Saturday, September 30, 2006

Latest Installment of the Tales from The Cryptic

Americana Marginalia

(What the Bush Administration Did for Americans)
(Anderson Cooper Uses Cable TV as an Education Tool)
( Louisville Paper Gets Disc With 232 Photos of Nude National Guard Women)
("The Daily Show" Host Jumps on the I-Report Bandwagon. (September 28))

The link is here, if you're interested.



Friday, September 29, 2006

Abe, Aso Get off to a Fine Start with Our Neighbors. But Then, So Did Koizumi

Foreign Minster Aso told the Japanese media on the 27th that he wants a Japan-China heads-of-state meeting as early as next month, even before the more likely occasion of the November APEC summit in Vietnam. He also indicated that a similarly timed meeting with the South Korean president for Mr. Abe could be possible. The following day, Mr. Abe talked to President Roh on the phone, calling for the construction of a "future-oriented Japan-ROK relationship" and an early meeting of the two. Mr. Roh reportedly also expressed his desire to meet his Japanese counterpart soon.

So far so good, putting to rest for the moment fears that the appointment of a hawkish prime minister and the retention of a like-minded political heavyweight in the Foreign Minister's seat would be bad news for Japan's relations with its neighbors. However, it is important to remember that Junichiro Koizumi’s relations with his counterparts got off to a strikingly similar "future-oriented" start, only to founder when Mr. Koizumi insisted on going to the Yasukuni Shrine over strenuous objections from Beijing and Seoul.

Some believe that China will settle for a return to a purported deal with then Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone that each Japanese prime minister can go once, but only once. This has the ring of absurdity; why would China okay the Japanese prime minister's paying respects to the Class-A war criminals once, but not twice, or more? The answer is that it is an imposed condition. For the Chinese leadership, it reestablishes a measure of the historical control over the "barbarians of the East" and, more important, saves and enhances face for the Chinese leadership.

But, leaving aside Japanese denials that there was such a deal in the first place, the submissive nature of this deal, and the openness of the demand renders it void for Mr. Abe. The only thing that seems to work, therefore, is one form or another of strategic uncertainty. Mr. Abe either goes or doesn't go. But it's a unilateral decision, and each side adopts, again unilaterally, a "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

Will such a tacit reciprocity be acceptable to the current South Korean administration? I'm somewhat doubtful. President Roh has asked for more than the Chinese leadership, and his political incentives can work in the opposite direction, because he might want to ride on the back of inflamed popular sentiment, rather than seeking to curtail it. But he may not have a choice if China wants it, and the US insists.





こうした暗黙の相互主義が今の韓国政権に受け入れ化のうでしょうか。私には、それはさかいさ疑問です。盧大統領は、中国指導部以上に多くのことを日本から要求しています。また、彼の政治的動機が原因となって、逆方向に効いてくることがあります。つまり、彼は、民衆の怒りを前に、これをよりは駆り立ててその先頭に立つことを 望んでいるようすです。しかし、もし中国がそれを望み、米国もそれを強調し続けている場合、盧大統領にとって選択肢がなくなっているかもしれません。

Mr. Yosano (and Mr. Machimura as well?) Get the Chance to Raise Our Taxes

It appears that Kaoru Yosano is not going to be completely left out in the cold after all. All news reports say he has been tapped to chair the LDP Research Commission on the Tax System. Nobutaka Machimura, according to at least one report, is reassuming his old post as his deputy there.

The Commission is not as powerful as it used to be when the colorful Yamanaka Teisoku lorded over the annual revision of the tax code, and in the process could make or break every major policy initiative, MOF and non-MOF. But it's still quite a powerful perch on which to wait and see if Prime Minister Abe falters and the powers-that-be come looking for an alternative.

From a policy perspective, just as important is the fact that Mr. Yosano (and Mr. Machimura as well, if the report of his return is to be believed) will be perfectly positioned to push his agenda of raising the consumption tax to pay for rising public pension and health costs.

This opportunity can be a mixed blessing. Raising taxes is never a popular cause, as the LDP's losses in the 1989 Upper House and 1990 Lower House elections after the introduction of the consumption tax demonstrate. (And look where speaking up on raising the consumption tax got Sadakazu Tanigaki.)

But that was then. Most people today are resigned to the prospects that the consumption tax will go up, and recognize that the social welfare system will run out of money. Thus, if the LDP loses badly in the 2007 Upper House elections and feels the need for a grand coalition to rule effectively, Mr. Yosano will have the perfect issue on which to renew his acquaintances with another old warhorse, Ichiro Ozawa.






Thursday, September 28, 2006

Odds and Ends of the Abe Administration 2

Of the 22 senior vice ministers, two were appointed from the Upper House and the rest from the Lower House. The two Upper House members are in their second (six-year) term, and all but one of the Lower House senior vice ministers are survivors of four elections. Twenty are LDP members and the remaining two come from Komeito. This finely calibrated attention to political customs and mores (the Tanigaki faction, shut out from the cabinet, managed to gain just ne senior vice minister's post) contrasts with the Koizumi adminstration, where former ministers could be recruited to serve in sensitive posts. Back to business as usual in this respect.

The big surprise here is the one exception to the rule, the first-term Lower House member who vhas been exalted to one of the two, high-profile Ministry of Foreign Affairs vice minister posts. Even more astonishing is the fact that both MOFA vice ministers belong to the Kono faction, which the only Koizumi holdover MOFA minister Aso has just taken over as chairman. Mr. Aso is definitely getting the red carpet treatment. In a cabinet that is short on heavyweights, Mr. Aso stands out starkly as first among equals.

I can find little of interest at the more junior parliamentary secretary level. Two of the three Komeito secretaries are Soka University graduates. (One of the three Komeito senior vice ministers went to a Soka U. graduate school.) It looks like Soka University is establishing itself as the breeding grounds for the Komeito leadership. Thus, the sun rose from the east.


驚くべきことがあるとすれば、とりわけ目立つポストである外務副大臣2名の一方に一期目の新人衆議院議員が抜擢されたことでしょう。しかも、もっと驚くべきことに、両外務副大臣が、ただ一人小泉内閣から留任した麻生外務大臣が会長になったばかりの河野派から選ばれたのです。麻生氏は、明らかに特別待遇を受けています。麻生氏は、これといった重鎮に乏しい内閣にあって、first among equals、一頭地を抜く存在です。


Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Odds and Ends around the Birth of the Abe Administration

When the dust settled, a couple of heavyweights that had been widely touted for prominent posts were conspicuously missing from the rolls, Kaoru Yosano and Nobutaka Machimura. Of the two, Mr. Yosano is the more interesting case, since he was at one point the slight media favorite for Mr. Abe's Cabinet Chief. Yomiuri reports in You-Are-There detail that Hidenao Nakagawa, the Mori faction enforcer, was unable to work out a deal with Prime Minister Koizumi, who objected, saying, "Yosano-san leans towards Bureaucrats. Can politicians take the leadership with him as cabinet chief?"

This story is odd to say the least. It casts Mr. Abe in a decidedly unfavorable light as a Mori-faction puppet (messieurs Koizumi and Nakagawa both belong to the Mori faction), letting the big boys make the decision that sets the tone for his whole administrative style. Moreover, Mr. Yosano is a confirmed dove and has been loosely associated with the Tanigaki-MOF school of consumption-tax-raising fiscal prudence. It would have been surprising if Mr. Abe had allowed him to sit on top of the friends-of-Abe cadre that he has gathered around the kantei, i.e. prime minister's residence. In fact, Yosano's rejection looks exactly like the decision that Mr. Abe himself would make on his own.

Then what to make of this tidbit? Perhaps Mr. Koizumi thought he was doing one last favor as prime minister to Mr. Abe by setting a media pick on this one. More likely, the media found the smoke around the kantei (Mr. Abe surely made sure that he consulted all the powers that be, and Mr. Koizumi must have made his views known; running roughshod is not his style), and decided to call it a fire. Mr. Yosano's one weakness is that he does not have his own power base. He lets the opportunities come to him by dint of his policy skills and agreeable personality. Thus, once Mr. Abe decided he did not want him on board, that was it.

I think this call was Mr. Abe's.

I have no idea why the Mr. Machimura was left out in the cold. The telegenic Mr. Machimura seems to be, in his own low-key yet eloquent way, close to Mr. Abe on foreign and security policy, as well as education. Perhaps it is part of what a Japan analyst (if you are reading this, which I'm beginning to doubt, remember, I'd be perfectly happy to cite you by name) whom I very much respect thinks is Mr. Abe’s decision not to put his potential rivals in the tent like Mr. Koizumi, where he could keep his eyes on them, instead opting to leave them out of the limelight.

One other unexpected development is the ascendance of Koji Omi to the Finance Minister's post. True, MOF has been eviscerated when they ripped out the Financial Services Agency, and the general budget, as well as the shadow investment budget (Fiscal Investment and Lending Program), is not what they used to be. Still, it must be a welcome, if unexpected climax to a maverick bureaucrat-turned politician. More broadly, this looks like a manifestation of the science-and-technology-oriented, micro, pro-growth policies that Mr. Abe appears to favor.







Monday, September 25, 2006

Gerry Curtis Believes the Yasukuni Must Be Depoliticized; I Agree

I was late to this symposium on Yasukuni, but just in time to hear Gerry Curtis hold forth on “The Impact of Yasukuni on Japanese Foreign Policy”. My takeaway from Gerry’s talk, in brief, was the following:

1. Although Prime Minister Koizumi portrays his visits to the Yasukuni Shrine as a private and domestic matter, the politicized nature of Yasukuni make it impossible to sustain that claim in the eyes of the international community.

2. The Yasukuni controversy hurts Japan diplomatically because it has enabled China, arising military power, to portray Japan, whose military expenditure has been going down for several years, as a resurgent militarist nation in the mold of its pre-war incarnation. The Yasukuni hurts US-Japan relations because the Japan-China rift makes it difficult to achieve the twin policy objectives of a strong US-Japan alliance and a good relationship with China.

3. The problem with Yasukuni will not be resolved by moving out the spirits of the Class-A war criminals. The real problem is that Yasukuni is politicized, both by Yushukan and within the Shrine itself. A separate, secular memorial will not solve the problem either, because the families of the deceased will continue to insist that the Shrine is where the spirits rest

4. The only short-run solution is for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, as well as the Cabinet Chief, to stay away from Yasukuni; In the meantime, the Shrine should be depoliticized as the long-run solution.

I have suggested that there is likely to be a tacit “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy agreement between the Chinese authorities and Mr. Abe, and a primitive version of this notion can be seen here , but I have also argued that Yasukuni should be depoliticized. Thus, I second Gerry’s solution, which goes one step further, wholeheartedly. I do think Mr. Abe is a pragmatic and strategic thinker, who will be able to keep a healthy distance from his natural inclinations to take one step beyond the strategic ambiguity that I see in the works. Whether he actually does so remains to be seen. (I also believe Mr. Abe will have to compromise his views on the history issue if he harbors any hope of gaining the supermajorities in both Diet Houses, which are necessary to launch the referendum for a constitutional amendment.

Podcasts of the symposium should be available in the near future. Keep an eye on the Temple website.


1. 小泉首相は、自分の靖国神社訪問を私的かつ国内的問題であると主張しているが、靖国自体が政治化されているために、そのような主張は、国際社会に通用しない。
2. 靖国問題は、軍事大国化しつつある中国が、軍事予算がここ数年低下してきている日本が戦前のように軍国主義化しようとしているというイメージを植え付けることを可能にすることによって、日本の外交にマイナスになっている。
3. 靖国の問題点は、A級戦犯の霊を分祉することによっては解決できない。真の問題は、遊就館及び靖国自身によって靖国が政治化されていることころになる。別の非宗教的な追悼施設を設けるというのは、肝心の遺族が靖国に彼等の魂が宿っていると信じている以上、これまた、解決にならない。
4. 短期的な解決策は唯一、安倍総理、そして外務大臣及び官房長官が靖国に行かないことである。その間、長期的な解決策として、靖国が非政治化されるべきである。

私は、米軍の同性愛者に関する「聞かない、言わない」政策と同じような暗黙の政策的了解があるのではないかということを主張したことがあります。ここにその初歩的な考え方が背景にあります。しかし、靖国を非政治化すべきだという主張 もしています。従って、これをさらにもう十歩進めるかのごときカーチス教授の主張にも心から賛成します。私は、安倍氏が現実的かつ戦略的思考の持ち主であって、自分の自然な思想的傾向がしからしむるところから十分な距離をとって私がそうなると思っている「戦略的曖昧さ」からもう一歩踏み出すことができる人だと思っています。だが、実際にそうするかは、見てみないとわかりません。(なお、安倍氏は、憲法改正に必要な特別多数を衆参両院で確保しようというのであれば、自分の歴史観を矯める必要があるでしょう。)


Friday, September 22, 2006

Why Prime Minister Koizumi Chose Shinzo Abe as His Successor

One of the abiding mysteries of the Koizumi era has been, why Abe? Why did Koizumi insist on pushing Mr. Abe as his successor? It's moot now, but I'm still curious.

At first glance, Mr. Koizumi and Mr. Abe are an odd couple, one an often-rumpled bachelor with an unruly mop top whose most effective public communication tool is a gruff burst of well-timed sound bites. the other an always impeccably dressed and groomed husband who tirelessly delivers wonkishly detailed answers with an unfailing politeness.

The politically correct answer is probably that Mr. Abe was most inclined to continue Koizumi's legacy as a reformer than the other putative pretenders. However, Mr. Koizumi did not have much of a chance to know that when Mr. Abe appointed him as deputy cabinet chief. Moreover, Mr. Abe has not been at the forefront of Mr. Koizumi’s boldest initiatives. Instead, it has been Mr. Takenaka, the Koizumi surrogate on the domestic front, who has taken all the heat. When it came to the politically all-important privatization of the postal system, the most Mr. Abe would be willing to do was to be dragged along with the rest of the crowd. True, Mr. Abe seems to be an instinctive champion of small government. But, as the political consensus shifts toward amending "the excesses" of the Koizumi reform, the gap between even Sadakazu Tanigaki and Mr. Abe seem small, more a matter of sequencing than anything else. Put it this way: Would Mr. Tanigaki have taken pains to create a distinction between the Koizumi legacy and himself (or the media play up such differences as there are, which amounts to the same thing) if Mr. Tamigaki had been the heir apparent?

The Japan-US alliance and the overseas projection of the Self-Defense Force, albeit within a strictly internationalist context, are the heart and soul of Mr. Koizumi’s foreign and security policy, a policy stance shared by Mr. Abe. And Mr. Koizumi has been more than willing to push the rewriting of the Constitution to further this end, an agenda likewise shared by Mr. Abe. But these views are shared by most of the LDP. And Mr. Abe's to-do list for constitutional amendment is much longer and more comprehensive than Mr. Koizumi's. It encompasses a resurrection of what he views as the traditional value of the Japanese nation. And it is here that there is a fundamental divide between the two. But And the rather cavalier treatment Mr. Koizumi gave to the solution to what was then a looming Imperial succession crisis reinforces my conviction that there s a considerable distance between the ways they regard our national heritage. This divide is apparent in their relationship to the Yasukuni Shrine.

Mr. Koizumi and Mr. Abe have both made a point of visiting the Yasukuni Shrine to honor the dead. But the similarities in their respective versions of nationalism end there. Mr. Abe's Yasukuni is the place where those who made the ultimate sacrifice to the modern nation state are exalted. It is not for us to judge whether the objectives of that particular nation state were any worse than those of others who played the Great Game. Mr. Koizumi has a sharply contrasting view of the war. For him, it was just plain wrong, and the Class-A War Criminals are responsible. (So far, this dovetails with this entry.) But, as with so many Japanese who lost friends, relatives, family, the presence of those war criminals does not really bother him. This is where the souls of my people rest, and those guys are all dead anyway. Death and time dissipate Japanese resentments with facility. In this respect, Mr. Koizumi is arguably closer to Mr. Fukuda than Mr. Abe. Some doubt the sincerity of Mr. Koizumi's convictions, but the tears are genuine. At worst, he is displaying the natural politician’s gift of believing what he preaches. In essence, Yasukuni divides, not unite, Mr. Koizumi and Mr. Abe.

A veteran journalist who has covered the kantei=prime-minister beat for a long time once told me that, for Mr. Koizumi, it was anyone but Fukuda. And no, it had nothing to do with Yasuo Fukuda's decidedly dovish views. The story was that after losing his first election, Mr. Koizumi went to Takeo Fukuda, his faction head and father of Yasuo, to serve his political apprenticeship, and never forgot the humiliation at being regarded as a glorified political intern. (The Postal Office electoral machine threw its support to Koizumi's opponent in that first election, a factor many see as having contributed to his persistence in breaking up the state monopoly-conglomerate and another in several examples of his sense of grievance.) The younger Mr. Fukuda, in contrast, was given the royal treatment as the heir-apparent. This explanation dovetails neatly with Mr. Koizumi's his last post-electoral landslide victory makeover, when Mr. Fukuda was the only one of the four likelひょy candidates to be left out in the cold. But this explanation conveniently ignores the fact that Mr. Fukuda served as Mr. Koizumi’s high profile Chief of Cabinet, and would have remained so if he had not resigned to take the heat off the Koizumi regime for the national pension non-payment scandal that swept both the LDP and JDP leaderships. That initial appointment would have been a strange way to avenge his humiliation, real or imagined.

So if it is not policy or outlook that unite the two, what is it then?

Maybe the reason is nothing more than the fact that Mr. Abe became by far the most popular candidate. For a politician, winning is everything. And if anything, Mr. Koizumi is a consummate politician, whose ability to read the political winds to place bets that win, and win big, is unsurpassed. Mr. Koizumi saw Mr. Abe rise to the top despite his youth and meager track record, and sensed his staying power. And it turns out he won again.

Perhaps there is a little bit of truth in all the answers. But the political bandwagon theory is the most convincing one to me.

(There is another intriguing suggestion made to me by a veteran Japan hand that "putting Abe forward was [Koizumi'] s last strike at the LDP, inevitably pushing toward the LDP's demise." Indeed, the youthful Mr. Abe's ascendance has likely doomed the factions as pseudo-families for political capos competing to be the Don, as well as putting to rest to any remaining ambitions on the part of the old guard. I would be happy to give him credit by name, if he actually visits this blog and says so.)






あるベテランジャーナリストで長年官邸番を張ってきた人が、あるとき私に言いました、小泉さんにとって、福田でなければ誰でもよかったのだ、と。そう、そしてこれは福田康夫自身の、明らかにハト派的な考え方が理由なのではない。要するに、小泉氏は、初めての国会選挙に敗れた後、福田康夫の父親であり派閥の長である赳夫氏の下で政治家修行を行なうことになったが、そこで見習い扱いを受けたことの屈辱的思いを決して忘れることがなかった。(小泉氏の初選挙で、郵便局の選挙組織は、別の自民党候補を応援した。このことが、小泉氏が郵政という国家独占複合企業体の解体に執着する結果となったのであり、それはまた、小泉氏の遺恨の一例であるという考え方を多くの人々がとっている。) これとは対照的に、康夫氏は、父親の後継者として下にも置かれない丁寧な扱いを受けていた、というのです。この説明は、確かに、参院選大勝利後の最後の内閣改造で、四人の総裁候補と目されている人々の中で、福田氏だけが要職に就かなかったことと平仄が合っています。しかし、この説明は、福田氏が小泉内閣の官房長官として任命されて人目を引いており、しかも、もし、自民、民主両党を覆った、国民年金掛金未払スキャンダルで小泉政権にこれ以上累が及ばないことを確保するために辞任していなければ、その後も職にとどまっていたであろうことを無視しています。





Wednesday, September 20, 2006

A Cabinet Minister in Charge of the Abductees Issue Could Come Back to Haunt Shinzo Abe

The LDP presidential race, aka tryout for quarterback understudy, has been somewhat singularly lacking in drama. Thus, the media pounced on Shinzo Abe’s indication on TV that he would consider nominating a cabinet member to deal with the abductees issue. (See this Asahi report, this from Nikkei, if you are a subscriber, and this from Yomiuri, if you can read Japanese. Kyoko Nakayama, a relatively obscure government official who rose to national prominence as the mother figure for the abductees and their families is being touted as the leading candidate for the cabinet post.

I can see why Mr. Abe would want to do this, and, in the near-term, there is little downside to the idea. But, though it may be difficult to back off now and take the political hit, the decision could very likely come back to haunt him and even damage him domestically. Here’s why.

First of all, let me stress that I believe that this is not a political ploy by Mr. Abe to earn some political capital with his core supporters and the public in general.

Yes, the Japanese public has been genuinely frustrated at the subversive activities of North Korea and its unwillingness or inability to cooperate to bring satisfactory closure to the fate of the abductees. And yes, this is the single most important issue that has led Mr. Abe to the prime minister’s chair. However, if the rewards were disproportionately large, he did his best to earn them. He championed the cause long before it became popular. Thus, he is clearly at odds with many members of the elite who wish in private that the issues would take a backseat to what they see as more pressing national concerns, beginning with North Korea’s nuclear program, and would be very reluctant to agree with much of the rest that, again, privately seek at a minimum better balance among our foreign and security policy priorities. In fact, he sees this government failure to protect its citizen in the face of an assault on Japanese sovereignty as a fundamental blow to the nation state that must be made good to preserve the social contract. Thus, this is in line with his past actions and deep-rooted convictions.

Having said that, the cabinet post raises expectations that Mr. Abe will be hard put to meet. North Korea has likely given about as much as they can, short of actually compromising their security apparatus altogether. Indeed, even some members of the supporting organization have voiced the opinion that only regime change could definitively resolve the issue [requests help in locating the newspaper, likely Yomiuri, report where I read this]. If this is true, then they have a long wait coming, since North Korea’s main benefactors, China and South Korea, have little interest in regime change, at least for the foreseeable future. Thus, frustration will surely mount. It does not seem to be a good idea to give a policy priority with such a low chance of success such a high profile on your A-Team.

Somewhat more likely than regime change in the foreseeable future, if only slightly more so, would be some kind of meaningful progress that helps resolve the current impasse on the WMD question. (The reverse is more likely in the long-run; after all, Kim Jong-Il "needs" the nuclear weapons and missile programs, while a truly new regime would not.) But that would pose a particularly difficult question for someone whose popular support rests on a hard-line vis-à-vis North Korea, which specifically turns on the abductees issue. Does Mr. Abe have enough political capital to do a turnaround, even when so much of that political capital owes its very existence to the singular issue?

Laboring to keep the abductees issue on the negotiating table has been difficult enough for the Japanese government. Most recently, the UN resolution authorizing sanctions on North Korea gave at best tacit recognition to the abductees issue. In the event of a breakthrough on WMDs and missiles, or even progress that merits a substantial response for this side of the standoff, Mr. Abe would then have to make the unpalatable choice between abandoning the coalition to be fatally marginalized in global geopolitics (unacceptable) and abandoning the abductees’ families and their supporters to their despair (unforgivable). At that point, the cabinet minister will morph from a focal point of discontent to that of anger, and will likely choose to resign, thus magnifying the crisis over Mr. Abe’s leadership credentials.






見通しが利く来の範囲内で、わずかとはいえまだしもより可能性があるのが、大量破壊兵器問題に関する現在のこう着状態を打開するのに手助けとなるような事態が生じることです。(長期的には、むしろ逆の可能性の方が高くなります。というのも、金正日は核兵器・ミサイルプログラムを「必要」としていますが、真に新しい政権は、それを必要としなくなるからです。) しかし、それは、北朝鮮に対する強硬姿勢、とりわけ拉致被害者問題に関するそれに国民の支持が懸かっている安倍氏にとって、とりわけ難しい問題となるでしょう。彼の政治資本の甚だ多くがこの特異な課題に起因にしているところへ持ってきてこれに費やせるだけの政治資本を彼が持ち合わせているでしょうか。


The Imperial Army Officers Also Have Their Two Sides to the War Narrative

(Too busy today to do a translation. Please remind me.)

I am talking to a former officer in the Imperial Army. Actually, he was only a cadet, and he had not expected to be an officer until he would strap a land mine to his body and fling himself under an enemy tank, thus earning a double promotion.

Under the old Japanese school system, the lucky few went to high schools, which covered what are now the senior high school year and the freshman and sophomore college years. This virtually guaranteed that you would be accepted at one of the seven imperial universities, Todai being foremost among them. The top graduates of the imperial universities, Todai in particular, would serve in the imperial civil service. The former cadet went to Todai after the war, but things had changed by then, and he went willingly into the private sector. But I am getting ahead of my story.

There was a parallel school system for the Imperial Army and Navy. There was middle school, high school and university for each of the two military services. In normal times, military officers would be drawn exclusively from these ranks. The people who sought military careers tended to come from military families, and the not-so-well-off, who could barely spare a son from going to work as soon as he had finished the five years of compulsory education. You see, the great charm of the military middle school was that you would get room and board, and you paid no tuition. (This class issue had significance that affected the military's reaction to the harsh, interbelli years. But that's another story.)

But when the war escalated, the military needed more officers than the military school system could produce. So the civilian school system was pressed into service. The middle schools and high schools began producing officer candidates, to be pressed into action after a year or so of training.

For able-bodied high school graduates, it was not a matter of choice. You either went to cadet school, or you were conscripted to serve as a common foot soldier, together with all those rice mill workers and carpenter apprentices, who would mercilessly persecute you as a wimpy bookworm who was too good to speak the language of the common man.

Time whad become even more dire in the days of the former cadet; they were graduated after two years, instead of the normal three, when they had conveniently reached twenty, the age of adulthood, when they would be eligible for the draft.

The officer-training program for high school graduates had also been truncated, from the original one year to a breathtaking six months. This was not as reckless as it soundsthough; at least not with regard to the former cadet. For when he was assigned to a Kyushu base after graduation and went into real combat training, he learned that his main role was to wait for the enemy to land in a final assault on the island of Kyushu, when he would strap a land mine … but I told you this already.

He fully expected to die before he could go home and make it into one of the imperial universities. The only cause for optimism was that the enemy might arrive before the land mines arrived. You see, the Japanese military-industrial complex could no longer produce enough land mines to equip its soldiers. He and his cohorts all trained using weighted, wooden replicas. (It was at this point that a slightly older man chimed in with the observation that approximately half the men in the battalion that he had served with in China had to carry wooden replicas in lieu of real rifles because there were not enough weapons to go around. He himself had left college to go to cadet school, then marched around in China for a year before the war ended and was detained for a year in Manchuria before he made it back to Japan.)

The real mines never came, and the Allied Forces only arrived after the surrender. He went to Tokyo to enter Todai, then go to work for a mining company. (The older man also returned to his old university, then went on to work for a trading company.)

Fast forward to the present. The former cadet, having risen through the ranks to become the CEO of his company, has passed through the usual course of chairmanship to special advisor to final retirement or death, whichever comes first.

In the Japanese corporate system, such men in his days were lifers. The corporations were also linked together in the zaibatsus, much praised and feared by American business executives and management professors (who, as ever, wound up fighting the last management war). Thus, the top executives in these zaibatsus would get together every month or so, and have lunch, say, and talk about things of mutual concern. This personal connection would last into the corporate afterlife, and the chairmen (always men) and special advisors of that aibastu would continue to get together regularly, to talk about them old times and drink themselves some sake.

It was on one of these occasions that one particularly forceful ex-CEO, whose name old foreign correspondents would instantly recognize, piped up and claimed that the Great East Asia War was fought to liberate Asia from the West. But another ex-CEO answered, somewhat meekly, that he didn't think so, that he thought it had been a war of invasion. What the former cadet calls a vigorous exchange of views ensued between the two, leaving the rest of the venerable group stunned.

The key to understanding this heated dispute is that the ex-CEO who championed the jihad version had been educated in the military school system to become an officer, only to go back home to the civilian school when the war ended, while the other ex-CEO had gone through the same process as the former cadet. The military school system, the Army's in particular, had indoctrinated its cadre with the dogma that imperial Japan was fighting a holy war, a war of liberation, and the education had taken, to linger on after all these years. The ex-high school and ex-college students who had been virtually conscripted into officer schools never believed in the mantra, or quickly were disillusioned when the war ended. Needless to say, the sympathies of the former cadet were totally with the latter ex-CEO.

The good news is, neither side now believes there is an Asia to liberate anymore. Mr. Abe knows that. Mr. Hu knows that. I wish Mr. Hu could let his people know it, too.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Again, Pope

Richard Roeper, one of my two favorite subscription-free columnists, also takes a dig at the Pope for issuing a non-apoplogy. Mr. Roeper is a Catholic, in case you didn't know.

And here's an article by Karen Armstrong and comments by readers that probably offer every argument under the sun over the relationship of Islam, Christianity and violence. Yes, I have great respect for Dr. Armstrong. Yes, I think she sometimes tries too hard to see the good in people. No, I didn't read 1/10th of the comments. I found the entry by way of Real Clear Politics, a truly useful portal.

The Pope May Or May Not Be Infallible, But He Can Certainly Be a Fool

If the Pope's reference to Islam in his University of Regensburg address had been taken out of context, then it was because the reference itself stuck out like a sore thumb. The Pope's turgid rehash of well-known arguments concerning faith and reason (the good Dr. Jean-Yves Pranchère introduced me to Isaiah Berlin, who provides easily digestible accounts on this issue) was intended almost solely "to raise the question of God through the use of reason, and to do so in the context of the tradition of the Christian faith: this, within the university". There is little to indicate that he wished to use the occasion to initiate an ecumenical debate on the role of reason in religion, as his words that the address was "an invitation to frank and sincere dialogue, with mutual respect" between, specifically, the people of the book, as Muslims call them. Instead, the address makes it clear that the Pope is interested only in the developments within the Christian Church. Thus, the reference to an argument by a Byzantine emperor against Islam on the basis of its "conversion by violence" can be only charitably characterized as gratuitous.

But my greatest disappointment is directed at his statement that "I wish also to add that I am deeply sorry for the reactions in some countries to a few passages of my address……, which were considered offensive to the sensibility of Muslims". The Pope has responded with what has now become the boilerplate, litigation-averse, "I'm sorry if you were offended"non-apology. I had hoped that the Catholic Church learned its lesson from its pederasty pandemic that what might work with the profane does not necessarily work with the sacred.

The rabble-rousing in the Islamic Nation is disturbing, if predictable,. They victimize the vulnerable, doing the Islamic equivalent of kicking nuns. And some of the response from the radical Islamic leadership is pathetic. Still, I expected something better from the Holy See, of all places.

もし、法王がレーゲンスブルグ大学での講演で行なった回教への言及が全体の趣旨を無視して引用されていたとしたら、それは、言及自体が全体の趣旨からまったく遊離していたからです。法王は、よく知られている新興と理性との関係に関する議論(reason (ジャン=イーヴ・プランシェール博士 Jean-Yves Pranchèreが紹介してくれたアイゼイア・バーリンが、この問題についてわかりやすい論文をいくつも書いています)を冗長に反芻したわけですが、それは、ほとんど「理性の活用によって神の問題を提起し、それを、本学において、キリスト教の信仰という範囲の中において行なう」ことに終始しました。「相互に尊重しあいながら率直かつ真摯な対話を呼びかける」という釈明文のセリフが示唆するようにこの機会を彼が利用して宗教における理性の役割について汎宗教的な議論を巻き起こそうというような意図を感じさせるものは、ほとんどありません。演説は、むしろ、法王がキリスト教会の中での事態の展開にのみ関心を持っていることを明らかにしています。従って、東ローマ帝国の皇帝が回教に対して行なった「暴力による改宗」の非難への言及は、よく言って余計なお世話です。


イスラム世界における大衆煽動は、予想されたこととは言え、心穏やかに見守っているわけにはいきません。それは、弱者に八つ当たりするものであり、いわゆるkicking nunsのイスラム版です。そして、イスラム過激派のリーダー達から聞こえてくる反応には、惨めとしか言いようのないものもあります。しかし、よりにもよってカトリック教会の長からは、もう少しましなことを期待したのですが。

Sunday, September 17, 2006

It’s All about Abe on “Sunday Project”

The three LDP presidential candidates appeared together on the cantankerous septuagenarian Soichiro Tawara’s Sunday Project. Taro Aso and Teiichi Tanigaki seemed to understand that for them the whole election process was an audition as Shinzo Abe’s understudy. (Though in the September Chuo-Koron Mr. Aso flashed his resentment over what he seemed to have seen as Mr. Abe’s attempt to muscle in and take more than his share of the credit for Japan’s diplomatic success in bringing North Korea under UN sanctions.) Neither seemed to mind that Mr. Tawara spent most of the time on the history question, repeatedly calling on Mr. Abe to give his views on the Pacific/Greater East Asia War, establish a government committee to settle the question once and for all, and announce his acceptance/rejection of the 1995 Murayama speech that has so far been the definitive official apology, as referenced by subsequent prime ministers, including Junichiro Koizumi.

Despite Mr. Tawara’s dogged persistence, Mr. Abe refused to rise to the bait. But he did show some aspects of his thinking and character that should be reassuring to those want a steady hand on the tiller.

First, he showed his usual unfailing politeness and even temper, backed by a persistence that matches the indomitable Mr. Tawara, that surely has won him more admirers, both among his ideological fellow travelers and those less inclined to tack to starboard. Second, he tended to display a wonkish tendency, common to many politicians of his generation, attention to detail in answering Mr. Tawara’s questions. Third, although his dissatisfaction with the Murayama speech was discernable, he displayed his pragmatic streak by stating to the effect that he recognized the official status of the speech and the political assumptions that it created in Asian nations and would abide by its spirit. The Chinese authorities will surely be reading the translated transcript with relief. In this respect, the Chinese will be pleased to know that Mr. Abe was firm on the point that China is not a threat and that he did not see China engaging in military aggression against its neighbors.

On the other hand, Mr. Abe did not show the presence of mind to come up with a comment that would have cut off the tiresome, repetitive exchange and freed the debate for the other issues of his interest, i.e. education and social reform. At times, he would let slip comments such as that the US had supported Japan’s annexation of Korea. There is a measure of truth to that, and Mr. Abe does recognize that what was a run-of-the-mill imperialist act no worse or better than those of the other Great Powers was also an invasive act for the victim, such comments can easily be construed as a justification of the act.

But this last point calls to mind a possible cause of problems for the Japan-US relationship. Although Mr. Abe is clearly to the right of the Japanese mean on the war issue, there is an emerging consensus in Japan that does make the distinction between the war of the world and the war in Asia. Mr. Aso’s statement was the most explicit, but even the dovish Mr. Tanigaki recognizes the dual nature of the conflict. Thus, the US and European conflation of Auschwitz and Pearl Harbor/Nanking will increasingly trouble the Japanese psyche.

More specifically, there is a fairly widely held sentiment in Japan that the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki has racialist overtones. More broadly, resentment over the indiscriminate bombing of civilian targets and other US wartime acts, as well as Russian atrocities, remains under the surface, ready to bubble over if bumbling US politicians continue to chime in and ignite a full-scale debate.

(Sidebar on the Cryptic.)

自民党の総裁候補三名が、あの頑固じいさん田原総一郎の「サンデープロジェクト」にそろって登場しました。麻生太郎、谷垣禎一の両氏は、今回の選挙が自分達にとって安倍晋三氏の代役としてのオーディションでしかないことを理解しているようでした。(もっとも、「中央公論」9月号の麻生外相の論稿からは、対北朝鮮制裁のための国連安保理決議という外交上の成果に関して安倍官房長官がとった行動を余計な割り込みであり実際以上の手柄の横取りであると感じてそれに対する反感を持っているという印象を受けたが。)お二人とも、田原氏が時間の大部分を歴史問題に費やして、安倍氏に対して、繰り返し、太平洋/大東亜戦争に関する自らの意見を述べるよう、戦争責任問題に決着を付けるために政府が委員会を設けるよう、そして、1995年のいわゆる「村山談話」 -- それはこれまでのところ、小泉首相を含むその後の首相達も引用している、公式謝罪の決定版になっているのだが – を受け入れるのか受け入れないのかを明らかにするよう、迫ったのを気にするふうでもありませんでした。






(Tales from The Crypticに余談が載っています。)

Friday, September 15, 2006

Thursday, September 14, 2006

I Let the Cryptic Do it

Why? Because I say so.

Shisaku Is On the Money with Mr. Koizumi’s “Nationalism”.

"Shisaku" has been doing a lot of "thinking" lately. I think his analysis of Koizumi's "archaic nationalism" is spot on. It's not even nationalism, actually. It resonates, not with that 19th Century construct, but with the same sentiments that has brought generations upon generations of Japanese to tears over the stories of the warlords and samurai who perished in battle, or survived only to realize the futility of it all and become monks, nor the equally sad fate of their womenfolk and children.

Mr. Abe's "new nationalism" is not really "new" at all. Remember that the Yasukuni Shrine is a mid-19th Century institution, created at the dawn of the Japanese nation state. The other half of his "conservative" legacy, the post-WW II Japan-US alliance, is a legacy of the 20th Century battle against totalitarianism, whose end game is being played out in East Asia. His spiritual guide and grandfather Nobusuke Kishi, the supertechnocrat of Japan's Showa war efforts and instrumental figure in placing the Japan-US alliance on a (more or less) equal footing, neatly spans the two.

Somebody called Mr. Abe a traditionalist. True, but the traditions that he upholds have are firmly rooted in the Western geopolitics of the 19th and 20th Centuries, and sidesteps the nightmarish fanaticism that colored much of Japan's Showa-War leadership. He is a modernist, in a very traditional way.

There is an abstract feel to Mr. Abe's patriotism. Perhaps it is just my imagination, an arbitrarily extrapolating from his origins, bred, born and raised in Tokyo. I want to explore this further, when I return to my long-delayed commentary on his book.

ブロッガー"Shisaku" が 最近元気に「思索」 しています。彼の小泉首相の「古ナショナリズム」の分析は、全面的に当たっていると思います。実際、それは、ナショナリズムとすら言えるものではなく、あの19世紀の構築物ではなく、戦場の露と消え、あるいは生き延びてなお世の儚さを知って出家した武将、武士達、さらには等しく哀れな宿命をたどったその女子供達を偲んで幾代となくその物語に涙してきた感情にこそ通底しているのです。

Shisaku氏言うところの安倍氏の"new nationalism"は、実は、「新しい」わけではありません。靖国神社が、19世紀半ば、近代日本の黎明期に創られたことを思い起こしてください。安倍氏の「保守主義」のもう一般のよりどころである日米同盟は、20世紀における全体主義の戦いの遺産であり、その戦いの終盤戦が東アジアで繰り広げられているのです。彼の心の師であり祖父である岸信介は、日本の昭和戦争遂行のスーパーテクノクラートと日米同盟の(それなりの)平等化実現の立役者とを兼ねて、安倍氏のナショナリズムの両面をぴたりとつないでいます。



Tuesday, September 12, 2006

History's Lessons: Could Kim Jong-il Look to China for a Future?

(I had intended to write this article to suggest a better way to live with multiple versions of history. Instead, it morphed into a rough, highly speculative first draft on a possible exit strategy for Kim Jong-il. Hopefully, there will be a forum where this idea can be discussed and, more importantly, develop a framework that ensures it will not come to pass. The Japanese version, as usual, follows.)

Robert Dujarric, a visiting fellow at the Japan Institute for International Affairs and co-author of America's Inadvertent Empire, sent along some recent articles in the South Korean media concerning the history controversy between South Korea and China. For those of you who don't have the time to go through this, this, this, this, this, and this (I think these are all that were available in the English language websites of Donga Il-bo and Chosun Ilbo as of Sept. 11), the essence of the South Korean objection is that Chinese teaching material for college students as well as history books now available to the public claim much of Korean history as their own. The most serious complaint is lodged against the assertion that Koguryo, a powerful kingdom (1-2 BC – AD 668) that once ruled much of the northern Korean Peninsula and parts of Manchuria, was actually a minority ethnic group within the Chinese empire. The Chinese materials give similar short shrift to other, less powerful kingdoms in the region that were eventually merged into the Korean dynasties. The South Koreans see this as China taking parts of Korean history and claiming it for their own. More ominously, many of them see Chinese revanchism, China’s territorial designs, behind this. To these people, Chinese inroads into the North Korean economy are particularly worrisome.

In fact, there is one outlier scenario that South Korea should worry about. Kim Jong-il could decide to merge his hereditary dictatorship with the autonomous Korean prefecture and become the leader of an autonomous republic. If there's anything in international law that says KJL can't do this, I'm not aware of it.

The economic advantages of this arrangement to everybody are obvious. China as it is current configured would be able to fully integrate the North Korean economy into its own. This, in turn, would free South Korea, Japan, the US, and China itself from the interminable payoffs and other drains on their economies that dealing with North Korea requires.

The geopolitics is more complex; here I'll assume that China does the right thing, and promises that it will immediately, completely, verifiably, and irreversibly dismantle North Korea's WMD programs. It also announces an immediate, substantial reduction of North Korean (now Chinese) forces along the South Korean (now simply Korean) border. This is a huge relief for Japan, and, from the US point of view, it eliminates the proliferation issue from the region. And China does not have to worry about North Korean nuclear weapons provoking Japan into following suit. As a kicker, China promise there will be no more contraband and counterfeit money out of the new autonomous republic. That ought to please the Americans and the Japanese.

What does KJI get out of this? Well, KJI has a serious survival issue. The North Korean economy is in a long-term slide in both relative and absolute terms. He is the abusive father who keeps his family fed the way those aggressive panhandlers in Manhattan used to. But he is also by all accounts an intelligent, well-informed leader who is neither foolhardy, nor afraid of taking risks. He understands that he must open up his kingdom to survive economically. Yet he knows that any meaningful openness will be political suicide for him.

KJI has seen what happens to Korean political leaders, once they leave the seat of power. Chun Doo-hwan and Roh Tae-woo, the two military-leader-turned-presidents who eased the way to democratic rule, were convicted of high crimes and humiliated before they were pardoned. Even the venerated Kim Dae-jung has not escaped persecution of his family members. As things stand, the best Kim and his henchmen (the leadership is predominantly male) can hope for in the case of a unified Korean Peninsula is retirement in exile in China. In the unlikely case that some of his father’s aura can be passed on to his sons, that son will be a political leader of an impoverished minority outnumbered 2 to 1. At worst, the fate of Ceauşescu awaits him. Better then, to be the head of an autonomous republic than the disgraced ex-leader of a state that no longer exits.

But doesn't this go against the grain of the fiercely independent Korean ethos? Here’s where history comes in.

True, the new Chinese version of Koguryo history is, under the most charitable of interpretations, a gross simplification of a whole suite of complex relationships that went through many twist and turns before the Koreans pushed the Chinese empire out of the peninsula and a unified Korean kingdom emerged there. However, it is also true that various forms and degrees of Korean subservience persisted over the centuries that only ended in the 1893-94 Japan-China War. There is nothing to lead us to believe that the warlords and kings who accepted Chinese suzerainty were no less patriots than the Korean leader today. But the issue is survival, and we've heard this story before. For KJL, it could well be: Better Red Chinese than dead Korean. Cut a deal while you still have some cards left, rather than let history play itself out and hope for Chinese charity at the end.

There are surely many arguments to be made against such a solution, not least from South Korea's point of view. And I deliberately left the South Koreans out of the geopolitical equation. Of course it could be argued that South Korea would also benefit from the diminished threat from the north. But that is obviously a silly argument that ignores the devastating blow to the people of South Korea. And South Korea does have allies that would stand by its side in the unlikely event of such a threat, doesn't it?

In any case, President Roh seems to be dealing with the very real threat of North Korea drawing ever closer to China by kowtowing to every whim of the reclusive dictator and excusing his every provocation. But given the very real threat to KJI's well being in the case of reunification, it is prudent to make sure that its other neighbors and allies also have a stake in a unified Korea.

(Sidebar: The South Koreans see the Chinese take on North Asian history as a usurpation of their legacy. But why not turn it around and proclaim it as, at worst, a tacit admission that the Korean people threw off the yokes of a Chinese empire dominated by the Han people and established a unified kingdom. I believe that is how the various European nations deal with similar issues, and should find resonance with the allies it needs in coping with Chinese encroachments, real or imagined..)


ロバート・ドゥジャリックは、日本国際問題研究所の海外フェローにしてAmerica's Inadvertent Empireの共著者ですが、最近、韓国のメディアを賑わせている韓中間の歴史問題に関する記事をいくつか送ってくれました。これこれこれこれこれ、そして これをご覧になっていただくだけの時間がない方(それぞれのサイトの日本語ページには、もっと多くの記事が載っています)のためにかいつまんで申し上げますと韓国が異議を申し立ているのは、中国の大学向け教材及び一般向け歴史書が朝鮮の歴史の相当部分を中国の歴史であると主張しているというのです。最も強く異存があるのは、高句麗は、紀元前1―2世紀から668年にかけて存在した強力な王国で、最盛期には朝鮮半島北部の大部分と後の満州の一部を支配したのですが、それが実は帝政中国の一少数民族に過ぎなかったという点です。それ以外にも高句麗ほど強力ではなく、同様に後の統一朝鮮王朝に吸収されていった国々があるのですが、それなについても、中国側の資料はぞんざいな扱いをしています。韓国側は、これを自分達の歴史の一部を中国が獲って我が物にしようとしているというのです。もっと危険なことに、この背後に中国の復古主義、領土的野心があると見る人も少なくないようです。これらの人々にとって、北朝鮮経済に中国が食い込みつつあることは、とりわけ心配なのです。







確かに中国の高句麗史観は、大マケにマケてやっても、せいぜい、広範かつ複雑な諸関係が様々な曲折を経る中でやがて朝鮮人達が半島から帝政中国を追い出した歴史を過度に単純化したもの、と言うのが精一杯でしょう。しかし、様々な形を取りかつ程度の差はあるが、朝鮮側からの従属行為が、日清戦争までずっと続いたことも事実です。その中国の宗主権を認めた将軍や国王達が今の朝鮮半島のリーダー達と比べて特に愛国心で引けを徒弟他と信ずべき理由はありません。だが、大事なのは、生き延びること – 良くある話です。中国の下で生き延びる方が韓国人として死ぬよりいい、と金正日は判断するかもしれません。冷機の流れに身を任せて最後は中国のお情けにすがるよりは、持ち札が残っているうちに取引をしてしまおう。




Monday, September 11, 2006

The Cryptic Lives!

I have a new post on my Tales from The Cryptic blog. The Cryptic is my attempt to fully make use of "my meaner, snider, more speculative instincts". Enjoy.

私のもう一つのブログであるTales from The Cryptic新しい書き込みをしました.。The Crypticは、自分の"my meaner, snider, more speculative instincts"、つまり本来の剣呑、悪意、知的投企といった特性を十分に生かすための試みです。楽しんでください。

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Sri Lanka - The Fractured Jewel

(Extended version of my end of yet another email exchange.
The Japanese follows.)

So you're vacationing in Sri Lanka for a whole month? And doing good deeds on the side? If you were thirty years younger, you would call it a working holiday. Enjoy.

Sri Lanka, by coincidence, is one place with which I have somewhat more than a passing acquaintance. More than any place else, it reminds me of Japan. A large island, its mountainous terrain and monsoon rains remind me of Japan in my childhood with its lush vegetation alternating with heavily cultivated agricultural fields, interspersed by running brooks coming together to empty into the sea. But little things can remind you are not in Japan: a little boy and a huge lizard, side by side, in the mountain pass watching your cars go by in the mountains will be one. The insurgency spanning four decades is another.

Sri Lanka is a place where the womenfolk work outside the home. And hard. Tilling the fields, running the sewing machines, construction workers, presidents and prime ministers: Sri Lanka is a place where the women assume more than normal Third World share of the burden. Then there are the suicide bombers.

The problem with the LTTE question is the same conundrum we find with many standoffs involving powerful insurgencies that use extreme tactics. Because of their extremism, they stand a very good chance of failing to gain the mandate from their own purported constituencies. Thus, they cannot accept a democratic solution; the best they can hope for is a military standoff that gives them a measure of control over their patch of territory.

But it helps to understand the immediate situation if you remember that little if any of this would have come to pass if the Singhalese had not overplayed their hand in attempting to impose their will on a resentful minority. And the political family (and sometimes intra-family) feud that has dominated the Sri Lankan political scene (carried on by the matriarchs) has relegated any unified front that may have produced a consensus behind a package of carrots and sticks that might have bought the rebels around to the stuff of pipe dreams. This is yet another example that reminds me of the importance of individual political leadership. Imagine how things could have been if Sri Lankan had had half the stature and wisdom of a Mandela, or even a Lee Kwang-Yew. And managed to survive the ever-present threat of assassination. One of these days, you might want to do a comparative study of the origins and practical implications of dynasty in South Asia.... and Japan. And America.

The clock cannot be turned back. And with a democratically elected Singhalese-dominated regime on one hand and an ideologically dedicated, diaspora-backed Tamil insurgency on the other, I fear the Sri Lankans (a people, by the way, that my MS Word dictionary does not recognize) are, for the forseeable future, in for more of the same.

Note: Given the teardrop shape and the beautiful landscape of the island, as well as the astonishing variety of the gems that are found there, it is not surprising that others have looked at its tragic modern history and called it a fractured jewel. Google to find out.







だが、時計の針を戻すことはできません。そして、一方に民主的に選出された、シンハラ人が支配する政権があり、他方に強固な信念に裏打ちされ、世界に散らばった同民族に支えられている武装抵抗勢力がある以上、スリランカ人(ちなみに、私が使っているマイクロソフトのWordプログラムは、Sri Lankanという言葉を認識してくれません)は、現状脱出の見通しが立たないのです。


Saturday, September 09, 2006

The Birth of a Future Emperor (reposting from the Cryptic Blog)

The following Q&A is part of an email exchange with IHT's Patrick Smith, which grew out of another email exchange inititated by a mutual friend (acquaintance?). I have lightly edited the answers, written on the night of the birth of the new future heir to the Three Sacred Implements, for grammatical accuracy and parallel construction "intern" for "Lewinsky"). I thought this as good as any for giving my views on matters concerning the Imperial Household as they relate to the event. I’ve also translated my own comments into Japanese, and in doing so have added some words that will enable them to be read as stand alone comments. I'd be happy to give this issue further thought on this blog.

I would like to think my comments were reflected in Mr. Smith's analysis. Unfortunately, the online link ends mid-sentence, at "realit", which is not even a word (sidebar: 206-2007, Winter Semester: "Realit vs.Fakelit: Artifice in Creative Writing" Fall, 2 Credits). I guess I'll have to buy the hard copy to se if I got my name into print.


"Speaking broadly, as a matter of bedrock knowledge, I should be sure I understand just where the imperial family stands for most Japanese—still very important? Less than before? Less solemn, meaning this is more a celebrity magazine sort of event than it might have been before? I have Japanese friend who say they've avoided this whole matter rather the way one might avoid the latest Walt Disney movie."

I think a substantial majority is supportive in the same way American Jews are supportive of Judaism. That is to say, the Imperial Household has different meanings for different people, including their supporters. The celebrity magazine factor has been there since 1958, when we celebrated the wedding of the current Emperor and Empress. It is the celebrity magazines that have changed. (Think: Kennedy/gang moll vs. Clinton/intern.) The Imperial Household figures certainly less prominently in Japanese these days than in 1958; there are more distractions. (Think: CBS/NBC/ABC vs. cable, satellite, and Internet.)

As for Disney movies, no, I don't watch Disney movies anymore, either. But I'm not trying to make a statement out of it. I don't trust people who avoid Disney movies any more than people who pretend to enjoy Raymond Carver. In any case, Disney movies are hugely popular, more popular, say, than the run-on-the-mill indie hit.

「大多数の日本人は、皇室を支持していると思いますが、それは、ちょうどユダヤ系アメリカ人がユダヤ教を支持しているのと同じような具合なのでしょう。つまり、皇室は、人によって色々と違った意味を持っているわけで、それは、支持者達も同じことです。おっしゃるような有名人扱いは、1958年の今上陛下と美智子様のご婚儀の時からずっとあります。有名人を扱っている週刊誌の方が変わったのです。(昔、ケネディ大統領とマフィアの愛人との関係を米国のメディアが見てみぬふりをしたことと、クリントン大統領とインターンとの関係を格好の話題にしたこととを比べていただければ、言わんとするところがわかっていただけると思います。)また、1958年当時と比べて皇室が日本人の関心の中で占める割合は、確かに落ちていますが、これは、他に関心を引くことが多くなっているからです。(また米国の例を挙げれば、 CBS、NBC及びABCがテレビ放送を独占していた当時と、有線も衛星放送も、それにインターネットが加わっている今日との違いのようなものです。)


"Is there a sense of relief in this: At last a piece of joyful news from the imperial household--after 60-odd years of Showa, then the matter of Masako, etc. --finally something to rejoice? Also, there is something forward-looking built into a birth, something untarnished by the past. Is this a factor--a psychological tendency here?"

There have been a lot of things to rejoice over in the Imperial Household, the marriages, the births; all in the Heisei Era, if I remember correctly. But, beyond the obvious joy, there is an obvious sense of relief over this; after all, a lot of people think we’ve been able to avoid a divisive and, for those whose lives could be indelibly altered, distressing debate over the succession till the mid-century. I disagree, of course, as you know from the occasion. Something untarnished by the past? You said it, not me. I have a hard time thinking in terms of symbolism.


"Do you think that, post-Showa, the imperial household is receding in importance. We had Meiji, Taisho, Showa--all rather high-profile. Post-Taisho, has a century of prominence ended and the imperial family is, speaking figuratively, again receding to Kyoto?"

The Taisho Emperor was not high-profile at all. But of course the Imperial Household is receding in importance. So you're making a good point here. If you look at the last 1,000 years, the highly politicized Meiji and Showa Emperors are much more of an exception. It is interesting, personally, that you mention Kyoto. I had always felt the Emperor should return annually, perhaps to take up residence during January-June. I don’t think Kyoto deserves it as much anymore. A roving Imperial Household would also be fine with me. Again, I am thinking literally; not, like you, metaphorically.


"What about Japanese women? What is the significance of this for them? Not long ago, the nation seemed to favor a change on the succession law to allow female succession. Now it seems to be sighing a sigh of relief. Am I right about this?"

Japanese women? The nation? The short answer is, I don’t know Ms. Japanese Women, or Mr./Ms. The Nation. I don’t think it’s life-changing moment for most of them, if that’s your question. Who are these two people? If you happen to meet either one of these people, let me know. I’ll introduce you to the Snark, as well as my friend the Leprechaun. Having said that, of course most people here are relieved that a difficult question has been resolved. But I told you that already.


"I note that just today the government announced that it would shelve the succession law. What is your thought on this?"

If they did, I think it's the right decision, if it really is a decision. (Pretty obvious, isn't it?) But we’ll have to face up to it sooner rather than later. It's not fair to the people concerned. You cannot walk up to a guy selling insurance and tell him the new law says you're the fifth in line for the Emperorship. Only happens in Disney movies.


"Is this some sort of setback for Japanese women in this respect? (My editors far away ask this question.)"

Your editors should be fired. Of course not, it's totally irrelevant. Japanese women have changed, and will continue to change. But the goings-on in the Imperial Household have had little to do with this.


"Can you relate the position of women in Japanese society to this situation? Are the doings of the imperial family any kind of model for behavior in the sociological sense--do Japanese women draw lessons from this?"

No, I don’t think so, and how should I know. I do expect a slight up-tick in the birthrate next year, but it takes two to tango.


"My own thought is that this is a measure of the growing distance between the imperial family and ordinary Japanese--the family being rather in a world of its own. Do you agree?"

Yes, the Imperial Household is in a world of its own. But the borders, if anything, have become more permeable. Think of Princess of Kiko as a working woman (it is a full-time job, in the family business, if you will) who has another child, late in her reproductive life. I don't think it is that atypical for a woman marrying in to a family business here. Ask around. An American, in a similar situation, would, of course, shack up with a younger woman and get a divorce.


"Where are we with Japanese women in the economy and politics? Is the trend not the other way--they are becoming more engaged in work (again) and more evident politically?"

More, yes, but still less so than elsewhere. It is a mystery to me. I do not have a clue.


"What is your sense of how Masako is doing? What about the couple to whom this child is born?"

I don’t know them well enough to make a good guess.


"Is there an aspect of this I have not noted that you think bears mentioning?"

I'm sure they are. But I can't think of any right now, except a few things I can only speculate about. And you're the one being paid to ask questions. Would you pay a fee for question I thought up and you used? I thought so.

Good night, and good luck.



Wading in Deep Waters (reposting from the Cryptic Blog)

Let’s try a thought experiment.

Assume there is a small, though not insignificant, minority of people living in your country. They look, walk, and talk, just like you do. After all, they were born there. The only difference is, after two, three, four generations in Japan, they continue to pledge allegiance to other sovereign states. The relationship with one of these states and yours is especially problematic, to put it mildly. They persistently refuse to take up citizenship in their place of birth and permanent residence, yet many of them demand the right to vote in local elections, and some demand the right to equal treatment in the right to hold public sector jobs. How would you feel? And if that is a difficult question to answer honestly, try imagining how your average fellow citizen would feel?

I do realize that Japan is a difficult society for foreigners. I will accept the claim that some, and possibly much, of the social discrimination that was prevalent when I was a child remains. And yes, I will accept that for a long time it was painful and humiliating to subject oneself to the powerful pressure (now discontinued) from naturalization authorities to officially adopt “Japanese” names. And yes, I am aware that there are many people here who hide behind the Internet cloak of anonymity to spill toxic waste all over Japanese Cyberspace. And no, I will not accept claims that the enormous popularity of their homeland movie stars and TV programs in Japan is proof that discrimination is a dead issue here.

But I wish I could say to the people who did not think my thought experiment worth doing and never got this far in this post: At least here in Japan, there a lot of people actually taking up your cause and siding with you on behalf of your argument. Could someone do the same, back home, whatever that means, in your sovereign state of choice? I for one do not see how a dialogue is possible with people who refuse to ask such questions of themselves.

And yes, I am aware that the fact that so many do not seek Japanese citizenship could be an indictment of Japanese society in itself. So let’s talk. And what did you say your name was?






Son of Gadfly Lives!

SGOTW is back. The Blogger Team has cleared me. But I intend to continue the Cryptic blog as an outlet for items more appropriate for... The Cryptic.

Stay tuned.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Livedoor: The Meaning of Horiemon

(Failed to get life today. Japanese version follows.)

Head of disgraced upstart IT/financial conglomerate Livedoor Takafumi Horie, known as Horiemon in his heydays, once again dominated the headlines today (Sept.4), as he presented himself at the first hearing of his criminal trial over Securities Law violations. He denied all allegations, and we must assume his innocence for now, but the 99% conviction rate on our side of the Pacific does not bode well for Mr. Horie. (His business associates have pleaded guilty and are fingering Mr. Horie as the ringleader, so it’s essentially his word against theirs).

However, the ongoing debate over his guilt or innocence misses the point. For, if there is one undisputable fact in this case, it is that Livedoor in essence issued shares, waited till its stock went up, then sold the shares and claimed the difference as earned profits, instead of counting it towards its capital account. This is fraudulent on the face of it; Livedoor justified extraordinarily high multiple over earnings by racking up extraordinarily high earnings growth. If any of this apparent earnings growth represented the part of the actual share price that in turn represented expectations of earnings, and not the actual earnings themselves, it constituted a kind of double counting, a self-feeding Ponzi game of sorts.

So, Mr. Horie is damned if he is acquitted, and damned if he’s condemned. He is either the fiendish mastermind of a short-sighted ploy to fulfill shareholders expectations, as the prosecution claims, or the absent-minded figurehead that failed to see his stack of cards crumbling under his feet. Good luck to Mr. Horie, I wish him no ill will. But We’ve heard this story before. And if Enron CEO Jeffery Skilling’s misfortune is anything to go by, Mr. Horie has Japanese criminal law to thank that Japan does not hand out cumulative sentences for the accusations that are being levied at him.

Of course, the really important question for the rest of us is, what has this, together with the case against Yoshiaki Murakami, done for equity financing and corporate governance in general? By happenstance, I have a couple of opportunities next week o talk to some people in the investment business. Stay tuned.





The J-Curve: Notes for a Book Review

Second post today. So likely none tomorrow, for anyone keeping score.

The J-Curve, Dr. Ian Bremmer's second book, is going on sale September 6. I have meant to write a book review on it, but the following notes, based on an advance copy, will have to do for now. As some of you know, Ian is a good friend of mine. And I do some work for Eurasia Group. So you have have been forewarned. But it's a great book anyway.


The basic concept of the J-Curve is that closed states (police states and authoritarian regimes) can raise the level of their stability by becoming more closed domestically and internationally, while states based on open governance can do the same by becoming more open, and that the transition from a closed state to an open state is fraught with the dangers of increasing instability. The J-Curve is a visual representation of this concept. Important policy implications flow from this and other subsidiary insights, such as that stability in an open country is self-perpetuating but stabilty in a closed one is brittle. The book gives twelve examples of states with various degrees of openness.

1) Revolutionary ideas, which change the way we think forever, are usually simple in form and easy to take in, if not always easy to fully understand. They often gcome with that "Why didn't I/anybody think of this before?" feeling. By these criteria, The J-Curve is, as the subtitle claims, "a new way to undestand why nations rise and fall".

2) Great ideas, of course, usually are not generated spontaneously. Thus, many people will no doubt claim this and that part of the thinking in this book as their own, or that it s not truly original at all (unless they like you or fear you so much that they just cant't bring theirselves to carp). They miss the point that a new idea is valuable precisely beause it brings together a large number of facts and thoughts and offers a unified whole.

3) The book is also well-written. The examples are all convincingly laid out in a crisp, no-nonsense style. (The sentences are mercifully short and punchy.)

4) Having said all that, this is a book for the general public. So perhaps Ian should be forgiven for not giving us a precise prescription including dosage for each and every example of left-of-the-curve regimes in the book. As well as for including in his J-Curve graph grids that raise false hopes that the J-Curve is a quantitive theory. In fact, Ian in his day job has developed a quantitive framework to analyze political rsk and has parlayed it into a multimillion-dollar advisory business. Perhaps at the end of the day each case, every situation is unique and it's ultimately a judgment call by policymakers. Nevertheless, it would be interesting to know how the J-Curve and the Eurasia Group methodology complement each other.

5) SoI guess my question to Ian is, how long do we have to wait for the next book?

Postscript: Will the term J-Curve catch on, like "Soft Power"? It's short and catchy. But there are other J-Curves, and you have to italicize the "J" to make it fit the diagram in the book. So the jury will be out for a while.

We (and I Mean Japan) Should Worry More about Africa (Even If You Don’t Care)

(The Japanese version will have to wait. I need a life.)

We should care about Africa. And when I say “we”, I mean Japan. And “we” mean, usually, Sub-Sahara Africa. And that is how I will be using the word Africa in the rest of this post.

Africa registers infrequently on the Japanese psyche beyond that of dedicated NGOs and individuals. This is not surprising; Africa has never been our bailiwick. The modern history of Africa has been the history of its relations with its colonial masters Europe and, to a lesser extent, the United States. Thus, it is only in fairly recent years that our attention has turned to the region, as our traditional ODA recipients in Asia have taken off economically, and some of them have turned into donor nations in their own right. Our bid to join the UN Security Council lends an urgency to this shift, if still less than substantial, given the 47 General Assembly votes that are at stake.

The centerpiece of our diplomatic efforts has been The International Conference on African Development, held every five years since 1993. Japan has brought in the UN and other international bodies as cosponsors, and activities continue to maintain momentum during the intervening years. Still, such efforts rarely break out onto the national scene, and remain for the most part in the ambit of the dedicated, or obligated.

But there are good, selfish reasons to be more concerned about Africa. Africa is an important source of several rare earths and metals, crucial to the IT and other high-end products that we rely on to maintain our central place in the global economy. And demand for these precious inputs will only continue to grow. As production of oil and natural gas goes, Africa is trails the Middle East (this includes the Maghreb, geographically, but for the purposes of this post not, part of Africa), the former Soviet Union and South America. But they are serious players. More significantly in the short run, these are uncertain times for the oil market. Given the tightness of the global oil market and the restrictive and destabilizing factors that are like to prevail there over the foreseeable future, even hiccups in Nigeria or even a producer as minor as, say, Sudan could have repercussions that jolt the market and embolden producers to take measures that further alter the uneasy equilibrium.

And here are a couple of specific, non-oil issues that will play out in the coming years:

South Africa: South Africa has so far managed a uniquely successful transition away from some of the worst excesses of colonialism, i.e. Apartheid. South Africa is a working democracy where rule of law prevails. Its thriving economy draws in millions of people from its less fortunate neighbors. It dominates the continent in a way that more populous, yet far less diversified/sophisticated Nigeria cannot. Yet it carries several time bombs that could yet derail its progress, as has happened in so many of its neighbors; rampant unemployment, particularly among the young and Black, the persistence of the economic divide between the races, and the 1-2 million or more guest workers, immigrants and refugees stretching its social and economic capacities, to name the most obvious. This is an environment where divisive issues such as land distribution could precipitate a slide back down the J-Curve into the self-perpetuating cycle of instability that we have seen in so many African nations. And of course, there is AIDS.

AIDS: With the HIV-positive population reaching into the 20-40% range in key, predominantly non-Muslim nations, including South Africa, the world may have stumbled onto a macabre, most unwelcome way out of that population explosion that has been the root cause of environmental damage, disease, poverty, communitarian strife, genocide, and other ills that have wracked post-WW II Africa. Needless to say, the “solution” comes with its own baggage as it devastates the productive, child-rearing populations of whole communities, nations.

A few years back, there were serious suggestions that some of Africa should go back to the drawing board as sovereign nations, but that talk has seemingly died down. But the problems remain. I am not sure how TICAD and other things some of us are doing out there really help the situation. But it’s time the rest of us began worrying, if not to care.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Americans Called Them Pigs, We Called Them Dogs. Now Listen to What They Have to Say

In a previous post, I talked about the inter-governmental cooperation that goes on between the Northeast Asia authorities, and how I hoped that it would help maintain regional peace and order in the face of destabilizing incidents. I came across an interesting example of how far such professional curtsey can go in a book I found. But some liberal readers of this blog will find it disturbing. Here’s why:

Mr. Atsukyuki Sassa is a leading figure in the national security establishment in Japan. A former member of the elite national police bureaucracy, he finished his bureacratic career as the first Director-General of the Cabinet Office of National Security. He has been writing a series of memoirs that cover his illustrious and tumultuous career, but it is his latest installment Gotoda Masaharu to Juninin no Souritachi (Masahauru Gotoda and the Twelve Prime Ministers), published in June, that caught my attention. (The book is not about the prime ministers themselves, nor even really about the late, great Gotoda, but about the author’s exploits during the respective administrations.)

The opening chapter, subtitled a Tale of Two Cities, chronicles, first, the central role Mr. Sassa played in providing technical assistance from him and other members of the Japanese national security establishment to Taiwan. The Japanese paramilitary police had honed techniques to control mass demonstrations without using deadly force. The assistance enabled Taipei to successfully establish democratic rule through the tumult of the late 1980s without incurring human casualties.

More astonishingly, Mr. Sassa recounts the advice he personally gave to Chinese authorities to pacify the 1989 Tienanmen Square dissidents without serious incident. Beijing failed to follow through on his recommendations and ended up with hundreds killed on the Tienanmen grounds. And he recounts with particular relish how he angrily called in, dressed down, and severed ties with the resident general in the Chinese Embassy in Tokyo. (It is, of course, hard to reequip and retrain your police force on the fly. Mr. Sassa seemed to have recognized this; all was soon forgiven, as the general, if anything, stepped up his regular visits to Mr. Sassa. Mr. Sassa, in turn, after he retired, accepted China’s invitation to a grand tour of Beijing, complete with an audience with its highest national security authorities. He would be vindicated in later years as he saw Chinese authorities use the equipment and tactics that he had advocated to dispel demonstrators with a minimum of serious incidents.

I’m sure many of you will feel appalled that Mr. Sassa expresses no regrets for having helped an authoritarian regime control its dissidents. Indeed, he seems only dimly aware of the political import such revelations may have. For Mr. Sassa, what matters is the maintenance of order, of stability. And that, to him, must be the universal value that binds, or, rather, should bind, national security officials worldwide.

This, of course, leaves decisions on the greater good in the hands of higher authorities. Granted, this does not always happen according to plan. Among democracies, Turkey and Thailand come to mind as nations where, historically, the military has been poised to step in the interests of the greater polity. Indeed, proponents of this engagement are numerous; you quickly find yourself stumbling into an international rogues’ gallery, culminating in Asia in the kleptocratic military cabal in Burma and the cultish military-No. 1-ism of North Korea.

But the last two examples also serve to focus our attention on Mr. Sassa’s other important point. His pont is that an effective paramilitary keeps the military out of the action. Indeed, it is the use of the military in Tienanmen that he had so dearly wanted to prevent. And it could be argued that had the Tienanmen incident been settled in a peaceable manner, as Mr. Sassa believes it could have been had his recommendations been adopted, the dissident movement might have fared very differently in the aftermath, and democracy taken a different route in China.

The Chinese desperately want stability. We can make the road to a more open China, domestically and abroad, easier to traverse by helping them find ways to maintain stability and order.








しかし、最後の二つの悪例は、佐々氏が言わんとしているもう一つの重要な点に我々の注意を引き付けます。つまり、有効な機動警察部隊が、軍の介入を予防するという点です。実際、佐々氏が、天安門でなんとしても止めたかったのは、軍の介入だったのです。そしてまた、もしも安門事件が無事に収めることができていれば --- 佐々氏は、自分の主張が取り上げられていればそうなっていただろうと信じています --- その後の政府反対運動の運命も大きく異なっており、中国の民主化もまた違った道をたどっていたかもしれないのです。