Japanese boots, Afghan ground?

In the Fukuda government’s continuing quest to determine its strategy in regard to the time-limited MSDF refueling mission in the Indian Ocean, Machimura Nobutaka, chief cabinet secretary, floated a new idea over the weekend: expanding the Japanese contribution in Afghanistan to include JSDF personnel on the ground. The prime minister addressed Mr. Machimura’s remarks the following day, suggesting that it’s a possibility, but will ultimately depend on the facts on the ground.

This is not a new idea. Recall that in the midst of the debate last autumn, Ozawa Ichiro floated this idea (only to have it promptly dismissed by his own party and characterized as dangerously reckless by the government).

Not quite so reckless eight months later?

It seems that the government thinks that this might be a way to tempt the DPJ into supporting an extension of Japanese involvement in the reconstruction of Afghanistan.

Not surprisingly, the DPJ was circumspect in its reply. Hatoyama Yukio said, “We cannot approve immediately. We must think prudently.” In other words, we’ll wait and see what the public opinion polls tell us (Ed. — Or whether this coincides with Ozawa Ichiro’s co-existence doctrine?) before making a decision.

I recognize that on foreign policy there’s little for the DPJ to gain in taking an assertive stance that might make the life easier for the government. But given the public’s relative indifference to foreign policy, there’s also little to lose. I recognize that the DPJ is engaged in a desperate struggle to paper over internal differences. But sooner or later it would be nice if the DPJ were to take a decisive stance on foreign policy. If it wants to oppose Japanese involvement in Afghanistan, fine. If it wants to support it on humanitarian grounds, fine. If it wants to use it as an opportunity for Japan to cooperate with countries other than the US, fine. But regardless of the position, make a case for it.

This is probably too much to ask of the DPJ. And so it is unlikely that the government will push for an expanded Afghanistan mission that includes both ground and maritime elements.

One thought on “Japanese boots, Afghan ground?

  1. Anonymous

    Like Koizumi\’s decision to send GSDF forces to Iraq for \”humanitarian\” duties, I doubt that sending troops to Afghanistan will be popular with the public. Ozawa\’s reckless proposal last time was appropriately shot down by his own party and I see no reason why the DPJ would support the same measure today. There is less compelling need (in fact none at all) for Japan to support the effort in Afghanistan than there was during the heat of the debate over sending troops to Iraq. To my mind the association of Afghanistan with NATO which is seeking to expand its presence in Asia is a compelling reason for Japan to reject a deployment of the SDF in Afghanistan.


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