Saturday, September 08, 2012

From Out Of The Mailbag

"Rather than writing a hatchet job based largely on snark about grammar, why don't you spend a little more time laying out what you think is wrong with the argument? Surely that would be more illuminating?"
Thus was I challenged the other day by an anonymous commentator as regards my dismissal of Dr. Jeffrey Hornung's essay for The Diplomat, "South Korea’s Irresponsible Diplomacy With Japan."

The commenter is absolutely right. I had indulged my aggravation with the misuse of language (a sin from which Seth Garrett has pointed out, I am not immune), metronomic recitation of facts and strained metaphors. Under this veneer of faults lay a more fundamental flaw: the thesis that those in power in Japan have made brave and insufficiently appreciated efforts at reconciliation and reflection in regards to the country's expansionist imperial period. That these efforts have been insufficiently appreciated because they have been insufficiently brave does require illuminating, especially since Dr. Hornung's essay is part of what seems a concerted push by elements of CSIS and the CSIS Pacific Forum across the spectrum of online media:

"South Korea’s Irresponsible Diplomacy With Japan"
Dr. Jeffrey Hornung
Associate Professor at the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies in Honolulu and an Adjunct Fellow with the Office of the Japan Chair at CSIS.

"War memories and territorial disputes in Northeast Asia"
Preeti Nalwa
Non-Resident Kelly Fellow at the Pacific Forum CSIS, a Japan Foundation Doctoral Fellow and PhD candidate at the Department of East Asian Studies, University of Delhi.

"Korea-Japan: enough is enough!"
Ralph Cossa
President of the Pacific Forum CSIS of Honolulu, an affiliate of CSIS in Washington.

Cossa's essay contains certain annoying items that do not exist, such as Japan's king and its National Assembly (it is Japan's Emperor and the Diet, respectively). However, I can hardly giggle and point, as in a recent post I claimed that the Heisei emperor had visited South Korea -- an assertion for which thoughtful correspondent A. R. has asked me to provide supporting evidence.


I was also recently chided in comments by reader Philippe for writing a puff piece on the final nail being driven in the coffin of Tanigaki Sadakazu's campaign for a second term as Liberal Democratic Party president. The post could be read as trying to beat some life into what had long been an exceedingly dead horse.

To an accusation that the post was a puff piece I plead guilty. I needed for myself, if not for the readership, to balance with the light with the dark, having written the previous day of my uncomprehending horror at the touted candidacy of Abe Shinzo for LDP president. Also, having only recently stumbled across Elvis Costello's "A Monster Went And Ate My Red 2" I was looking for an opportunity to share it.

However, on the broader issue of Tanigaki Sadakazu even thinking about running for a second term, and news media's treatment of the subject as anything more than a joke, that should be a subject of wide and deep discussion.

Tanigaki Sadakazu has been something of a guide star in my writing on the LDP and its problems. In July 2006 I went so far as to call him "the man who put the 'idiot' in idiot-savant." I have probably written more posts about him than on any other politician who was not a prime minister.

Tanigaki is the modern politician who should not have been. He has the social graces of a teenage boy, took eight years to finish his Bachelor's, failed the lawyer's exam six times before finally passing on his seventh try and has never had a real job. Nevertheless he managed to be annointed decades ago the dauphin of the Miyazawa Faction -- the faction led by the flat out smartest man in the Diet. That his rise through the ranks in the faction and the party could be explained by a compliant press -- who could not hide his cringeworthy attempts at ingratiating himself -- as being due to his being a policy wonk (seisaku tsu) should befuddle, perplex and finally anger anyone believing in the role of the Fourth Estate in a free society. Any intelligent person's review of his public statements makes plain he has not the slightest understanding of not just policy, but of common everyday occurrences (failing, for example, to understand that the intersection of the demand curve and the supply curve is the price).

That the political classes and the news media should collude in labeling Tanigaki what he clearly was not, even as they provided evidence that he was not what they were saying he was, has been a source of constant wonder to me. That he should rise to the post where he could have stepped into the role of leader of this blessed land should give everyone pause.

I felt it proper to mark the occasion when the Tanigaki farce seemed finally, irretrievably over.


Bryce said...

A somewhat conspicuous absence from that list of CSIS publications don't you think?

MTC said...

Bryce -

Rule #1 - Always keep your slate clean.