I had an American academic of great renown and insight tell me that the Democratic Party of Japan simply had to start working more closely with the bureaucracy. At the time I was horrified, not only because battering the bureaucracy into submission is one of the core tenets of DPJ identity but because it simply would not work.
This week we have had two examples of two horrible decisions made by the ministries, one of which was bullrushed through a Cabinet decision and the other which, as long as Maehara Seiji is breathing, will have a wooden spike driven through its black heart.
The first bad decision was the selection of the F-35 fighter as the replacement for Japan's fleet of aging F-4s. That the F-35 is a work-in-progress for the wrong mission at the wrong price has been hammered home repeated over the last few days, both in the Japanese press and English-language commentary - the most recent example of which is the opinion article by Alessio Patalano (who has more knowledge about the Japanese military in his pinky than I will ever know) in The Asahi Shimbun (Link).
The second slap-me-because-I-think-I-am-dreaming decision is yesterday's inexplicable announcement by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism to restart construction on the Yamba Dam (E). The cancellation of the Yamba Dam is item #1 on the DPJ's list of cost saving measures it will undertake to provide funding for the expansion of its social welfare spending. The September 2009 announcement by the then Minister of MLIT Maehara Seiji that further work on the dam was cancelled was the first clear indication that the newly-elected DPJ government was serious about its promises to reform the way Japan has been run. For a DPJ MLIT minister to earmark funds for a restart of the project, this with the collusion of Chief Cabinet Secretary Fujimura Osamu, boggles the imagination.
Luckily (for the citizenry and whatever shreds of credibility the DPJ has left) the now Chairman of the DPJ's Policy Research Council Maehara Seiji has told everyone within hearing distance that the project will restart only over his dead body.
In both these instances, the decisions coming out of the ministries have the fingerprints of bureaucrats all over them, largely in that they are politically deaf and seemingly profitable only to the members of the bureaucracy itself and a tiny circle of special interests.
Where is Prime Minister Noda Yoshihiko in all of this? Is he not supposed to be leading, thinking about the national interest and the interests of his party?