Monday, March 02, 2009

Ozawa's Imaginary Japanese Defense Forces

Ozawa Ichirō blew my mind the other day.

"From a military strategy point of view, the Seventh Fleet is here, so that's enough of a U.S. presence in the Far East. Beyond that, we can deal with matters by Japan playing a solid role in the Far East.*
(Translation by Okumura Jun)
It seems he blew the minds of The Asahi Shimbun editors as well:

Did he mean that when and if Minshuto becomes the ruling party, it will demand that all U.S. Air Force personnel and Marines stationed in Japan leave? Does he intend to fortify the Self-Defense Forces to fill the gap after the U.S. forces depart? Did he make the remarks in the same context as the one when he stressed to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton during her visit here in February that the Japan-U.S. alliance must be an "equal" partnership?
Let's be real: if your thoughts on security policy are too fluffy for The Asahi Shimbun, you have skipped way, way down the yellow brick road.

Tobias Harris has provided a thorough run-through (in "What is Ozawa's Angle?" and "Ozawa holds his ground") of some of the political reasons why Ozawa would make his astonishing suggestion. According to Harris, the remark shows Ozawa skating between the ideological lines of the members of his coalition of opposition forces in the House of Councillors, all while staying true to a conservative vision for Japan's defense. For his part, Okumura Jun provides evidence that Ozawa's remark, while surprising, is not inconsistent with other statements he has made. In comments to Okumura-san post, Janne Morén notes that whatever one may think of Ozawa's remark, the conception of Japan's defense being espoused at least has the virtue of being constitutional.

To which I can only say, "Yes, but...the whole idea is nuts...and when your party is an untried force, you should be trying to avoid giving the voters a reason to run back to the safety of the Big Daddy LDP."

What do I mean by "nuts"? I guess it is placing one's faith in a force that does not exist and probably cannot exist. Where in Japan's budget, for example, is the money to purchase a new generation of fighters to match China's squadrons of Sukhoi 30 variants -- and where are the agreements to acquire any of these fighters, either from among those currently on the market or in development?

Where in the budget is there money for "playing a solid role in the Far East"?

Whatever that is.

It sounds expensive.

Japan's neighbors are expanding and improving their force projection capabilities. Japan will need to accelerate the transformation of its legal and technological framework for military response just to remain in its current strategic position. Where is the will to make these changes? Again, where in the budget is the money to pay for the force upgrades? Where also are the young men and women needed to serve in the more fully self-sufficient Self-Defense Forces?

Now lets us add to the mix the shortfall firepower and warfighting experience that would open up following a radical redeployment of U.S. Forces. Somebody please explain -- in simple terms, so that I can understand -- how a country that cannot protect itself now will find the resources, both financial and human, to deal with loss of the air and ground capabilities of U.S. Forces Japan in an Ozawan dream future?

Ozawa can wish all he wants that Japan were more self-reliant and self-directed in international security matters. Until he has a plan on how reach that state of grace -- starting from Japan as it exists right now (rest assured, he doesn't) --his casting of shadows across the Japan-U.S. Security Arrangements must be condemned as irresponsible.

Incredibly irresponsible.

* Ato wa Nihon ga kyokutō no yakuwari o ninatte iku koto de hanashi ga tsuku.


Anonymous said...

Somebody please explain -- in simple terms, so that I can understand -- how a country that cannot protect itself now will find the resources, both financial and human, to deal with loss of the air and ground capabilities of U.S. Forces Japan in an Ozawan dream future?

My five cents would be -- because there is no threat.

Noone will attack Japan. There are no natural resources here, there is nothing to be gained politically, and there is no money to be made (China would attack only to instantly be losing all the investments Japan is making in China?) Time to calm down and smell the roses.

Anonymous said...

There is no immediate threat. But in the event of an unexpected crisis, Japan's response will be fairly limited if military spending is insufficient.

It's a big if, the Japanese navy is one the best in the world after the US navy. It's air force is well trained and relatively modern in comparison with local competition. So I wouldn't say Japan's incapable of defending itself.

MTC said...

karkemish -

Accepted that Japan's military capabilities are not minor, especially at sea.

Anonymous -

Accepted that no one has any interested in attacking the main islands of Japan.

All that will be pretty much for naught, however, in the sudden escalation of a dispute over the sovereignty of the Senkakus or the East China Sea resources. The Chinese will own the skies and their submarines will pop up from out of nowhere, firing anti-ship missiles. A Maritime Self Defense Forces expeditionary force would be battered into unconsciousness, if not sent to the bottom in its entirety. The government in Tokyo would then face a terrible decision: either sue for peace or widen the war, bringing the nuclear-armed forces of China and the U.S. into direct conflict.

Would it not be better to have the U.S. planes flying beside yours right from the outset (and several thousand fully armed U.S. Marines fairly close by), giving even the most nationalistic hot-headed idiot of a Chinese commander something to think about?

Anonymous said...

Point taken, but should Japan really expect the US "nuclear umbrella" to kick in if, say, the Senkaku islands were - hmm, what is the word: occupied? - by, say the "most nationalistic hot-headed idiot of a Chinese commander" (your terms)?

And what would said "nuclear umbrella" then set as a target?

Sorry, I think you are wrong. Nothing will happen.