politics

Diet enacts bill giving equal authority over SDF to military, bureaucrats

33 Comments

The Diet on Wednesday passed a bill to revise a law that will give equal authority over the Self-Defense Forces to both bureaucrats and uniformed personnel in the Defense Ministry.

The bill revises Article 12 of the Defense Ministry Law.

Previously, the law was weighted in favor of bureaucrats concerning decision-making, who then passed instructions to uniformed personnel. The new law gives uniformed personnel authority over tactical operations, enabling a faster response to emergency situations.

The SDF have been under bureaucratic control since 1954.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe dismissed concern that the proposed revision would give too much control to the armed forces. He said the prime minister will still be commander-in-chief of the military.

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33 Comments
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The first step into the rabbit-hole we go....

12 ( +17 / -5 )

Step two is the military wants more control over the constitution and political life.

12 ( +17 / -5 )

Here we go....

7 ( +8 / -1 )

Step two is the military wants more control over the constitution and political life

Are you saying that the way to avoiding that is to made SDF personnel second-class employees in their own organisation? Why does giving them parity inevitably lead to interference in non-military affairs? It shouldn't do.

It's up to people to campaign against specific changes that are inappropriate, rather than try to maintain a questionable status-quo and resist any change.

-6 ( +5 / -11 )

The last sentence gives me a lot of comfort. The prime minister aka Abe will still be the commander-in-chief. Hooyah!

1 ( +5 / -4 )

There really is no way to have "equal" control, either the military is answerable to a civilian authority or not.

10 ( +15 / -5 )

Oh, samurai, I was just recounting Japanese history. If you have studied it you might have seen such a pattern before. Part of that history involves a rather bovine public that either have no idea what is going on or don't think it has anything to do with them or can be hoodwinked by authority or all three. You should read up. It is fascinating.

5 ( +11 / -6 )

It's up to people to campaign against specific changes that are inappropriate, rather than try to maintain a questionable status-quo and resist any change.

While on paper this may seem like the best way, the government here never seems to actually listen.

6 ( +9 / -3 )

The thin end of the wedge!

On this I am in total agreement with Yubaru's posts here.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

When will they ever learn? By "They", I mean the people who become the victims of military aggression, and NOT the craven stringpullers who are only interested in maximizing their power and possessing the authority to wield military might with impunity, a pathological craving that satisfies their basest urges more powerfully than any amount of viagra. Judging from the past history of Japan rearming is like feeding chocolate liqueurs to a former alcoholic, and the likelihood of resistance from the Japanese people to the remilitarization of the country is not indicated. These days I feel like we are the proverbial frogs basking in the pan of warm water as Abe&Co slyly turn up the flame.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

All I want to know is as the military keeps getting more and more away from the Constitution restrictions, and the US military continues its reduction in forces and footprint, why are there still so many Military Labor Contract (MLC) job workers employed when there is no one to support as before and yet I pay for it in my taxes. Seriously does it take 5 people to paint a stripe line?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

MoonrakerJun. 10, 2015 - 04:53PM JST

Part of that history involves a rather bovine public that either have no idea what is going on or don't think it has anything to do with them or can be hoodwinked by authority or all three

How about you? Do you know how exactly the law is changed? Looking down on people by calling "bovine", you would not blindly believe in media or authority, I bet.

Here is the link to the new law. http://www.mod.go.jp/j/presiding/pdf/189_150306/05.pdf Read article 12.

The change is a lot subtler than is reported. It does not say "equal authority" at all. Before the change, bureaucrats could "help" Minister of Defense with regard to the Defense Forces. After the change, bureaucrats can "help" Minister of Defense with regard to the matters of Ministry of Defense that includes Defense Forces. Bureaucrats do not have any authority before and after. Minister of Defense has the authority over the Defense Forces, and bureaucrats can only help the Minister, before and after.

A lot is left to the interpretation of the law, and a lot of Japanese are concerned about possible change in interpretation.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

How terrible! The military being able to make tactical decisions on their own, without having to get the bureaucrats to debate it for days...

1 ( +3 / -2 )

A lot is left to the interpretation of the law, and a lot of Japanese are concerned about possible change in interpretation.

Yet the people wring their hands and do nothing to stop the changes and the government of Abe continues on it's march into the past.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Article 12.... Civilian Control ......Keep that in mind .......

Now Q & A ....Press conference ....

Press Conference by the Defense Minister Nakatani......(08:26-08:43 A.M. March 6, 2015)....

Take time ...

http://www.mod.go.jp/e/pressconf/2015/03/150306.html

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Want to see Japan's future? Look at Thailand.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

"Prime Minister Shinzo Abe dismissed concern that the proposed revision would give too much control to the armed forces. He said the prime minister will still be commander-in-chief of the military. "

I don't think anyone is worried that Abe won't have enough power, its the opposite of that.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

The bill revision to article 12 effectively removes a whole layer of civilian control....Slowly but effectively civilian 'checks and balances' are being taken out of the loop, striping civilian officials of their power....

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I seem to have the opposite take, from most posters. Its horrifying as an American who still lives in the US but loves Japan and has gone quite often -- but unfortunately for less duration of time than I would like - to think how it would be "Stateside" -- if in the US, the bureaucrats had so much authority and power over the military. It - control over the military - comes from the Executive - 1-person, on down, no if's and's nor but's. There are gaping differences between a Parliamentary style democracy and the kind of Republic that exists in the US. Diffuse, often erratic and at times unstable. Versus a US Republic, the Executive in charge of that ultimate line of authority, to secure national defense. Every 4 years. Congress Reps, every 2; Senate ever 6. Very stable. Checks and Balances yet with Executive authority that has enough oomph the break through the greatest of inertia's (if willing). General MacArthur did a lot for the progress of Japan and also the human rights enjoyed - to a degree today. Those "new things" things written into the constitution, with his tutelage, helped advance women's rights and a lot more. But the system in Japan is no cookie cutter of the American Republic. So, that being said -- Abe is only bringing Japan's system of governance, more and most toward what seems to work better in the US. He's not in a state of paralysis and is not waiting Nero-like while the world burns. Some will be revolted by that, given alternative views, and the predilection of some folks to be against American Republicanism or a robust and effective military in general. Not their cuppa tea. Well, whatever works, to keep the nation safe in dangerous times. The "head in the sand" crowd won't get that.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Not good. At all. In ANY democratic nation the government, elected by that nation's people, decides on military action. With checks and balances, doesn't always work, Iraq being an example, BUT come on... are we in free fall to a military government? Who are that hawks in the military? Do we have any names, ranks, etcetera?

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Jay Que,

And do you really think Abe thought it all up by himself?

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Abe's got friends here in the US like me and we listen to each other. No man (nor a country) is an island.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Jay que the main difference between American presidential republic and all parliamentary systems is that the latter have to have majority vote for non-policy issues (ie war declaration and sending troops for peacekeeping purposes). The US once had this and is still in the constitution, but Congress has unconstitutionally delegated war/conflict/police action to the president.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

There really is no way to have "equal" control, either the military is answerable to a civilian authority or not.

Well there's the question of when and how the military is answerable to civilian authority.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

circling the bowl.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

So, CH3CHO, it seems, from your kind elucidation of the details, that the big picture is that Japan takes one more step on its nationalist and militarist agenda. Now, some of us have seen this before. And most of us know that the people will create no opposition to this. Because the limited opposition to virtually anything was crushed by 1970 after its 20 year appearance. What authority wants in Japan it gets. This is the big picture and concentration on small details is a great way to obfuscate, and a way that you and the authorities and complicit media are skilled at doing. My advice, should it ever be called upon, would be that cynicism about the motives of authority in general, and the Abe government in particular, will probably stand you in good stead. But Abe's motives are clear for all to see.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Japan, in the persona of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the snapping lapdog of his American masters, is trying to follow the American example of (senseless) war for profit. Does Abe and his elitist, privileged ilk have financial interests in the "defense" industry? Do they stand to gain financially in a military conflict? Obviously the American war profiteers will benefit through either investments in the Japanese defense industry or by supplying Japan with war material. Or both.

Yes, Abe is helping to return Japan to a former period of "glory", much like one promulgated by the late Hideki Tojo. In your ill-advised fervor for the past Mr. Abe, you would do well to remember the fate of the former Prime Minister Tojo.

But I can hear Abe laughing, "Ha ha. I'll step on that trapdoor when I get to it, fat chance of that ever happening. Yet, if that were to befall me (no pun intended) I would be proud to have my ashes placed along with my hero Hideki Tojo's in Yasukuni Jinja where I would certainly be enshrined and receive absolution."

Of course, China has its own ruling elite, the "Communist" Party, who have probably become Westernized enough to see the economic advantages of themselves benefitting from wars for profit.

We are all, no doubt, screwed. Heaven help the cannon fodder.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

About damn time, few countries see Japan as the boogeyman. We need to do the same as we did with Germany. Have them look after their own defense.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Bureaucrats do not have any authority before and after. Minister of Defense has the authority over the Defense Forces, and bureaucrats can only help the Minister, before and after.

CH3CHO, your explanation makes it sound like there is no change, which is inaccurate. The essential change in Article 12 is who it adds to the list of people who are allowed to "assist" the Defense Minister. Before, it says that bureaucrats may "assist" the Defense Minister, even in operational matters (those three lines after essentially represent such). And as anyone who worked for a large organization knows, "assist" does de facto mean authority. Assistants take over some of the "less important" bits entirely and even for the most important bits they get to fill in the blanks which can allow for very free expression.

Further, with things written out like this, a Defense Minister will feel very inclined to listen to his designated assistants before issuing any decisions. After all, he's guessing (as are most people in the top around the world), and he'll be better off if he guesses in a direction supported by his designated assistants if things go wrong, or even if there are downsides to his course of action for which he can be attacked.

And the military side cannot counter them because they are not on the list of those authorized to "assist" the Defense Minister. That they are now on the list is the main reason people are summarizing it as "equal authority".

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Kazuaki ShimazakiJun. 11, 2015 - 01:57PM JST

And the military side cannot counter them because they are not on the list of those authorized to "assist" the Defense Minister.

It has long been written in article 9 of jieitai-ho (Self Defense Force Act) that Joint Chief of Staff and Chiefs of Land, Maritime, and Air Defense Forces "assist" the Defense Minister in the operations of the Defense Forces.

The change is very subtle and a lot is upto interpritation.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Oh, samurai, I was just recounting Japanese history

You mean during the fall of the Kyoto aristocracy, when the ruling class took the samurai for granted, leading to them deciding "we've had enough" and taking over their own lands?

Mutual respect and recognition is no bad thing.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Back on topic please.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@CH3CHO

幕僚長は、それぞれ前条各号に掲げる隊務に関し最高の専門的助言者として防衛大臣を補佐する。

You mean this? Oh yeah, it exists.

Having said that, though, it is insufficient to defeat my point because note how carefully this is written. It is not the blank cheque "hosa" that the bureaucrats get in Article 12. It is circumscribed by "in the capacity of most senior specialist advisor".

So this is what happens. A situation arises. The Chief of Staff gives his opinion, it is treated as a narrow, specialist point of view implied unworthy of equal weight as the bureaucrats', who supposedly are considering more factors. It is also the end of his involvement as the Defense Minister (following instructions from the Cabinet in all but the most minor of situations) takes his decision. That's only a skeleton and it gets fleshed out by the bureaucrats in their more general "assist" capacity under Article 12 of Defense Ministry law.

Further, they also explicitly had the right to assist the Defense Minister in the approval of plans submitted upwards from the Chief of Staff. In practice, this will mean that any plan that doesn't meet their favor will be endlessly postponed as part of the "assistant" process. Now in a similar situation the Chief of Staff can "assist" the Defense Minister by merely bringing that plan to his desk.

You are right that the final fallout of power will depend on interpretation, but this is still a substantive change. It might even be interpreted to mean the Chief of Staff may start answering questions in the Diet, rather than some bureaucrat.

But lest I give more ammo to the critics, let me note that civilian (political) control is not only something for the military, but for all fields. The military is not intrinsically more dangerous than other departments, not necessarily more likely to act out of control. If you need a relatively harmless example of a ministry that could use more civilian control, just look at the one controlling Japan's butter :-D

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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