Friday, December 21, 2007

Why I Know that the DPJ Is Not Serious about the War on Terror

You can be for it, or against it, but what if you ignore it completely? Can you still claim the public’s mandate?

Foreign policy and self-defense was the DPJ’s next-to-last item in its policy manifest. There’s nothing wrong with that, except it has 21 lines on Iraq but absolutely nothing on the War on Terror or Afghanistan itself, when it knew that the counterterrorism bill would be up for renewal.

Public mandate, or slavishly tracking the public polls? I report, you decide.


ampontan said...

Nothing wrong with self-defense being the next-to-last item on the party platform?

Self-defense should be the paramount objective of a sovereign nation. Nothing else exists without it.

It's a contradiction, isn't it? The DPJ wants to distance Japan from the US relationship, but "gnawing on the calf" of the US for self-defense allows Japan to spend its money elsewhere. And allows politicians the leeway to come up with ideas for spending it elsewhere.

This contradiction will never be resolved absent constitutional reform, but some politicians would rather have their cake and eat it, too.

After the DPJ's upper house victory this summer, their first choice of an issue to confront the LDP (the refueling bill) was unconscionable from several perspectives.

Janne Morén said...

"War on terror" is a misnomer, and has been from the beginning. You wage war against an enemy (radical islamism) not a tactic (terror). The misattribution is dangerous; it obscures the real situation and misleads one into the wrong solutions.

And Japan and Europe are no stranger to terror; it's had an occasional prescence for many, many years, at least the late 1800's for Europe, and with the 1970's as the previous resurgence of the tactic. In those earlier occurrences, the counterstrategy that worked was treating it as a police matter, not a military one. Terrorists as criminals, not soldiers. Treating it differently now may well be a very grave mistake.

Ampotan: defence is a function of a country. One of several - along with policing and judiciary; health care and social insurance; disaster preparation; commons-based communication and infrastructure - and not necessarily the most important either. Defence - like disaster management - is an insurance policy against some mostly low-frequency and big risk events, and like any insurance policy it needs to be of a form and scope that balances the risk and the cost in an appropriate manner. It is that, and nothing more.

Jun Okumura said...


As Janne says, self-defense is a means, not an objective, of the sovereign state, and external relations for a variety of reasons are a low priority issue for the Japanese public. There is nothing inherently wrong with the fact that the DPJ policy manifest reflects that. Having said that, I believe that your comments on that matter are principled and perfectly consistent with your world view as expressed through your blog, and I have great respect for that.

I happen to believe that, everything considered, the DPJ’s position is harmful to the national interest. Although this defense of the ruling coalition’s position may be somewhat narrower than yours, I assume that we have reached the same conclusion as the result. Now I also recognize that reasonable people can hold a completely different position on the issue. But everybody, including supporters of the DPJ position, should recognize that the DPJ has no claim to the public mandate on this particular issue, and that the manifest is a little-recognized but glaring proof of the fact. I think that I would have pointed that out even if I had agreed with the DPJ position.


I have consistently believed so since 11 September 2001 (I had a job in Manhattan then -time flies) that much, though not all, of the effort that goes into the “war on terror” is policing action. Note that in Japanese, the word “戦い” is used, not “戦争”. Translated back, the phrase becomes “fight against terror,” for what it’s worth. And yes, “terror” is a tactic, or means. The consequences of these conceptual flaws are evident in America’s treatment of the ”Are they or aren’t they?” detainees at Guantanamo, to give an example.

Ampontan, Janne:

Thank you for helping me to think. I hope that my post, and my blog in its entirety, works for you too.

Anonymous said...


Bill said...

To Jun: Thanks for thinking.

To Janne: Given that up to 600,000 Iraqi civilians have died since "Mission Accomplished," 3,000,000 have fled the country, and millions are without drinking water, sewage or electricity, I will go you one better and call a spade a spade, i.e., it is a "War OF Terror." This does not assign blame and avoids parroting U.S. government Orwellian locutions-- even in quotation marks-- altogether.

To All: The self-defense debate, especially in Japan and especially regarding "terrorism," is usually framed in military terms. The emphasis is almost always on technology. But technology will never adequately address the problem, which is political and has to do overwhelmingly with ideology. Essentially, it is about how people think, i.e., "us" vs. "them," a concept cherished by the Japanese themselves, but evident to a greater or lesser everywhere. Whether the politicians--Japanese or American--are simply ignorant or willfully ignorant, no one can say. But very few seem able to recognize that self-defense, in the final analysis and especially in the case of "terrorism," must be about education, alliances, showing goodwill, understanding, and various forms of aid. There are untold numbers of essentially nonaggressive but ideologically supportive people for every one suicide bomber, just as there are legions of apathetic citizens for every benighted politician.

Jun Okumura said...


Thank you for your comments. I now realize that I should have been more careful in repeating the term “War on Terror” in this post. The phrase was nothing more than a metaphor, as in “war on drugs” and “war on poverty”, but the Bush administration used the conceptual confusion to pursue a flawed agenda using flawed means, and the world is living with the consequences. Having said that, I do believe that the U.S. and its allies who have supported the war against Afghanistan and the subsequent policing action there and are undertaking other efforts to contain and roll back terrorism elsewhere have no choice but to try and finish what they have started. I understand your frustration, but some things cannot be changed, and the Bush administration is part of that reality.

As for Japanese concerns over terrorism, I offer comments on a broader level. I hope that we are well aware that national security is more than, if not quite mostly other than, “self-defense”. Mr. Fukuda’s actions toward South Korea speak eloquently in this respect.

Bill said...

Not meaning to beat a dead horse, state that Bush, et al, used the "conceptual confusion" over the "war on terror" metaphor, as if that buzzword cropped up anonymously and by chance, and the Bush admin. simply picked up on it and used it for its own purposes. But nothing could be further from the truth. Like the "War on Drugs," which isn't really a war on drugs at all, it's no accident that the War on Terror is called that. Like "axis of evil," "surge," and dozens of other expressions that go fundamentally unexamined in the media, the "war on terror" is pure propaganda. It's all about manufacturing consent. Recognizing that essentially everything that officialy comes out of the mouth of the Bush admin. (or a Fukuda admin., for that matter) is calculated to serve a political purpose is where insightful political commentary begins, not ends.

In the same vein, you talk about war in Afghanistan as part of a "policing" action and other efforts to "contain" and "roll back" terrorism. You sound more like Donald Rumsfeld than a gadfly here. Try analyzing a little deeper. This is from one of Ted Rall's columns: "Most of the presidential candidates, the media and therefore the American people, think Iraq was a distraction from the war we should be fighting in Afghanistan." But it can be argued that "the war against Afghanistan is less justifiable, and even less winnable. No country was more responsible than Pakistan for 9/11. Pakistan hosted Al Qaeda's headquarters in Kashmir. Most of its training camps were in Kashmir and Pakistan's Tribal Areas--not Afghanistan. On July 22, 2004, The Guardian reported that General Mahmoud Ahmed, chief of the ISI under Musharraf, had sent $100,000 to Mohammed Atta, the lead 9/11 hijacker. The Wall Street Journal confirmed that Pakistani intelligence had financed 9/11, but the 9/11 Commission decided not to investigate our "strategic ally in the war on terrorism."

So, in short, you seem to be on the right track in a lot of ways, but I find your analysis in this case shallow. And by the way, my "frustration" has nothing to do with it, thank you. This is all about critical thought.

Jun Okumura said...

More like dry-humping the wrong leg, Bill. But I'll let it pass, since I know that it is your entirely understandable rage that forces you to lash out every which way when you see buzzwords like "Bush" and "War on Terror". Besides, it's that time of year when we are supposed to have nice thoughts. So,have as happy holidays as you can manage. Seriously.