Sunday, April 05, 2009

The Newsweek Leaves Japan, Leaving Behind… Chronicles (1)

Here is my first installment of what I promised yesterday. You will see when I am finished with it all that if the narrative in the Newsweek report (annotated version here) makes sense, it is only by way of accident. Janne has already demonstrated with his powers of logic (and a deadly dose of sarcasm) that the narrative itself is nearly devoid of meaning.

“Who said Japanese politics are boring? There's an electoral earthquake looming this fall, when the ruling Liberal Democratic Party looks set to be turfed out for the first time (with one brief exception) since the Eisenhower administration. Waiting to take over is the Democratic Party of Japan, led by Ichiro Ozawa, a legendary political scrapper known as "the Destroyer." Ozawa promises nothing less than to turn Japan into a true two-party democracy, revolutionize its government and send most U.S. troops packing*. Boring? Hardly.”

* It depends on the definition of “most”, but they are already getting ready to leave Japan, if only the DPJ will let them. But who wants to know?
Are “most” of the U.S. Forces getting ready to leave Japan? Actually, this turns out to be my weakest argument. I should have checked the numbers, because I was seriously off the mark. The Marines in Okinawa, most of whom are slated to relocate to Guam, comprise less than half (about 43%, actually) of the U.S. military personnel stationed in Japan. Their departure may be delayed somewhat though, because the DPJ is not satisfied with the golden handshake that the Japanese government has agreed to give the US—the bilateral agreement is currently up for ratification in the Diet if I remember correctly—and intends to revisit the matter after it takes power.

With that out of the way, let’s go to Ozawa’s intentions. If you go and actually read his initial statement, you will find that it was closer to an observation than a statement of policy intent on the case in point and that the real takeaway was his reaffirmation of his insistence on equal footing and dialogue. But the media did draw the logical conclusion that the U.S. Air force personnel, who comprise about 40% of the total, would have to leave if Japan became a port of call for the 7th fleet and little more. Everyone in the DPJ speaking out on the matter including Ozawa almost immediately disassociated themselves from this extrapolation, and that has been that; this is a matter of fact, not opinion. The writer either missed this—ignorance, or knew it but chose to ignore it in order to jazz up the story—deceit. Now I’m actually sure that Ozawa does want “most” of the U.S. troops to leave Japan. But then, so, I assume, do most Japanese. Few people want foreign troops on their soil if they can help it. This requires one of two things though: a) Japan foots the total bill for its national defense; or b) the Koreas, China and Russia do not, will not, pose any threats to Japan’s national security. I suspect that deep in his heart, Ozawa does want to do a), but that’s just a guess. Compared to his oft-stated desire to “turn Japan into a true two-party democracy [and] revolutionize its government”, it is at best a pipe dream, as the Ozawa/DPJ rapid backpedaling demonstrated.

* Incidentally, we saw this same phenomenon regarding Ozawa’s initial statement regarding a supposed proposal to ban all corporate money from political financing. I admit that I was initially taken in by the media’s exaggerations on that occasion.

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