Friday, November 02, 2007

The Self-Defense Force Moves Out of the Indian Ocean (including the Persian Gulf) and Yomiuri and Sankei Weigh in

The Antiterrorism Act authorizing the OEF-MIO refueling activities expired on November 1 and the JSDF ships and planes are leaving the theater of operations. Yomiuri and Sankei have weighed in with editorials. Predictably, they call on the ruling coalition to exercise the supermajority override if need be. Only slightly less surprising, Asahi and Mainichi are silent. FYI, the somewhat leftish Tokyo Shinbun of the Chunichi Shinbun group (yes, the media sponsor of the Japan Series champion Chunichi Dragons) says it should be put on hold until "the lesson have been learned [from all the scandals and incidents]".

Will the other two come off the fence when the chips are down? My current thinking is, Asahi and possibly Mainichi will call for "caution (慎重)" as the act looms, and "regret it (遺憾である)" post facto while reiterating their criticism of the MOD/JSDF. But it doesn't look like the DPJ will get enough media backing to use an Upper House censure vote to force the Fukuda administration to call a snap election, And the public surely will not see it as a vital issue on which it feels compelled to weigh in. I'm leaning towards the view that the LDP is setting a trap of sorts for the DPJ.

(note) The Fukuda-Ozawa bilateral may have been designed in part to further just such an agenda. As Shisaku notes in this persuasive post, the meetings are driving a wedge between the DPJ and the rest of the opposition. And the microparties do not want to go into an election being fought between the two behemoths (plus the dependable LDP sidekick New Komeitō).

I hate to be prescriptive - after all, this is a blog; no one who actually makes the decisions is reading it - but I think that the DPJ should let it come to a vote in the Upper House, have the ruling coalition override it in the Lower House, and pass a non-censure resolution deploring the dictatorship of the majority in the Upper House. They should cut a side deal to give positive consideration (前向きに検討する) to new, permanent legislation for overseas JSDF operations. That way, Mr. Ozawa can save face and everyone can table the matter until the expiration date for operations in Iraq roll around, by which time many things can have happened.

Incidentally, the DPJ is catching plenty of fire for not producing its own legislative proposal for operations in Afghanistan, and not all of it is coming from the LDP; similar criticism has been leveled at other DPJ proposals. This is justified where the dithering is the result of internal dissent, or lack of seriousness. But there is another, better reason why the DPJ cannot easily come up with its own bills.

Drafting a legislative bill is very time-consuming, labor-intensive work. An enormous amount of digging out the necessary facts and using them to put together a coherent set of measures is necessary before you can begin drafting the bill. And the drafting itself requires an incredible amount of double-, triple-, …-checking to make sure that the bill fits seamlessly into the existing body of Japanese law. Thus, it is difficult to draft any substantial bill without the full cooperation of the bureaucracy. So there's a good reason why the Cabinet winds up submitting most bills.

With ISAF, of course, a quick survey of available information will show you that there is no way that the JSDF can fit into PRT operations without a babysitter a la Samawa. That's a luxury that ISAF cannot afford in Afghanistan. So that was a non-starter from the beginning.


MTC said...

Okumura-san -

The Asahi Shimbun delivered its verdict on Thursday.

For your English-speaking readers, the English translation is here:

Jun Okumura said...
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