Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Around My “Crazy Talk” Comments on the Abe Decision to Put the Kohno Statement on Hold

It’s been days since I received some comments on this post; here are my answers.

From sigma 1:
“Will the "academic" process be a real one with apolitical figures involved, or will it be one like his collective self-defense committee in Abe 1.0 which while "academic" was clearly going to tell Abe what he wanted to hear due to personnel selection.”

I see two meaningful repercussions from the collective self-defense issue: it 1) Komeito is not pleased, 2) China sees its preconception of Japan as US sock-puppet confirmed. The first point is the more serious one because the LDP needs to keep Komeito in the tent to win in July and stay afloat long-term. However, Komeito’s ultimate pain threshold in this matter should be pretty high since it would have no one else to turn to here. The Communists, Social Democrats, and possibly the Ozawa folks? A coalition of the willing, maybe, but unable, for sure. The long-standing administrative interpretation of Article 9 will be used by opponents, but will the outcry reach beyond the Asahi-Mainichi crowd, particularly as tension ratchets up in the East China Sea. Which brings us to the China question. I believe that it’s useful to reinforce a security alliance when there’s a neighbor under an authoritarian regime that has a very different take on important national security questions, in this case overeignty issues and North Korea. (I can also argue the point in the other direction, but someone will have to promise that they’ll print an op-ed before I interview both my thumbs.) More important, I believe that the kind of people who are inclined to vote for the LDP/Japan Restoration Party/Your Party think that way too. Even more important, I believe that Abe believes too, in which case he would see that bringing across-the-board opponents of collective defense to the commission serves no purpose. Instead, he would want the kind of people who can talk meaningfully about the options available.

I see very different repercussions from the comfort women issue. Repudiating it—even revising it—at this point would bring down the wrath of the entire Western world on Abe’s head. He does not need that. He needs to build a credible picture of the case from the ground up that supports a credible alternative to the South Korean narrative that has built up around the testimony of the South Korean women who came forward (and with which it is not entirely consistent). It is only then that what can be said over and beyond the Kohno Statement. And it certainly will not be something to the effect that “they were highly-paid professionals earning more than the Japanese generals.” What Abe actually believes is unknowable and is beside the point. What I’ve seen of him so far leads me to believe that he is at least aware that a whitewash job will only serve to set his case back. For that, he needs people who have the credibility to bring together and examine the available evidence—contemporary and current testimonies, historical documents and artifacts, and the economic, social, and cultural backdrop—and come to a defensible conclusion, or conclusions, before he can begin to determine the next step forward. Right now, most people with any degree of interest in the matter are wedded to one of two extreme narratives. Abe cannot move forward until he breaks these spells, and I think that he realizes it. Of course, he could turn out to be as dense as his detractors like to think, and I may be overcompensating because I underestimated him before. But I don’t think so.

From Brian B:
“Could you give a link to your past conjecture on the comfort women issue?

From Fernando:
“Given all his talk about the economy, the last thing Abe wants is South Korean boycotts of Japanese goods as a trade off for pleasing the narrow segment of the Japanese population (in my understanding) that resents the Statement.”

The Kohno Statement is probably not a hot button issue for most Japanese, but it is as much a matter of “pleasing” himself as your “narrow segment”. And I for one don’t resent it but do see the need to revisit it because it has not served its purpose and was both incomplete and flawed to begin with. That aside, I would say that a Korean boycott that went mutual would be as damaging, if not more so, the South Korean economy. The relative size and composition of the traded goods and services and the legal constraints on government actions in a liberal democracy mean that South Korea has far less leverage over Japan than China does.

“It was Yohei Kono, not Taro, by the way.”

Yeah, you’re right. I did that with the Fukudas too. My excuse? Seen one turkey,…Yeah, you’re right. I did that with the Fukudas too. My excuse? Seen one turkey,…

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