Sunday, July 13, 2008

Don't expect Japanese troops in Afghanistan

With five or six weeks until the start of the autumn extraordinary session of the Diet, one of Fukuda Yasuo's responsibilities during the recess is determining his government's approach to the Japanese contributions to operations in and around Afghanistan. The enabling law for the current Maritime Self-Defense Forces refueling mission will expire in January, meaning that if the government wants to extend the mission it will have to do it during the upcoming session.

As noted last month, the government was investigating whether to ramp up Japan's commitment to Afghanistan to include the deployment of Ground Self-Defense Forces personnel to Afghanistan.

Komeito, the LDP's partner in government, may have killed the idea of a ground component. Ota Akihiro, Komeito secretary-general, said Saturday that there are few within the government and the LDP — and, by implication, the bulk of his party — who are enthusiastic about sending ground troops to Afghanistan. Komeito's opposition is probably enough to ensure that the government will do nothing more than push for an extension of the refueling mission, which the DPJ will oppose, prompting the government to use Article 59 to pass the bill for the second straight year. Recall that the LDP has previously conceded to Komeito on this issue: the very fact that the government has to renew the mission again this year is the result of a concession to Komeito last year, shortly after Mr. Fukuda took the reins.

Given that Komeito's thirty-one lower house members give the government its two-thirds majority, it's safe to assume that the lowest common denominator will win the day on this issue, meaning a repeat of last year's spectacle.


Anonymous said...

As the minority partner with the LDP coalition, Komeito is rarely heard from about any issue. But some in the US know about Komeito through their association with the popular Buddhist group called the Sokka Gakkai. The leader of SG, Ikeda Daisaku, has a worldwide reputation as a staunch advocate of world peace and an end to war. So it is appropriate and satisfying that Komeito can wield influence against LDP plans to send SDF ground forces to Afghanistan. My objection to Afghanistan deployment comes down to the association with NATO forces. In contrast to the Iraq deployment which began with Rumsfeld's "coalition of the willing" which was only peripherally connected with NATO through the presence of many EU nations, NATO is officially connected with Afghanistan through the ISAF force structure. The danger for Japan is that NATO is interested in expanding its presence worldwide but especially into Asian waters, by bringing democracies like Japan, S Korea, Australia, and NZ on as associate members and later as full members. NATO will eventually use the infamous Article 5 to intrude in an aggressive way into Asian affairs. The success of the six-party talks shows that the fewer the number of parties involved and the more direct their stake in achieving compromise becomes, the more likely will the talks end in success.

Anonymous said...

Tobias, I hope you don't mind but I would like to followup the comments I made above with some thoughts and quotes from BBC News (international website) about the current conflict between little Georgia and big Russia. First of all, it is clear that Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili misunderestimated the reaction of Russia when he decided to invade South Ossetia although aware that there was a contigent of Russian soldiers in the disputed territory. As an acolyte of the US where he received a higher education, he apparently felt that Russia would not do anything risky and bold. But Russia sees its security threatened by the close relationship between the US and Georgia (where Stalin came from). Add to this that the US threatened to bring Georgia and the Ukraine into NATO which Russia strongly protested. The EU partners of the US in NATO appear to have nixed this suggestion of the US because they felt that this was too sensitive a move that could jeopardize their carefully nurtured relationship with Russia. In an interesting piece, BBC News listed nine "Early Lessons from the S Ossetia conflict." The ninth lesson is "in August 1914, the First World War broke out following the assasination in June of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo. It did so because alliances had been formed in Europe which came into play inexorably. Russia supported Serbia, Germany supported Austria, France supported Russia and Britain came in when Belgium was invaded. Alliances must not be entered into lightly or unadvisedly. If Georgia had been in Nato, what would have happened?" My comment is that young Saakashvili reminds me of another young and overly cocky head of State named Shinzo Abe.