Friday, September 14, 2007

The Afghanistan mission is doomed, for the time being

In the midst of the chaos at the top of the LDP and the government, Yamasaki Taku has announced that any new legislation to enable the MSDF to contribute to coalition operations in and around Afghanistan will be postponed to next year's regular Diet session. Mr. Abe's "international promise" is effectively dead.

This is interesting in light of a recent Mainichi poll that actually found that a majority of respondents favor continuation of the MSDF mission, by a margin of 49% to 42%. Not surprisingly, among the LDP supporters surveyed a whopping 83% supported the mission. I was surprised, however, to find that 39% of independents and 31% of DPJ supporters approve of extending the mission. While the 31% is dwarfed by the 62% opposed, I wonder what the figures would be in a survey of DPJ parliamentarians. Could Mr. Maehara actually get 31% of his fellow Dietmen (and women) to support what was his initial position on the MSDF mission?

In any case, the public is clearly not irrevocably hostile to the idea of the MSDF's contributions, which leads me to wonder whether putting the government in surer hands might lead to the majority support that Mr. Yamasaki said was necessary when he began deliberations on a new bill. In the meantime, I suspect this move will clear the way for LDP cooperation with the DPJ on a civilian reconstruction aid bill to ensure Japanese participation in some form until the Diet can deliberate on another JSDF enabling bill next year.


Bryce said...

This is what makes the case so interesting. There is obviously a large minority of DPJ members who want to renew the law, but not so many as to renounce their party membership, given the successes the DPJ has had under Ozawa. How many DPJ members would follow Maehara, really? The guy resigned over a "scandal" where a frank apology and a few weeks of defiance would have kept him at the head of the party. Hardly staunch leadership.

In contrast, Ozawa was accused of the very sin that many of the Abe cabinet members resigned over. He flicked off the accusation like it was nothing.

In any case, the Yomiuri polls released the other day claimed that 38.8 percent were against extending the Special Measures Law (as opposed to 29.3 for extension) so the Mainichi poll is not conclusive.

AC said...

I think Mr. Harris's take is correct -- we'll be looking at a compromise on humanitarian assistance for the time being, and then come January, the LDP and DPJ will read the situation then and make their respective decisions about a restart of the MSDF mission. It will be hard for Ozawa to change positions, though.

As for Maehara, while he'd love to support a continuation of the MSDF mission and could probably bring with him 30% of the party, doing so would mean a schism that would not easily be repaired, so it's not in the cards, IMO.

Bryce said...

Ozawa has drawn his line fairly firmly in the sand over the MSDF deployment. I don't think he's likely to compromise if it means sending ships to the gulf. He does, however, believe that sending troops to Afghanistan on reconstruction missions under U.N. command is quite legitimate, so we may see some movement there. Too soon to tell though.

Japan Observer said...

I haven't heard anything about the DPJ's plan including ground troops to do civilian reconstruction work — I'm under the impression that it will be a civilian contingent. (Unless Maehara decides that Ozawa owes him something for going along quietly.)