Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Conservative Shinzo Abe Wins Japanese Elections In A Landslide - And Why It's Important

Japanese PM Shinzo Abe and the Liberal democratic Party (LDP)won a landslide victory in Japan's elections, taking control of Japan's Diet and breaking the political gridlock that has stalled a number of reforms aimed at helping Japan's economic recovery.

The coalition—comprised of the LDP and its smaller ally, New Komeito—will now control both houses of parliament for the first time since 2007.

Abe's win was based on two issues; The credit given to him by the Japanese in restarting Japan's economic engine after a long period of decline and a more conservative, proactive stance on foreign policy.

Japan's economic problems are based on deflation and economic stagnation, something Abe has tried to address with quantitative easing from Japan's central bank, tax cuts, especially for corporations, reducing Japan's social welfare state, a fiscal stimulus and major structural reforms. Unlike our own stimulus here, Abe's 'shovel ready ' public works jobs are actually getting built, and his programs have poked the moribund Nikei index as stocks have climbed.Unemployment isn't really the problem in Japan. Growth, startups and investment is. Abe is attempting to restart Japan's economy and boost consumption and he's had some degree of success. It remains to be seen whether the real structural reform Japan's economy needs are implemented.

Opening Japan's domestic markets, for instance is something that's staunchly opposed by a number of Japanese constituencies like the farmers, many of whom have large support in the Diet and in the LDP. Deregulation of a number of Japan's industries is also something Abe says is long overdue,but again there are some entrenched interests against it.It remains to be seen whether Abe can muster the votes in parliament to get policies like this implemented.

The other issue Abe scored big on with Japanese voters was foreign policy. According to Article 9 of Japan's constitution, written originally by General Douglas MacArthur after WWII, Japan is one of the few nations in the world where an anti-war stance is official policy. Abe favors revamping Japan's military, 'revisiting' Japan's constitutional pacifism and a far more nationalist stance.

This doesn't sit well with Japan's neighbors, who understandably have bad memories of the last time Japan embraced a more aggressive foreign policy. China in particular has been fairly outspoken about Abe's stance on this.

Japan sees China and particularly North Korea as threats to its security, and there's a huge constituency in Japan for bolstering Japan's defenses. This worked for Abe during the election, as a direct consequence of the Obama Administration's failure to stop North Korea from missile launches and actually attempting to bribe China to lean on North Korea by removing our missile defense systems in the region. .Japan, like Europe had gotten used to America defending it and this came as a huge shock.

Japan will almost certainly spend more time and effort on its military and defense as a result. Whether the Obama regime will embrace this and consolidate it as part of our long standing alliance with Japan is another question.

As General MacArthur said many years ago, the Western Pacific is America's strategic redoubt. It's key to our ability to be able to fight a war on two fronts if necessary. That hasn't changed. If we forget that, forsake long time allies and remove ourselves from th equation, someone else is going to step into that vacuum.

That's why this is far more important than just an election.


Geoffrey Britain said...

And it is the necessity for and wisdom in maintaining strategic redoubts wherein such shortsightedness among isolationists lies.

Many complain of the cost. This factoid rebuts that assumption;
“Since the beginning of the War on Poverty (1960's), government has spent $19.8 trillion (in inflation-adjusted 2011 dollars) on means-tested welfare. In comparison, the cost of ALL military wars in U.S. history from the Revolutionary War through the current war in Afghanistan has been $6.98 trillion (in inflation-adjusted 2011 dollars).* The War on Poverty has cost three times as much as all other wars combined.” * Stephen Daggett, “Costs of Major U.S. Wars,” Congressional Research Service, June 29, 2010.

*The CRS report counts the cost of wars through FY2010; the additional cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in FY2011, at $159 billion, was added to the CRS figures.

In addition, our national debt is at $16 trillion (not counting unfunded future liabilities).


Rob said...

Both the Brits and the Romans understood the value of creating allies in strategic areas to safeguard their interests..it was a lot cheaper then sending armies.

In Afghanistan, for instance, the Brits kept the Pashtuns from raiding India by paying them cash subsidies. The costly Afghan Wars only occurred once subsequent governments stopped paying.

B.Poster said...

This is potentially very good news for Japan and perhaps for America as well. It appears that Japan has what appears to be solid leadership who seems to have their country headed in the right direction. Hopefully America can follow suit and acquire similar leadership.

Mr. Abe's positions on foreign policy are especially timely and much needed. If this is handled properly, this stands to be a huge benefit to America. While Japan has neither the demographics, the scientific or technical knowledge, or the industrial capability to challenge China for dominance of the Pacific region, it could serve as a valuable buffer between the US and China. This is especially the case if Japan acquires a robust nuclear weapons capability which it should do so forthwith.

This gives us the advantages of having a stalwart ally that can and likely will help to act as a counterweight to China and it will allow us to pull all of our forces out of Japan so we can deploy them in positions that make better sense for our national security needs.

Having troops stationed in Japan has been a strain on our relations with Japan. Removing them should immensely improve our relations with Japan. Since we are going to need Japanese assistance in many areas in the coming years, improving our relations with them will make it more likely they will work constructively with us.

Having a militarily strong Japan to assist us to secure vital shipping lanes could be a huge strategic benefit to us. Also, should China threaten having a strong allied Japan will be extremely helpful. Furthermore having a strong Japan who is allied with America will make it less likely that China, North Korea or any one else in the region will threaten. Without the relationship strain of having troops stationed in Japan our relationship with Japan should prosper.

"This doesn't sit well with Japan's neighbors..." Very respectfully such things are silly. Japan is not the same country today as it was during WWII or before. A sizeable portion of its ability to threaten its neighbors in any manner comparable to how it did during the WWII era were beaten out of it as a result of WWII. The remainder of its ability to do such things has been aged out of it via severe demographic issues.

Generally speaking we do not take little children seriously when they claim monsters under the bed. Likewise people who worry about Japan threatening their neighbors in the manner they did during and prior to WWII should not be taken seriously either.

It's long past time for Japan to change its constitution. The change should have happened 20 years ago. If it had, we (America) would be in a much better position now than we are. In any event, its better to make the proper adjustments late rather never.

B.Poster said...


I think you are spot on about creating allies in strategic regions to help guard one's interest. A militarily strong Japan could be a huge help in this regard. I came to this realization long ago. It's nice to see that Japan's leaders are coming to this conclusion. Hopefully America's are as well. At the least, America should make sure it stays out of Japan's way.

B.Poster said...

"As General McArthur said many years ago, the Western Pacific is America's strategic redoubt..." Very respectfully this was spoken many years, in a different time, to a different nation than the America that exists today.

Were General McArthur living today he very likely would have had something different to say. The America of General McArthur's day did not have the massive debt, the demographic issues, the weakened industrial capabilities, and the shortage of properly trained personnel that today's America faces.

America's strategic redoubt today is the United States on the North American continent. This is where the primary efforts need to be focused. Instead of worrying fighting wars on two fronts we need to be worrying about fighting one, for the defense of America, which as it stands now we'd be hard pressed to do.

I'm not suggesting it is hopeless but it will require changes in strategy. The ones that made sense in General McArthur's time are not applicable today.

The suggested change in Japan's constitution is a positive step. This will allow for the strengthening of Japan and will allow us to remove our forces from the region. I agree we should not forsake long time allies. The constant presence of US forces in the region has been an enormous strain on the alliance. Removing these forces should substantially improve the alliance and a stronger Japan that it allied with America is a win/win for all of us!!