizes general rules and guidelines, he prefers act utilitarianism to rule utilitarianism (31–34, especially 33). In his view, welfarism is a more specific component of utilitarianism than consequentialism (20–21, 47–48, 50–55); as he writes, “utilitarianism combines welfarism and consequentialism” (24).Footnote 3 One of the important implications of UWP (which is also my position) is that, even if some people do not accept utilitarianism as the comprehensive moral theory in general, it is still possible for them to support UWP if they agree that welfarism and consequentialism are important within the context of the ethics of war and peace (19). Following Shaw, hereafter I limit the understanding of “utilitarianism” to the context of the ethics of war and peace, and use “utilitarianism” and “UWP” interchangeably.

Shaw discusses the relationship between UWP and theories in the traditional schema. Realism and pacifism are usually considered as two extreme ends in the traditional schema. Realism is technically not a moral theory of war because the realist tradition usually suggests that war is neither right nor wrong, i.e., outside the scope of morality. Given that realism holds this amoralist position, it is easy to see UWP is incompatible with realism because “examining war in moral terms is not only a possible and coherent project but also an important undertaking” (Shaw, 2016, 40; see also 1–18). On the other hand, according to Shaw, pacifism holds a position that no war is morally justified. In Shaw’s words, pacifism “rejects all wars as immoral and forbids us to fight them” (60). Shaw believes that pacifism is usually absolutist or deontology-based. UWP could provide support for pacifism if one could prove that waging war is never the option that will produce the greatest expected well-being, but it is nearly impossible to prove such a claim. Therefore, Shaw concludes that UWP does not support pacifism either (60–63). In later sections I will discuss more varieties of pacifism and their relationship with utilitarianism.

Compared to realism and pacifism, Shaw prefers the just war tradition. He focuses on the basic principles that are generally agreed on by most just war theorists. He discusses six principles of jus ad bellum, and several more of jus in bello. Shaw admits that UWP is abstract, so he concurs with J.S. Mill that utilitarianism can have intermediate principles (2014b, 311). He argues that all principles in just war theory can be intermediate principles of UWP (68–73). Shaw discusses the content of each principle in detail to explain the relationship between them and UWP. Among the six principles of jus ad bellum, “last resort,” “proportionality,” and “reasonable prospect of success” are related to the calculation and balance of benefits and costs, and so they are easy to fit into the utilitarian framework (69). Some of them, however, are not as directly relevant to utilitarianism and require more explanations. “Legitimate authority,” also one of the six principles in jus ad bellum, says that national defense can only be justified if a legitimate authority has the moral status to authorize war; with proper conditions, the state is usually the primary legitimate authority (65). Shaw realizes that the content of the principle of legitimate authority is quite non-utilitarian or even non-consequential. Nevertheless, he still thinks that utilitarians should endorse this principle based on UWP, because “sticking to the principle will produce better outcomes on balance” (69). In other words, Shaw believes that like other intermediate principles such as the principle of proportionality, following the principle of legitimate authority should give us more utility than not following it.

This claim is elaborated further in his discussion of national defense. Shaw defends a utilitarian right of national defense (34–36, 79–98), arguing that it “entails that in defending themselves states are acting as they are entitled to act” (79). Following the utilitarian tradition, Shaw does not treat the right of national defense as a deontological or natural right. Instead, he supports the right of national defense as a legal right or a moral right based on utility, i.e., it is an instrumental right (34–36).Footnote 4 Shaw also discusses some controversial cases of national defense, such as preventive war and armed humanitarian intervention (88–96), but his argument mainly focuses on the relationship between UWP and national defense. He also argues that the utilitarian right of national defense is different from the right of national defense as defined by Walzer (1977) and that it can successfully avoid the challenges from Rodin (2002). Rodin’s arguments and Shaw’s replies to Rodin will be evaluated in detail in Section 4.

For both legitimate authority and national defense, the most important point here is that Shaw emphasizes that the state is the primary holder. Indeed, the state is the primary actor in all the principles of just war theory. But for now, let us focus on legitimate authority. It is primary in the sense that normally a state should not be denied its status as a legitimate authority and holder of the right of national defense, although there are exceptional cases and other non-state authorities and holders. Shaw believes that, except for pacifists, most people agree that states have the right of national defense (2016, 79). He admits that the government or the president still needs to act constitutionally to wage a legitimate war. He realizes that a state may lose her right to national defense in some exceptional cases. For example, when a state fails to protect her people from genocide (or worse, the state is the cause of genocide), armed humanitarian intervention is permitted, and the state loses her right of national defense (85). He rules out vendettas or private wars as wars with legitimate authority. On the other hand, he realizes that some international organizations or non-state actors, such as the United Nations or the thirteen colonies in the American War of Independence, are legitimate authorities because they represent people. Shaw admits that these are non-state legitimate authorities, but he emphasizes that usually those non-state actors cannot replace the roles of states, and the justificatory burden lies on the side of the non-state entity to prove that it is a legitimate authority (97). Shaw does not mean that a state must choose to wage war; he simply means that the state is the proper authority to make that decision, and any claim that denies that position is mistaken (85).

In summary, this section has discussed three important statements.

(1) UWP is the fundamental moral principle in the ethics of war and peace.

(2) UWP only endorses principles in just war theory, which are intermediate principles between UWP and practical warfare.

(3) A state is the primary legitimate authority to wage war and the primary bearer of the right of national defense.

In the rest of this paper, by assuming that (1) is true, I argue that both (2) and (3) are false.

3 Utilitarian Contingent Pacifism

Shaw believes that utilitarians should only accept just war theory, but not pacifism. In response to such a position, let us start by discussing the traditional schema again. Realism and pacifism are usually considered as two unachievable extremes on the two ends of the continuum. Given that both are unachievable, the only reasonable option left is the just war tradition (Orend, 2013). Shaw basically follows this trend from the utilitarian perspective. As mentioned in last section, he does not exclude the possibility that utilitarians may join forces with pacifists, but he also argues that it is quite unlikely, because pacifism is so unachievable. Nevertheless, we should reexamine our understanding of pacifism. There is no reason to define the term “pacifism” so narrowly. As Fiala argues, the traditional schema is biased toward just war theory and confines pacifism to an extreme position (2018, 35–61). The term “pacifism” in the traditional schema should be renamed “absolute pacifism,” and it is only one of many versions in the big family of pacifism. The common idea that unites these versions is that peace is an important moral value, and it is such a valuable goal that we should try our best to achieve it. Yet different pacifists have different ways to achieve this goal. Some scholars argue that there is space on the continuum for theories between the just war tradition and absolute pacifism. One such approach is known as “contingent pacifism,” or similar terms such as “just war pacifism,” “conditional pacifism,” or “practical pacifism.” As Larry May describes, these terms “are all somewhat similar in that they attempt to sketch a view of pacifism that is different from traditional pacifism since it does not object to all wars in principle” (2015, 43). Since “contingent pacifism” is probably the most common term, I use it as an umbrella term for the ideas of some contemporary pacifists, although they have a variety of ways to understand the meaning and scope of pacifism.

How do we distinguish contingent pacifism from just war theory and absolute pacifism? Although one can trace back the history of contingent pacifism to John Rawls, Bertrand Russell, or even earlier philosophers, people generally agree that contingent pacifism is a comparatively new approach that is still under development (Bazargan, 2014; Fiala, 2014, 2018; May, 2012, 2015; Morrow, 2018).Footnote 5 Both the negative and positive concepts of peace are important in contingent pacifism (Boersema, 2018). The negative concept, which is also a common understanding, says that peace is the absence of war. For example, in addition to the criticism of the traditional schema summarized above, Fiala also argues that peace is an opponent to “warism, militarism, and the military-industrial complex” (2018, 4) because “war is not normal” and “defences of war and violence are less than optimal” (x). However, one should not assume that peace only has this negative meaning. In the positive meaning, pacifism is like a critical moral theory, which holds an ideal principle that peace is the highest good. Peace is important to human flourishing and values such as “respect, love, justice, solidarity, and other affirmative or positive values,” and hence peace “is a positive condition in which there is harmony, order, integrity, and wholeness” (17). We should promote peace in both the negative and positive meanings, i.e., we “ought to seek peace, to live in peace, and to develop non-violent means of conflict resolution that respect the liberty, rationality, and autonomy of persons” (16).

When we describe just war theory, sometimes we simply say that its target is to “justify war” (May, 2015, 55, 105, 273; Shaw 2016, 44, 66). To be fair, when just war theorists say that they want to “justify war,” it does not mean that they prefer warism or militarism. Most of them also prefer peace and simply want to “specify the conditions under which war is and is not justified.”Footnote 6 However, even we understand justify war in this way, there are still differences between just war theory and contingent pacifism. While just war theory mainly targets on the conditions of just wars, contingent pacifism focuses on peace (as an intrinsic value) and only treats war as an exception. In this sense, contingent pacifism covers a larger scope than just war theory. For example, May (2015) develops his account of contingent pacifism from within the just war tradition. He generally concurs that those principles in just war theory are morally important, but he argues that wars in the past, present, and foreseeable future are unlikely to fulfill the conditions of a just war because they violate the constraint of proportionality, especially the violation of human rights. He writes: “It is my judgment that it is unlikely that war can be justified, especially if the human rights of all of the soldiers involved are taken seriously” (2015, 3).

In general, contingent pacifism is a more advanced theory than the traditional just war theory. It accepts some important values and ideas from just war theory (e.g., just cause, just intention, proportionality), but it moves closer to pacifism in the continuum by adding further claims, especially focusing on the positive meaning of peace. In a sense, contingent pacifism can be related to the just war tradition, but it aims at promoting peace rather than merely finding conditions to justify war. In other words, although contingent pacifism shares some common features with just war theory, it both adds and removes features from just war theory. In short, contingent pacifism is a combination of just war theory (more or less) and some further claims; this makes contingent pacifism a possible candidate as an interdiction theory and an alternative to both just war theory and absolute pacifism.

Contingent pacifism also has some practical applications. For example, May’s argument is especially important for the debates on the rights of soldiers and on conscientious refusal in jus in bello (May, 2012). Some other contingent pacifists (Bazargan, 2014; Morrow, 2018) also focus on conscientious refusal, the rights of non-combatants, and the rights of soldiers. They argue against opponents of contingent pacifism such as McMahan (2010). In later sections, I will discuss in detail a particular important application of contingent pacifism, which is about self-defense and the Japanese Constitution.

In addition to explain the meaning of Contingent pacifism, it is also important to set out fully why contingent pacifism is a justified theory. It appears that the contingent pacifists mentioned above do not have a consensus; they each have their own reason and justification for contingent pacifism. Fiala argues for pacifism as a positive critical theory of human flourishing, and he uses ideas from Johan Galtung to support his argument. May’s contingent pacifism is justified by principles drawn from just war theory, human rights law, and global ethics. Bazargan (2014) uses his “epistemic-based” argument to support contingent pacifism, while Morrow (2018) develops his argument from L.A. Paul’s philosophy. Given their different justifications, expectedly they have different views on the scope of contingent pacifism. For example, May focuses more on the ideas of just war theory than Fiala. It is still unclear which justification is the best, or if contingent pacifism should have plural justifications. This is the part of contingent pacifism that is still under development. It is beyond the scope of this paper to evaluate all these justifications. Below I only argue for another possible justification for contingent pacifism, namely utilitarian contingent pacifism. It is only until recently that scholars have started to develop contingent pacifism in greater detail, and few studies have combined utilitarianism and contingent pacifism. I intend to fill this research gap here. Whether utilitarianism is better than other versions of contingent pacifism is definitely open for debate. But at least, I argue, it is an option worthy of further consideration.

To discuss utilitarianism, I should refer to Shaw’s ideas again. Shaw realizes the existence of contingent pacifism but dismisses it very quickly, because he thinks that contingent pacifism is more like just war theory than (absolute) pacifism. He argues that contingent pacifism is “congenial,” as “this selective sort of pacifism amounts to little more than a strong moral presumption against war” (Shaw, 2016, 60).Footnote 7 One of the reasons Shaw dismisses contingent pacifism so quickly is probably that contingent pacifism emerged in the literature around the same time as he published his book. Nevertheless, I argue that contingent pacifism is not really “congenial,” as Shaw suggests.

Let me begin the argument by discussing classical utilitarian thoughts. Shaw argues that classical utilitarians such as Jeremy Bentham, James Mill, John Stuart Mill, and Henry Sidgwick are all supporters of just war (2014b, 303–306, 2016, 40–46). Nevertheless, even in Shaw’s interpretations of their works, Shaw also agrees that they are inclined to promote peace and oppose most wars, and only treat wars as exceptional and abnormal cases. For example, Shaw quotes Bentham— “All war is in its essence ruinous” and “mischief upon the largest scale”—to support his interpretation that “Bentham disapproved of war and sought its elimination” (2014b, 203). Shaw also has similar interpretations to other classical utilitarians. Although these classical utilitarians did not claim that war is absolutely wrong, they still focus on how to prevent as many wars as possible. Under the traditional schema, it is hard to categorize them as absolute pacifists. However, when we have contingent pacifism as an alternative, the story changes. It is true that the term “contingent pacifism” did not exist when these philosophers wrote, but their ideas, such as striving to prevent war and promoting peace, all fit into idea of contingent pacifism. Again, contingent pacifism is rooted in the just war tradition, but the aim is to promote peace and to treat war as an exception. It is safe to claim that classical utilitarian thoughts are closer to contingent pacifism than to just war theory.

Our concern here is not only with classical utilitarian thoughts, but with the question of whether peace or war can maximize well-being overall. Shaw provides a conditional statement, “If waging a given war would produce better results than not fighting, then we are morally justified in waging it”; he continues that if one believes that the antecedent of this conditional statement is never satisfied, then “UWP would lead one to a kind of contingent pacifism” (2011, 391). However, he doubts whether it is true that waging war would never produce a better result than not waging war. He also criticizes the claim that all (or almost all) past wars produced worse outcomes than not waging the wars would have. He argues that it is important to fight against bad, but he questions whether peace is always good. For example, he argues that if a world “had more injustice, oppression, or aggression—in short, more misery and less well-being—than a world with the occasional war, then it might not be a better world” (2011, 392, 2016, 62). He also thinks that as not everyone believes in pacifism, it may be strategically wise to not give up the idea of war so easily. In short, he doubts whether pacifism can really maximize well-being overall (2011, 391–394, 2016, 60–63).

Although the ideas and phrasing in Shaw (2011) and Shaw (2016) are very similar, the sentence quoted in my last paragraph— “UWP would lead one to a kind of contingent pacifism”— only appears in the former, not the latter. I am not sure whether this is just a minor oversight or indicates a change in his thinking between the two works, but I agree that UWP can lead to contingent pacifism, and Shaw’s objections do not refute this point. I have three reasons to support my position. First, his objections are only relevant to absolute pacifism. He realizes that some or most wars are problematic, but he challenges the pacifist view that this is always the case. Yet, again, contingent pacifism allows exceptions; it argues that the focus should be on promoting peace, but does not argue that war is never justified. Shaw’s challenges to absolutism do not apply to contingent pacifism.

Second, Shaw assumes that peace simply means “no war” (or no fighting). He also assumes that we are in a situation where we must choose between fighting against evil (such as more injustice) or accepting these evils as the status quo. In other words, the “pacifism” he is trying to argue against is one that promotes not fighting against a bad situation, and not trying to change a bad situation. However, as I mentioned above, peace also has a positive meaning, while Shaw obviously merely focuses on the negative meaning. In other words, unlike what Shaw describes, peace is also important to human flourishing and other important values. How to achieve the positive goal is what pacifists wish to figure out. But no matter how, the goal of pacifism is never just to do nothing, especially not to fight against injustice.

The third reason is related to well-being and just war theory. Shaw realizes that a discussion of whether a war produces better or worse well-being is usually too abstract. His suggestion, as mentioned in the previous section, is to use the principles of the just war theory as intermediate principles to determine whether war can maximize overall well-being (Shaw, 2016, 64–73). However, this is also a reason to justify why so many wars are bad. As we have seen, according to May, the idea that most or even all contemporary wars are bad is actually based on just war theory. May argues that, due to the nature of contemporary armed conflict and geopolitics, it is unlikely that any real war can pass “the tripartite test” of just war theory. In other words, no or only a few wars can satisfy all principles in jus ad bellum, jus in bello, and jus post bellum. This is because there are always violations of human right of soldiers, innocents, and non-combatants during war and post-war justice (2015, 87–133, 156–194).Footnote 8 In short, war is just only when it stratifies the tripartite test, but this is difficult to fulfill, and so “Contingent pacifism is contingent on the fact of the failure of any war to satisfy all of these conditions” (12). Since war usually cannot pass the tripartite test of just war theory, no war is likely to produce a better result than avoiding the war (in terms of expected well-being). On the other hand, promoting peace usually does produce better results. So, it is better to promote peace than to wage war. In this sense, utilitarian contingent pacifism does not totally deny UWP; it simply expands UWP to include justifying peace but not war. Therefore, even if we start from utilitarian reasoning and just war theory, we still end up holding contingent pacifism.

Let me summarize the positions of contingent pacifism I have discussed so far. In general, contingent pacifism lies between just war theory and absolute pacifism on the continuum of theories about war. It accepts many basic principles from just war theory, but adds at least two more important ideas, which are summarized in the following statements:

(4) Unlike just war theory, contingent pacifism focuses on promoting peace as an important value in both the positive and negative concepts and treats war only as a rare and abnormal exception.

(5) Although just war can be conceded in principle, in practice most (if not all) wars in the past, present, or even foreseeable future are unlikely to be just.

To develop an argument of utilitarian contingent pacifism, one can use some ideas drawn from utilitarianism to justify the above statements. I state the argument as follows:

(6) If contingently promoting peace has greater expected well-being than waging war, then it is morally justified to promote peace but not to wage war (deduced from UWP and some of Shaw’s ideas on just war theory).

(7) Contingently promoting peace has greater expected well-being than waging war (deduced from statements (4) and (5)).

(8) It is morally justified to promote peace but not to wage war (deduced from statements (6) and (7)).

This is a valid argument, and its soundness depends on whether statements (6) and (7) are true. As argued above, these statements are true. (The word “contingently” in the statements is to emphasize that they allow exceptions, but contingently they are true.) Notice that if this argument is sound, it does not imply that statement (1) in Section 2 is false; indeed, it develops statement (1) or UWP even further. But this argument conflicts with statement (2) because this argument shows that contingent pacifism rather than merely just war theory provides better intermediate principles for UWP.

Now that an argumentative framework has been developed, the next step is to explore why utilitarian contingent pacifism is a theory worthy of further consideration. If there are no differences in the theoretical and practical applications of utilitarian contingent pacifism and just war theory, then they are just different terms for the same thing. In the next two sections, I first argue for a theoretical difference between the idea of national defense in contingent pacifism and just war theory, and then discuss the defense of the Japanese Constitution as a practical example.

4 Self-Defense and National Defense

As mentioned in Section 2 (especially statement (3)), Shaw argues that the state is the legitimate authority to wage war and the right-holder of national defense. In this section, I argue that utilitarian contingent pacifism should only support self-defense but not national defense.

To understand what contingent pacifists think about self-defense and national defense, we need to discuss some ideas from Ryan (1983, 2013, 2015, 2018a, b) and Rodin (2002, 2014). While Morrow (2018) classifies Ryan’s and Rodin’s thoughts as contingent pacifism, Ryan and Rodin do not claim themselves as contingent pacifists. Ryan prefers absolute and unconditional pacifism to contingent pacifism (2018a, 280–281). Rodin does not use the term “contingent pacifism” either, but he proposes a “justified interdiction theory,” which is “a new normative position intermediate between just war theory and pacifism” (Rodin, 2014, 89). Nevertheless, whether we should treat Ryan and Rodin as contingent pacifists is largely a matter of terminology. For the sake of this paper, what important is that some of their ideas can be embedded into contingent pacifism. Indeed, in addition to Morrow, Bazargan, Fiala and May have all agreed with the ideas of Ryan and Rodin that I am going to discuss below.

Ryan divides pacifism into personal pacifism and political pacifism. He defines personal pacifism as the tradition of non-killing and non-violence at the individual level; in other words, it opposes killing or violence as personal acts. Political pacifism, on the other hand, focuses on the problem of waging war as a social practice or a practice of sovereignty. Political pacifists believe that states should not wage war in any circumstance because war is always morally problematic. Ryan (2015, 28) uses the analogy of the death penalty to explain the difference between personal and political pacifism. Some death penalty opponents argue against the killing action per se, but some others are against the death penalty as a legal practice. Personal pacifism is like the former, while political pacifism is analogous to the latter. In general, contingent pacifism also implies political pacifism. That is, contingent pacifists are also anti-war but not necessarily anti-violence in some exceptional cases. This has an important implication. Ryan argues clearly that political pacifism does not imply that individuals should never defend themselves; it simply means that war usually cannot fulfill the purpose of individual self-defense. In short, political pacifists affirm the right to individual self-defense but deny that war is a practical way to promote this right. In summary, Ryan believes that self-defense and political pacifism are compatible, and contingent pacifists agree with this idea.

Rodin believes that the individual right of self-defense is defendable, but there should be no right of national defense. The individual right of self-defense is generally perceived as the grounds for the right of national defense through analogy or reduction (Walzer, 1977). The analogical argument says that “the state itself possesses a right of defense analogous to the individual right of self-defense,” and the reductive argument says that “national self-defense is the coordinated exercise of individual rights of defense” (Rodin, 2014, 74). Rodin argues against both. Rodin believes that the analogical argument does not work, because the state and the individual are so different that they are not analogical (69–79). The reductive argument does not work in most situations either, because most defensive wars waged by modern states (especially non-democratic states) may only be waged to defend states’ sovereignty, but they usually result in harming the lives and well-being of citizens (87). Only a few exceptional cases, such as resisting genocidal aggression, may fulfill the reductive requirement. Most wars are waged simply for the preservation of sovereignty, not as acts of individual self-defense, and so they cannot be reduced to the individual rights of personal self-defense. In short, Rodin agrees that individual self-defense and its right are important, but they do not justify national defense (or its right).Footnote 9 It is also important to note that Ryan’s reasoning is non-consequential. He argues that consequentialism or utilitarianism are too vague in determining whether waging a war is justified, as we can never tell whether waging a war has generally good or bad consequences (2002, 10–13, 49–69). In his own words, “Consequentialism is thus a surprisingly poor guide for assessing the morality of specific wars” (12).

Shaw has two replies to Rodin’s arguments. First, Shaw disagrees with Rodin’s view that consequentialism cannot be used in the debates on the ethics of war and peace. Shaw argues that with careful analysis and help from the principles of just war theory, it is still possible to use consequential or utilitarian reasoning in war ethics (2016, 86–88). Second, it appears that Shaw agrees with Rodin that neither the analogical nor reductive arguments are good enough to support national defense. Instead, he argues that both should be grounded on UWP, i.e., they are justified because they promote greater expected well-being (84–88). In his view, “Both [analogical and reductive arguments] are problematic, but by taking an instrumental view of the right of national defense, utilitarians escape the problems associated with each” (84).

While I agree with Shaw that Rodin does not successfully refute consequential reasoning, I do not think that Shaw has provided a good justification for national defense. Shaw thinks that affirming national defense promotes greater expected well-being, but it is unclear how it does so. If Shaw agrees with Rodin that national defense is not simply a form of individual self-defense, then what well-being can we expect from national defense alone? National defense is useful only if it helps the nation protect her citizens. In utilitarian reasoning, it is not justified to wage a war which only defends a state’s sovereignty while at the same time harming the well-being of its citizens. Indeed, given that Shaw accepts that failed states (such as those that commit genocide) do not have the right of national defense, he does not defend national defense (and its right) in principle, but only in practice (2016, 85). He even claims that he does not take the current Westphalian state system for granted. He admits that if the situation changes, then it will not be necessary for him to defend national defense and “utilitarians would advocate moving in that direction” (83). In this sense, although he claims that he defends national defense because it is expected to promote well-being, he still needs self-defense as the foundation of its moral claims. Although he claims that the analogical and reductive arguments are problematic, he relies on them to support national defense. If national defense is still based on self-defense (either as an analogy or by reduction), then we will be back to Rodin’s challenges to national defense. In other words, Shaw denies Rodin’s challenges to the analogical and reductive arguments without giving us a proper rebuttal to the challenges.

Given that Shaw does not defend national defense in principle, can he simply argue that national defense is important in the current global institution? Indeed, he has spent some effort talking about the relationship between national defense and global institution, especially the United Nations (UN) Charter. He discusses how Article 1 of the Charter aims at maintaining international peace and security, Article 2(4) forbids member states from using force unless authorized by the Security Council, and Article 51 permits the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense (2014a, 24–25, 2016, 81–82). He believes that the philosophy behind the UN and related international organizations has successfully changed our minds over time, so that we now all believe that non-defensive wars are internationally illegal (or even immoral). But Shaw also argues that this international institution still allows defensive war, which implies the right of national defense.

In addition to the problem that Shaw’s interpretation is still based on self-defense but not national defense, some may wonder whether his interpretation of the UN Charter and national defense is correct. At least two of Shaw’s assumptions are controversial. First, there are disputes about the interpretation of Article 51, especially about whether individual and collective self-defense refers to defensive war. Second, it is also debatable whether the state is the best actor for addressing individual and collective self-defense, so that Shaw can claim that Article 51 is about national defense. Contingent pacifists have doubts about both assumptions. May (2015, 137–155) offers a detailed analysis of the UN Charter from the perspective of contingent pacifism. He argues that the purpose of the Charter is to outlaw war in international law, writing, “The United Nations was to put an end to war, where states initiated war against each other, even war fought in self-defense. This is the clear promise of the UN Charter, even if the reality has been quite different” (137). Indeed, there is a debate on the potential conflict between Article 2(4) and Article 51, as the former seems to forbid states to wage war while the latter allows individual and collective self-defense. May carefully discusses the meanings of these Articles and consults the International Court of Justice’s interpretations of Articles 2(4) and 51 in different legal cases (143–146). His interpretation is that Article 51 does not grant an exception to Article 2(4) (i.e., to wage war), and that it does not really support national defense. Instead, it simply puts self-defense “under the auspices of the United Nations, which would have dramatically changed the nature of war as it had been known” (141). In other words, even if we allow individual or collective self-defense in non-ideal situations, it does not imply that self-defense should be held in the state level (as wars initiated by states usually violate the real purpose of self-defense). If there must be a collective self-defense, it is better to be held in a non-state level. For example, a pacific union in the global level, such as by United Nations or other global organizations, is preferable. May argues that, in principle, this is close to the view of contingent pacifism, as this is a view that lies on the continuum between the extremes of just war theory and absolute pacifism (150).

Undoubtedly, this international enforcement has not yet been totally applicable in the non-ideal status quo. Nevertheless, at least this is a direction to pursue. It is beyond the scope of this paper to address exactly what kinds of pacific unions are needed, but the direction to improve the situation would be to modify the current global political institution so that it will be closer to the ideal of the UN Charter. Contingent pacifists would support any proposal that leads us to peace but still allows self-defense at the global level in some non-ideal exceptional cases.Footnote 10 Following this interpretation, the right of individual and collective self-defense in Article 51 of the UN Charter does not imply any permission for defensive war waged by a state; rather it argues that in a non-ideal and exceptional situation, it is better to solve conflicts between states at the global level such as United Nations or other global organizations that may provide collective self-defense beyond the state level.Footnote 11

In this section, I have shown that contingent pacifists generally agree with Ryan and Rodin’s arguments for accepting the right of self-defense but rejecting national defense. Shaw has not successfully defended national defense (and its right) or successfully answered Rodin’s challenges to the analogical and reductive arguments, and that May’s interpretation of the UN Charter is more persuasive than Shaw’s. Let me summarize these ideas as follows:

(9) Contingent pacifists affirm individual self-defense (and the right of it) but deny that national defensive war is a practical way to assure individual self-defense.

This statement directly conflicts with statement (3), and it is a theoretical implication of the argument of utilitarian contingent pacifism (i.e., statements (6) to (8)). In general, I have shown that contingent pacifism (statements (4) to (9)) can be compatible with UWP and statement (1) but are incompatible with statements (2) and (3). I have also shown why utilitarian contingent pacifism supports individual defense but not national defense.

5 The debate on Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution

Some may wonder whether contingent pacifism is just too idealistic without any practical use; or whether if we do not recognize national defense, then it is impossible for people to act in self-defense and resist aggression. Shaw holds such a position and argues that the UN cannot act quickly enough, so that “the victim nation will almost certainly have already suffered loss or harm that might have been avoided or reduced had it been allowed to defend itself” (2014a, 24–25, 2016, 82). As a response to this challenge, we need to show that contingent pacifism can justify at least one real case. The Japanese Constitution (and the Alliance) can be such a test case; one that, surprisingly, most contingent pacifists have not even mentioned. The only exception is May (2015, 2), who thinks that the Japanese Constitution is a significant practical example justified by contingent pacifism. However, he only briefly mentions this point without further analysis. For the rest of this paper, I focus on this unique case in contemporary global politics in detail. I argue that utilitarian contingent pacifism does not only justify Article 9, but also points out a direction to develop the Alliance into a better pacific union.

Let me begin by quoting Article 9:

Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes. In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized (Japan 1947).

In contrast to most (if not all) other constitutions, the Japanese Constitution (especially Article 9) renounces the right of Japan (as a state) to wage war at all.Footnote 12 It is controversial, because it legally prevents Japan from maintaining any armed forces such as an army, navy, or air force. In theory, Article 9 may even imply that Japan should not be allowed to maintain a self-defending military force, or at least any force greater than necessary to serve the purpose of self-defense. This may imply that it gives up the right of national defense as well. Here I only use the word “may” because this interpretation is open to debate. Some believe that the Japanese Supreme Court has already ruled that the Constitution still retains a fundamental right of self-defense, and that Japan can enter into treaties for mutual security (Haley, 2017). Some, however, believe that the Japanese Supreme Court does not match the power of the U.S. Supreme Court; it cannot make such a ruling, or it has not done enough to protect or interpret the Constitution and Article 9 properly. This leaves loopholes for politicians to play politics with issues related to the military and Article 9 in Japan (Chen and Wada 2017; Holland 2009).

Article 9 is pacifist by nature. Some argue that the Japanese pacifist tradition can be traced back not to a single tradition but various sources such as Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, Kantian ethics, Liberalism, Shinto, Socialism, and many others (Bamba & Howes, 1978; Dower, 2000; Yamamoto, 2004; Yamamuro, 2010, 2017). The Japanese pacifist tradition also arises from interactions between Japanese and non-Japanese sources. Certainly, neither the Japanese pacifist tradition nor the Constitution is totally foreign to Japan. Some argue that Japan was forced to adopt and enact the Constitution by the U.S. government, but we should not ignore the fact that the Japanese were involved in the writing of this Constitution, and there are similarities between the current Constitution and the previous one, the Meiji Constitution (Beer and Maki 2002; Hook and McCormack 2001; Moore 2002). Some scholars argue that various pacifist ideas, especially the ideas against war, existed in the intellectual and political life of Japan long before 1947, i.e., before the current Constitution was adopted and enacted. Indeed, they even argue that the Japanese pacifist tradition “constitutes one of the largest literatures on the subject outside of Western Europe and North America, where pacifism first developed” (Bamba & Howes, 1978, 1). In this sense, the Constitution is one of the most important practical applications of the Japanese pacifist tradition. Since the Constitution was enacted, being against war has become the national policy.

The debate on Article 9 can be linked to different theories in global politics. For example, people argue that right-wing politicians are usually closer to political realism, while left-wing social movements are usually based on idealism or liberalism (Shuichi, 2010, 407–408). The debate also concerns other nations in the Asia-Pacific regions, such as China and the U.S. (Chen, 2008; Liu, 2015). Generally, the debate on Article 9 in Japan can be divided into two camps. On one side, some right-wing or conservative political leaders believe that Article 9 limits the power of the Japanese government, making Japan a country without complete sovereignty. They believe that the Japanese should reinterpret, amend, or even abolish this Article. Indeed, in the last few decades, whether the government is controlled by the Liberal Democratic Party or the Democratic Party, most Japanese politicians have stated their intension to change Japan’s national security strategy, or even to amend the Constitution (Hagström, 2010; Itoh, 2001; Mihali, 2014). For example, Shinzo Abe, the longest-serving prime minister in modern Japanese history (2006–2007 and 2012–2020), and his Liberal Democratic Party have found loopholes to reinterpret the Constitution.Footnote 13 In 2014 and 2015 they revised the law to allow Japanese Self-Defense Forces to mobilize overseas. This action has been seen as a way to reinterpret the Constitution and extend the military under the cover of the so-called “right of collective self-defense” (Goodman, 2017). This action was more controversial than most of the previous attempts because the reinterpretation was made by the government, or more precisely, by the Bureau of Cabinet Legislation, rather than the Supreme Court. Some consider this a crisis of constitutionalism in Japan (Yamamoto, 2017). Other controversies surrounding this reinterpretation of the Constitution include (but are not limited to) the potential risks to the rule of law in Japan, creating unstable new foreign policy (especially in terms of the relationship with the U.S., China, and other East Asian countries), and signaling the end of the country’s pacifist intention to never wage war (Genser and Brignone 2015; Komamura 2017; Richter, 2016).

On the other side, some left-wing civilians, liberalists, and idealists believe that Article 9 is the most important part of the Constitution because it shows that Japan is willing to give up military force and become a country of peace. Indeed, Japan has not engaged in any military conflict or war since World War II. Some people believe that the Constitution has reshaped the political environment in Japan. Article 9 is considered as the core part of the Constitution. In contrast to those seeking to amend or reinterpret Article 9, people who support keeping this Article and the Constitution are usually citizens from civil society rather than officers in the government. There are many voluntary movements and organizations aimed at promoting the importance of Article 9. One example is “Save Article 9 Movement,” which is “a citizen’s activism movement reaching over 7,000 groups in Japan initiated to counter attempts of some government leaders to change or eliminate the current Constitution and Article 9–Japan’s renunciation of war and militarism clause” (Creighton, 2015, 121). Members of the Save Article 9 Movement and many supporters of the Constitution also consider themselves to be pacifists. For them, Article 9 is a practical way to promote world peace, because Article 9 requires the Japanese to renounce war permanently. Given that pacifism holds the position that almost no war is morally justified, and no one should ever wage war, Article 9 makes Japan an ideal example of pacifism in practice. Therefore, it is not hard to see why pacifists usually agree with arguments in favor of keeping Article 9. Furthermore, some argue that keeping peace at the center of the Constitution is still supported by the majority of Japanese (Dudden, 2015). Although the pro-amendment parties have been holding the absolute majority (i.e., 2/3) in both the Senate and the House, they have not begun the process to abolish Article 9 yet.Footnote 14 A possible explanation is that they expect that the abolishment would not pass the referendum, which is the last step required to amend the Constitution. Generally, people who want to keep the current Constitution believe that keeping the momentum in civil society is the key to fighting against any amendment (Shibuichi, 2017).

Nevertheless, there is a question for supporters of Article 9 to answer. The question is how a country without military force can survive in today’s non-ideal world. For that, Japan is in a unique situation. In addition to her own “self-defense force,” Japan has also signed a treaty with the United States, namely the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan (hereafter “the Treaty”) (Japan and The United States of America 1960). The U.S.-Japan Alliance is built upon the Treaty, and it has become a solid shield to back up Article 9 in global security. However, the opposite side argues that Article 9, the Treaty, and the Alliance together conflict with the pacifist tradition. Indeed, even some supporters of Article 9 wonder whether this is still pacifism or already falls under the scope of the just war tradition. For example, Hasebe writes, “Pacifism maintained under the Constitution of Japan was not pure pacifism rejecting any use of force” (2017, 125). The contradiction here is that while supporters of Article 9 deny the right of national defense, people usually still think that the right of self-defense is important. We need further explanation and justification for this unique situation.

So far, I do not know any Japanese idealist or supporter of Article 9 who intentionally uses utilitarian contingent pacifism to justify the Constitution and the Alliance. I intend to fill this research gap. First of all, ideas from contingent pacifists (including Ryan and Rodin) fit quite well with Hasebe’s description of the Japanese Constitution. It can be interpreted as the Constitution is closer to the ideas of contingent pacifism than of absolute pacifism. It does not deny individual self-defense, but it denies that waging war at the state level is morally justified. Instead, the (non-ideal) status quo implies that security and protection are handled at the Alliance level, based on the Treaty. It is a plan that sits in between just war theory and absolute pacifism in the sense that it forbids war at the state level but does not forbid individual self-defense, and it does not hold a narrow sense of non-violence. In general, contingent pacifism is different from traditional pacifism because it does not absolutely oppose war, yet it is still pacifism because it largely criticizes wars at the state level. This is what Article 9, and the Japanese Constitution more broadly, is about.

Another important point is how to evaluate the consequences (especially well-being) of keeping Article 9. Although it is hard to calculate the exact well-being, we can still compare the status quo with other alternatives to make a reasonable judgment. In the current situation, the Constitution with the Alliance have been protecting people in Japan and East Asia quite well. Since the end of World War II, Japan has not involved in another serious military conflict or aggression. Japan has also become a highly developed free-market economy, the third largest in the world by nominal GDP. Also, the Japanese pop culture, such as animation and comics, has become very popular and influential in East Asia. We cannot say that the Constitution is the direct cause of all these successes. However, when we compare modern Japan with the imperial Japan before World War II, it is obvious that Japanese has room to develop their culture and “soft-power” in a comparatively peaceful atmosphere after World Word II, and the Constitution is the cornerstone of such a situation. In short, by comparison, we can see that Japanese well-being is better now than before World War II.

In addition to stable security and the economic success, the status quo of modern Japan is also related to the ideal of the UN Charter we discussed in last section, which is to put an end to war and outlaw war in international law (May, 2015, 137). Although this ideal is not fully achieved yet, it is a worthy goal to pursue. Realists argue that Article 9 (and its relevant political institution) were abnormal because they do not believe in this ideal. Nevertheless, if we follow the ideal of the UN Charter, Article 9 should be considered as a part of the pacifist plan in the current global political institution. In this sense, for the good of everyone, all countries should have something like Article 9 in their constitutions and leave their collective defense to a pacific union, such as the UN or other international organizations. To achieve this goal, we should improve the current institution based on the perspective of utilitarian contingent pacifism. We should not amend Article 9 of the Constitution, but rather the Treaty and Alliance. One possible direction to improve the situation would be to modify the Alliance into a more comprehensive pacific union. To construct such a pacific union, an ideal way should be to request every state giving up the military in the state level, but still allowing self-defense at the international level in some non-ideal exceptional cases. In general, it is safe to say that it is better to keep Article 9 rather than to abolish or amend it. Although this is not an argument based on idealism in global politics, this argument joins forces with idealism to support Article 9 (Shuichi, 2010, 407–408).

We should not only evaluate the argument for Article 9, but also some possible objections. Realists would probably agree with the right-wing politicians and support the amendment or abolishment of Article 9, for two reasons. First, realists believe that war is neither right nor wrong but is outside the scope of morality. This amoral position means that the moral standing of Article 9 is quite meaningless to realists. Second, realists usually think that the sovereign state is the basic unit in global politics, and sovereignty usually includes military force. Given that Article 9 forbids the government to have an army, realists might argue that Japan has incomplete sovereignty. Therefore, from the perspective of realism, Article 9 is problematic and should be amended or abolished.

However, these realist reasons have many problems. Even if war is really neither right nor wrong (and this is controversial), that does not directly imply that it is not worth keeping Article 9. The Constitution has benefited Japan and other East Asian countries since the end of World War II, as Japan has not had any military conflict with other East Asian countries since then. Sovereignty may be important, but whether it is an absolute value is open to debate. Indeed, it is usually considered that the contemporary concept of sovereignty (i.e., Westphalian sovereignty or state sovereignty) only arose with the modern European state system around five to six hundred years ago. The importance of sovereignty, especially whether it really overrides other values such as human rights or well-being, is always questionable (Morris, 1998, 172–227). I have also discussed in the previous section that the relationship between sovereignty and self-defense is debatable (Ryan, 2013, 984–990). And even if sovereignty is an important value (and again, this is controversial), it still does not mean that morality does not play any role in the justification. In other words, one way or another, realism is not the final answer to the debate. We need further justification, and hence a more fundamental moral theory is required. At least, this is why utilitarians or other ethicists disagree with realists. To sum up, it is safe to assume that realism is not sufficient to justify the amendment or abolishment of Article 9.

Since the realist reasons are not strong enough, some may turn to just war theory to argue against Article 9. While realists adopt an amoral view of war, just war theorists develop their positions from moral perspectives. If just war theorists were supporters of the amendment of Article 9, then the reason would be that most of the principles of just war theory assume that the state is the basic actor of those principles. This is especially obvious in the principle of legitimate authority and the right of national defense. Given that Article 9 forbids the state of Japan to wage war and to keep military forces, it is in potential conflict with just war theory. It looks like, prima facie, just war theorists should support the amendment or abolishment of Article 9.

Given that there are many versions of just war theory, let us simply focus on Shaw’s utilitarian just war theory. Although Shaw does not mention Article 9, it is safe to assume that some may use his view as a just war position against Article 9, because he supports the right of national defense. As mentioned in previous sections, a reason to support Shaw’s position on national defense is the status quo of the world. Shaw believes that a state should not give up the right of national defense in today’s world because “not all states have absolutely and irrevocably committed themselves to non-violence” (2016, 83). The state should be the primary authority of waging just war because there is no practical alternative. Nevertheless, he agrees that if there is a practical alternative, then “the right of national defense would lose its consequentialist underpinning and utilitarians would cease to endorse it” (80).

However, Shaw has not considered a practical alternative, i.e., the status quo of Japan. As I argue above, Article 9, the Treaty, and the Alliance together have provided a stable and peaceful environment for Japan since the end of World War II. Japan has turned from a wartime aggressor to a pioneer pacifist state because of the peace constitution. Many Japanese still support Article 9. Again, despite we still need to improve the current global peace institution, maintaining Article 9 and the Constitution has a lot of benefits and positive consequences for Japan and the world. Comparatively, incomplete sovereignty is not a very strong reason to amend the Constitution. If we only treat sovereignty as an instrument for well-being, then it is not necessary to insist on having complete sovereignty if it does not benefit most people. Moreover, as argued above, it is not about whether sovereignty is complete or not, but about developing a new kind of political institution to achieve the ideal of the UN Charter. Based on Shaw’s reasoning on the importance of status quo, the conclusion should be that we should support the Japanese Constitution.

In conclusion, what I have argued in this section can be summarized in the following statement:

(10) Utilitarian contingent pacifism justifies keeping Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution, as it is a part of the practical pacifist plan in the contemporary global political institution.

This statement can be considered as an application of statements (4) to (9). Together, these statements show that statements (2) and (3) are false. However, not only do they not conflict with statement (1), but they also elaborate and defend statement (1) to a new level. In summary, although in this paper I do not argue that utilitarian contingent pacifism is better than other versions of contingent pacifism, I have defended the theoretical importance of utilitarian contingent pacifism, and its practical prominence in the debate on Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution.