Thursday, September 6, 2007

Why has the debate on the anti-terror special measures law problem not deepened?

That's the question asked by Amaki Naoto in a post that wonders why the DPJ has not responded to the arguments made by Kurt Campbell, Michael Green, and others about the nature of the mission in Afghanistan.

Amaki, of course, is convinced that it is all a US war, and thus the DPJ should make the reasons for its opposition more explicit. (He wonders whether the reason for the DPJ's timidity is an "absence of excellent men of talent" in the party.)

I disagree with Amaki's assessment of the Afghanistan campaign — apparently "the US war on terror is by no means connected to world peace and security" — but I think his overall question about the debate is an important one. It seems to be running in circles, with a DPJ member's saying something about the government failing to provide enough information about the MSDF's activities, and a US official's declaring the importance of Japan's contribution to the campaign (the LDP has been conspicuously absent, except, it seems, to reassure the US that it will do everything in its power to see the bill passed).

The latest contribution on the latter score is a speech by Ambassador Schieffer at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, DC, in which, according to Chris Nelson, he acknowledged the DPJ's need to oppose the government, but wished it would find another way to do it. He also, of course, repeated the line that Japan's participation is "extremely important."

The Abe government, meanwhile, is gearing up its preparations on this issue for the Diet session set to open Monday, including the drafting of a new law to replace the existing law. The government acknowledges, however, that a second law is no more certain to pass than the existing law. Defense Minister Komura has suggested the government can be flexible about including provisions for civilian contributions to reconstruction and a requirement for prior consent from the Diet, but Mr. Ozawa remains adamant that any JSDF contribution be grounded in a UNSC resolution. (Can someone explain to me why the existing UNSC resolutions are inadequate? Does Mr. Ozawa want the UNSC to ask Japan explicitly to contribute?) In Sydney, Foreign Minister Machimura outlined what the likely chain of events will be: the law will lapse and the DPJ will declare victory, but debate on the new law will continue beyond the 2nd, resulting in its passage and the commencement of a new mission.

The government, commendably, remains extremely reluctant to act independently of the opposition in the Diet (undoubtedly for fear of public backlash).

But there are bigger questions involved in this discussion that have, as of yet, been unvoiced. What this debate ultimately should be about is the globalization of the US-Japan alliance that has occurred in the past six years. The mutual security treaty contains no provision that would provide for US-Japan cooperation in either Afghanistan or Iraq. But there has been a noticeable shift in Washington whereby there is now an expectation that Japan cooperate with the US throughout the world. I fear that this trend could undermine the ability of the alliance to serve its focus on situations in which "the security of Japan or international peace and security in the Far East is threatened," if only by tainting cooperation with the US as necessarily offensive. Given the drift that has set in in alliance cooperation, both governments should refocus their efforts on ensuring that the alliance will be prepared to act in response to crises in East Asia. On that count, the Afghanistan mission is, at best, a distraction.

In short, if Japan is to contribute to missions like the reconstruction of Afghanistan, it should do so independent of the US. Indeed, Tokyo should make it a point in such instances to emphasize that its cooperation has nothing to do with its alliance with the US. Japan was able to decide to contribute to PKO missions independently throughout the world during the 1990s; the reconstruction missions in Afghanistan and Iraq should be treated the same way. It is obviously too late for this, thanks to both the US and the LDP. But doing so would make for more open debate about Japan's international responsibilities, instead of making the debate a matter of each party's basing its position on its relationship with Washington.


Jun Okumura said...

Because they don't speak for the Bush administration and their op-ed is not part of the domestic debate in Japan? Because even if they did and it were, the DPJ couldn't speak with one voice on the issues?

Fortunately, the DPJ does have a policy on the war on counter-terrorism, including the extension of the counter-terrorism act. It's part of their 2007 List of 300 Policies. Basically, the DPJ accuses the LDP of not fulfilling the responsibility to explain the ongoing activities and demonstrate an exit strategy. It doesn't say anything about UN resolutions.

Remember that on political financing reform, during the electoral campaign, Mr. Ozawa continued to claim that he favored accounting for all monies regardless of the amount but that his party had overruled him and set a 10,000 Yen threshold? (He seems prophetic now.)

Mr. Ozawa will allow his party to overrule him, and admit it openly. If he thinks that is politically desirable or necessary. But not a moment before. And people like Michael Green and Kurt Campbell insinuating political motives on the part of Mr. Ozawa (particularly if it's true!) is not helpful in this respect, unless you want to sink the extension/renovation.

On the bigger question, I do wholeheartedly support your call for independent decision-making on the part of Japan. But with near-term (3-5 years) prospects for Constitutional amendment diminished, we depend on the UN (UNSC, realistically) or the Japan-US alliance as the venue for projecting our armed forces overseas in the context of national security and beyond. Either way, our decision-making parameters, sovereignty actually, and the debate thereon are substantially limited.




From the DPJ "2007政策リスト300" (2007 List of 300 Policies; no, they don't have a translation.)

Anonymous said...

It should be noted that there was considerable opposition to the JSDF being sent to provide humanitarian duties in Iraq because the UN was not substantively involved in planning for the occupation and had opposed the invasion. The question of whether a particular operation involves collective security or not (other than an official UN PKO mission) still plays a significant role in the consideration of the restrictions set by the constitution. The other consideration revolves around the extent to which the JSDF can become involved in a combat operation which in the case of Iraq was resolved by assigning other national troops to "guard" JSDF personnel. In Afghanistan, the fact that ISAF is officially a NATO led organization raises many problems that Tokyo probably preferred to avoid sending any JSDF at all even units that are designated "humanitarian reconstruction" battalions.