Monday, December 09, 2013

Three Disquieting Items On The Sideboard

Today is a no newspaper day in Japan, the result of the one day a month the country's newspaper reporters and editors ostensibly are allowed off the merry-go-round.

In the absence of a morning paper one can hold in one's hands, a trio of depressing news stories you may have missed from the past two weeks:

1) Somehow I Don't Think That That's The Lesson

From Center for a New American Security expert Patrick Cronin, in a post for the War on the Rocks blog, an anecdote in relation to China’s recently declared air defense identification zone. It slaps a question mark on the judgment of Koike Yuriko, the Liberal Democratic Party's multilingual and multifaceted main communications officer:

...The logic of where this air superiority contest is heading can be illustrated by a chilling anecdote related last week at the Center for a New American Security by Japanese Parliamentarian Yuriko Koike. Representative Koike, who was national security advisor to Shinzo Abe during his previous stint as Prime Minister, recounted how she missed her Libyan Airlines flight from Tripoli to Cairo on 21 February 1973. That flight strayed into Israeli-controlled airspace and was shot down by Israeli F-4 Phantom II fighters, killing 108 people.

Reflecting on her near-miss with death, Representative Koike said the incident taught her what it means to protect one's airspace, implying that any country serious about air sovereignty must be willing to act as decisively as the Israelis did 40 years ago over the Sinai Peninsula. But whereas former Minister Koike was recalling a personal vignette, the Chinese government was enunciating official policy…

One hopes that Dr. Cronin misunderstood Ms. Koike's point. A normal person, having missed a commercial passenger flight that ended up being shot down by fighter jets, would probably not come away from that brush with death with increased admiration for the fighter pilots and their political masters. A normal person indeed would ask, "How we fix the world so as to prevent such a tragedy ever happening again?"

Then again, Dr. Cronin is quoting Koike "The Iron Butterfly" Yuriko. Maybe she really did come out of a near death experience with increased appreciation for those who have killed innocent civilians by mistake. Or on purpose, I don't know.

2) These Are The Alternatives? Really?

Catherine Traywick has a report out for Foreign Policy on America's role as a supporter of the new Special Secrets Protection Act. The piece, checking in with folks who know, offers a fairly decent rundown on the positive reasons why the Abe government and the Liberal Democratic Party felt compelled to put passage of the new law on the front burner. It underplays the level to which the new Act is a simple aping of American statutes and practices as regards secrecy, ignoring the qualitative and cultural differences in between the two country's bureaucracies and jurisprudence.

What is really disturbing about the piece, however, is the concluding comment from Denny Roy of the East West Center in Honolulu. Trying to put the Act into perspective, where it is a vital element in the aggrandizing of the Japan-U.S. military alliance, Mr. Roy offers this choice:
"Would you rather have Japan as a friendly dictator able to go to war with you -- even if it doesn't live up to your democratic values -- or would you rather have a pacifistic Japan that has limitations in terms of military ability?"

The answer to this question of course is, "The latter! The latter! The latter! Or, possibly, neither of these two! Pray that we may never be offered this choice!"

Given the vagaries of journalism, Mr. Roy may have been quoted improperly or out of context. If the above Hobson's Choice ever even enters into the minds of U.S. policy makers, though, then everyone should pretty much forget about the U.S. being a benign power that learns from its mistakes.

3) It's An End of the World As We Know It Party

The extraordinary session of the Diet has ended in confusion and rushed action, with items on the legislative calendar left undone, a last minute extension and an unsightly near midnight vote on the most sweeping and regressive piece of civil liberties legislation in decades.

At a point in the legislative calendar when the attention of Diet members was worth, in Mark Twain's words, "four dollars a minute" one would hardly expect that the prime minister and 400 of his closest friends, including 200 member of the Diet, would take the afternoon off to throw a party celebrating the coming of a new, more patriotic and traditionalist Japan.

Well, they did. On November 26. In the middle of the afternoon.

Don't bother looking for a description of the party on the Prime Minister's Residence web page. Or on Prime Minister's Facebook page. Or on the home page or Facebook page of Minister of State for Regulatory Reform (and Administrative Reform and Civil Service Reform and "Cool Japan" Strategy and the "Challenge Again" Initiative) Inada Tomomi -- though she most certainly was there.

One has to go to the home page of Abe/Kishi family retainer and Chairman of the National Public Safety Commission Furuya Keiji to find mention of the conservative pow-wow (Link - J). Furuya, who has a habit of documenting his most Sisyphean endeavors in great detail, posts a pair of photos from the shindig, including a quartet shot of him with Hyakuta Naoki, the author Prime Minister Abe recently appointed to the board of governors of NHK in what is the crawling coup d’etat against that entity's independence and balance.

To be fair, Prime Minister Abe spent only 12 minutes at the Sosei Nippon study reunion (kenshukai) -- a really a short span of time when one considers that he is the chairman of Sosei Nippon.

What is Sosei Nippon? There is a home page (Link) but oddly, in this supposed new era of openness and internationalization, the group's home page is only in Japanese.

For a description of the organization in English there is Matthew Penney's guide to the revisionist organizations boasting Cabinet ministers as members. Therein Sosei Nippon ("Japan's Rebirth") is described as:
A Diet group formed in 2007. Members pledge to "protect Japanese traditions and culture", "rethink the postwar order", and "protect Japan's national interests and make Japan a country respected by international society". They have hosted lectures by rightist pundits and authors such as Sakurai Yoshiko and Fujiwara Masahiko. After the ouster of the LDP from power, the group publically accused the Democratic Party of manifesting "socialistic and totalitarian tendencies". They pledged to stand against DPJ proposals to allow husbands and wives to have different surnames – something that the group argued would undermine "family togetherness" – and moves to allow permanent residents to vote in local elections, part of a larger pattern of assertions by conservative lawmakers that foreigners in Japan are neither loyal nor committed to the Japanese state and undermine the social order. The group has a limited web presence and seems to have had difficulty establishing a clear identity as many of its assertions on history, culture, and contemporary society are already covered by more focused Diet member groups.
The November 26 event did not go entirely unnoticed by the news media conglomerates. The Sankei Shimbun published the following account (translation by MTC):
At Sosei Nippon Gathering, Prime Minister Says, "I Will Take Us Back To A Japan of Glory"

Sosei Nippon, the cross-party league of Diet members which has Prime Minister Abe Shinzo as its chairman, held, on November 26, its study reunion inside the Diet Members #1 Office Building. By declaring, "This is only the start of our taking Japan back to glory," the PM demonstrated his desire to press forward with a politics deeply rooted in conservatism.

At the reunion there about 400 persons, including members of the Diet and local assembly lawmakers. Journalist Sakurai Yoshiko and novelist Hyakuta Naoki gave speeches. Chairman of the National Safety Commission Furuya Keiji called out to the group, "The role of [this league] is to enracinate real conservatism deep in the earth." State Minister for Administrative Reform Inada Tomomi put forth the appeal, "What I want to realize is the casting off of the postwar regime."

(Link- J)
Nothing terribly weird that we have never heard before from the featured speakers in the above, of course. But why hold the reunion in the midst of the hectic last days of the Diet session? Furthermore, whenever I see the word "glory" (hokori) rear its ugly head -- I start looking for the exit.

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