The one-year limit

In a must-read discussion of the “burden” of the governing coalition’s supermajority in the House of Representatives, MTC argues of the LDP’s concession to Komeito on the one-year time limit on the new anti-terror law, “This concession…makes not the least bit of sense. Abbreviating the renewal’s tenure guarantees that the country will be witnessing exactly the same debate in a year’s time.”

On the face of it, this seems right. Having already had to put up with some three months of feuding over this issue before any legislation was introduced to the Diet, I don’t think anyone wants to think about having to do this all over again next year.

But then, what if the government — provided it is still a Fukuda government, or perhaps more appropriately, an LDP-Komeito government — doesn’t intend to fight for renewal next year?

What if the one-year extension is a form of mercy killing?

It’s an open secret that Mr. Fukuda is neither especially fond of Mr. Bush nor a die-hard proponent of the current JSDF missions abroad, whatever his role in making them happen in the first place. Had the DPJ and Mr. Abe not raised the stakes on renewal in the weeks before he came on the scene, I can imagine the prime minister’s being unwilling to push for renewal in the face of opposition. The circumstances of his ascension to power, however, have made it difficult for Mr. Fukuda to do anything but echo Mr. Abe’s rhetoric on Japan’s “international promise.” Accordingly, extending the mission for but one year may be a way to both placate Komeito, ease public opposition, and potentially draw some opposition defectors (and vindicate Mr. Abe), and then end the mission on the LDP’s own terms, declaring sometime next summer that Japan will not be extending the mission again but will begin talking with the opposition and other coalition countries about how Japan can best contribute to the reconstruction of Afghanistan.

At the same time, as Jun Okumura argues, it’s now or never for the government. If the bill is going to pass, it will have to pass now, in this session, most likely with a Lower House override. There is also the question of how much the government is willing to give up to get this bill passed. Will the government, for example, accede to the DPJ bill calling for the withdrawal of JASDF elements in Iraq? Will it persist in the face of public disapproval and/or an Upper House censure motion? What price is the government willing to pay to get this issue off the agenda for another six-seven months (or for good, if my read of Mr. Fukuda’s lack of enthusiasm for this bill is right)?

So it’s far from over, but the government still holds the key to resolving the Mexican standoff: the supermajority. But whether it can use its trump card depends on sufficient public support, as Yamasaki Taku and others have argued. Accordingly, the government will give any concession there is to give in the coming weeks in the hope that it will somehow prompt a ten point (or so) increase in support for the mission, which could prompt greater support from the media — critical to this law’s passage, as noted by Jun — and thus lead to a snowball effect for public opinion.

One thought on “The one-year limit

  1. For the record, Tobias, my guess is that the media will continue to report along the same lines, the poll numbers will hold more or less where they are now, and neither the Fukuda administration nor the DPJ will back down.Incidentally, think that the DPJ should have broadened the debate in three directions:1) Look at the USS Kitty Hawk voyage in its entirety and point to the absurdity of taking three days out of its trip as it went full steam from Okinawa to the tip of the Persian Gulf to engage in the Iraq war and claiming that they were devoted (exclusively?) to Operation Enduring Freedom.2) Look at the refueling operations in their entirety and demand that the Fukuda administration give a satisfactory accounting of the huge FY2001-2002 operations as dedicated to OEF-MIO.3) Look at the Afghan-Iraqi operations in their entirety and smear it all with the stench of an American war gone bad.Unfortunately for Mr. Ozawa, his DPJ colleagues who have the expertise to explore these avenues are also the ones who oppose him on this issue. So, it is bogged down in the 800,000/200,000 gallon discrepancy and, more seriously, its own internal debate.


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