Anti-terror bill fight moves to the UN?

Calling the DPJ’s bluff, the government is apparently changing its approach on the extension of the MSDF mission by seeking the passage of an UNSC resolution that will thank Japan for its contribution to Operation Enduring Freedom.

Somehow I don’t think that’s the kind of resolution Mr. Ozawa has in mind when he argues that Japan’s contributions abroad must follow a UNSC resolution. Mr. Hatoyama, DPJ secretary-general, dismissed the idea of a resolution thanking Japan resulting from the Japanese government’s lobbying as a “farce,” and Asao Keiichiro, the DPJ shadow defense minister, said, “Just expressing gratitude is meaningless.” [Full disclosure: I was an employee of Mr. Asao’s until recently.]

This latest ploy to get the mission extended strikes me as absurd. Short of inventing a time machine and going back to 2001 to convince President Bush to get a UN resolution explicitly authorizing the US campaign in Afghanistan beforehand, I doubt there’s a thing the UN Security Council can do at this point to the save the government the embarrassment of having to bring its ships home November 2nd.

Beyond the specific issue of the anti-terror law, however, Mr. Ozawa should clarify precisely what kind of UN sanction he thinks is necessary in order for Japan to be able to send its armed forces abroad — does he really envision more clear-cut scenarios like the first Gulf crisis? If so, his foreign policy stance is nothing but the abdication of a foreign policy, raising the bar for Japanese contributions to international missions to prohibitive heights.

In the meantime, the government should probably have a better plan than begging the UN for a fig-leaf “gratitude” resolution. Going to the UN first might have made a difference in the debate over the bill, but now after weeks of sniping across the Pacific, the government will not be saved by a scrap of paper bearing the UN seal.

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