Thursday, November 06, 2008

Update on the Tamogami Affair; Plus, a Few Thought on the Evolving Relationship between Politics and the Bureaucracy

Read my translation of an Asahi online report:
With regard to the affair where 60 year old Toshio Tamogami, previous Chief of Staff, Air Self-Defense Force, retired as of November 3 having reached mandatory retirement age, had been replaced as Chief of Staff for having published an essay justifying Japanese aggression and other matters, the Ministry of Defense revealed on November 6 that 78 members of the ASDF had entered the same contest that Mr. Tamogami had entered. The total number of entries was 235, meaning that approximately one-third came from ASDF members.

According to the MOD, which made the report to a DPJ meeting of its foreign affairs and defense sections, last May, when solicitation began for the essay contest “True Outlook for Modern and Contemporary History” sponsored by the APA Group, which manages a hotel chain and other businesses, the Education Division in the Air Staff Office [under the Chief of Staff’s command] encouraged all its forces stationed in Japan to enter it. As a result, besides Mr. Tamogami, whose essay won the top prize, 78 sent in their entries after filing reports to their superiors [which Mr. Tamogami failed to do, as required by regulations]. None of them won prizes.

According to a MOD investigation as of November 5, there were no entries from the other Self-Defense Forces or the Internal Bureau [内局; collective term for the civilian bureaucracy]. Of the 78 who entered the contest from the ASDF, 62 belonged to the Sixth Wing (Komatsu, Ishikawa Prefecture), where Mr. Tomogami had previously served as commander. Of the 78, none were generals, 10 were field officers, 64 were company officers, and four were NCOs.
It is reassuring to know that the whole affair does not appear to have institutional roots and instead stems from the mindset of Mr. Tamogami, who spread the message through his past and present subordinates. I do not see these men (and women?) being punished for their acts, since they followed the proper procedures, and Mr. Tamogami, however alarming the political import of his acts may be, does not appear to have earned administrative sanctions beyond the demotion (which put him immediately under the mandatory retirement age) and the resultant retirement.

The politics of the issue are another matter, of course, and the opposition insists that it will go after the administration in the ongoing extraordinary Diet session with charges of mismanagement and hopefully worse. According to this Sankei report, the LDP intends to hit back at the DPJ with its own revelation that Yukio Hatoyama, the long-suffering deputy to party chief Ichiro Ozawa, attended a wine party at the APA Group chairman’s home, where the featured attraction appears to have been Mr. Tomogami himself, who talked about the Chinese threat and the current state of the Self-Defense Force among other things. Mr. Hatoyama has responded, saying that he and his wife left the meeting early because he was uncomfortable with the tone of the discussions and the atmosphere of the meeting. I’m not sure that the LDP really wants to go there; it’s hard to believe that the LDP does not have similar, possibly tighter connections to the nexus between Mr. Tamogami and his unofficial sponsor. Still, this is not the only instance where the bipartisan nature of the national security establishment and its sphere of influence has led to revelations, some more embarrassing than others, for the DPJ.

Incidentally, readers used to American political parties, Congressmen (and –women), and Congressional hearings may have felt a little disoriented at the spectacle of government officials reporting to an opposition party policy board instead of the relevant parliamentary committees and subcommittees, where investigations could properly be launched. Under the 1955 political regime, near-perpetual LDP rule led to the systemic involvement of the bureaucracy in its policymaking and monitoring process. In other words, the bureaucracy reported to the respective LDP Diet committees—not to mention other, unofficial powers, particularly “tribe” members—in parallel to procedures within its own internal hierarchies, as well as the proceedings of the Diet committees within their respective jurisdictions. It is not too much of a simplification to say that this extra-parliamentary process was as important as the Diet committee proceedings themselves. The attention that opposition parties received was more informal and in any case dwarfed by the systemic relationship between the bureaucracy and the LDP. This situation changed dramatically in 1993, when the LDP was forced into the opposition by a coalition cobbled together by LDP-renegade Ichiro Ozawa and others. Although the LDP quickly regained power, things have never been the same again. The opposition has come to command far greater attention, particularly with the growth of the DPJ and the ruling coalition’s loss of a majority in the Upper House. However, the LDP appears still to be comfortable with its own, pre-existing arrangement. Moreover, the research staffs in the Diet and the political parties, likely due to financial constraints, have not sufficiently grown to match this tectonic shift in the political landscape. All this adds up to the spectacle of MOD bureaucrats being summoned directly to a closed hearing in a DPJ investigation.


Anonymous said...

Jun, I've been enjoying your coverage of the Tamogami essay incident. I'm curious if you've seen the piece I wrote on it the other day ( and if it may contain any details you hadn't noticed.

Jun Okumura said...

Hmm, Roy, have you ever considered becoming an investigative journalist? And to think, it's all publicly available information.

So I guess my question is: Will the Aso administration throw Shinzo Abe under the bus to take down Yukio Hatoyama?

No need for an answer to that one.

Anonymous said...

More than just publicly accessible- Google accessible! I imagine that given some time and a small research budget a lot more could be uncovered...

I'm actually right now trying to do the historian graduate school path, but you know, journalism might be a pretty fun thing to try. If you know anyone who could perhaps introduce an assignment to me I would seriously be interested in speaking to them.

Jun Okumura said...

You should talk to some of your journalist friends. If you want me to ask around as well, drop me an email. In the meantime, I've got an idea for a book deal:

My Year as a Gaijin Host in Kabukicho

You can't afford to take a year off? How youth is fleeting. *sigh*