How to Undermine an Alliance

TOKYO – 2010 marks the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Japan-United States Security Treaty. But, instead of celebrating an agreement that has helped stabilize East Asia for a half-century, the treaty is now at serious risk, as much from indecision as from kneejerk anti-Americanism.

In August 2009, Japan’s people voted for “change.” The Liberal Democratic Party, which had ruled Japan for most of the post-war decades, lost parliamentary elections to the Democratic Party of Japan. The key reason for the DPJ’s victory was that voters were fed up with the LDP.

That feeling had been growing in the country for some time. In the election of 2005, the LDP retained power only because Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi positioned the LDP as an agent of change. But after Koizumi left office, Japan’s prime ministers – Shinzo Abe, Yasuo Fukuda, and Taro Aso – came and went so swiftly that our country’s leadership came to seem like a “soup du jour.” With so little respect being shown for the LDP’s leaders, it is no surprise that Japanese voters lost what little patience they had left for the party and its antiquated practices.

So the DPJ took power, and formed a coalition government with two smaller parties, the Social Democratic Party (SDP), and the People’s New Party (PNP). The DPJ’s only reason for being, however, is its anti-LDP stance, while the SDP has long opposed the Japan-US Security Treaty, and the PNP strongly opposes the privatizations of the Koizumi era. That does not amount to a coherent government program, and Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama’s administration quickly revealed the DPJ’s fundamental hollowness.