The non-debate debate continues

The government’s new law on the MSDF refueling mission will be discussed in a plenary session of the House of Representatives this afternoon, in the midst of the widening scandal involving Moriya Takemasa and the Yamada Yoko corporation. As implicitly suggested by MTC, the Moriya scandal has provided the DPJ with yet another opportunity to avoid discussing the principles involved in the MSDF mission and instead base its opposition on shenanigans at the Defense Ministry.

Perhaps Koike Yuriko was on to something when she suggested that history stopped for Mr. Ozawa in 1990, except Mr. Ozawa is increasingly reenacting 1990 from the perspective of the opposition parties. Now that the DPJ has decided that its bill will not include provisions for JSDF dispatch to Afghanistan proper, the debate will see more political maneuvering that will be little more than a repeat of the fight surrounding the international peace cooperation bill that the Kaifu government — with Mr. Ozawa, then LDP secretary-general, spearheading the effort — pushed for in response to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990.

The opposition parties, led by Doi Takako’s Socialists, killed the bill by a thousand cuts, which led to Japan’s giving $13 billion instead, which led to accusations of checkbook diplomacy, which led to Japan’s embarrassment…which led to more than a decade of Japanese officials speaking of the need to make up for its response to the Gulf crisis and then Mr. Koizumi’s deploying the JSDF to the Indian Ocean and Iraq.

Mr. Ozawa’s ill-advised (because it exacerbated tensions within his own camp) gambit was the one chance for the debate over the refueling mission to address Japan’s position in the world and perhaps articulate a foreign policy that is neither US- nor UN-centered but has more in common with the European powers playing a major role in ISAF. Political conditions made Mr. Ozawa’s position untenable, but perhaps a different leader who enjoyed the trust of his own party and its supporters would be able to lead and take a stand on a position that might be unpopular but has the merit of suggesting real changes in Japan’s international posture.

Hatoyama Yukio was honest in stating the DPJ’s utter cowardice in this debate: “It is not mistaken that if lives of JSDF personnel active in Afghanistan were lost, it would give rise to a storm of substantial criticism of this policy as greatly mistaken.”

In other words, rhetoric about Japan’s international responsibilities is meaningless when it comes to Japan’s actually bearing real costs to meet those responsibilities. [Ed. — Bear no burden, pay as low a price as possible.]

The LDP is no better than the DPJ on this front, because the government is content to stick with the cost-free refueling mission, even while piously declaiming about Japan’s need to fulfill its promise to the international community.

And so let the Diet debate begin, between an LDP that probably just wants the whole issue to go away as soon as possible and a DPJ that is wholly incapable of articulating a coherent position on Japanese security policy.

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