August 30, 2010

Trash-talking time

Pulling himself out of a self-imposed exile after being implicated in campaign finance shenanigans (but not charged), former Japan Democratic Party leader Ichiro Ozawa tested the political waters last week for a possible battle with Prime Minister Naoto Kan over party leadership. Among other things, he said:

I like Americans, but they are somewhat monocellular. When I talk with Americans, I often wonder why they are so simple-minded.

Nobody's sure what he meant by that--he offered no examples--especially since Japan's financial meltdown during the 1990s was handled even less competently than the U.S. government's efforts now (hard to imagine, but true), and "simple-minded" perfectly describes the previous PM from his own party.

Yukio Hatoyama resigned after failing to close the Futenma U.S. airbase on Okinawa. It was a big part of his campaign platform, but the goal he set was physically impossible, especially as timetables had already been set in 2006, and such a huge logistical undertaking that can't exactly be hurried along.

I agree with him on principle that the U.S. military footprint in Okinawa (and South Korea) should be drastically reduced, but there is this thing called the real world. (Stars and Stripes has a good summary of the issue here.)

Hatoyama seemed to believe that if he was only earnest enough, Futema would sprout wings and fly itself to Guam. Or maybe he thought such promises would be treated as seriously as Obama's to close Guantanamo Bay. Alas, the electorate took him at his word. His Dan Quayle-like public persona didn't help.

However brilliant he might be, he often came across as a space cadet. Kan, his replacement, previously the finance minister, seems better suited for the job. Japanese voters may have grown weary of the ham-fisted, Chicago-style politics of Ozawa, but they do appreciate hard-nosed competence.

At any rate, a little trashing of America and Americans at this time of year is expected of Japanese politicians, especially from "liberal" DPJ types, who are supposed less America-philic than the "conservative" LDP, though we're mostly talking differences without a distinction.

(Incidentally, "LDP" oxymoronically stands for "Liberal Democratic Party." It is best compared to a bunch of country club Republicans, though after a half-century of almost uncontested power, the LDP now risks dissolving into a motley collection of competing Tea Party-like factions.)

Tokyo mayor (best-selling novelist and polemicist) Shintaro Ishihara has a deserved reputation for waving the nativist and nationalistic flags whenever it suits the political mood. Of course, he never lets the fire-breathing get in the way of actual business, and everybody on both sides of the Pacific just rolls their eyes.

As Peter Payne points out, "Japan is absolutely one of the most pro-American countries in the world."

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# posted by Anonymous Mojo
8/30/2010 10:46 AM   
Of course, he never lets the fire-breathing get in the way of actual business...

See, that's the way to be.
# posted by Blogger Joe
8/31/2010 8:19 PM   
My first thought is that he heard the phrase "single minded" and didn't appreciate the distinction.

This would make sense if he thought Obama really was going to change anything foreign relationship-wise. As so brilliantly explained in Yes, [Prime] Minister the government departments, especially Department of Foreign Affairs/State Department, will do what they do no matter who is in charge.
# posted by Blogger Joe
8/31/2010 8:30 PM   
I didn't know the Japanese government was paying to keep the base open. I still don't see the point except as a prime target for China should conflict arise--gotta have a Pearl Harbor that isn't actually, well, Pearl Harbor.

But, in all honestly, the US is stuck on stupid with these foreign bases with the biggest problem being the entrenched bureaucracy that has zero imagination.

(Why does the US need that many Marines anyway? Talk about duplication of effort and inter-branch warfare. There are commanders who think the Marines must be ready to storm the beaches! Yeah, right. But no big surprise; the military is always fighting the last big war; in this case the cold war. The early cold war. Well, the Air Force has always been fighting the fantasy war where they win the war through air power. Unfortunately Kosovo gave them some credence.)
# posted by Blogger Eugene
9/03/2010 8:35 AM   
A big reason I think Japan and South Korea have this hurry-up-and-wait attitude when it comes to closing U.S. bases is that if anything actually happens that actually involves actual fighting--we'll, um, sic big brother on you!

Aegis pretends to be a copy of Under Siege, except that it takes place on an JSDF Aegis-class destroyer. Unfortunately, by the end of the movie, I concluded that if we ever have to rely on the JSDF waging war with these ultra-modern weapons, we're screwed.

According to commenter Syd Mori (who sums up the movie well), somewhere between the book (which apparently comes to that conclusion on purpose) and the movie, they got their genres mixed up. But it explains this push-me, pull-me attitude.