Abe’s first six months

The FT’s David Pilling provides a solid summary of Abe Shinzo’s first six months in the Kantei.

Being a summary, there is, of course, little new in this article, but it serves as a good reminder of the problems with the Abe Cabinet — and of Abe’s tendencies as a leader.

I found this paragraph, though, particularly distressing:

Those close to him say he would have benefited from a fight for the premiership. Many of the ruling Liberal Democratic party factions take credit for propelling him to office and all are busily seeking political patronage and influence. As a result, Mr Abe has appeared far more willing than the stubborn and single-minded Mr Koizumi to listen to often competing advice.

If Abe somehow manages to go the distance, remaining as president of the LDP for the maximum six years, how will six years of governance in this vein leave the LDP — and Japan? Imagine six years of window-dressing legislation like the education reform, that seeks to create a more self-confident Japan even as public finances and public services crumble in the face of Japan’s demographic collapse.

None of this will, of course, be discussed at Camp David this coming week, at least not in any particular depth. Abe will no doubt reassure President Bush that he is in firm command at home, that he is moving his agenda forward — pointing to recent legislative victories — while reassuring Bush that the Japanese government remains his firmest ally. (Bush will no doubt be pleased to hear that — remember this cartoon — and there will no doubt be lots of flighty rhetoric about how strong the alliance is today.)

In light of the anticipated love fest, however, I wonder how Bush will go about telling Abe that the US will not be selling the F-22 to Japan anytime soon, no matter how much Abe, Kyuma, and company lay on the “bar-none ranch” rhetoric. Given that the US has already said no to John Howard’s Australia, the Bush administration’s other remaining close ally, I just don’t anticipate the US turning around and offering to amend the Obey amendment’s restrictions for Japan. (For more on the F-22 question, check out Shisaku.)

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