JIN-387 -- Ambushing an Editor-at-Large

The J@pan Inc. Newsletter
Commentary on the Week's Business, Technology and Cultural News =======================================================
Issue No. 387
Thursday October 5, 2006 TOKYO
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CONTENTS
@@ VIEWPOINT: Ambushing an Editor-at-Large

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@@ VIEWPOINT: Ambushing an Editor-at-Large Yoshihisa Komori, an editor-at-large for the "Sankei Shimbun," a right-of-center daily, earlier this week published in the New York Times an op-ed piece entitled "Who's Afraid of Shinzo Abe?" The publication of an article (not a translation) by a Japanese on the op-ed page of arguably the world's most influential newspaper was itself something of an event. The article is ostensibly well-argued (a friend discerns the editorial hand of Komori's wife, a Washington-based lawyer.) Komori's argument? Shinzo Abe, Japan's new PM, is not a hawk (an epithet used by "Western reporters who seem uncomfortable leaving behind the 20th century and acknowledging Japan's solid democracy"); rather he is moving the pendulum towards the center.

I said the article is ostensibly well written, because its arguments are unsubstantiated and don't always hold up to scrutiny.

He writes:

"Japan accepted all judgments of the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal and other regional war tribunals, and signed the San Francisco Peace Treaty, China in particular has aggressively pushed viewpoints that inflate and contradict those judgments."

The Tribunal tried 28 defendants, handing down 7 death sentences, 16 sentences of life imprisonment, and two finite sentences. These were the judgments. Komori does not explain how these are inflated or contradicted by China. But are these even the judgments he refers to?
We never know.

He writes:

"Mr. Abe, while openly acknowledging and expressing remorse for Japan's wartime mistakes and atrocities, was among the first politicians to question government silence on these escalating emotional and uncorroborated claims."

Here Komori refers back to what he never explained, perhaps hoping that repetition of these unspecified claims would make them true much as recitation of "Namu Amida Butsu" brings rebirth in the Pure Land.

He writes:

"Mr. Abe has said one of the new government's priorities is improved relations with China, but noted that 'it takes two to reconcile.' "

Parties to a quarrel can reconcile. However, the word quarrel implies a dispute--that is, one party's contradiction of that which the other maintains, with an argument as the upshot. What can China and Japan possibly be disputing? Sovereignty over the Senkaku Islands? Yes.
But the bare facts of Japan's invasion of China in the 1930s are indisputable. That is to say, Japan can't gainsay the legitimacy China's sense of victimhood, however much its giant neighbor wears its aggrievedness on its sleeve.

Komori writes:

"He [Abe] looks forward to a China that can accept today's democratic Japan. "

Komori is on to something here. This is perhaps the heart of the matter. In a democracy people follow their own muses rather than march in lock step to the party line. Popular comic-book writer Yoshinori Kobayashi. has published a work denying the Nanking Massacre took place; Junichiro Koizumi made repeated pilgrimages to Yasukuni,, which enshrines Class A war criminals; the shrine's museum describes the war as a war of liberation. That the Japanese Government can't prevent these things is hard for a Communist dictatorship to comprehend.

He writes:

"The postwar Constitution drafted by the American occupation authority imposed appropriate constraints meant to prevent Japan from rebuilding as a military power, but these constraints now impede legitimate national defense and peacekeeping activities. "

Komori finally gives an example:

"Japan's Self-Defense Forces, sent to Iraq as international peacekeepers, could not engage in combat under the Constitution; they had to be protected by Dutch and Australian forces."

For Komori, the fact that these peacekeepers couldn't engage in combat impeded their peacekeeping mission.
Go figure. They could, however, defend themselves from attack. Which for Komori is an inadequate rule of engagement. Komori seems less concerned in making a cogent argument than in retrieving the machismo lost by Japanese troops' being defended by Aussies.

Yet Komori's op-ed piece may have succeeded in soothing reservations about Abe among a liberal elite reading the "Times" over breakfast and nearly as ignorant of Japan as indifferent to it.

-- Burritt Sabin
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