Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Pullback Announcement

Well, that was very dignified.

Solemn was the prime minister (why the puffy eyes on a Tuesday?) as he made the announcement--without prepared text or notes. The press was peculiarly well-behaved...either that or the five years of Koizumi's premiership have led to the atrophying of their ability to ask impertinent questions.

Interesting was the use of the word tesshū (撤収)rather than tettai (撤退) to describe the withdrawal.  The newspapers had all been assuring us the Self Defense Forces would tettai from Muthannah. According to the Prime Minister they will tesshū .

Does it make a difference? 

Kojien and Kodansha's Nihongo Daijiten do not seem to think so, offering one as the synonym for the other. Gakken's Kanwa Daijiten does not even list tesshū among its offerings.

The Kojien and the Kanwa Daijiten do seem to hint, however, that tettai is more severe than tesshū -- that in the case of tettai, the army does not just pull back, it erases the traces of its stay.

If tesshū means merely to withdraw [or as the Nihongo Daijiten puts it: 2) guntai nado o hikiageru koto], leaving the question of what the Jieitai has left behind open, then the Prime Minister has to be given credit for pulling yet another rabbit out of a hat.

Admit it, you're going to miss him when he's gone.

Later - A reader (intials withheld) provides a specialist's view of the PM's word choice...

...(撤収) tesshū means to withdraw, but in an administrative sense, as in move outta one place to another unspecified. So, troops on an admin or training mission would tesshū . An instructive example; you also tesshū suru tents, as in English 'strike tents', you pull down the tent, pack it up, and it may go back in the box for another season. But it's not shooting at you.

(撤退) tettai means to withdraw in the tactical sense, under duress, while engaged in active combat and contact with an enemy. As in 'Runaway to fight another day' or 'Hell, no, we're just attacking in another direction!' or regrouping, or whatever. But it is a combat term, not administrative. So no Japanese military man would use tettai for this sort of administrative movement (nor would the Pentagon, I bet, the troops will be 'moved' or 'redeployed'.)

So, this usage is perfectly correct in this sense. They're not engaged in tactical combat, there's no enemy pressing, the usage makes perfect sense.

So that's that--the Jieitai is going to tesshū.

Now we shall see whether or not the yūkan headline writers managed to input the vocabulary change in time.

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