Sunday, September 04, 2011

Who Would Have Ever Thought

Who would have ever thought that a Defense Minister appointed from among the ranks of the followers of Ozawa Ichiro would turn out to be an idiot?

Defense chief calls himself an amateur
The Japan Times

New Defense Minister Yasuo Ichikawa called himself an "amateur" regarding security issues, but excused his lack of expertise by saying that's what the concept of civilian control of the military is all about.

His remark, made Friday after he assumed the post in Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's new Cabinet, may call into question Noda's ministerial appointments.

"I am an amateur regarding security issues, but this is what you call the real 'civilian control,' " Ichikawa told reporters...

What I cannot tell about this appointment is whether Noda's people accepted the suggestion to appoint Ichikawa knowing he would self-destruct, thereby discrediting Ozawa -- or that Ozawa suggested Ichikawa knowing that his self-destruction would discredit Noda's people.

As long as Ichikawa is in office, the LDP will keep up a drumbeat for his resignation. If he resigns, 5 to 10 percentage points will get knocked off the support ratings for the Noda Cabinet. If he stays, 5 to 10 percentage points will get knocked off the support ratings for the Noda Cabinet.

A Hobson's Choice.

That a resignation will hurt the image of the Cabinet has me leaning in the direction of Noda's people or Noda himself simply not thinking seriously about this appointment.

The MOD post is not a trash position, like the Defense Agency post used to be. The MOD is a realy ministry with real issues and clout. It has to provide half of the answers (the Ministry of Foreign Affairs being responsible for the other half) to the questions posed by the rise of a great power to the East, a new nuclear power to the Northeast and a rejuvenated power to the North. The MOD needs a smart cookie with extensive experience in security matters at the helm, or someone like a Kitazawa Toshimi who had sense enough to listen to what smart people had to say before he opened his mouth.


Anonymous said...

Yeah, I was rather shocked. Not even one day into the job, the Noda cabinet already provided the public with its first gaffe. I mean, really, how feckless do you have to be?

Anonymous said...

You have a penchant for looking at things from an American perspective that severely handicaps your analysis. The JDA was a puppet Agency that didn't have any clout, and the MOD is the youngest Ministry. When Aki Nagashima became 防衛政務次官 in the Hatoyama Administration, he would constantly comment on how he was the last person at the table. He was the youngest person in the youngest Ministry.

That is not to say that the MOD has no power, but that there is not yet that sort of clout that DOD and State fight for in the U.S. between MOFA and MOD.

Anonymous said...

I agree that the MOD has been elevated in both practical and constitutional terms and is a serious position, and Ichikawa's comments are silly and may cost him but I have to wonder if anon. above is correct - at least in most Westminster democracies responsibility for answering defense questions is shouldered by the PM and Minister for Foreign Affairs first and MOD is usually a second-rank portfolio where only military nerds actually seek it out. Even then the "civilian control" dimension is actually quite strong - there is never any expectation that a MoD actually knows all that much about Defense, not like the Secretary of Defense who is often been involved in the defense bureaucracy or even is an ex-military man. Maybe Japan is different - Japan can appoint non-MPs to cabinet roles - but I wouldn't be surprised if this passes without much fanfare.

MTC said...

Anonymous -

You are overreading my statement on the status of the MOD. I was merely noting that it is a real ministry now, whose White Papers actually matter and which has to have at its head someone with some gravitas -- unlike its predecessor the JDA which would always be shackled with "What's His Name With 6 Elections to the Diet" as its Director-General.

As for Nagashima Akihisa, suffice it to say that when an analyst as astute and with as many contacts as Peter Ennis can get hornswaggled into repeating a rumor that Nagashima was a strong candidate for minister of MOFA or MOD

then you know that there is a lot of yapping going on and not a lot of bark.

Having been burned by an ignoramus, there is perhaps pressure now to appoint a security otaku like Nagashima. My guess, however, is that a chastened Noda will still go for someone more senior.

Sigma1 -

LDP members will not let go of this gaffe. The party is once again behind the DPJ in the polls and needs a pick-me-up. If today's or tomorrow's editorials decry Ishikawa's statements, he's gone.

Recall that Yanagida Minoru had to resign in very similar circumstances, having made light of his ministerial duties and confessing his own limited capacities.

wataru said...

Giving the guy the benefit of the doubt, I think the original Japanese rather could be understood along the lines of, "I am not a professional military man and therefore will be capable of real civilian control."
Either that or he is a placeholder waiting for a coalition government with Ishiba as defense minister.

Anonymous said...

Yes, MOD is a real Ministry with real issues, but I still don't believe it has the clout you are giving it (at least not now).

By the way, if there is a shake up, don't expect Aki's name to be thrown out there again...unless Peter Ennis' contacts fail him. I have my own views on this, but won't put them in print, even anonymously.

Anonymous said...

Looks like he met them in the middle:

Anonymous said...

Michael, I'm sure the LDP won't want to let go of this but I don't believe that the LDP digging in its heels is necessarily the (only) direct cause of failing support ratings. Kan failed to shape the narrative from day one and was indecisive and Yanigida's statement was much more cynical and much worse, and thus played into the greater narrative of Kan not being in control of his own - which turned out to be true to some degree, albeit self-fulfilling perhaps. While the comment was dumb, as you know civilian control is a concept taken pretty seriously in Japan and the comment could be rehabilitated as a clumsy but well meaning comment. Such as he is trying:
The explanation here is pretty hard to attack, even if a little too convenient, but given the original Japanese wasn't *that* bad if he makes it to Thursday I would bet on him staying as continuing it may just make the LDP look petty. Maybe.

Anonymous said...

That's a way to look at it. But on the way you're forgetting that this "amateur" will hammer out an implementable troop realignment solution acceptable to Japan as well as the US. There is not one Japanese minister of defense in the history of troop realignment who could accomplish that. Do you really care about the gaffe if the new minister'd take away the roadblock preventing Japan and the US a healthy relationship?

MTC said...

Anonymous #3 -

What qualities does Ishikawa possess that will make it possible for him to convince the Okinawans to accept the construction of a Futenma Replacement Facility? Empathy? All of the money in Ozawa Ichiro's kitty? I would be interested in hearing more.

Anonymous said...

Because Okinawa won't accept it as it is, the new defense minister is burdened with the task of convincing Japan's powerful prefectural governors of taking in some US training missions or stationing some US troops in order to make the realignment plan implementable.

But in May last year every prefectural head except for one rejected that.

In history, there has been no defense minister or defense agency head who worked out a practically implementable realignment plan.

Don't you see Ishikawa needs public support before he'll knock on governors' doors?