The Mighty Monkey of Mim wrote:
Since WWII, Japan is constitutionally prohibited from having a military. They nonetheless have forces to fulfill necessary functions of a military, of course. But these forces are not legally a military, and they aren't called that. They're called the Self Defense Forces. I don't see why Starfleet can't appear and act as a military (and thus be understandably referred to as one by outsiders) and still at least technically not be one.
Which is a very good point, and is precedent for what we see in the Federation after all.
As I said in another thread, given the reaction to the "Post Atomic Horror," United Earth probably has laws prohibiting the formation of a military force in space (in fact, we already HAVE laws like that, but World War III would have certainly reaffirmed the reasons for them). The same laws wouldn't prohibit the formation of a scientific research agency, and thus Earth Starfleet was created, modeled as a spaceborne version of NOAA. When the need arose for inter-system law enforcement actions, United Earth turned to the only agency with any warp-capable spacecraft and allowed them to arm those ships with weapons. When the Death Star Mini drew a smiley face on Florida, Earth again turned to the only agency with warp capable starships (and the only man who seemed to have only idea what the hell was going on), provided them with still BETTER weapons and sent them to deliver the Xindi a strongly worded letter.
Starfleet grew into a paramilitary organization very VERY slowly, over a number of years and through a number of acts of pure convenience. It isn't so much that the Federation (or maybe just Earth) avoided making them a formal military organization, they simply never BOTHERED to, as Starfleet was able to do exactly what they needed it to without changing it from what it originally was in the first place.
If Japan had an oceanographic research agency that was as well armed as the JSDF, they wouldn't need a military force of any kind.