Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Ask Not For Whom It Tolls

I had sworn to myself I would not write again about L'Affaire Tamamoto.

However, I will break my promise to myself.

At the time of Komori Yasuhisa's attacks on Tamamoto Masaru's character and person and the "suspension" of the JIIA's nascent online essay series "Commentary," apologists excused Ambassador Satō Yukio's caving in to pressure on the grounds that the essays Tamamoto was publishing "were just not very good."

That Tamamoto's effective dismissal (he was madogiwaed) and the effective cancellation of "Commentary" came as the result of his poor judgment over the quality of the essays, not due to his progressive politics.

I would submit, ladies and gentlemen of the Jury, for your review, a pair of recent essays from the now properly vetted and reviewed "AJISS Commentary" as evidence:

- Simpleminded or Farsighted? - The US' handling of North Korea

- Japan's Role in a New Paradigm Shift

I am sure you will agree that whatever reasons JIIA may claim compels it to disseminate these two essays, the "quality" of the argument presented is not one of them.

The alarmists were right: the 2006 dispute was very much about politics...and about how close we were to come to witnessing the rise of a very ugly Japan.


Bell of the Jimmu-ji
Zushi City, Kanagawa Prefecture
July 6, 2008


Anonymous said...

I concur.

Aceface said...

And I don't.

To me this is about non-issue turned into an issue by foreign coverage.And I'd say there were more character assasination on Komiri's side as I see anything that's been written in English on this matter.

"Thought Police" rising in Japan? Manipulating a 60 year old right wing to set fire on Kato Kouichi's house?

I'm sorry.Komori is one of many conservatives here in Japan,not an evil black wizard like a lot of people want to portray.

And if he is a conservative writing his opinion on rightist paper only consumed among the rightist,why is that a problem?
I thought that is totally legitimate thing in this country.
Besides,his argument on Tamamoto was that JIIA is not an independent think-tank like Brookings or even CSIS but a branch of Ministry of Foreign Affairs,and writing an essay to open public that contradicts government policy may affect negatively on the side of Japanese government.And he wasn't wrong about that.

Komori had once accused Saito Kunihiko being chosen to be the ambassador to Washington for not able to speak English fluently way back in 1995.
I thought that was rather an ad hominem attack at that time,however,Komori's concern was materialized when the ambassador shpwed up on PBS News Hour with Jim Lehrer.
Personally I thought English ability was not the "mistake" that Saito had made in the program,but showing up in the debate with someone like Iris Chang certainly was.

It revealed that we are in a situation like taking one position and not agreeing another would be represented as "an apologist"by critcs of Japan and that becomes the conventional wisdom automatically.

Under such circumstances,the best thing MoFa can do is not to take such risk.And for that basically I agree with Komori in his accusation on Tamamoto.

And as of "very ugly Japan".
Well,according to Alex Kerr,Japan is already pretty ugly.
But I say the problem is more on the side of people who try to make a career by making Japan looks more uglier than it actually is.

I mean,why would this Tamamoto VS Komori issue become such a scandal when you can always pick up an Asahi Shimbun with full of opinion like Tamamoto's?

Anonymous said...

Agreed that issue has been blown out of proportion, but the original JIIA apology ensured that.
One correction - what JIIA produces now is like what you get in the Asahi Shimbun.
What Tamamoto has to say is much more sophisticated.
He just mistook a "thinktank" for a thinktank.

Aceface said...

"but the original JIIA apology ensured that."

I can't find where it was,but Sato Yukio was quoted in one of the essay that I read about a decade ago(probably of Funabashi Youichi),that the influence of citiznes of Asian descent will have more influence to public opinion of Japan's key partners in the Asia-Pacific region incuding the U.S,Canada and Australia.

I'd imagine that he was also very frustrated the way ambassador Saito has been treated by American media after PBS appearance.Saito was known as a liberal in MoFA,but that just wasn't the perception that Chang and her folowers had spread in English and on internet.

So,I can understand his motivation of why putting Tamamoto to the task perfectly.

Ironically,Komori also has been concerened about the deep gap between Japan the way he sees it and the way outside world has seen it.
You can read his anxiety in 国際報道の現場から/中公新書(1984)co-authored with Sankei reporter Kondo Koichi.(Kondo and Komori,who was a Mainichi reporter at the time, were pals from the days they've covered the fall of Saigon in 1974.And shared frustlation of perception gap between Tokyo when they were covering Vietnam war)

Maybe in the parallel universe,these three men could work together or at least have more constructive discussion.
But in recent years,Komori is getting a bit obsessed with the vision of eroding U.S-Japan relationship.(and with some good reasons)Naturally he is in under-siege mentality.Either you are with him or against him in his world.

And then this JIIA article pops out.

Neither Sato nor Tamamoto were PR specialist who master the art of spin.They were either too naive or too straight shooter and I believe that's the way Komori had seen them.Dangerously amateurish.
And Sato/Tamamoto's plan for JIIA,what ever that was,destined to be a failure in Komori's view.

But this is just my baseless thought on the matter.

Anyway,I believe JIIA response to the incident is a typical bureaucratic face-saving cover up from A to Z.
Nothing more,nothing less.

Anonymous said...

It tolls for thee.
You are much missed.


D. said...

I second that, you are missed. Hope everything is OK.