Amaki, of course, is convinced that it is all a US war, and thus the DPJ should make the reasons for its opposition more explicit. (He wonders whether the reason for the DPJ’s timidity is an “absence of excellent men of talent” in the party.)
I disagree with Amaki’s assessment of the Afghanistan campaign — apparently “the US war on terror is by no means connected to world peace and security” — but I think his overall question about the debate is an important one. It seems to be running in circles, with a DPJ member’s saying something about the government failing to provide enough information about the MSDF’s activities, and a US official’s declaring the importance of Japan’s contribution to the campaign (the LDP has been conspicuously absent, except, it seems, to reassure the US that it will do everything in its power to see the bill passed).
The latest contribution on the latter score is a speech by Ambassador Schieffer at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, DC, in which, according to Chris Nelson, he acknowledged the DPJ’s need to oppose the government, but wished it would find another way to do it. He also, of course, repeated the line that Japan’s participation is “extremely important.”
The Abe government, meanwhile, is gearing up its preparations on this issue for the Diet session set to open Monday, including the drafting of a new law to replace the existing law. The government acknowledges, however, that a second law is no more certain to pass than the existing law. Defense Minister Komura has suggested the government can be flexible about including provisions for civilian contributions to reconstruction and a requirement for prior consent from the Diet, but Mr. Ozawa remains adamant that any JSDF contribution be grounded in a UNSC resolution. (Can someone explain to me why the existing UNSC resolutions are inadequate? Does Mr. Ozawa want the UNSC to ask Japan explicitly to contribute?) In Sydney, Foreign Minister Machimura outlined what the likely chain of events will be: the law will lapse and the DPJ will declare victory, but debate on the new law will continue beyond the 2nd, resulting in its passage and the commencement of a new mission.
The government, commendably, remains extremely reluctant to act independently of the opposition in the Diet (undoubtedly for fear of public backlash).
But there are bigger questions involved in this discussion that have, as of yet, been unvoiced. What this debate ultimately should be about is the globalization of the US-Japan alliance that has occurred in the past six years. The mutual security treaty contains no provision that would provide for US-Japan cooperation in either Afghanistan or Iraq. But there has been a noticeable shift in Washington whereby there is now an expectation that Japan cooperate with the US throughout the world. I fear that this trend could undermine the ability of the alliance to serve its focus on situations in which “the security of Japan or international peace and security in the Far East is threatened,” if only by tainting cooperation with the US as necessarily offensive. Given the drift that has set in in alliance cooperation, both governments should refocus their efforts on ensuring that the alliance will be prepared to act in response to crises in East Asia. On that count, the Afghanistan mission is, at best, a distraction.
In short, if Japan is to contribute to missions like the reconstruction of Afghanistan, it should do so independent of the US. Indeed, Tokyo should make it a point in such instances to emphasize that its cooperation has nothing to do with its alliance with the US. Japan was able to decide to contribute to PKO missions independently throughout the world during the 1990s; the reconstruction missions in Afghanistan and Iraq should be treated the same way. It is obviously too late for this, thanks to both the US and the LDP. But doing so would make for more open debate about Japan’s international responsibilities, instead of making the debate a matter of each party’s basing its position on its relationship with Washington.