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)?