...before I took off a little time off to go chase after butterflies?
Ah, yes...the plat du jour, the Koizumi-Abe transition.
Freshman Bryan Walsh in the Time office gets off a good shot today--picking up on the issue that has put a hammerlock on the foreign policy apparatus of Japan: the decades of mockery and abuse suffered by the families of the abducted.
The Abe EnigmaIt was a hell of a lucky guess by Abe--not only that this handful of families not only had suffered an identifiable injury at the hands of their own government, working almost in concert with the DPRK (unlike the Socialist Party, which actually did work in concert with the DPRK, leading to the murders of Arimoto Keiko, Ishioka Toru and their infant daughter)--but that Kim Jong-il's government would ultimately confess to the kidnappings.
By BRYAN WALSH TOKYO - Monday, Sep. 11, 2006
It was hard enough for Shigeru Yokota to know that his only daughter Megumi had suddenly disappeared one day in 1977, almost certainly kidnapped off the street like a string of other Japanese by North Korean agents. But to turn for help to his country's officials--the very people responsible for the safety of Japanese citizens like Megumi--and be met with indifference, or worse: that was a special kind of pain. "At the beginning the government was not supportive at all," says the 73-year-old Yokota, sitting in the lobby of his apartment complex in rainy Kawasaki, a city west of Tokyo, posters of Megumi pinned to the walls. "People would just slap the petitions out of our hands." But when the Yokotas met Shinzo Abe, they knew they'd encountered a different kind of politician.
A hell of a bet--as risky as any taken on by the lucky Mr. K. himself. The whole matter could have gone nowhere, with the DPRK denying everything.
To this day I do not know why Kim Jong-il admitted his wrongdoing--unless Tanaka Hitoshi had paid him cash up front.
Oh, some say he had his reasons...about 10 billion of them... which never did seem to pan out for him, somehow...
Anyway, Kim's admission transformed Abe into a crusader in the Koizumi mode--a tribune of the people, fighting the branches of the governing structure that had betrayed them.
In Koizumi's case, the enemy of people was the LDP, the postal system and the construction state--the triumvirate that had sucked the life out of the Japanese economy while wreaking havoc on the nation's environment.
In Abe's case, the traitors were in the mandarinate, particularly the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (to be really particular, the MOFA Bureau of Asian Affairs). They had not only not helped the Yokotas, the Hasuikes, the Arimotos...they had actively disparaged their claims.
Which indicates that the incoming Abe may have a bit of a problem holding on to his steadfast reformist image--not that declaring a 5 year timetable for revising the constitution has done him any good.
(Five years? Is he nuts? Why not get the referendum legislation passed and the draft on the table in the next 9 months? Or does he have another way of setting the Democratic Party's pants on fire?)
Koizumi ran a neverending campaign against the recalcitrant elements in his party while the Cabinet and the bureaucracy ran the country. Somebody kept the business of government going even as the LDP warred with itself. Koizumi had thus the freedom to play the reformer even as actual reforms were progressing through the Diet or through the commissions at a snail's pace.
Abe, by contrast, cannnot make the bureaucracy into his nemesis. He must work hand in glove with the bureaucrats to keep the country going.
He also has little leeway to fool around in the political playground - he will be starting out with a huge mandate from his own party. Not for change, mind you, as was the case with the first election of his predecessor, but for a slowdown or even reversal of recent changes.
Furthermore, the DPJ under Ozawa Ichiro seems intent on pre-emptively adopting every single one of the worst anti-progressive ideas of the "forces of resistance" within the LDP.
Abe is going to be hard-pressed to find a worthy domestic foil, an internal enemy against whom he can array his own policy agenda.
(Note to ponder: why is the DPJ gearing up for run against Koizumism now?)
Abe's brain trust will be of no help at all. His fellow travelers are gearing up for an assault upon their boogeymen--a defeatist, masochistic, individualism-worshipping education system and radical, unpatriotic, leftist academics.
Yep those academics--killers every one. It is such a fine line between reading Gramsci and firing bullets out of the Asama Mountain chalet.
Don't those damn academics know--socialism is for propping up local economies of LDP-controlled rural districts and for sunset industries, not for building a culturally neutral intellectual framework for skeptical, rational thought as guard against an unfortunate national predeliction toward authoritarianism (I know I am committing a thought crime here, but is there any other way of explaining those damn graphs?)
Like their homologues in the United States and the Vatican, Japan's new nationalists are declaring war upon the 1960s--thirty years after the fact.
Janis, Jerry, Jimi, Jim, John the XXIIIrd and Ienaga Saburo have shuffled off this mortal coil. When will these folks get over it? Many of them are scarcely older than I am--so what the hell do they remember of the Sixties anyway?
Never and nothing.