Wednesday, March 04, 2009

What (I Think) Ozawa Thinks, What (I Think) It Means What (I Thought) Ozawa Thought, What (I Thought) It Meant.

I came home to edit this and found after dinner that the dam had broken on Ozawa’s political finances. Oh well…
Ozawa wants Japan to be self-reliant. Who doesn’t? Ozawa wants to minimize the presence of U.S. troops in Japan. Who doesn’t? Ozawa doesn’t want to be dragged into U.S. military conflicts. Who the hell doesn’t? So why is the entire Japanese body politic from left to right up in arms about his February 24 national security pronouncement, forcing him and his minions to parse it till TGIF?

First of all, replacing U.S. troops in Japan costs money (not what the mainstream economic-conservative, Yoshida-Doctrine, small-military crowd wants) and requires beefing up the military (not what the proto-pacifist crowd wants). This, taken in isolation, likely pleases the nativist wing of the Japanese right, but few else.

His insistence on the UN flag also alarms the same people because it fronts a desire for a quantum leap for his previously-stated desire for Japanese on-the-ground presence, be it boots or clipboards. The Japanese opposition to Samawa was not based less on a principled stand on the war in Iraq than a primal fear of putting Japanese lives on the line of fire and likely a collateral dread of our troops shedding alien blood, most typically represented by but by no means limited to the proto-pacifist stand against Japanese presence beyond our shores. It goes less than half-way in appeasing nationalists though, because it precludes the possibility of Japan making up its own mind on the efficacy of sending its troops (and other human resources) in harm’s way.

Ozawa’s national security pronouncements have something to displease almost everyone. A non-starter, if ever there was one.

Public opinion polls have usually shown a majority or plurality supporting the maintenance of the status quo, which recognizes the right of collective defense but denies the constitutional right to exercise it. However, Yomiuri has consistently been able to make a majority of its sample support the opposite position by phrasing the question to tie it to Japan’s own national security. Moreover, several other polls also flipped in favor of collective defense between 2006-2007, when anxiety over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs reached a peak while “abduction fatigue” had yet to settle in. Add to this another 2007 poll that said more people expressed ignorance of “collective defense” than those who did, and it is hard to avoid the following conclusion: Half or more of the Japanese public has little or no understanding of “collective defense” and much of it tends to think of it exclusively in terms of Japanese security. This suggests that the more North Korea and China (and theoretically Russia) loom as threats to Japan’s national security, and the more the United States insists on a more explicit quid pro quo, the more Japanese public opinion will be accommodating to U.S. demands regarding collective defense*.

In this respect, we must be mindful of Taepodon 2. Now this is not getting as much Japanese press as previous North Korean stunts, partly perhaps because of “WMD fatigue”, but surely because a successful launch of the long-range missile will increase the security threat to the United States, but not Japan. In fact, it arguably dilutes the threat to Japan. However, the increased threat to the United States will lend urgency to the question: Is Japan willing to use its TMD weapons to shoot down missiles that are aimed at the United States? That, and not some abstract question about the constitutionality of collective defense, is what the Obama administration is likely to be concerned about.

The online half-lives of most media sources are distressingly short. The following are the mostly secondary sources that I have relied on in writing this post. One of them is a 2 Channeru thread, so, yes, it has its merits.

* This argument, of course, ignores the countervailing powers of the “you piss me off” effect, which in part was responsible for the miscalculation that led to the U.S. abandonment of Subic Bay.

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