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Home > Media Reviews > News Review Last Updated: 13:35 10/23/2007
News Review #417: October 23, 2007

Ministry Aims to Increase Civilian Control of the SDF

Reviewed by Takahiro MIYAO

Ministry Aims to Increase Civilian Control of the SDF (10/23/2007)


There is always something lost in translation. A notable example is seen in the article (see the link above) about a possible coverup at the Defense Ministry. It is widely reported that there was a kind of mistake about the amount of fuel provided to US Navy ships in 2003, but the Maritime Staff officers who realized this fact did not inform their bosses of the mistake, resulting in misleading statements by the Prime Minister and the Defense Minister in the Diet. In response to this development, Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba has set up a committee to avoid this kind of mistake in the future by increasing civilian control over the SDF.

In this article, Prime Minister Fukuda at a press conference on this issue is quoted as saying "the officers did an unthinkable raises suspicions about the entire ministry. Suspicions have also raised about my role." However, this English translation of Mr. Fukuda's comment fails to convey the nuance of excuses that his original Japanese statement implied. A better translation may be that "even I could be suspected of playing some role," which means that full blame should be on the officers but not on him.

Shifting blame to lower ranking officers seems to be a tactic that the current administration is adopting more and more often in order to avoid public criticisms against them in handling various key problems, from defense to social security issues. However, the general public seems smart enough to sense a lack of responsibility and leadership in such tactics. That may be a reason why the popularity rate for the Fukuda administration has been slipping sharply in recent weeks.

This review is adopted from the following blog (with its Japanese translation):

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