There’s a lot of noise in the news reporting on this one. Now that the Hatoyama Government has signed on to the Okinawa redeployment plan that is virtually the 2006 agreement, the armchair analysts are coming out to spin the episode one way or the other.
But the news article I liked the best came from Yomiuri. The suggestion in it is that Hatoyama had to decide whether maintaining good relations with the Obama Administration and America was worth putting up with Mizuho Fukushima and her grandstanding. It sounds like Fukushima just pushed it too far, and Hatoyama decided to stick with the original Futenma relocation plan.
If you’ve been following this soap opera, it’s wonderful news, and good for Hatoyama as well. As much as I hate how America was made the heavy in this whole affair, (notice, we didn’t get the apology, the Okinawans did), it’s not like Hatoyama-san came out of this with any great prizes either. It was simply troublemaking by a minor party official who misrepresented the role she would play in the new government when she accepted portfolios that she had no intention of ministering. And instead, wanted to be defense minister without any alternative proposals to put forth.
A few commentators have suggested that Fukushima and the SDP have taken the high road. But honestly, no. Because their non-proposal had no shot. This was minor party grandstanding, pure and simple. People in the Democratic Party in America have seen this quite often from the McGovernite era, where party politics was more about some 2% group getting their way on each-and-every point of an issue, than being part of a coalition that actually accomplishes things.
Take our good friends over in the Tozen union. Some of them are close in to Shamintou (Social Democrats), and they use the same sort of flash-in-the-pan grandstanding tactics to allegedly make a point. But really, to get nothing and, in the end, disappoint their followers.
So will SDP do very well as a protest vote in Okinawa and other places where the U.S. armed forces are made into an issue? Yes. But does the average Japanese voter take Shamintou more seriously or less seriously as a political party, or even see them as a responsible one? I’m not so sure.
I think the State Department took the right line in this, and it looks like yet another behind-the-scenes success for Mrs. Clinton, who never gets the credit for the wins she helps make for other people. (I think I am counting from one 1992 presidential election in there . . .) It’s obvious that some tough analysis was put into this situation, and she probably picked out the bright bulbs of the gang down in Toranomon to get her up-to-speed on what was going on. (They can’t all bit sitting on their duffs, enjoying their exotic posting.)
I have to wonder that having a skilled negotiator like Ambassador Roos, who is also connected to Obama, helped put the situation in order.
When you’re borrowing somebody’s military–which is what modern Japan does–it doesn’t pay to politick the fact. That is the real takeaway from the last 9 months.