Forging a Fukuda consensus

Following his first salvo in the creation of a new Fukuda Doctrine, Sankei reports that Prime Minister Fukuda is preparing to launch the next salvo, which will be aimed at remaking Japan’s foreign and defense policymaking process, namely by intensifying the Kantei‘s leadership in foreign policy.

Mr. Fukuda’s approach is markedly different from Abe Shinzo’s, the former prime minister who wanted to create a US-style National Security Council, an independent national security staff at the Kantei that would presumably be independent from the ministries of foreign affairs and defense. Undoubtedly Mr. Abe and other conservatives saw this as a way to bring their hawkish allies into government and further diminish the power of the hated Foreign Ministry.

Prime Minister Fukuda, however, appears to want to bolster existing arrangements and enhance coordination within and between ministries. He intends to preserve the existing Security Council of Japan that brings together the prime minister, chief cabinet secretary, the ministers of foreign affairs, defense, finance, transport, economy and industry, internal affairs, and the chairman of the national public safety commission. Under the security council, the prime minister intends to create a committee — headed by the assistant chief cabinet secretary responsible for national security and crisis management — on the maintenance of defense capabilities that will facilitate cooperation between the JSDF ground, air, and maritime staff, especially on medium- and long-term planning. The prime minister also envisions a new committee at the cabinet secretariat, chaired by the prime minister’s aide responsible for foreign and defense policy and composed of the director of cabinet intelligence, the directors of MOFA’s foreign policy bureau and MOD’s defense policy bureau, and the aforementioned assistant chief cabinet secretary. This committee would be responsible for synthesizing foreign and defense policies.

Conservatives in both the US and Japan love to hate their countries’ foreign ministries (and foreign policy establishments more broadly) as being effete and inclined to “sell out” the country to the enemies of the nation. But this loathing is not without consequences — look at how the OSD policy shop, led by Douglas Feith, effectively diminished the role played by both the State Department and the CIA in planning for the Iraq war and its aftermath. (The sad fate of the State Department’s Future of Iraq project is telling, although it bears mentioning that, as noted by Charles Patterson, a participant in the project, “More planning was needed than the Future of Iraq Project, even had the plans been heeded.”)

As such, rather than creating new organizations to do end runs around ministries responsible for foreign policy, Japan will be better served by better coordination among existing agencies. But more important than institutional arrangements, what Japan needs is a vision for its foreign and defense policy that has been lacking since the end of the cold war. If MOFA and MOD have been working at cross purposes, it has not simply been a matter of broken institutional arrangements: the responsibility lies with the prime minister (and the ruling LDP) for failing to articulate a coherent foreign policy for Japan. As I noted yesterday, Mr. Fukuda’s new doctrine has considerable value, but if it is not institutionalized — whether in the form of international agreements or government planning documents — and instilled in the minds of Japanese citizens, then it can easily be ignored by future governments.

In short, Mr. Fukuda needs to find a way to make his doctrine the successor for the crumbling Yoshida Doctrine, a Fukuda consensus to guide Japan in the early decades of the twenty-first century. As the endurance of the Yoshida consensus illustrates, institutions are secondary to the ideas of a foreign policy consensus.

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