A High Price for Defense Cuts

by 岡崎久彦 on 2004年12月 5日

In an August 2003 article, I said budget appropriations for Japanese missile defense should be increased but that the rise should not affect other defense outlays. Amid the budget crisis, my opinion has been largely ignored, and a sharp cut in defense spending is reportedly being considered, mostly in connection with the needs of the Ground Self-Defense Force. Perhaps it is too late to change these plans, but let’s talk about the basic concept of defense.

Needless to say, defense is necessary to deal with an emergency that may not come for a century. In the meantime, though, the international situation is likely to change.

During recent televised debate, some defense experts wondered aloud why, under present international circumstances, it is necessary to deploy a GSDF division in Hokkaido, or U.S. Marines in Okinawa.

By extrapolating this argument, one might conclude that not a single GSDF tank is thought to be necessary. The experts don’t go that far, probably sensing that such logic is not everything.

About a decade ago, I believed that the presence of the GSDF’s 7th Division in Hokkaido … Japan’s only armored division … was crucial. During the Persian Gulf War, Britain and France dispatched one armored division each to the war zone. I was worried that China would also deploy a division to the area.

Amid moves at the time to restructure the post-Cold War international order, some pundits even contended that the No. 1 U.S. enemy was not the Soviet Union but Japan and that the Japan-U.S. security alliance should be scrapped. If China had deployed troops in the Persian Gulf War to compensate, say, for its setback at Tiananmen Square, the U.S. ally would have been China, not Japan. So I thought that Japan’s only option was to dispatch the 7th Division to the Gulf.

What determines required troop strength? In a large sense, it is balance of power. Japan is close to China and Russia but is far across the Pacific from the United States, its only military ally. Japan, therefore, must maintain appropriate defense capabilities to preserve a balance of power in the Far East in cooperation with the U.S. That is Japan’s obligation to its people and the international community.

One important yardstick is the ratio of Japan’s defense spending to its gross national product. We should remember that it is extremely low compared with that of other industrialized countries. Regardless of changes in public opinion and moves in the Diet, Japanese leaders should always bear in mind the need to keep this ratio from decreasing. If anything, it should increase.

I am astounded by reports that plans are afoot to cut the number of ships and planes of the Self-Defense Forces. Consideration of the international situation 10 years from now, let alone any period beyond that, should underscore the key role that combined Japan-U.S. naval and air power will have to play in maintaining a stable Far East. This should be obvious to anybody, except those obsessed with ideological pacifism.

I wonder if Japan and the U.S. are conducting talks about strategies on this subject. Why is it necessary for fiscal authorities to intervene in these issues? Fiscal authorities may say funds are short, but they should respect the opinion of defense officials when drafting spending plans under budget restraints. Civilian control of defense affairs is fine, but it is not everything.

In Iraq, U.S. forces have suffered serious consequences from trial and error, which is nothing surprising on battlefields. Similar consequences would have occurred whoever was in charge.

An obvious policy mistake, however, is said to have stemmed from U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s obsession with minimum-troop deployment for the sake of efficiency. He rejected suggestions from aides for larger deployments, and as a result, U.S. forces have had tough going due to a shortage of ground troops.

A war on terror requires massive troop deployment, since a trained human being is the most sophisticated weaponry. When 26 guerrillas infiltrated South Korea, Seoul deployed 60,000 troops for 50 days to deal with the problem.

In quake-hit Niigata Prefecture, a much broader relief and rescue effort could have been made if more personnel had been available. There should be a surplus in military strength.