The government considers all options

With the special session of the Diet due to start on September 10th, the Abe government is beginning to outline its options for the renewal of the anti-terror special measures law in the face of unyielding (thus far) DPJ opposition.

The government evidently recognizes that it is facing an nearly impossible window in which to pass the law, given that if a compromise with the DPJ is impossible, there are fewer than sixty days until the enabling law expires, taking away the option of forcing the law through the Lower House and having it pass automatically in the event of Upper House inaction. Accordingly, the government is now considering drafting a new enabling law, but even that would mean that on November 2 the MSDF ships would leave the Indian Ocean, even if only to return a month or two later.

One cannot rule out a compromise of some sort, although now that the option of a new law is on the table, I would expect that law to reflect DPJ-LDP cooperation to ensure the swiftest possible passage.

The US blames much of the blame for this situation, as argued in an article in Congressional Quarterly by Josh Rogin [full disclosure: I was among the people Rogin consulted in writing this article]. The DPJ’s opposition became a political no-brainer the moment that the US decided to make it an issue by repeating its criticism and concern about Japan’s loyalty, in essence demonstrating the validity of the DPJ’s implied criticism of the Koizumi-Abe line on the alliance. The underlying motif of the DPJ’s position is that the LDP’s hawks want a closer alliance that means Japan’s adhering to Washington’s desires, and they have gone too far and gotten too little in return over the past six years. Rogin, citing DPJ Lower House member Nagashima Akihisa, writes, “There will be adjustments in Japan’s approach to the alliance under a DPJ administration, Nagashima said. Koizumi and Abe cooperated blindly with the U.S., but that will need to change. ‘No alliance is equal, but you have to make an effort towards symmetry,’ he said.”

This problem reflects the utter lack of political coordination in the alliance, which has instead by driven by short-sighted thinking driven by events. Tokyo is as guilty as Washington on this count, and the DPJ should bring this point to the center of its critique of how the LDP has conducted relations with the US since 2001. What is the logic of Japanese cooperation with the US in the Middle East? What larger purpose does it serve? Does it actually serve Japanese interests in the region, and if not, why is Japan there? Japan might indeed find that it has a role to play in the Middle East, but questions need to be asked about whether following Washington’s lead is the best approach for Japan. The “globalization” of the US-Japan alliance, extending the alliance far beyond the provisions of the mutual security treaty, has been implemented without proper consultation between the allies and within the Japanese political system.

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