Showing posts with label gaiatsu. Show all posts
Showing posts with label gaiatsu. Show all posts

Saturday, September 1, 2007

The LDP, somewhere between a rock and a hard place

US officials — including the president — continue to voice their desire that Japan renew the anti-terror special measures law (the latest contributor is National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley), and the new Abe Cabinet continues to signal its willingness to compromise with the DPJ in getting the law passed.

It's not entirely clear to me how to square the difference between these two conditions. From the US, the LDP is being pressured to act forcefully and do whatever it takes to get the law passed, including, presumably, forcing the law through the Lower House in the face of an Upper House "veto." From the Japanese political system, meanwhile, the LDP is facing pressure to act responsibly, to defer to the desires of the people and the newly elected opposition majority in the Upper House. At the same time, I remain convinced that every statement by an American official insisting that Japan pass the law makes it all the more likely that the DPJ will remain uncompromising out of a desire not to appear to be caving in to US pressure.

The result of this two-pronged pressure on the LDP? Ishihara Nobuteru, newly selected LDP PARC chairman, actually suggested that if the bill doesn't pass, it could potentially result in the dissolution of the Lower House and a general election. Given that Mr. Ozawa has stated repeatedly that the DPJ's goal this autumn is to force an early general election, I can't see how Mr. Ishihara's admission will help his government's stated goal of inducing the DPJ to cooperate.

Mr. Ishihara also called attention to the role of the MSDF in enabling Pakistani vessels to participate in Operation Enduring Freedom — Japan is "the only country technically able to refuel Pakistani ships" — an argument he repeated on The Sunday Project as I write this. Maybe this is a stupidly obvious question, but can't the Pakistanis refuel their own ships? And will the coalition really suffer if Pakistani ships can't serve in the flotilla in the Indian Ocean? I don't buy the argument made by Mr. Ishihara that Japan is responsible for keeping Pakistan in the fight: It's not like Pakistan can opt out simply by removing its ships, given that the war has spilled over its borders. (And now, on The Sunday Project, Mr. Nukaga seems to be joining the argument on the terror bill as a second defense minister.)

It's too early to rule out a compromise, but as the weeks go on, the challenge facing the government is growing inexorably.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Gaiatsu revisited

After reading this post by Matt Dioguardi at Liberal Japan. and reading that MTC was "not thrilled" with yesterday's admittedly dyspeptic post about gaiatsu and constitution revision, I feel that it is necessary to clarify about what the US should do over the coming years as Japan debates constitution revision.

Pace Matt Dioguardi, gaiatsu is not simply a matter of the US government communicating to Japan what it would prefer Japan to be able to do in the alliance. In the case cited by Dioguardi, this article in the Japan Times, Secretary Gates telling Defense Minister Kyuma that the US would like Japan to be able to exercise its right of collective self-defense so that it would be able to shoot down, hypothetically, a missile fired in the direction of the US is simply a restatement of a long-standing US position — as is telling Japan that if it did not try to shoot down a missile in that scenario, it would have serious repercussions for the alliance. That's not a threat; that's a fact.

Can you imagine how quickly the phrase "free rider" would be on the lips of every single member of Congress if that were to happen?

It seems that Gates was simply taking a page from the 2000 Armitage-Nye Report, which said:
Japan's prohibition against collective self-defense is a constraint on alliance cooperation. Lifting this prohibition would allow for closer and more efficient security cooperation. This is a decision that only the Japanese people can make. The United States has respected the domestic decisions that form the character of Japanese security policies and should continue to do so. But Washington must make clear that it welcomes a Japan that is willing to make a greater contribution and to become a more equal alliance partner.
That also happens to be my position on what the US can do. The prohibition on the right of collective self-defense is the most significant obstacle to further alliance cooperation, but the days of press-ganging allies must end. (Isn't that the meaning of coalitions of the willing?)

The US can make its desires known through bilateral diplomatic channels, but gaiatsu — which involves actively supporting advocates of policies desired by the US in domestic policy debates — should not be used. While that may seem like a fine line, statements by Secretary Gates and Ambassador Schieffer on what the US would like Japan to be able to do fall within the realm of diplomacy.

But that's it. The US should communicate its desires, but it should not use its power to bend Japan to its will, lest any new settlement on the constitution and the alliance be as tainted as the old. I am thinking, of course, of the demonstrations surrounding the passage the 1960 Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan; while Japan and the US will not be drafting a new treaty, the potential changes resulting from the reinterpretation of the prohibition on the right of collective self-defense and constitution revision could be of the same importance as the treaty. They must be — or be perceived — as the result of decisions made by the Japanese people, not decisions made or perceived to be made as a result of collusion between Japanese politicians and the US.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

No gaiatsu on revision

Oh, to be the "grand strategist" author of best-selling books — and to be the peddler of a strategic concept that purports to explain everything.

Clearly, that's the ticket to being able to get away with writing blog posts like this one by Tom Barnett: "Japan will and must un-pacify." In a single thirty-word post, Dr. Barnett reduces a debate that is fundamental to how Japan thinks not only about its future, but also its past and the relationship between state, society, and individual to the simple formula of "Japan will revise its constitution so it can retain influence in Asia and the world."

Parsimonious, I guess.

This is a good time to note that in the constitution revision debate, gaiatsu is not an option — not for the US, for China, or for South Korea.

Japan must revise — or not revise — on its own.

Japan — the Japanese people — must be permitted to consider its future without the interference of foreign powers. What is at stake is the legitimacy of the Japanese political system; it's not just about the shape of Japanese security policy over the coming decades. The settlement that results from the coming debate on revision must be seen as universally legitimate, lest it become the basis for a new political cleavage, just as during the cold war the LDP and the Socialist Party spent decades fighting over the meaning of the constitution.

This debate should be the occasion for a new birth of Japanese democracy, the moment at which the Japanese people wrest power away from the bureaucrats and the politicians and demand the formulation of a new relationship between government and governed, in which the government is actually held accountable for its actions.

Whether that will be so remains to be decided, but the US — and alliance handlers in Washington who have been long awaiting this moment — cannot try to influence the outcome.

Fortunately, the cold war is over. It is no longer a zero-sum world. If the Japanese people decide against permitting a more expansive regional and global security role, Japan will not be "lost." Rather, it will be consigning itself, regrettably, to a more limited position in the global balance of power, and once more limiting the US-Japan alliance largely to Article V of the Mutual Security Treaty with the US (i.e., the defense of Japan).

Alternatively, the Japanese people could opt for greater independence in the region and greater responsibility for their own defense, resulting necessarily in a looser alliance (if not breaking it altogether).

Whatever Japan chooses, however, must be the product of decisions made by the Japanese people: the new settlement should not be foisted upon them by foreign countries or Japanese politicians.

As such, it should not matter what US conservatives or liberals say, contrary to the point of this article by Sankei's Komori Yoshihisa. Nor should it matter what Beijing or Seoul have to say in opposition to constitution revision.

The Japanese people must do this own their own terms.