Category ►►► Mysterious Orient
October 24, 2010
The United States and South Korea have been planning a joint naval exercise in the Yellow Sea for some time; its purpose was to warn North Korea not to engage in any further military action against South Korea... in particular, referencing the South Korean navy ship ROKS Cheonan, which North Korea sunk with a submarine-launched torpedo last March. We wanted to show the Democrat People's Republic of (North) Korea that neither we nor the Republic of (South) Korea can be intimidated by a gulag of Communist thugs.
But just a few days before the naval exercise, we abruptly called it off. Why? Because the People's Republic of China has angrily protested, and has threatened to "not stay in 'hands-off' mode" if we hold the exercise. In particular, China objects to the presence of the USS George Washington, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, in what China calls its "regional waters"... which I reckon includes the entire Yellow Sea, up to and including South Korea's western beaches, resorts, and seaports.
So the exercise to warn the Communist thugs of North Korea that we cannot be intimidated -- has been canceled, due to the intimidation of the Communist thugs of Red China.
I suppose it's inevitable, considering how much we owe our worthy Chinese partners (monetarily, I mean) -- and considering how Barack H. Obama has already bowed deeply at the waist to a paper emperor and a suicide king -- that when push came to shove, our president would find occasion to kowtow to the Chinese, as well.
Say... isn't that whence the word originated in the first place?
August 12, 2010
All We Are Saying - Is Give Nukes a Chance
Last Friday, U.S. Ambassador to Japan John Roos attended the solemn commemoration of the Hiroshima atomic bombing that, coupled with the second bombing at Nagasaki, ended the Pacific theater of World War II and almost certainly saved millions of both American and Japanese lives. This was the first time the American ambassador had ever joined the memorial.
The annual commemoration plays to the anti-Americanism of many young Japanese; many of them are under the impression we attacked them out of the blue, while they were peacefully minding their own business... an ignorance fostered by the near blackout of the history of that war in Japanese primary and secondary schools.
But Mr. Roos attended Lowell High School in San Francisco and graduated from Stanford University, and he has no excuse; surely he learned at least something about our reasons for using nuclear weapons. You know, that whole "fascist military dictatorship bent on regional hegemony by force of arms, allied with Adolf Hitler's Nazi Germany" stuff. And surely he must realize that had we not had atomic bombs, as they were called then, we still would have invaded the Japanese "mainland" (the island of Honshu), at a cost nearly incalculable in human lives and materiel.
So one might reasonably ask the ambassador why he not only attended the commemoration, but also joined Hiroshima's Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba's call to eliminate all nuclear weapons. Roos' mere presence lent the imprimatur of the Barack H. Obama administration to the clarion call; but the ambassador went above and beyond to make clear the Obamic policy:
Hiroshima's mayor welcomed Washington's decision to send U.S. Ambassador John Roos to Friday's commemoration, which began with an offering of water to the 140,000 who died in the first of two nuclear bombings that prompted Japan's surrender in World War II....
"We need to communicate to every corner of the globe the intense yearning of the survivors for the abolition of nuclear weapons," Mr. Akiba told the 55,000 people at the ceremony.
Mr. Akiba called on the Japanese government to take a leadership role in nuclear disarmament toward "turning a new page in human history."
"I offer my prayers to those who died -- we will not make you be patient much longer...."
Mr. Roos said the memorial was a chance to show resolve toward nuclear disarmament, which Mr. Obama has emphasized as one of his administration's top objectives.
"For the sake of future generations, we must continue to work together to realize a world without nuclear weapons," Mr. Roos said in a statement.
Just as a general question, has any anti-nuclear "peace" activist ever sat down and thought through what would happen if somebody waved a magic wand and made all American or all Western nukes "softly and suddenly vanish away?" I guess radical activists like Roos and Akiba -- who, I suggest, see no distinction between nuclear weapons in the hands of America or Britain and similar weapons in the hands of Iran, Syria, Red China, North Korea, Russia, or Venezuela -- would mindlessly shout, "We would finally have world peace!"
But why would anybody think that? Nuclear weapons did not exist until the end of World War II, the most destructive war in human history; which is ironic, because their very existence is testimony to the fact that their lack obviously does not create peace. So why would their disappearance?
- Let's take the most likely case first: Will aggressor nations abruptly mend their ways if, say, the West unilaterally disarmed itself of all nuclear weapons? The suggestion is especially risible, especially given that we already did unilaterally disarm ourselves of chemical and biological weapons -- yet the global bad guys manifestly did not follow suit. I think we can reject this policy choice out of hand.
- Even if the evil-doers running those countries named above agreed to such insanity, does anybody honestly believe they would abide by their agreement and not cheat? They always cheated in the past with impunity, so why stop now?
But suppose for some miraculous, occult reason Iran, China, et al, did dismantle their entire nascent or operative nuclear arsenals. Where does that leave us?
Every one of those countries has an active and persistent program to develop, deploy, and use chemical and biological warfare (CBW). By contrast, as noted above, we destroyed our own capability.
So if Iran, Syria, Red China, North Korea, Russia, and Venezuela each knows that it has CBW capability, but the West does not, then that will make the former less inclined to attack or threaten us? (Why, because they're too gentlemanly to use WMD threats to extort political power and treasure?)
But lets ship the whole hog: Assume the utterly absurd, that the nations fingered above agree to drop and destroy all WMD they may possess, and they actually do it. They somehow obliterate the knowledge from the computers, storage centers, and even the minds of their weapon scientists. Their nukes are all gone in a flash (perhaps I should use a different metaphor), taking their chemical and biological weapons with them. So then we'll finally have peace -- right?
Don't be hasty. Most of those thuggish nations have already shown a marked propensity for ordering suicidal human-wave attacks against their enemies, throwing hundreds of thousands or millions of their subjects into the maw of death; and the leaders didn't shed a single tear, because they simply don't care.
They are functionally sociopathic, even solipsistic, seeing the peons not as human beings like themselves but as inanimate weapons to be used, then discarded when broken. To claw one's way to the top of such a regime, one must first become "comfortably numb."
But Americans are not comfortably numb, and we would never use such tactics. We won't even go back to the WWII strategic bombings of, e.g., Dresden or Tokyo, which only kill the enemy by the hundreds of thousands! So what are we to do when the enemy is not so solicitous, swarms across the border at us, but we haven't any asymmetrical response -- such as nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons to stop him?
I suppose Mr. Roos' answer is: We surrender.
You cannot "give peace a chance" by unilaterally disarming; the proper term for that is to give subjugation to evil a chance. A simple Gedankenexperiment: Suppose Israel were to adopt the Rules of Roos and divest itself of all its weapons of mass destruction. The Arab and Persian response to such humility, brotherliness, and trust would be to... what?
I think we can all guess the grisly outcome of such an adventure in idealism. As Sachi says, The absence of war does not always mean peace; it can also mean surrender and enslavement.
The international Left objectifies war, just as the domestic Left objectifies violent crime. To avoid having to deal with evil and the messiness of real human beings and murderous regimes, the Left pretends that all violence is caused by the existence of certain technologies: Ban the technology, and war and crime will screech to a halt!
Nuclear weapons in all their manifold forms -- bunker-busters to destroy enemy WMD, trip-wire defenses against human-wave attacks, nuclear-tipped Trident missiles on submarines to deter any thought of launching a sneak attack, even neutron bombs to kill an enemy force occupying a site whose destruction would unleash another holocaust, such as the Grand Mosque in Mecca (the siege already happened on November 20, 1979, and could certainly happen again) -- such nukes are merely weapons, tools. They do not start wars any more than pistols commit crimes.
But the Left considers such technologies bad, because they give the West an "unfair advantage" over our enemies, both secular socialist (China, North Korea, Russia, Venezuela) and also the jihad-besotted radical Islamists in the ummah, the Left's new ally.
"Progressives" are upset that the United States doesn't suffer as many casualities and deaths as do the regimes we must fight. It's as simple as that. So our new Ambassador to Japan, John Roos -- whose sole qualification for the job appears to be raising half a million samolians for Barack H. Obama's campaign -- now wants to even things out by crippling the lone remaining world hyperpower, the United States of America. Progress!
Hope and change, readers; that's what America voted for.
Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
March 13, 2010
The China Syndrome Counterpunch
One fear that obsesses too many folks is that the People's Republic of China, a.k.a. Red China, "owns" a scandalous chunk of our national debt in the form of U.S. Treasury bonds; and that they will somehow be able to use these holdings to force us to dance to the tune they pipe, turning America into a Chinese vassal state.
When pressed on how they could physically do this, fearmongers suggest China could threaten to dump all their T-bills at bargain-basement prices, driving down the value of the bonds we need to sell to finance our out-of-control spending. The sudden drop in bond values would force us to jack the interest rate through the sky, just to get people to buy them. This in turn is supposed to drive our prime rate into the stratosphere as well, bankrupting the country.
To avoid this scenario -- dubbed the "China Syndrome" by some economists -- we will (so goes the argument) give the Commies anything they demand in the way of foreign and domestic policy and military stand-downs... to appease them, placate them, and keep them from carrying through their extortion.
Beldar has posted a fascinating (as usual) and long (as always) essay on the subject. He comes to the well-founded and irrefutable conclusion that there truly is little to fear from the fact that Commies hold such a huge amount of our debt:
A company's largest shareholder is not much at all like its largest bondholder. He who buys a company's bonds gets to stand at the front of the line, ahead of equity holders (like shareholders), if there's a forced liquidation of the company and a distribution of its net assets. But in exchange, the bond holder generally has to forfeit all rights to participate in the management of the company's business unless and until there's a default by the company on its promise to repay according to the terms of the bond. And the caselaw says that companies owe all sorts of fiduciary and other unwritten, vague, but powerful duties to shareholders, whereas companies own nothing more to their debt holders than the precise minimums to which the companies are specifically committed by explicit written contractual promises to the bondholders....
No matter how many Treasury bonds China buys, it can't somehow "convert" those into a right to cast votes in the U.S. Senate or to give instructions to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The holder of an American federal bond has a contractual right, enforceable against the U.S. government under its own laws and in its own courts, to repayment of principal and payment of interest on the exact terms specified in the bond. And that's all it has. [All emphasis is in the original, except for this note that all emphasis is in the original. -- DaH]
But I have another angle on the whole thing. I say it would be absolutely wonderful for us if the Chinese really did enact their eponymous syndrome!
So why am I right and all those professional economists wrong? Because they think like acolytes of the Dismal Science -- that is, dismally -- whereas I think like a novelist.
Here is my scenario:
- Red China threatens us with a China Syndrome unless we sever relations with Taiwan (for example).
- We tell them to go stuff an eggroll.
- They decide to call our "bluff," and they really do dump all their T-bills at, say, half their current value.
- The Federal Reserve jumps into action, working through proxies to buy every dang Treasury Note China sells, as many as we can get our mitts on.
- Now that we have bought back hundreds of billions of dollars of our "debt" for fifty cents on the dollar, we wait for the dust to settle and the market to recover -- then we sell them again for the normal price.
- We send a letter to Beijing, thanking them for their generous donation to the Save Liberty and U.S. Sovereign Health (SLUSSH) fund. With heartfelt thanks, we settle back to enjoy our windfall profit on our own debt instruments.
The moral is simple: Whenever any entity -- whether individual person, giant corporation, or sovereign nation -- buys or sells bonds, equities, derivatives, collectibles, futures, or indeed any other investment instrument on the basis of politics, party, policy, or pique -- that is, whenever one makes investment decisions for any reason other than pure economics -- that entity is going to lose its shirt... along with its coat, tie, pants, and undies.
This Lizardian Rule of Thumb applies to universities that divest their stock in Israeli companies to protest Israel's dealings with the Palestinians; it applies to lefties who dump their mutual funds if they contain Starbucks or Nike stock; and it applies to conservative Christians who will only invest in companies that are run by ministers: You're going to lose a huge wad of your return by letting extraneous circumstances dictate your financial decisions.
Now you may think the trade off is worth it, and who could argue? Just bear in mind that you are donating beaucoup bucks to your favorite cause; if that's all right with you, I certainly don't care. So long as you are aware of what you are doing, and so long as you don't violate any fiduciary responsiblities you may have to shareholders (or moral duties to those who take your advice).
But I doubt that China is really that altruist. They're not going to donate hundreds of billions back to the U.S. just to make a political point. (That what? That they're too stupid to be trusted with monetary decisions?)
So let that be another reassurance that there will be no China Syndrome... at least until and unless we default on our repayment obligations, in which case dumping the bonds would be a purely economic decision anyway!
January 1, 2010
"VIP" Treatment Under Nationalized Health Care
A few days ago, my 77 year old father, who lives in Japan, fell and couldn't get up for more than an hour. He was taken to a hospital, where he still rests.
Last night my mother called to update me with a summary of his condition: He has a compressed disk, it seems (it's hard to translate from Japanese to English and from Mom-speak to ordinary human language). The condition is somewhat serious but not life threatening; he'll have to spend a few weeks in hospital. Too bad; New Year's is the biggest holiday season in Japan.
I'm sure everyone reading this post knows that Japan has socialized medicine (national health care, single-payer, however you want to call it). It's not as draconian as the NHS in the United Kingdom or the Canadian national and provincial health-care system; but it is universal -- everyone must pay for government insurance. Fortunately, those who are well off can also buy private insurance in addition... and they can use that instead of the government system (unlike in the UK or Canada).
In other words, Japan already has the system that proponents of ObamaCare eventually want to install here in America. So let's take a look at how it works in the real world.
After Mom reassured me about my father's condition, she started talking about last year around this time, when she had to have stomach surgery.
"Oh Sachi, the care I received was wonderful!" she said; "I stayed in a private room which was like in a nice hotel. It had a private bathroom. The nurses were nice. The doctors were wonderful. I spent nine days in the hospital and only paid ¥80,000!" [About 800 dollars]
"Really?" I asked; "government insurance actually covered all that?"
"Oh, of course not; I have three insurance policies," she proudly announced.
Before retirement, my father was a patent attorney. As a private business owner, he had to pay an exorbitant government insurance premium, both for himself and his three employees. But he always knew that would never be enough coverage, so he purchased two more private insurance policies. In other words, he spent more than twice as much on health insurance as a typical American spends now, pre-ObamaCare.
But even those extra policies wouldn't cover the VIP treatment my Mom got. I asked a few more questions, and she finally spilled the beans:
"I was supposed to be in a 4-person room. But I had a private room all to myself, thanks to your uncle."
Ah, my uncle the hospital administrator. I'd forgotten about him!
My mother's third or fourth youngest brother (I forget which) holds a high administrative position at a major university hospital. It seems he has a great deal of clout there, which has been a great help to our family in times of medical need.
My mother is quite the hypochondriac; she always complains about one ailment or another, usually imaginary. So whenever she is not satisfied with her general practitioner, she talks to my uncle. First thing you know, she's seeing a specialist -- skipping the long waiting list that those without such connections must endure under Japanese system.
On another occasion, Mom hurt her knee. My uncle "referred" his sister to a university hospital doctor who was Japan's most famous doctor for ligament tears. Patients from all over Kanto Plain (where Tokyo sits) would come to see him.
"He only takes 40 patients a day," mom said (only 40! Imagine that!) He doesn't accept appointments; so if you want to see him, you have to get there by 7:00 a.m, take a number, and... wait. And wait, and wait.
My mother strolled in at 9:00, the time the office officially opens; the waiting room was already full, and they had long stopped issuing any numbers. One lady told my mom that she had gotten up at four and had her daughter drive her for two hours to get to the hospital. She was lucky; she got number 38 and had waited three hours already. "There are no specialists in my city," the lady explained.
My mother-the-sister-of-one-of-the-nomenklatura presented her letter of introduction to the receptionist:
"Don’t worry, Ma'am, never mind the number. Just have a seat; we will call you."
My mother did not have to wait. The doctor was most courteous, a rarity in Japan, and he asked about my uncle. Then he gave Mom a thorough examination, spending far longer with her than other patients.
So my parents have the more expensive national health care for business owners (Dad pays higher taxes), Kokumin Hoken -- Citizens' Health Insurance; the lesser one is for ordinary salaryman, Shykai Hoken -- Society Health Insurance. In addition, they have not one but two private health insurance plans, a primary and a supplementary. On top of that, my mother's brother is a high-ranking official at a major hospital in Japan.
But Mom is not so foolish as to rely upon such insecure health-care planning as that; she has a back-up system that she also uses...
After such nice treatment as she got for her knee and her stomach, my mother never forgets to send "gifts," typically cash and premium liquor to the doctors, expensive chocolate to the nurses -- and of cours, something extra special to my uncle, her brother. She was laughing that after her hospitalization, she spent more money on gifts than the actual medical bill. That means over thousand dollars of, let's be honest, bribery.
Wonderful. The national health-care system works!
That's why my mother isn't worried about Dad's care; he's going to be treated better than anybody other than corporate CEOs and of course government officials. But even with that kind of influence, my father had to wait three days for his preliminary examination and to have X-rays taken. After all, it was a holiday week, the Emperor Akahito's birthday, and no doctor was willing to return to the hospital for anything other than a life or death situation. (And maybe not even then; how many extra private insurance plans is the fellow carrying?)
The day my father was taken to the hospital, the nurse told Mom to obtain several changes of clean pajamas, underwear, and towels for my father. Also soap, shampoo, and other toiletries, which were needed right away. Conveniently, the hospital has a kiosk that sells all kinds of items and is open 24 hours. Just a little markup over buying at a regular store, miles away... maybe 100% or so.
Oh, yes, I almost forgot, they told Mom to bring a thousand-dollar deposit. Cash.
My sister and mother take turns visiting Dad everyday. They have to pick up his dirty laundry, wash it and bring it back, because the hospital doesn't do that. But Dad's quite lucky that he stays in a nice hospital with three different insurance policies, under the auspices of his brother in law. My girlfriend’s father only had government insurance when he was hospitalized, and the hospital did not even turn on an air conditioner in the middle of August, with temperatures over a hundred degrees and humidity close to 100%.
My girlfriend visited her father as often as she could; she had to: Half the time, they didn't even empty his bedpan.
You see? National health care works great... so long as you're rich enough to afford the premium level of government insurance and to buy multiple additional private policies; so long as you have influential relatives; and so long as you're willing and able to brazenly bribe the doctors and bureaucrats who run the system.
"I am so glad we live in Japan," Mom said. "I worry about you in America, with no national health care!" Thanks, Mom, but I'm afraid "help" is on the way from President Barack H. Obama.
Are you looking forward to it as eagerly as I?
Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
October 15, 2009
Quid Lo Mein
Doesn't President Barack H. Obama have enough bad ideas on his own? Must he also recapitulate every horrific blunder of every Democratic president who came before him?
It's not enough that he adopted Jimmy Carter's Middle-East catastrophe of a foreign policy; now he's kow-towing to the Chinese the same way Bill Clinton did, by sharing our most vital missile technology with Red China:
President Obama recently shifted authority for approving sales to China of missile and space technology from the White House to the Commerce Department -- a move critics say will loosen export controls and potentially benefit Chinese missile development.
We are assured this will not result in any decrease in the rigor with which we guard our most sensitive missile secrets. But if it did, how would we know? A key element Obama altered is the requirement that Congress be notified of any missile-technology transfers:
The presidential notice alters a key provision of the 1999 Defense Authorization Act that required that the president notify Congress whether a transfer of missile and space technology to China would harm the U.S. space-launch industry or help China's missile programs.
The law was passed after a late-1990s scandal involving the U.S. companies Space Systems/Loral and Hughes Electronics Corp.
Both companies improperly shared technology with China and were fined $20 million and $32 million, respectively, by the State Department after a U.S. government investigation concluded that their know-how was used to improve China's long-range nuclear missiles.
Bill Clinton famously accepted $3 million in campaign cash that came (through an easily exposed cut-out) from the People's Liberation Army of the People's Republic of China. And that was just a drop in the bucket of millions of campaign dollars from suspicious sources related to China and Indonesia.
Shortly thereafter, Clinton made several policy changes that China had been demanding for decades. Besides relaxing the rules on technology-sharing, allowing Loral and Hughes to sell extremely sensitive hardware and software to Red China -- for example, allowing them to better simulate nuclear test blasts via software -- Clinton also made clear we would not intervene if China attacked Taiwan and several other concessions.
I highly doubt that the Obamacle will accept any campaign contributions from the PLA -- at least knowingly; considering how seriously the campaign relaxed standards on credit-card donations, he may well accept such donations willy-nilly, perhaps not even knowingly.
But he has his own soft spot that the mandarins can hit with their eyes closed: I don't know for sure whether the Chinese government quietly hinted that, if Obama failed to meet their demand that technology transfers be approved by Commerce, not the White House, then perhaps they would severely cut back on the number of United States Treasury bills they would buy... a multi-hundred billion dollar "loan" that is the only thing currently standing between us and total economic collapse. Maybe Chinese negotiators made no such threat; maybe they thought it would be too "unfair" a bargaining chip, too much like extortion, skulduggery to which Red China would surely never stoop.
Perhaps we can rely upon Barack Obama's word that he will faithfully defend the United States from Chinese hegemony, even if it means the utter ruin of our economy on his watch. Or maybe we can rely upon the Secretary of State to have a completely different and much tougher approach to China than she does to Russia -- or than she and her husband had, as "co-presidents," in the 1990s.
But should we bet our national security on it?
August 30, 2009
Some Strange New Use of the Word "Conservative" of Which I Was Previously Unaware
Exit polling indicates that the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in Japan suffered a catastrophic defeat and have been ousted from power, to be replaced by the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ).
With this victory, the DPJ will control both the upper house (House of Councillors) and lower house (House of Representatives) of the Diet, the Japanese parliament; the very first time in the history of post-dictatorship Japan that the LDP has lost control of the entire government. And the Democrats will have a whopping great majority in the House of Reps.
The LDP has controlled the more powerful House of Representatives by and large since the end of the American military occupation of Japan following World War II. While in power, they enacted national health care, confiscatory taxation, enormous tariffs on foreign goods to prop up prices of domestic products, wage and price controls, a nationalist welfare state, a great liberalization of abortion laws, and the rampant secularization of Japan.
The police monitor every citizen of Japan. "Mr. Walkabout" -- the local beat cop -- knows everybody in his area and goes door to door checking on them throughout the year. There is no right to privacy, no freedom of speech (only government privilege of speech, which can be revoked), and many criminal cases are resolved by coerced confessions. Japan strictly bans all private ownership of handguns and most long guns; shooting clubs must store their weapons in lockers. Citizens who use deadly force against criminals, even to save their own lives, are often prosecuted.
The LDP facilitated and accomodated a form of socialism called "corporatism," which is sort of the opposite of fascism: Under fascism, the national government controls the corporations; but under corporatism, the large conglomerates in Japan (keiretsu) control the national government. Corporatism, like other forms of socialism, is designed to eliminate "wasteful" competition, suppress Capitalism, and inhibit the formation of a free market. To further this end, the LDP consolodated all power in the national government.
(Keiretsu are vast collections of vertically and horizontally integrated corporations that each own parts of each other, are controlled from the top down, and attempt to restrict corporate supply-chain transactions to other businesses within the same keiretsu.)
The Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI -- formerly MITI, the Ministry of International Trade and Industry) is the interface between the keiretsu and the corporatist government.
Labor-union action is so institutionalized that unions actually schedule their "strikes" months in advance; some labor actions are simply annual: They hold a symbolic "take-over" strike on a particular day of the year.
The national government controls the schools, including most of the top universities. Socialist education -- including anti-nationalist, anti-Japan propaganda that dwarfs the anti-Americanism found in many American schools -- is ubiquitous throughout the entire education system, despite being controlled by the LDP since the year zed.
Immigration is strictly controlled by the government, in order to keep wages high by creating an artificial labor shortage.
The Liberal Democratic Party has enaged in a minor level of partial privatization of some formerly government owned industries, such as the vital train system; but the LDP has for the most part been dragged, kicking and screaming, along that path, forced by terrible economic inefficiencies in the nationalist system.
...And here is the first sentence of the My Way news article about the election:
Japan's ruling conservative party suffered a crushing defeat in elections Sunday as voters overwhelmingly cast their ballots in favor of a left-of-center opposition camp that has promised to rebuild the economy and breathe new life into the country after 54 years of virtual one-party rule, media projections said.
The term "conservative" in English generally means a patriotic, pro-Capitalist, pro-free market, individualist, traditionally religious, liberty-based (as opposed to egalitarian or fraternal) party or group that fosters the seven classical virtues -- prudence, justice, temperance, courage, faith, hope, and charity. Evidently, My Way is employing a homonym of "conservative" that carries the diametrically opposite meaning of the more familiar form.
So what is the new DPJ majority going to do to be more "left-of-center" than the erstwhile ruling LDP itself? Nationalize the multinational keiretsu, establish collective farms run by slave labor, mandate Che Guevera t-shirts as the new school uniform, and institute a "five-year plan" to plant wheat in Siberia, in keeping with the teachings of Trofim Lysenko? How much more leftist could Japan become without drifting into actual Marxism?
Oh, here we are; the Democratic Party's grand plan to "rebuild the economy":
The Democrats are proposing toll-free highways, free high schools, income support for farmers, monthly allowances for job seekers in training, a higher minimum wage and tax cuts. The estimated bill comes to 16.8 trillion yen ($179 billion) if fully implemented starting in fiscal year 2013.
What could go wrong?
March 11, 2009
Before Obama Downed Brown, He Harrowed Taro
We have all heard about how our new president, Barack H. Obama, snubbed British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, head of the government of our most important ally since the Treaty of Ghent in 1814. But before Obama dissed Brown by refusing to allow him a full press conference or state dinner -- and reciprocating to a beautiful, meaningful gift from Brown by sending an aide to Blockbuster to grab a DVD boxed set in return -- the One perfected his boorishness by treating the prime minister of another ally like the hired help.
In late February, Prime Minister Taro Aso of Japan was actually the first foreign dignitary to pay a formal visit to the White House under the Obama administration. The Japanese were very proud of the fact that their PM was the first to meet this popular and historic American president, about whom they had heard so much; Aso himself -- who already had the reputation of being an ignorant, near-illiterate yokel who was out of his depth -- desperately needed the visibility of the summit to burnish his sagging popularity.
Aso's economic reform plan has not gone well in Japan; in fact, it has been a disaster. Every policy he implements, every word he utters, turns him into the butt of jokes on Japanese comedy shows (which can be even ruder than Letterman and Leno here). His approval rating is in single digits in some polls, worse than that of No Mu Hyon's final days as a South Korean President.
So he had pinned his hopes on this meeting with President Obama, Aso's last chance to achieve something, anything, in his administration. But as things turned out, this "summit" produced what Yoshihisa Komori of the Japanese (and Japanese language) Sankei Newspaper calls "absolutely minimum results."
But forget the thin contents of the meeting; Obama's treatment of the prime minister was much worse, according to Komori (I have translated the story into English):
It was unprecedented that there was no state lunch or joint press conference [sound familar?].
There was no private one-on-one meeting, which is what is needed to meet the requirement of a "summit."
Just before the meeting, President Obama talked about the importance of the U.S.-Japan friendship and strengthening the alliance for east-Asian security. However, Mr. Obama did not take any action to publicize the message.
Mr. Obama gave his first speech to Congress that same night. The U.S. government, public, and media attention were all on that speech; they paid little to no attention to the prime minister's visit.
This meeting reminded Japanese of Prime Minister Tomiichi Murakami's visit to the U.S. in January of 1995. However, even during that visit, Murayama was allowed to stay at Blair House, the official guest house. But not Aso; he was forced to stay in a hotel in a Washington DC suburb. The duration of the visit was less than half of Murakami's.
What is it about our over-his-head president and his "Peter Principle" Secretary of State? They kow-tow to our enemies -- and needlessly offend our friends.
What does Obama or the country gain by dissing countries that have traditionally been our strongest and most faithful allies, including Great Britain and Japan? Add to these examples the raft of loudmouthed, thuggish Israel-haters, antisemites, and Jew-baiters named to various critical sub-cabinet level positions in the Obama administration... an almost calculated affront to our closest ally in the most volatile region in the world.
Whether Obama likes it or not, high-level public diplomacy is an integral part of the job of president. If he has the time to party hearty every night in the White House, as we've heard, then couldn't he have squeezed in a state lunch or dinner, maybe even a full press conference? That doesn't seem like too much to ask of President Hope-y Changitude.
February 25, 2009
The Louse of Saud
Foreign Policy magazine announced last week that a fellow named Chas W. Freeman, current (or former) president of the Middle East Policy Council (MEPC), will be President Barack H. Obama's pick to chair the National Intelligence Council, the lead group in creating the National Intelligence Estimates that drive policy on intelligence issues. The NIC reports directly to the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), currently Dennis Blair; it is not an inconsequential group within the intelligence community.
Who is Chas W. Freeman, jr.?
He is a former ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia during the Clinton presidency. He serves on the MEPC with such luminaries as George McGovern, top executives from Boeing, ExxonMobil, and the Carlyle Group -- all of which have multibillion-dollar investments in Saudi Arabia -- a CIA consultant, and a Palestinian immigrant named Talat Othman, who came to our attention most recently in 2002, when he vigorously protested against the FBI raids of the International Institute of Islamic Thought, created in 1981 by the Muslim Brotherhood.
Freeman may not be the best fit for this critical job, however:
- The MEPC, hence Freeman himself, is funded by the House of Saud to lobby on behalf of the Kingdom, which it does frequently in its journal, Middle East Policy.
Chas Freeman is of the opinion that China's real sin in dealing with the demonstators at Tiananmen Square was that they were too lenient and "overly cautious": "[T]he truly unforgivable mistake of the Chinese authorities was the failure to intervene on a timely basis to nip the demonstrations in the bud, rather than -- as would have been both wise and efficacious -- to intervene with force when all other measures had failed to restore domestic tranquility to Beijing and other major urban centers in China."
To put it bluntly, Freeman is an authoritarian crank who believes that "domestic tranquility" is more important that freedom of speech.
Freeman and the MEPC were the first in America to publish the anti-Israel and antisemitic screed "the Israel Lobby" by Professors Walt and Mearsheimer; even one of Freeman's supporters, David Rothkopf of Foreign Policy magazine, calls that paper "frail intellectual framework" and a "jihad" against American support of Israel.
Here is Freeman enthusing, crowing even, about his accomplishment in bringing this frail framework to American readers (from an interview with the Saudi-US Relations Information Service, SUSRIS): "Our Fall issue will contain a revised, updated, and unabridged version of the controversial paper by Professors John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt on "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy." No one else in the United States has dared to publish this article, given the political penalties that the Lobby imposes on those who criticize it. So we continue to do important things that are not done by anybody else, which I think fill some gaps."
The inner Freeman
But it's not simply that Freeman sucks up to Red China and King Abdullah of the House of Saud and opposes American support for Israel; he opposes Israel itself, seeing it as the source of all problems in the Middle East.
The MEPC website posts a speech Freeman gave to the Washington Institute of Foreign Affairs in 2007; the spech concludes:
[T]he problem of terrorism that now bedevils us has its origins in one region -- the Middle East. To end this terrorism we must address the issues in the region that give rise to it.
Principal among these is the brutal oppression of the Palestinians by an Israeli occupation that is about to mark its fortieth anniversary and shows no sign of ending. Arab identification with Palestinian suffering, once variable in its intensity, is now total. American identification with Israeli policy has also become total. Those in the region and beyond it who detest Israeli behavior, which is to say almost everyone, now naturally extend their loathing to Americans. This has had the effect of universalizing anti-Americanism, legitimizing radical Islamism, and gaining Iran a foothold among Sunni as well as Shiite Arabs. For its part, Israel no longer even pretends to seek peace with the Palestinians; it strives instead to pacify them. Palestinian retaliation against this policy is as likely to be directed against Israel's American backers as against Israel itself. Under the circumstances, such retaliation -- whatever form it takes -- will have the support or at least the sympathy of most people in the region and many outside it. This makes the long-term escalation of terrorism against the United States a certainty, not a matter of conjecture.
The Palestine problem cannot be solved by the use of force; it requires much more than the diplomacy-free foreign policy we have practiced since 9/11. Israel is not only not managing this problem; it is severely aggravating it. Denial born of political correctness will not cure this fact. Israel has shown -- not surprisingly -- that, if we offer nothing but unquestioning support and political protection for whatever it does, it will feel no incentive to pay attention to either our interests or our advice. Hamas is showing that if we offer it nothing but unreasoning hostility and condemnation, it will only stiffen its position and seek allies among our enemies. In both cases, we forfeit our influence for no gain.
There will be no negotiation between Israelis and Palestinians, no peace, and no reconciliation between them -- and there will be no reduction in anti-American terrorism -- until we have the courage to act on our interests. These are not the same as those of any party in the region, including Israel, and we must talk with all parties, whatever we think of them or their means of struggle. Refusal to reason with those whose actions threaten injury to oneself, one's friends, and one's interests is foolish, feckless, and self-defeating. That is why it is past time for an active and honest discussion with both Israel and the government Palestinians have elected, which -- in an irony that escapes few abroad -- is the only democratically elected government in the Arab world.
Remember, this speech was given in 2007 -- after several successive democratic elections in Iraq brought that government to power. Remember also that, while Hamas may have been elected, those elections were hardly fair and certainly not free... unless we imagine that gangland assassinations of one's political opponents creates no "fear factor" among those opponents' supporters.
So let's sum this up:
- Israel's "occupation" of Palestine is responsible for all the terrorism launched against the United States (which would be news to Osama bin Laden, who thought it was our presence on the holy soil of Saudi Arabia);
- Israel also controls American policy (Freeman has wholly absorbed the Walt/Mearsheimer thesis of the "Israel Lobby," through which the Jews pull the puppet strings of the world;
- That's why everybody hates America and cheers on Islamic terrorism;
- Israel is unreformable and must be destroyed;
- Hamas is Democratic, honest, and reasonable, and is only responding in a reasonable way to our "unreasoning hostility and condemnation," which is forced upon us by our Israeli puppeteers.
- (And by omission, Iraq is an undemocratic puppet government of the United States -- hence a grandpuppet of Israel.)
Mr. Freeman's Israel delenda est rant is not a one-shot; here he is in 2005, discussing (what else?) the "Israeli occupation":
[A]s long as such Israeli violence against Palestinians continues, it is utterly unrealistic to expect that Palestinians will stand down from violent resistance and retaliation against Israelis.
I certainly agree with that last point! But I draw my concurrance more from the nature of Palestinian and Arab mass psychosis than from the mad idea that Israel should commit national suicide so that people will think well of the Jews.
Freeman does not confine his hatred to Israel; he sees not only Israel's "American backers" as enemies to be reviled, but America itself; we, he says, are to blame for all the troubles in Iraq... Iraq was, one presumes, a calm and peaceful place -- before Americans mindlessly invaded:
In Iraq, the problem is not now – if it ever was – weapons of mass destruction, bad government, or even terrorism; it is the occupation. The occupation generates the very phenomena it was intended to cure. In that respect, the Anglo-American occupation of Iraq has come to have much in common with the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands. In Iraq, as in Palestine, ending the occupation is the prerequisite for reversing the growth of terrorism and restoring peace.
Like Solla Sollew, there were no problems -- or at least very few -- in Iraq before we inexplicably invaded the peaceful Land of Two Rivers and overturned its democratically elected leader. On instructions from Israel, no doubt.
As to his perspicacity about events that are at the very core of his field of interest, here is Freeman's 2005 prediction of "the best outcome still possible in Iraq":
The best outcome still possible in Iraq, it now seems, is a Shia-dominated state with a largely autonomous southern region heavily influenced by Iran and a Kurdish region independent in all but name.
Or, perhaps, a stable democratic state with deep and widespread participation by every ethnic group and all tribes, firmly accepted by the people as representative of their interests. And with Muqtada Sadr driven into exile in (where is that again?) Iran. Oh, wait; that wasn't one of the buttons on Mr. Freeman's voicemail.
The two most vital duties of the chairman of the National Intelligence Council are presidential gatekeeping and unbiased analysis: controlling what intel the president sees and what he thinks about what he sees.
But Freeman is not unbiased; he has a dog in the fight. He has chosen up sides. Freeman supports Saudi Arabia, the Hamas-led government in the Palestinian Authority, and Iran's primary source of military equipment, the People's Republic of China; and he vehemently opposes Israel and a strong American presence in Iraq or elsewhere in the Middle East. Freeman's biases have already led him to make frankly risible pronunciamentos that sound like something from CAIR's website.
These interests are not only ideological but financial as well: Freeman won't be in government service forever, and he has once and future patrons to placate.
And this is the man who will determine what intel gets to the desk of President Barack H. Obama -- who is himself already ambivalent about Israel, the Arabs, and America's role in that volatile region. Suppose the NIC comes across intelligence of a looming terrorist attack on the homeland by a bunch of Saudis or Palestinians (this is not exactly a far-fetched scenario); but suppose the intel comes from Mossad, and it's hotly denied by Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, the head of the Saudi intelligence service. Would Freeman pass it on to the president? Or would he roll his eyes, give a Chris Matthews-like "oh God," and bury it in the "nothing to see here, time to MoveOn" file?
How can we ever be sure that Chairman Freeman is being guided by an unbiased evaluation of conflicting intelligence claims, rather than by the hand of King Abdullah the Munificent?
I realize this may be a rhetorical question, but is this really who America wants heading up the main intelligence evaluating committee advising both the president and the DNI?
But at least Samantha Power and Zbigniew Brzezinski will have congenial company at the Durban II antisemitism rally; they can all sit about and discuss Palestinian resistance with the representatives of Iran, the KSA, Hamas, and Hezbollah.
UPDATE: Two thoughts with but a single mind between them... (But I like my title better!)
May 19, 2008
It's Not the Crime, It's the Cover Up: NYT Still Shielding Obama On "No Preconditions"
Today, even AP admits that Barack Obama did indeed say that he would hold summit meetings with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Syrian President Bashar Assad, Venezuelan President Oogo Chavez, and North Korean Dear Leader Kim Jong-Il "without precondition"... the very policy that prompts many in the GOP (including Big Lizards!) to dub Obama an "appeaser."
(Actually, Obama is even more feckless than Neville Chamberlain: Great Britain had no military to speak of in 1938; they used the eleven months between the dissection of Czechoslovakia -- "peace for our time" -- and Nazi Germany's invasion of Poland in a massive mobilization and buildup for a long war. Obama has no such easy excuse.)
Yet amazingly, the New York Times continues to run interference. Even today, they still pretend that what's at issue is meeting with our enemies at all, rather than meeting with them at a presidential level without any prior agreement to moderate their behavior.
Here is the Times blog the Caucus on the dustup today between John McCain and Barack Obama:
Mr. McCain, who was in Mr. Obama’s hometown to address the National Restaurant Association, diverged from prepared remarks on economic issues to get in his jab at Mr. Obama.
Believing keeping the focus on national security is advantageous to Mr. McCain, his campaign has been continuing to try to make hay over Mr. Obama’s stated willingness to sit down with the leaders of rogue nations.
The Caucus follows this bare-faced mischaracterization of the nature of the dispute with a spirited defense of Obama, just in case any readers were still confused which side was "right":
Arguing for engagement with the country’s foes, Mr. Obama said in a speech on Sunday that “strong countries and strong presidents talk to their adversaries.”
“That’s what Reagan did with Gorbachev,” he said, adding, “I mean think about it. Iran, Cuba, Venezuela -- these countries are tiny compared to the Soviet Union. They don’t pose a serious threat to us the way the Soviet Union posed a threat to us. And yet we were willing to talk to the Soviet Union at the time when they were saying we’re going to wipe you off the planet.”
He went on to argue that Iran spends “one-one hundredth of what we spend on the military. If Iran ever tried to pose a serious threat to us, they wouldn’t stand a chance. And we should use that position of strength that we have to be bold enough to go ahead and listen.”
To which, according to the Caucus, John McCain had no answer and was reduced to impotent harumphing...
Mr. McCain seized upon those comments today, his voice stern and dripping with contempt: “Obviously, Iran isn’t a superpower and doesn’t possess the military power the Soviet Union had. But that does not mean that the threat posed by Iran is insignificant.”
How weak! How embarassing! Things certainly look bleak for McCain's chances, when even a wimp like Obama can spank McCain like a stripper at a stockholder's meeting.
By the way, just to correct the record: Reagan certainly did not, as Obama claimed, talk to Gorbachev when the Soviet Union was saying "we’re going to wipe you off the planet." It was Nikita Kruschev who said "we will bury you" in 1956, three decades before Reagan's summit. The whole point of that meeting was that General Secretary Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev had already drastically reformed the Soviet Union -- remember perestroika and glasnost? -- long before Reagan agreed to that summit.
This summit represents the polar opposite of what Obama actually proposed, and which the Times continues to work overtime to suppress: You won't read a word about Obama's promise to hold summits "without precondition" in this article... nothing.
By contrast, here is AP's version of that same exchange:
Republican John McCain accused Democrat Barack Obama of inexperience and reckless judgment for saying Iran does not pose the same serious threat to the United States as the Soviet Union did in its day. McCain made the attack Monday in Chicago, Obama's home turf.
"Such a statement betrays the depth of Senator Obama's inexperience and reckless judgment. These are very serious deficiencies for an American president to possess," McCain said in an appearance at the restaurant industry's annual meeting....
McCain listed the dangers he sees from Iran: It provides deadly explosive devices used to kill U.S. soldiers in Iraq, sponsors terrorists in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East and is committed to the destruction of Israel.
"The threat the government of Iran poses is anything but tiny," McCain said.
AP goes on to characterize -- correctly, we note -- the nature of the dispute:
At the heart of the dispute between the candidates is Obama's assertion that, as president, he would meet with leaders of these rogue countries without preconditions. Obama insists that direct engagement with the Soviets helped prevent nuclear war and, over time, helped to bring down the Berlin Wall.
McCain strongly disagrees with Obama's position; he argues such a meeting would lend international prestige to U.S. foes.
"A summit meeting with the president of the United States, which is what Senator Obama is proposing, is the most prestigious card we have to play in international diplomacy," McCain said.
"An unconditional summit meeting with the next American president would confer both international legitimacy on the Iranian president and could strengthen him domestically, when he is very unpopular among the Iranian people," McCain said.
As to Obama's assertion (as paraphrased by AP) that "direct engagement with the Soviets helped prevent nuclear war and, over time, helped to bring down the Berlin Wall," I refer you to our earlier post, Appease Porridge Hot, Appease Porridge Cold: There's engagement (Kennedy style), and then there's engagement (Reagan style).
Back to the Times. The Caucus takes no judicial note of the about-face Obama took after McCain called him out. Responding to McCain, Obama today denied he had said Iran posed no threat to us:
Speaking during a town hall meeting in Billings, Mont., Senator Obama fired back at Senator McCain. “Let me be absolutely clear: Iran is a grave threat.” But the Soviet Union posed a bigger threat, he said.
A grave threat? "Grave," in the sense used here, means "fraught with danger or harm," "portending future disaster," "involving or resulting in serious consequences : likely to produce real harm or damage," "very serious : dangerous to life." But here is what Obama said over the weekend, while he was still trying to defend his promise to meet "without precondition" with leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, and North Korea by pretending that was a commonplace diplomatic act in which U.S. presidents always engage:
“That’s what Reagan did with Gorbachev,” he said, adding, “I mean think about it. Iran, Cuba, Venezuela -- these countries are tiny compared to the Soviet Union. They don’t pose a serious threat to us the way the Soviet Union posed a threat to us."
He didn't say "they don't pose as serious a threat," he said "they don't pose a serious threat." But maybe he just misspoke. He's a Democrat; he has a license to flub. But what about the overarching point?
Suppose Iran completes development of its nuclear warhead. Then suppose it passes a couple of nukes to Hamas, which passes one to al-Qaeda, which smuggles it into a busy American port and detonates it. (Hamas uses its other nuke on Tel Aviv.)
Wouldn't that be far "graver" than anything the Soviet Union actually did to us? Remember, in one sense, the threat from the Soviets was weaker: Unlike Islamist "martyrs," the Soviet Union wanted to live. We deterred them by threatening nuclear retaliation... a strategy we called "mutually assured destruction," or MAD.
Iran could make retaliation unlikely by putting several cutouts between itself and the nuclear bomb; and al-Qaeda or other apocalyptic, human-sacrificing death cults cannot be deterred by threats of retaliation, because they long to die in the blast anyway, believing that's an express ticket to paradise and the 72 virgins and 72 wives (or perhaps chilled raisins instead).
But evidently, none of this has occurred to the first-term senator from Chicago. He cannot conceive any way in which Iran could pose a serious threat to the United States. Except that he simultaneously believes that it constitutes a "grave threat!"
And the Times doesn't notice any contradiction. This raises an interesting thought... Given the New York Times' inability to stay afloat financially, and given their clear ideological leanings -- maybe it would make more sense for them simply to disband the company and reorganize themselves as the Democratic Party of the Times Square District.
I think they would be a lot more financially secure with a piece of Barack Obama's fundraising action than they are now trying to peddle their "newspapers."
May 8, 2008
Oppressed by China Red
Today, the Chinese government lugged the Olympic torch (one of the "side torches," not the main one) up to the summit of Mount Everest at 29,029 feet (8,848 meters). Provacatively enough, they ascended the Tibetan (north) face of the mountain (which it pleases the world to call the "Chinese face") rather than the Nepalese (south) face.
All foreign climbing teams were told that Everest was closed for the event; China was very afraid some mountaineer from the United States or some European country would unfurl a "free Tibet" banner and "mar" the celebration. The other climbers who had planned to summit during that period all had to go home or stick around at Base Camp and climb some other time. Even Nepal, under pressure from the 800-lb gorilla of the Chinese occupation force in next-door Tibet, went along with China's seizure of the tallest mountain in the world for a narcissistic celebration of itself.
Most of the climbers were Tibetans climbing in Tibet, but the only national flag they unfurled was Chinese. Instead of being good propaganda for Red China, the climb became mired in controversy, like everything else: To many, it symbolized China's continuing dominance of Tibet and its adamant claim that the invasion and long occupation makes Tibet a province of China now.
But ham-fisted diplomacy and PR has become a hallmark of the not-ready-for-prime-time People's Republic of China, seen most clearly by the catastophic public-relations disaster of the torch tour...
After leaving San Francisco, the Olympic torch traveled down south to Australia and around several Southeast Asian countries before arriving in Nagano, Japan on April 27th. As I wrote before, the Nagano authorities refused to allow the blue-clad Chinese paramilitary guards to run with a torch runner; but that did not deter China: Using internet bulletin-board systems, China solicited a very large number of Chinese exchange students in Japan to "volunteer" for "torch-guarding duty." China even provided them with Chinese flags.
But if Communist China meant to demonstrate that it's civilized enough to host an Olympics, it failed miserably.
The Chinese volunteers in Japan surrounded the torch runner so tightly that they prevented any of the locals from seeing the Japanese celebrity athletes recruited to carry the torch. There were very few Olympics or Japanese flags in view, mostly just a tsunami of red and yellow Communist flags flooding down the parade route. My father, watching the event on TV, told me that it didn't even look like Japan: “If the Chinese wanted to enjoy the torch alone and not let others see it, why didn't they just run it around inside China?”
Two things shocked the Japanese:
- The sheer number of Chinese who showed up; hundreds of "torch guards" materialized seemingly out of nowhere to participate, and many Japanese wondered where they had all been a month earlier.
- How swiftly Japan rushed to appease China; probably because of point 1 above, the Japanese police looked the other way as the pro-Chinese protesters suppressed the pro-Tibet side by force.
It's no secret that there is racial prejudice against Chinese in Japan (and against Japanese in China). But unlike Korean nationals, who are often vocal about their civil rights, the Chinese in Japan have kept a low profile. They by and large assimilate into Japanese society; Chinese immigrants and Japanese citizens had been on relatively good terms for decades.
However, in recent years -- starting with the orchestrated anti-Japanese riot in China over WWII compensation in 2005 -- mounting crime by Chinese gangsters in Japan and the recent frozen-food contamination have severely strained the two countries’ relationship. In this climate, the "in your face" behavior by Chinese students is "unhelpful" (as Donald Rumsfeld would put it) to the image of Red China.
The Japanese people were also angered by the Nagano police's pro-Chinese policy. Determined to avoid trouble, the cops kow-towed to the Chinese, preventing many pro-Tibet and anti-Chinese residents (including Japanese citizens) from protesting.
In this YouTube, a lone pro-Tibetan protester (his sign reads "Shame on China" in English) is surrounded by pro-Chinese agitators. Two of them converge on the man with the anti-Chinese sign, and they rip it to shreds. During all this, several Japanese policemen stand by and do nothing to stop the aggression or protect the Tibet supporter's freedom of speech:
Next, a pro-Tibet protester on a motor-bike is told that his Tibetan flag is offensive and might "create trouble" -- yet just up the block, hundreds of pro-China demonstrators wave hundreds of Chinese flags, and the police allow them to march on:
Policeman: "If you wave such a flag, it looks like a challenge."
Protester: "What about their flags? Why don't you stop them?"
The Nagano police are only taking their cue from the government of Japan; yesterday, pro-China Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda welcomed the Chinese president, Hu Jintao; Hu's main claim to fame -- what likely propelled him into the presidency -- was the crackdown he initiated in 1989 when he ran the "Tibet Autonomous Region"... and the possibility that he may even have had a hand in the unexpected death of the Panchen Lama of Tibet. The Central Committee of the Communist Part of China tends to sit up and take notice of efficient suppression of dissent.
But at least in Japan, the pro-Tibet demonstrators for the most part escaped violence from overzealous Chinese students. South Korea was not so lucky.
At the torch’s next stop in Seoul, over 10,000 Chinese students showed up. Korean police were pathetically unequipped to deal with a mob that size. They could not stop the Chinese from beating a number of anti-Chinese demonstrators (hat tip Agam’s Gecko):
Before the event, the police's main concern was that rallies by human rights activists to protest China's crackdown in Tibet might disrupt the relay. However, tens of thousands of nationalistic Chinese supporters flocked to streets in Seoul, resulting in an outbreak of violence against anti-Beijing Olympic protesters.
Some, including one Korean journalist, sustained light injuries from the clash in which Chinese expatriates and students hurled rocks, sidewalk blocks and rubbish. Police say they will apprehend those who resorted to violence….
The Chinese supporters pushed through police lines, with some of them hurling rocks, bottled water and plastic and steel pipes at the protesters.
It soon turned into a violent clash that left citizens, riot police officers and anti-China protesters injured. A news photographer was hit over the head and another Korean activist was hurt after being hit by a pipe wrench in the chest.
The pro-Chinese later surrounded, kicked and punched Tibetans and South Korean supporters who waved pro-Tibet banners and called for the protection of human rights of North Korean defectors. They also clashed with riot police, witnesses said.
Pro-Chinese violence in Seoul, South Korea
At least there was no People's Liberation Army to gun down the Korean demonstrators.
Choson Online goes into detail about the violence:
The clips show some 100 Chinese crowding in on several Koreans protesting against China’s repression in Tibet in the lobby of the Seoul Plaza Hotel in the heart of the capital, beating them with flagpoles and fists, and kicking them. Riot police were sandwiched in the middle, and some of them were also beaten.
The Chinese students kept shouting, "Beat him to death!" and "Apologize!" Those who were beaten up by the Chinese mob were later revealed to have been three members of civil rights groups who had protested against China’s handling of the Tibet issue in front of the Deoksu Palace on Sunday afternoon. They escaped into the hotel after being chased by over 400 China supporters. One riot police officer had to have six stitches in the head after being beaten by the mob.
There was also footage of a reporter bleeding from the head after being hit by a piece of wood thrown by the Chinese, and a leading member of a civil rights group hurt by a metal cutter hurled by the Chinese demonstrator. One clip shows four American high school students wearing "Free Tibet" T-shirts surrounded by 300 Chinese people. They were later rescued by the police.
(As an aside, this should serve as a strong counterargument to those pro-Chinese and anti-Tibet commenters who have insisted that the pictures in this post are "easily explained" by the suggestion that Tibetan demonstrators and Chinese loyalists happily walk side by side without friction to the demonstrations.)
As you might imagine, Koreans are up in arms about the Chinese mob’s behavior.
According to Japanese language Choson Online, before the riots against freedom of speech began, South Koreans were somewhat sympathetic to China for all the troubles they were having with protest spanning the globe. However, their feelings toward China have changed overnight: Oppressing dissenters within their own country is one thing; it's ugly, but other Asian countries are reluctant to interfere in China's internal business. But assaulting and suppressing anti-Chinese sentiment in foreign countries is unforgivable. Who are the Chinese to dictate to the rest of the world what protesters can say about Red China?
This scandal demonstrates two points:
- How diplomatically immature China still is, still making the sort of blunders more often assciated with third-world countries like Myanmar;
- And how feckless it was for the International Olympic Committee to award the 2008 Olympics to Beijing in the first place, in the misguided and thoughtless belief that merely giving China everything it wants will raise the self esteem of the Chinese Communist Party so much that they will spontaneously reform themselves.
The first point is easily argued: Whether or not China helped orchestrate the violent Tibetan demonstrations in and out of the country earlier, why didn't they just keep playin the victim card? Why not continue to hawk the line that it is the demonstrators, not the put-upon Chinese, who are the unreasonable ones?
A couple of weeks of China complaining that France and Japan and South Korea were not living up to their obligation to protect the torch, coupled with pictures of vicious anti-Chinese thugs rioting in the streets, would have been worth years of pro-Chinese propaganda.
Instead, with visions of Tiananmen Square dancing like sugarplums in their heads, the Communists deployed paramilitary troops to aggressively "guard the torch;" and when other countries prevented such invasions by the PLA, China pressed its foreign-exchange students into duty as urban-assault irregulars -- just like the Nazi and Stalinist fighters who battled in the German streets before the NSDAP finally took over.
Neville Chamberlain had a catchy phrase for the second point above; when applied to Nazi Germany in 1938, he called it "peace in our time." (World War II began the next year, and Chamberlain lived just long enough to see the collapse of his peace plan.)
China is the most populous country in the world (but not for long) and one of the most troublous, having deep ties to both North Korea and Iran. It certainly is not the most powerful, yet it is one of the most belligerent.
Which accounts for the kow-towing by countries such as Japan and South Korea: People usually show great deference to the town madman, even if he's armed only with a nuclear pocket knife.
April 16, 2008
Responding to Comments on "Move 'Em Out - Lock 'Em Up"
Every so often, I start writing a comment, and it -- well, it just gets away from me. In this case, I believe what I wrote is different enough from the original post by Sachi that it makes sense simply to publish it here as a new post.
In this case, I will omit (as I generally do) specific names of those to whom I respond. You can find them out readily enough by just going to the original and reading the comments, looking for the quoted phrases.
The thesis of Move 'Em Out - Lock 'Em Up was the brutality of Red China even today, and especially in response to having won the 2008 Olympics. Sachi listed a number of examples of such oppression. A commenter responded:
Granting you all your points, won't you agree that the Communists built a China the Chinese people can be proud of? A China entirely different from the one that existed 70 years ago? A world economic and military power? A country which will not be conquered by a neighbor one-twentieth its size? Which will not have its face pushed into the mud by the French, the British or the Dutch for the benefit of their trading companies? Which will no longer be vulnerable to becoming a nation of opium addicts at the point of a gun? Which will not see the beheadings of 100,000 of its civilians in just one city by an occupying army?
This entire list of achievements of the Communist Party in China could equally well be said about the achievements of the Communist Party in Russia or the Nazi Party in Germany. The only thing the commenter missed praising them for is making the trains run on time.
These are simply elements of modernity; to ascribe them to Communism is to imply that the modern world can be entered only through the door of totalitarianism... which is nonsense, obviously, as modernity was invented by liberal democracies when socialism did not yet even exist.
I seem to be defending communism which is the last thing I want to do. But Hong Kong or Taiwan do not approach China's majesty in today's world.
Then why do it? By "majesty," all one means is a massive conscript army and a bunch of nuclear missiles -- that China simply stole from the West, just like the Soviets.
What other "majesty" could one be talking about? The majesty of gigantic, tomb-like public buildings? The majesty of pollution so great, it dries up rivers and kills people in foreign lands, due to food exports?
I expect that in one more generation China will be a much more free and open society and substantially, if not perfectly, democratic.
But the most likely way that this would happen is as a result of a catastrophic collapse of the entire vicious system, leading to mass starvation, epidemic disease, and the death of Chinese culture -- not to mention hundreds of millions of individuals. What a joyous future to look forward to!
NB: I originally wrote that "the commenter later explains" the above; the commenter now says that was not how he or she meant it; so I have changed the wording to the version above.
And even then, it may not work; such collapse is generally followed by tyranny, not liberty. And we have never before had to deal with a failed state of that size -- and with such an arsenal of nuclear missiles, biological, and chemical weapons, and with literally millions of conscripts with AK-47s, who would of course become mercenaries to feed themselves, killing being all the trade they know. How can anyone contemplate such a future so calmly?
Instead of watching from the sidelines as such apocalypse unfolds, then blaming the pre-modern occupied peoples for a flaw that is a fundamental part of the modernist conquering culture instead, why not work to avert such a hell on earth in the first place -- by doing everything possible to force the Communists from power in favor of those promoting liberty, individualism, and Capitalism?
China would just as readily have entered modernity -- which is all that the entire list above entails, anyway -- had Chiang Kai-Shek won that war, instead of Mao Tse-Tung. Taiwan did it, without Communism.
We are all aware that fascist and Communist movements are essentially modernist; but they are also essentially illiberal, undemocratic, contra-economic, non-integrating, brutal, murderous, expansionist, utterly unconcerned with the fate of individuals (only the State, the hive-collective) -- and they are fundamentally evil.
I marvel that some don't understand this; it should be imprinted on our social DNA.
Socialism is not the only way to enter the modern world; in fact, it's one of the worst ways, because by the very nature of such movements, they freeze at the moment of modernity at which they were born and never grow beyond that.
Red China does not innovate. It does not grow, except by imposing an early 20th-century worldview on those elements of the countryside that are still pre-modern; this will get you a high growth rate -- but a very low ceiling beyond which you cannot grow. (It also gets you poisoned water, poisoned food, and poisoned air when you combine stolen 20th-century manufacturing with a 19th-century attitude towards pollution.)
Without freedom and individualism, Communist China is forever cut off from entering the post-modern world; it will never rise beyond the level achieved by the Soviet Union. It's only still in existence because it steals innovations from the West.
And it's soul-killing, just as every other Communist utopian "movement," from the USSR to North Korea to Cuba to Venezuela.
I find it surreal that a post-modern person in 2008 -- writing on a post-modern, fundamentally individualist invention like a PC! -- can enthuse so ecstatically about the grand, new socialism of a century ago.
That was basically my previous points, i.e. that China was selected by the IOC to hold the 2008 Olympics, and talk of a boycott immediately started. Now, with the Olympics almost ready to start, the anti-China frenzy is running overtime…in High Gear.
Politics need to stay out of the Olympics, and make no mistake; this anti-China frenzy is supported by political agendas from many sources and sides. So much for the "Olympic Spirit".
Except that the selection of the PRC by the International Olympic Committee was itself utterly political.
They were in no way ready to host an Olympic games, just as they were not in the least ready for WTO membership. The thoroughly political (and utopian) idea was that by giving them the benefits of post-modern society, they would somehow "see the light" and enter the twenty-first century themselves.
Instead, they act like the host of the 1936 Olympics -- and their trade policy more or less mimics that of the Soviet Union in the 1920s. Surprise, surprise, on the Jungle Cruise tonight.
As you [Sachi] have stated, this anti-China agenda started "years before the recent Tibetan problems began", and has forced China to respond.
Sachi never said the Chinese Communist Party was "forced... to respond." That's the argument of the oppressor on a nutshell... "Look what you made me do!"
The anti-Stalin agenda forced him to murder millions of people and throw an even larger number into the gulag. The anti-Khmer Rouge agenda forced Pol Pot to butcher "intellectuals" who were literate, or who knew another language, or who wore glasses.
Or for that matter, the anti-imperialis agenda forced the British Empire to make Hong Kong residents buy opium at gunpoint... it's an all-purpose justification for oppression.
My God; do people even even listen to what they are forced to say, just to excuse Red China's brutality? This one is particularly ripe. The commenter began by quoting from George Friedman at StratFor:
If China were to withdraw from Tibet, and there were no military hindrance to population movement, Beijing fears this population could migrate into Tibet. If there were such a migration, Tibet could turn into an extension of India and, over time, become a potential beachhead for Indian power. If that were to happen, India’s strategic frontier would directly abut Sichuan and Yunnan -- the Chinese heartland.
Yes; if one's goal is imperialist Chinese hegemony over the entire world, I can see why this would be an impediment to liberating Tibet. I'm sure Islamic caliphists feel the same pressure.
India is a capitalist democracy. Shouldn't we want a liberal democracy to abut the border of Red China? I understand why Communist dictatorship would fear democracy... but why do some commenters on this post?
The Chinese regard [the Dalai Lama] as an Indian puppet… their view is that the Indians could shut the Dalai Lama down if they wanted to, and that they don’t signals Indian complicity...
Yes -- Indian "complicity" in freedom of religion, a crime in China.
China won the 2008 Olympics…other countries were upset (in some cases upset that they didn’t win it). China has come a long way since the cold war, and that change was reflected in their winning of the 2008 Olympics.
I never cease to be amazed by the knots defenders of Red China will tie themselves into to try to make their case: Now they argue that we only support freedom of religion, speech, and the press in China because... we're in a snit that we didn't win the 2008 Olympics?
What does the StratFor argument demonstrate? That Red China is afraid to allow liberty in Tibet -- or indeed across its heartland -- because liberty threatens the despotic reign of the Chinese Communist Party. (Which is all that Friedman was saying, not that we in the West should applaud and support such imperialist thinking.)
There was a time when Americans and other Westerners would consider that a reason to support those calling for liberty... not a sufficient reason to imprison and execute them. I weep for America.
Rather than dig in one's heels to defend the monstrous crimes of the ChiComs, which surely must make China-defenders squirm -- and rather than blithely accept a future of unutterable misery, primitivism, and a mass die-off of literally hundreds of millions of people, as some appear to believe inevitable -- why not work to bring freedom, liberty, democracy, individualism, Judeo-Christian religion, and real Capitalism to China... and save that country from its hellish, 60-year nightmare?
That would be the right thing to do. What's more important, that is the American thing to do.
April 15, 2008
Move 'Em Out - Lock 'Em Up
I've been reading comments on my last entry, and I realized that many American readers are unaware of the atrocities committed by China against the Tibetan people in the last month. For that matter, many readers don't know that the Chinese government has been "cracking down" on Chinese dissidents, Christians, Buhddists, bookstore owners, unlicensed pamphleteers -- and even forcibly removing ordinary citizens and demolishing their homes, without compensation, just because they were in the way of new Olympic-related development. And all in the name of renewal for the 2008 summer Olympics.
Shortly after Beijing was selected in 2001 by the International Olympic Committee -- years before the recent Tibetan problems began -- there was already talk of a boycott in the Japanese-language conservative blogsphere. By now, readers must have seen the "Boycott Beijing" logo of Reporters Without Borders:
Boycott Beijing 2008 logo
Reporters Without Borders, an international organization advocating freedom of the press, has been running a boycott campaign for more than a year now.
Anti-Chinese sentiment is very strong among the Japanese right-wing; many believe fascist Japan's invasion of China in the 1930s actually "rescued" the latter from a state of primitive feudalism, "modernizing" them into the twentieth century. Sound familiar? Although that is a very tendentious reading of history, the antipathy of the Japanese Right towards Communist (or fascist) China today is completely supportable: Whatever some may say, the government is unquestionably evil.
Before I go on, I should tell you a bit about me: I am a naturalized American citizen, but I was born and raised in Japan during the cold war. I have always hated Soviet Communism with a passion, as well as its Chinese cousin. I despise the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, as well as the Cambodian and Vietnamese revolutionary Marxist/Maoist movements.
It shouldn't be necessary to tell you that I do not hate the Chinese people. I have many Chinese friends, such as Mr. Ching; and they hate Communist China more than you can imagine. I am furious at Mao and his successors for what they did to their own people, as well as to others, including Tibetans, Mongolians, and other minor local tribes.
So let me tell you what the ChiComs -- I'm proud to use that word -- have been doing to "prepare" for the Olympics; you may not be quite so quick to give them the benefit of the doubt.
The Communist government has been forcibly removing residents unfortunate enough to live on future Olympic sites. Since government-owned construction developers do not sufficiently compensate evicted residents (sometimes not at all), many refuse to move. So what happens? This is what happens.
Olympic renewal = peasant removal
I found a version of the original article in Japanese; here is my translated summary:
Last November, a married Beijing farm couple, who were protesting the destruction of their home of 30 years, attempted suicide when construction workers tried to remove them by force. Their house was located on the site where the Communists plan to build an expensive condominium for Olympic use. Construction workers had just dug a ditch around the couple's house, totally isolating it.
On November 29th, security guards hired by the construction company cordoned off the area and ordered the couple -- 殷永利, 53 and his wife 廬桂敏, 50 -- to leave. They climbed onto their roof and refused to move. When the workers forcibly tried to get them down, the couple swallowed pesticide. They were immediately carried to a nearby hospital, but the husband is in critical condition. Later that day, their house was completely demolished with everything still inside it.
This is hardly an isolated case. This type of forced eviction has been going on for years:
The Geneva-based Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) handed China one of its not-so-prestigious "Housing Rights Violator Awards" in 2005. The Centre's executive director Scott Leckie stated, "The Beijing government has admitted [to] a minimum of 400,000 people [being] moved to create space to build various Olympic venues...."COHER also reports the "800 year old Jiaodoku neighbourhood was flattened in July 2003, destroying over 2,000 households, to make way for Olympics-related construction."
Like the couple above, many citizens who lost their homes resorted to suicide as a form of protest:
Another widely reported protest occurred on October 1, 2003. Beijing resident Ye Guoqiang jumped from the Jinshui Bridge in an attempted suicide to protest how the Chinese government forcefully evicted him from his home to make way for Olympic construction. He survived the fall but was jailed for illegally demonstrating. Apparently Guoqiang was not alone; in November of 2003, over 1,200 Beijing residents signed a petition on the Internet in support of his actions. Seven other protesters were charged with causing social unrest in October 2003, and two more protesters were detained. In 2004, another protestor, Ye Guozhu was detained "and sentenced to four years' imprisonment for protesting against the razing of his home and two of his restaurants." Daily protests against demolition and eviction occurred in Tiananmen Square and the Zhongnanhai Compound from September to December of 2004.
Crackdown on dissidents
Gearing up for the Olympics, China's repression of journalists -- and of many other professions that might offer visiting foreigners a glimpse of China contrary to the government-mandated image -- has gone into full throttle:
"There has been a renewed crackdown on journalists and internet users in the past year -- a fact that makes government commitments to 'complete media freedom' ring hollow," said Catherine Baber. "The current state of affairs runs counter to the most basic interpretation of the 'Olympic spirit' with the 'preservation of human dignity' at its heart...."
As well as carrying out forced evictions from Olympic related sites, Beijing city authorities have decided that in order to clean up the city's image in the run-up to the Olympics, targets of 're-education through labour' -- imprisonment without charge -- should to be expanded to include 'unlawful advertising or leafleting, unlicensed taxis, unlicensed businesses, vagrancy and begging'.
Religious persecution in China is infamous; but it has accelerated in recent years, according to the February 7th, 2008 issue of Christian Post:
China stepped up its crackdown on Christians last year compared to 2006, with an overall increase in reported persecutions of believers, according to the China Aid annual report released Wednesday.
There were a total of 60 cases of known house church persecutions by the government covering 18 provinces and one municipality in 2007, up from 46 cases in 2006, according to the report. The number of people persecuted was 788, up from 665 the previous year, and the number of people arrested and detained increased 6.6 percent, from 650 to 693.
The number of people sentenced or imprisoned decreased slightly from 17 in 2006 to 16 people in 2007....
Besides targeting house church leaders, China focused on disrupting Christian activities occurring in urban areas. Over half of the reported persecution cases occurred in urban areas, accounting for 58.3 percent of the 60 cases. The number of people persecuted in urban areas was 599, which is 76 percent of the total number of those persecuted.
The Chinese government also targeted Christian publications, with seven cases related to the operation, printing, transportation and distribution of Christian literatures.
Here's one amazing bit of news, unknown to those Americans who haven't paid much attention to China in recent years:
A notable case is that of Christian businessman and well-known house church leader Zhou Heng, who was formally arrested on Aug. 31, 2007, for receiving 3 tons of Bibles.
Zhou is the manager of a registered bookstore [!] that sells some Christian books published legally and officially inside China. He was detained when he went to pick up three tons of Bibles at a bus station. The Bibles were reportedly donated by South Korean churches and intended for local believers free of charge. But the government only allows officially sanctioned (state) churches to print and distribute a limited number of Bibles each year.
It is reported that Zhou was beaten in prison severely by inmates and prison guards.
Court officials, after investigating Zhou’s case, returned it to Public Security Bureau (PSB), ruling insufficient grounds for prosecution, according to the latest update. The PSB has neither sentenced nor released Zhou, who remains in detention.
Olympic Tibetan-baiting competition
China controls speech and access to the press; it controls all aspects of politics; it controls sports, and virtually every profession must be licensed and strictly regulated; even bookstores must be registered, and the owners can be arrested for selling unapproved Bibles. The Party controls the religion of their subjects -- and of course, even the number of children families can bear. Chinese are arrested without charge, held for indeterminate sentences, and beaten; they have no recourse at law against the will of the Party.
But thank goodness they're not "totalitarian."
In this context, it is undestandable that the Chinese Communist Party, facing unprecedented foreign-press scrutiny because of the Olympics, would decided to teach Tibetans a lesson in blind obedience, to crack down on whomever may have even thought about conducting an unlawful assembly -- of course, all assemblies are unlawful, unless they have government approval -- or otherwise embarassing the government, say by receiving unlicensed Bibles. But how would the Chinese leadership justify brutalizing people who are known for nonviolence?
In my estimation, the most obvious play would be first to stage a "violent riot" or two in Tibet, led by supposed Buddhist monks... and even one or two violent incidents in foreign countries, supposedly carried out by supporters of Tibetan independence. This would give the elite new media around the world the impression that Tibetans are the real problem, not their Chinese occupiers, oppressers, brutalizers. "They" (those protesting enslavement) are the ones disrupting the Olympics -- not those enslaving them!
How is this any different than saying the civil unrest in America in the late 1950s and early 60s was all the fault of those blacks who didn't know their place -- not those white politicians who enacted Jim Crow laws in the first place?
Judging from some of the comments we received, I must say this Chinese propaganda has worked very well indeed.
April 13, 2008
Forget It. It's Chinatown... Big Lizards Breaking Bombshell News!
Correction below: Secondary photographic charge refuted, but the primary charge remains; and even the secondary charge remains, albeit by other evidence, not the bottom photograph. See below.
The most iconic photograph from the riots attending the torch-bearing ceremony, the one that has every tongue wagging, is surely this one: A Tibetan supporter violently assaulting a wheelchair-bound woman carrying the torch through Paris.
This one picture came to symbolize the heartless violence of the Tibetan protesters, thus justifying, in many people's minds, the paramilitary troops that China sent to harass, beat, and brutalize the protesters in other countries -- from France and London to the United States to South America:
Violent protester attacks wheelchair-bound torch bearer.
Note especially the bandana this vicious thug wears; it's clearly the Tibetan flag, as you can see from the image below:
For contrast, here is the Chinese Communist flag; the two are quite distinct, and you cannot mistake one for the other:
Rather like the infamous Mohammed al-Durrah photograph, used by the Palestinians to turn the world against Israel by claiming they shot a young boy, this photograph began to turn the world against the victims of Red China's brutal occupation and subsequent attempt at slow genocide.
But wait; that's an odd comparison to make, isn't it? For the al-Durrah footage is now known to be a fake; careful investigation has shown that the Israelis could not possibly have shot the child from the positions they occupied. He had to have been shot by Palestinians -- if he were shot at all.
So the video footage is infamous mostly because it is a clumsy fake, one of the first instances of "Pallywood."
Surely that can't be case with this photo of the Tibetan protester and the lady in the wheelchair; after all, we see him clearly -- and the camera never lies.
There are several Japanese-language blogs I read that are written by Chinese living in Japan. (This may seem like a detour, but it's not, I promise.) I believe the authors are mostly Japanese nationals, but they still have strong ties to China. And of course, they're usually anti-Communist... which is why they don't live in China in the first place.
Mr. Ching is one of them. He often introduces events happening in the Chinese blogosphere.
China has not broadcast any images to the Chinese people of what they are doing in Tibet; but according to Mr. Ching, the Communists did broadcast the image of that wheelchair-bound woman being attacked by a Tibetan protester. A number of Chinese bloggers (in China) were outraged by the attack; they started to look into the identity of the attacker. In the course of their investigation, they found something shocking...
They stumbled across some other photographs: pictures of the attacker, clearly that same Tibetan protester (still wearing his Tibetan-flag bandana), arriving earlier for the festivities -- and marching in the company of a number of Chinese carrying Chinese flags:
Our protester with his actual friends; note the flags.
Is it possible that our "protester" friend is in fact -- a Chinese agent provacateur? That would require us to believe that the Chinese Communists could be so devious and duplicitous as to commit an atrocity, just to blame it on the Tibetan protesters and arouse retroactive justification for the crackdown by the Chinese paramilitaries we talked about in an earlier post.
Bah. That would just be -- too Clintonian.
The Chinese bloggers were still outraged; but when the truth became obvious, they switched targets. Once they posted the photos, and readers began to share the images with their non-blogging friends, public opinion in China also turned around. Now, according to Mr. Ching, Chinese citizens are inflamed by their own government's conspiratorial manipulation of public sentiment.
The plot backfired; and now the Chinese blogosphere is going into overtime. For example, there is also this:
Chinese soldiers holding fake Tibetan monks' robes... I wonder why?
Correction: Benign explanation alert -- but only of the photograph itself. Chinese bloggers evidently stumbled across this picture of Chinese soldiers with monks' robes more than a week ago; and it has actually been explained: The government says that the soldiers were just serving as extras in a movie. Whether or not this is true, the picture is actually old, dating at least from 2003 -- when there was no crackdown in Tibet (that we know of). So it turns out that this last photo does actually have a benign explanation. "Burglarly tools" or not, this one isn't what it seems.
New Question: Has anybody actually seen this alleged 2003 appearance of this photo? The claim is that it's on the back cover of a magazine... but so far, nobody has linked to any such picture. As this is the main piece of evidence "refuting" the idea that the picture was more recent, hence perhaps not as benign as the Chinese government claims, it would be somewhat more convincing with a real link to go with it.
The Chinese government is claiming that the picture was the back cover of the 2003 annual report by the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD); however, the index of reports inconveniently shows only the front covers; and the PDF of the 2003 report shows neither cover. Nor does it contain the word "movie," and the only instance of "robe" is unrelated to the Chinese claim. Color us a bit skeptical until we see an actual, physical copy of that report.
So for all readers out there trying to defend the honor of the People's Republic of China -- please post a comment that includes a link to a 2003 website containing that photo. Thanks!
You can start with this blogger, who tries to prove that the picture is just from a movie. Alas, although some of what he says seems plausible (taking into account his obvious anti-conservative bias), none of his claims are linked; so again, it's impossible to verify anything he says. But if anyone can find some links for these claims, we will publish them here in this post.
We are not prepared to say that the photo is actually evidence; but we can say that so far, those claiming that it is from 2003 have not presented any convincing evidence to that effect, either.
However... while that photograph itself appears benign, the charge that the Chinese themselves fomented the rioting to justify a crackdown in advance of the Olympics is now being made by the Dalai Lama. And a Canadian newspaper links to a story reprinted in the Epoch Times (March 27th, 2008) that says the British equivalent to our NSA -- GCHQ, the Government Communications Headquarters -- believes that the Chinese People's Liberation Army may in fact have staged some of the rioting:
Britain's GCHQ, the government communications agency that electronically monitors half the world from space, has confirmed the claim by the Dalai Lama that agents of the Chinese People's Liberation Army, the PLA, posing as monks, triggered the riots that have left hundreds of Tibetans dead or injured.
GCHQ analysts believe the decision was deliberately calculated by the Beijing leadership to provide an excuse to stamp out the simmering unrest in the region, which is already attracting unwelcome world attention in the run-up to the Olympic Games this summer.
(This is reprinted from the G2 Bulletin, which requires a paid subscription to view, alas.)
So while the photograph has been refuted as evidence of anything, the actual substance of the secondary charge is still open.
And there is still no explanation for how the "Tibetan" attacker of the girl in the wheelchair happens to be such pals with supporters of Communist China that they would all march to the demonstration together, surrounded by Chinese Communist flags -- right before rioting against each other.
What follows is the original end of this post; while reading about the photograph, bear the above correction in mind:
This is a group of Chinese soldiers in Tibet. I can't say whether they're in the same paramilitary group as the "jogging-suit Janissaries;" but for some peculiar reason, each of these Chinese soldiers holds in his hands an ersatz Tibetan monk's robe.
Now, far be it from mere bloggers (on either side of the Pacific Rim) to make accusations against the noble fighting men of Red China. But it does occur to us that much of the armed violence committed by China against the Tibetan monks has been justified on the basis that Tibetan monks -- in their robes -- have been "attacking" Chinese civilians in Tibet.
Of course, just because a fellow is caught outside a house at midnight carrying burglary tools doesn't prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is a burglar. But can anyone think of an innocent reason why a company of Chinese soldiers should each have a Tibetan monk's robe, when they are trying to suppress protest by a bunch of robed Tibetan monks?
China is beginning to discover what Americans -- Dan Rather in particular -- learned to their chagrin some years ago: We live in the age of new media; and in this epoch, we know that cameras lie all the time. They lie about the "death" of a Palestinian boy; they lie about exploding trucks and fraudulent Air National Guard memos... and they can most certainly lie about who really attacked a beautiful, young girl in a wheelchair.
But those infernal recording devices have two edges; where one photo lies, another can reveal the truth.
Truth to the Left is like Kryptonite to Superman. All the lackeys, minions, and lickspittles of Hu Jintao will never be able to live down this blow to their carefully constructed public image -- not just the violence itself, but the repugnant way they have tried to shift the blame to the very victims of that violence.
I wonder; are they starting to regret getting the Olympics after all?
April 11, 2008
Special (Forces) Olympics
The Olympic torch came to San Francisco yesterday -- and quickly departed, leaving nary a trace.
The City of Brother Love wanted to avoid the violent disturbances experienced in Paris and London, as pro-Tibet protesters used the occasion to draw attention to China's nearly six-decade occupation of that country. So San Francisco changed the torch-bearers' route,
bypassing protesters and potential spectators alike:
The nation’s only chance to see the Olympic flame up close became an elaborate game of hide-and-seek here on Wednesday, as city officials secretly rerouted the planned torch relay, swarmed its runners with blankets of security and then whisked the torch to the airport in a heavily guarded motorcade....
Just before the flame’s planned debut, the police along the announced route put on riot gear, seemingly in expectation of the flame’s arrival.
Mayor Gavin Newsom said the decision to change the route was made shortly after the torch was lighted outside AT&T Park, when it was briefly held aloft by Chinese Olympic officials and then promptly taken into a waterfront warehouse....
"It was a simple decision," Mr. Newsom said. "Do we cancel the event or do we change the event to assure the safety and security of the torchbearers?"
The whole point of Olympic torch is to celebrate the upcoming Olympics; if the people are intentionally prevented from seeing it, then what is the point of having a torch-bearing ceremony in the first place? They should have simply cancelled the event, rather than waste taxpayer's money for an elaborately secured farce.
But there is a more significant issue here than liberal obtuseness. Notice, in the photos below, several Chinese-looking men in blue track suits running alongside of the torch bearer: Although the New York Times says nothing about it -- and are probably not even aware of the controversy -- I believe these runners are members of Chinese paramilitary police unit, sent by the Chinese government to protect the torch flame.
According to the London Times, these paramilitaries have been traveling with the torch all over the world; their presence was witnessed in Paris and London this past week, for example:
China's blue-clad flame attendants, whose aggressive methods of safeguarding the Olympic torch have provoked international outcry, are paramilitary police from a force spun off from the country’s army.
The squad of 30 young men from the police academy that turns out the cream of the paramilitary security force has the job at home of ensuring riot control, domestic stability and the protection of diplomats.
Compare these two photos, the one on the left from San Francisco, the one on the right from either London or Paris:
Chinese paramilitary police in San Francisco (L) and London (R)
The problem is that unlike the civilized European and American police, these Chinese paramilitaries act as if they are at war; they have no regard for freedom of speech no tolerance of dissent, no matter where they happen to be. They have strongarmed protesters and bystanders alike and have even peremptorily ordered the torch bearers around, as if they were already in Beijing (an ominious sign of things to come when the athletes are actually in Beijing):
The Olympic medallist and organiser of the 2012 Games [Lord Sebastian Coe] was overheard saying that the officials had pushed him around as the torch made its way through the capital on Sunday. He added that other countries on the route should "get rid of those guys".
"They tried to punch me out of the way three times. They are horrible. They did not speak English . . . I think they were thugs."
His comments came after Konnie Huq, the former Blue Peter presenter, who was one of the torchbearers on Sunday, described how she had seen the officials in "skirmishes" with the police.
Ms Huq, who was carrying the torch when a pro-Tibet activist tried to snatch the flame, said of the guards: "They were very robotic, full-on . . . They were barking orders like 'run' and 'stop' and I was like, 'Who are these people?'."
The obvious question is, Who authorized their activity? The UK government must have known about them, but evidently, they didn't tell Parliament; and the Tories are demanding clarification from the Government:
David Davis, the Shadow Home Secretary, wrote yesterday to Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, seeking clarification of the role of the Chinese officials. Mr Davis asked: "Who in the British Government authorised their presence and what checks were made as to their background?"
The London Times says that 30 of these paramilitaries were sent overseas to follow the torch from city to city, while other graduates of the same academy had a slightly different assignment:
Less than a year ago these mysterious “men in blue” were elite students from China’s Armed Police Academy and were selected amid great fanfare to form the grandly titled Sacred Flame Protection Unit.
In China, tens of thousands of their paramilitary colleagues have been deployed across Tibetan areas to restore order during riots, even opening fire when the antiChinese demonstrations have threatened to run out of control again.
Although these "guardians of the flame" appear to have been in San Francisco as well, the city’s decision to reroute the relay avoided any confrontation between protesters and the Chinese security force. But in Australia, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced that these Chinese torch guardians were not welcome in the torch parade at all:
Chinese paramilitary police will not be allowed to run alongside the Olympic torch in Australia, the country's prime minister said Thursday, after their heavy-handed tactics drew criticism in earlier legs of the relay.
The men in bright blue tracksuits were dispatched by Beijing to guard the Olympic flame on its journey around the world. They sparked concern in London and Paris, with the top official for the 2012 London Olympics calling them "thugs."
The torch is scheduled to pass through the Australian capital of Canberra on April 24, but the Chinese security agents escorting it will have to travel in a bus during the relay, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said.
The torch is now headed to South America. It will eventualy go to Nagano, Japan, where the city has also announced that they will not let the Chinese guards run alongside the Olympic torch (I believe Japan Probe is a blogsite):
National Public Safety Commission Chairman Shinya Izumi indicated on Friday that Japan will not welcome "security runners" from China to accompany the Olympic torch when it arrives in Nagano if their role is to serve as guards.
Of course, Nagano is not keen on the protesters, either:
The National Police Agency announced today that it is planning to use the "hooligan provision" of immigration law to prevent radical anti-China activists from entering Japan and holding protests in Nagano. It has also been announced that the initial security force plan of about 500 Nagano police officers and 1,000 private security guards will be boosted to an unspecified number.
The Olympic torch is a very important symbol with a very specific meaning -- that nations can transcend politics to allow the people of the world to come together in a celebration of individual achievement in sport. It's telling that the Red Chinese government chose to protect that symbol with thuggish paramilitary troops. But by doing so, they have only revealed how oppressive and totalitarian is their own government, and how cowed is their culture and population.
For China, the Olympics were supposed to validate their status as a "modern country." Instead, the runup to the games has focused the world's attention on the barbarity of Chinese Communism. The neo-Maoists can no longer hide behind their inscrutable expressions or pretend that the Tiananmen Square massacre was an out-of-character, one-time fluke.
The world has belatedly realized that China is not up to the civilized standard. But why didn't the International Olympic Committee figure this out seven years ago, when they decided to award the Olympics to Beijing... instead of Toronto, Paris, or Istanbul; or if the IOC was determined that the Olympics should be in the Far East, then why did they so quickly eliminate Osaka, the second largest city in Japan, which had successfully held a World's Fair nearly four decades ago in 1970?
I believe the answer to Sachi's question is one word: appeasement. Appeasement occurs when you reward a dangerous person or country in advance, hoping it will be satisfied and will refrain from causing trouble... rather than waiting to see what it does, then either rewarding or punishing it accordingly.
The People's Republic of China has coveted two things for a number of years: an Olympic games, which they have tried to get since the 1980s, and membership in the World Trade Organization, which they've demanded since it was founded in 1995.
Despite the fact that China really had not demonstrated that they were ready for either "plum," the typically liberal mindset of both the IOC and the WTO (echoed by the Bush administration, alas) held that the best way to move them towards civilized behavior would be to give them the rewards first -- to appease them. I suppose the idea is that the only reason China strictly controls its markets, oppresses and brutalizes Tibet, bullies its neighbors, threatens our allies like Japan, and terrorizes its own citizens is that they're upset at not being treated better by the rest of the world.
They bid for the 2000 Olympics, leading through most rounds of the 1993 voting. When Sydney, Australia ended up winning instead, the Chinese pitched a terrible fit. I'm sure that played a big part in the decision by the IOC in July 2001 to give them the 2008 Olympics. I'm sure they wanted to mollify China for the "snub" of 1993, and they thought giving in would make the PRC less aggressive. Instead, they're rampaging across Tibet and sending paramilitaries to bully citizens of other countries.
Then in December of that same year, 2001, the WTO voted China membership -- despite China not meeting the minimial WTO requirements of openness, transparency, and connectivity -- presumably on the theory that being in the organization would all by itself reform China's socialist and protectionist policies. Yet as recently as the administration's report to Congress in December 2007, the best the president could say is:
In 2007, U.S. industry began to focus less on the implementation of specific commitments that China made upon entering the WTO and more on China’s shortcomings in observing basic obligations of WTO membership as well as Chinese policies and practices that undermine previously implemented commitments....
At the root of many of these problems is China’s continued pursuit of problematic industrial policies that rely on excessive Chinese government intervention in the market through an array of trade-distorting measures. This government intervention, evident in many areas of China’s economy, is a reflection of China’s historic yet unfinished transition from a centrally planned economy to a free-market economy governed by rule of law. As another major trade association explained in its written comments, "[t]he legacies of China’s command economy continue to be a drag on China’s complete integration into the global economy and, as a result, cause a variety of problems for China’s trading partners."
For that matter, six years after China became a WTO member, I think it has not even allowed the value of its currency to be set by the international currency-exchange markets -- which was supposed to be an absolute requirement for WTO membership that all other countries had to accept before they could become members. As usual, China is granted exceptional dispensation.
It still may be on balance more good than bad that the PRC is a member of the WTO; but the idea that membership alone would improve their behavior was utopian, in my opinion -- the same kind of utopianism that says the root cause of violent behavior of some public-school students is that they don't have a high enough opinion of themselves (!), so they need "self-esteem" programs.
Once again, the most fundamental aspects of human nature elude liberals (and evidently even "compassionate conservatives," at least occasionally):
Let's hope that someday we actually learn that lesson. It has a number of applications, which are left as an exercise to the discerning reader.
April 3, 2008
Memo to Japan: You Are Aware There's a War On... Right?
On February 19th, a Japanese Aegis destroyer, JS Atago, equipped with an advanced radar system, collided with a small fishing boat Seitokumaru off the Boso Peninsula in Chiba Prefecture. Tragically, the accident killed a father-and-son pair of fishermen aboard Seitokumaru. Atago was on her way home from Pearl Harbor, having just finished four grueling months of training and testing in Hawaii waters.
It seemed a mere traffic accident, and it had nothing to do with the Aegis system or the radar installation. However, it was the latest in a series of mishaps and scandals that have plagued the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF -- the Japanese "navy") over the last couple of years. The Minister of Defense egregiously mishandled the collision investigation and public relations, further exposing the deep-seated problems of the ministry itself; and the Japanese press instantly blamed Aegis, demanding to know why a multi-million dollar system designed to intercept missiles in flight didn't somehow make a fishing trawler get out of Atago's way.
The stunned ministry took severe disciplinary action against 88 defense-ministry officials and service members, including Adm. Eiji Yoshikawa, MSDF chief of staff. (This does not include Atago's captain or crew, since the investigation is still underway.) The crew were confined aboard the ship in port, essentially in jail, for over a month; they were subjected to harsh treatment from zealous investigators and scathing criticism from the media. One sailor who'd been on watch the morning of the accident actually attempted to "cut his stomach" -- commit suicide to save his face.
The "mere traffic accident" has metastisized into a full-blown fiasco for the Maritime SDF...
The government concluded that Yoshikawa, who took office in August 2006, should take responsibility for a series of accidents and blunders, including a fire on the destroyer Shirane at Yokosuka base in Kanagawa Prefecture in December 2007 and the leakage of confidential information, including data on the Aegis system....
Kohei Masuda, vice defense minister, will have his pay cut by 10 percent for two months.
Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba said he will return two months of salary for the minister's post in a self-imposed disciplinary measure.
Year 2007 did not start well for JMSDF. In March, a petty officer second class from Destroyer JS Shirane -- yes, the same ship that later had a huge fire -- was arrested for illegally removing classified Aegis-related information from his ship and giving it to his Chinese wife:
Police confiscated digital storage devices containing the data during a search in January of the home of the 33-year-old petty officer 2nd class in connection with his Chinese wife, who is suspected of violating immigration law. The couple were not identified, and the law the wife was suspected of violating was not specified.
Information on her current status was not provided.
The hard drives and other storage media contained Aegis destroyer radar data and telecommunications frequencies, sources said.
Since the unidentified PO2 did not have authorized access to any secret information, police realized that higher up personnel had to be involved in the leak. A 43 year old lieutenant commander was later arrested as well, and he implicated 34 year old Lt.Com. Sumitaka Matsuuchi.
Note: The linked Sankei Newspaper’s article is in Japanese; this quote comes from the same article from the English-language Yomiuri Newspaper, from which no link is available.
A 34-year-old Maritime Self-Defense Force lieutenant commander was arrested Thursday on suspicion of leaking top-secret information about key functions of MSDF Aegis destroyers.
The Kanagawa prefectural police and the MSDF’s Criminal Investigation Command arrested Sumitaka Matsuuchi, a former member of the MSDF’s vessel development team in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, on suspicion of violating the Law Concerning the Protection of Secrets for the Japan-U.S. Mutual Defense Assistance Agreement.
It was the first time for a person to be arrested under the law since its enactment in 1954. The law prohibits the leaking of information about weaponry and warships containing U.S. technology.
According to investigators, Matsuuchi used the SDF internal mail service to send a compact disc holding a computer file of top secret information to one of his colleagues around August 2002, at which time he was working for the vessel development division.
By doing so, he leaked secret material to the 43-year-old lieutenant commander, who was an instructor at the MSDF’s First Service School in Etajima, Hiroshima Prefecture, the investigators said.
Matsuuchi admitted the allegation. He told the investigators: “It’s true I handed it to a lieutenant commander who studied in the United States with me after he asked for it. I knew it was top secret material, but I sent it by the SDF’s internal mail delivery service anyway.”
I want to clarify one interesting point about the age of the unnamed lieutenant commander, because it leads directly into the real problem with the Japanese Maritime SDF: In the Japanese military, members often reach a rank plateau and simply stay there for the rest of their careers. Thus it's not unusual to find a 43 year old lieutenant commander (O-4) who remains at that rank for fifteen years.
Why? Because a central problem for the Japanese military is that neither the government nor the country itself really sees the "Self Defence Force" as a real army or the Maritime SDF as a real navy. Japan has been "allergic" to having a real military ever since the Japanese parliamentary democracy was founded after the post-World War II occupation ended.
2007 ended as it began -- with another blow to the pride of the Maritime SDF: JS Shirane, the same ship from which the second class stole the classified information, caught fire when a sailor brought a defective "unauthorized space heater" aboard:
Japanese MSDF 5200 ton destroyer Shirane scheduled to sail out early morning on December 15, caught fire at about 2220 hours on December 14. The Shirane destroyer can hold three helicopters and this is the first Japanese warship to carry a three-dimensional radar....
This fire cause substantial damage to the ship and inured three sailors.
Last year, I worked in Hawaii with a number of members of the Japanese Self Defense Force (SDF). Right after Japan’s first ballistic-missile defense ship, JS Kongo, successfully completed a live firing event, I talked extensively with the public affair officer from Japan. He told me the success of Kongo was very important because the "series of unfortunate events" surrounding the Aegis program had tarnished the Maritime SDF’s reputation, driving public support to an all time low.
The SDF desperately hoped for the total success of Atago’s Aegis system test events in early 2008... and they were not disappointed. Atago successfully completed the final live firing tests in February, and everyone -- including all the American team members I spoke to -- was ecstatic. Finally, they thought, the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force will become the pride of the Japanese people!
Then on the way home, Atago crashed into the fishing trawler.
When I first heard that almost 90 military and civilian personnel were being disciplined, I thought the Japanese government had gone into overkill, as usual. But the more I think about it, the more convinced I become that this purge may be just what they need.
The impression I got from working with JMSDF servicemen is mixed:
- On the one hand, they are highly efficient, professional, and eager to learn.
- But on the other hand, they have a certain unseriousness that disturbs me. They seem to think the military is just a jobs program with quirky gamerules.
For a simple example, in the United States Navy, we have a rule that officers and enlisted men must "move up or move out;" if a service member is not promoted after several opportunities, he's pushed out the door (I believe this is also true for the other branches). This keeps a constant circulation of new blood in the service and prevents the military from becoming a dumping ground for useless officers and non-coms who are simply given a "window seat," a Japanese term from the days when nobody was ever fired -- but some employees were sidelined into do-nothing jobs where they couldn't cause any damage.
Don’t get me wrong, the SDF service personnel I interacted with were vigilant about checking visitors IDs and logging all recording media that came in to or went out from the ship. They may think the gamerules are peculiar, but they normally follow them.
But oftentimes they forgot that unclassified and classified media should never be mixed; and I believe it was because they never got the underlying point behind the regulations.
For another example, Japanese sailors train for emergency procedures vigorously, much more than their American counterparts. But the training scenarios are always predetermined and known in advance to all the sailors; they would know the exact day and time of the drill -- which in my opinion defeats the whole point of emergency training.
Just as they treat the military as a jobs program, the SDF is simply not on a “war footing” in any other respect. Nobody seems to take the Self Defense Forces seriously as a real military... and that is a fatal flaw.
China poses a much bigger threat to Japan than to the United States. The Chinese government is quite hostile to Japan, and of course much closer; and that's not even taking into account their other enemy, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea -- or their very intense competitor, the Republic of Korea. Seeing what China is doing to the Tibetans, and remembering all the Japanese civilials who were kidnapped over the years by North Korea, it's astonishing that the Japanese imagine those countries would never attack Japan.
Serviceman with access to highly classified information must start taking their responsibilities seriously; they must understand that the beautiful Chinese girl who is overfriendly may very well be a spy.
This is no April Fool; the Chinese government has one of the most active, world-wide human-intelligence spying program in the world. In fact, Gregg Bergersen, a weapons analyst at the Pentagon, just pled guilty to transferring classified air-defense information to a Chinese businessman, Tai Kuo, whom he thought "only" had connections to Taiwan, but who turned out to be a spy for Red China. Kuo is a naturalized American citizen.
The nonchalant attitude towards security on the part of so many Japanese members of the Self Defense Forces and the defense ministry, and towards basic safety -- such as not using unauthorized electric devices on board and failing ot keep an observant watch on the deck -- are all symptoms of fundamental unseriousness about the global war against caliphism. The entire culture of the SDF needs to be upended and overhauled: The Self Defense Force needs to become real military.
The hostility of Japanese public opinion towards the SDF in Japan is unbelievable. Before any details of the accident become clear, the Japanese elite media had already indicted and convicted the sailors. In such a political environment, it seems impossible to imagine turning the SDF into a real, full-time, professional military; but the fate of Japan as a significant power in the 21st century demands it.
I have no idea if they can finally grow beyond the simplistic "war, what is it good for?" meme they absorbed following the catastrophic defeat in 1945... but if they cannot, I'm afraid they will never be able to maintain their economic hegemony in the Orient. Japan can defend its own prosperity without having to recreate the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.
February 29, 2008
Chinese Takeout - UPDATED
We have discussed dangerous chinese products on this blog before, and unsafe food from China has been in the news over and over. But the bad news from China just keeps on coming, with no end in sight:
- Just a few weeks ago, frozen potstickers riddled with pesticide seriously sickened dozens of Japanese consumers, including children. Some of the children would have died, were it not for the excellent medical emergency personnel.
- Yesterday, it was poison salt, of all things: A restaurant in south China was found to be using industrial sodium nitrate, which killed several customers and sent dozens to the hospital.
- A seven year old boy was killed last year after eating food he purchased from a street vender; the vender ran out of regular salt... so he borrowed sodium nitrate from a nearby construction site and used it in his noodles.
- And here in the United States, tainted Chinese-made blood thinner caused a severe allergic reaction in patients, killing four people and sickening many more.
Update March 2, 2008: The blood thinner product resulted in more deaths than previously thought:
The Food and Drug Administration said the number of deaths possibly associated with the drug, made from pig intestines, had risen to 21 from 4. But it cautioned that many of those patients were already seriously ill and that the drug might not have caused their deaths.
Pollution in China is now such a problem that entire rivers are sinking into the ground and disappearing, leaving a toxic-waste riverbed; and clearly, Chinese health and safety regulation is woefully inadequate to protect the food supply and other products. So can anybody blame the U.S. Olympic team if they decide to bring their own food to the Beijing Olympics?
The United States Olympic Committee, which will have more than 600 people in its delegation, is planning to transport its own produce because of fears about public health and food standards in China.
The athletes will eat their three daily meals at their training camp at a local university, which is outside the official confines of the Olympic Park....
Other countries are understood to be considering plans to cater their own food after a series of public health scares in China [and other countries that import Chinese food]. Chinese-made dumplings contaminated by pesticides made thousands of Japanese ill last month.
The Chinese government is said to be very "offended" by this US decision; outraged, even. Regulations by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) forbid teams bringing their own food to the Olympic village (which is why the American team is staying off-site, to avoid that regulation). This is to prevent teams sneaking in illegal performance-enhancing substances, and also to protect the profits of contracted caterers -- a very big deal in China.
However, local Chinese food itself often contains illegal performance-enhancing substances:
When a caterer working for the United States Olympic Committee went to a supermarket in China last year, he encountered a piece of chicken -- half of a breast -- that measured 14 inches. “Enough to feed a family of eight,” said Frank Puleo, a caterer from Staten Island who has traveled to China to handle food-related issues.
“We had it tested and it was so full of steroids that we never could have given it to athletes. They all would have tested positive.”
Many Japanese are afraid for their athletes' and fans' safety, and some openly say the Chinese purposely poisoned the dumplings to kill Japanese. (The factory workers knew the products were going to Japan, since the packages were all in Japanese.) Some Japanese call for boycotting the Beijing Olympic altogether.
Aside from accidental food poisoning, I cannot help but wonder about the insistance that all athletes eat food supplied by China. Might the Chinese deliberately give them tainted food to sicken them, or even purposely dope the foreign athletes, in order to make them test positive and eliminate them from the competition?
Given China's past actions at sports events (particularly against Japan), and how much irrational anti-Japanese hatred the Chinese public has demonstrated -- mobs attacking visiting Japanese businessmen, for example -- such speculation cannot be dismissed out of hand. Just the other day, during the Asia Cup soccer match between China and Japan, Chinese players kicked, tackled, and choked the Japanese players (this clip is in Japanese, but the video tells the story):
(Here's the YouTube link, if you cannot see the video here.)
The North Korean referee ignored many of these violations, issuing only a couple of yellow cards and not a single red card against China. The Chinese fans cheered and threw bottles and garbage at the Japanese team.
I cannot confirm this, but I heard on Japanese radio that the Chinese government is planning on stopping the U.S. team from bringing food into China at all; the food will be confiscated by Customs at the border.
If that happens, I honestly believe the U.S. team should turn around and go home. If China cannot (or will not) guarantee our athletes' safety, we should not participate in the event.
February 3, 2008
Japan Looks to the Wrong America
For a long time, I've been wondering about the growing anti-American sentiment among Japanese conservatives. I can understand Japanese liberals not liking the sole remaining world super power; they think even Japan is too militaristic for simply refueling and resupplying American warships. But why Japanese conservatives?
Discounting those old (physically or mentally) right-wingers who have still not forgiven us for defeating Japan in the last war, Japanese conservatives are religious (Shinto or Buddhist), patriotic (for Japan), and believe in strong military. They have a lot in common with the American people. So why do they seem to have nothing but contempt for us?
Don't worry, this is not one of those “why do they hate us so” type of posts which ends by demanding that America change somehow to make everyone like us. In fact, I recently realized that the problem comes mostly from them, not us: They're simply looking at the wrong side of America.
There is a word in Japanese; a single word, "ohbei" (欧米), meaning the West. But it doesn't literally mean the West; the word actually means “Europe and America.” It's all pushed together into one word, like EuropeAndAmerica. Just like the word, Japanese really don't distinguish the two hemispheres of the West. Westerners are all "gaijin" (外人), meaning "white foreigners who believe in that strange religion called Christianity."
Oh yes they can.
The problem (you'll be shocked) is the Japanese Left. For decades, they have trotted out the word ohbei (EuropeAndAmerica) to refer to European liberal values as if they were holy writ. Ohbei is a magic word to them: “In ohbei, minority preferences are totally normal. We Japanese are so behind on this. We should immediately incorporate this policy!” I don’t know how many times I heard that when I was growing up in Japan.
I must say there are many things that Japan can learn from the United States. I don’t doubt for even a second that America has a superior quality that no other country possesses (American exceptionalism). However, whenever the Japanese Left brings up the ohbei values or policies, they're never talking about traditional American virtues. Rather, ohbei always means some already-failed socialist policy imported from Europe (or occasionally from the wilder ideas of the American Left -- which by and large come from Europe).
So far, the Left in Japan have forced the adoption of affirmative action, gender feminism, liberal sex education, shorter school hours, and so forth -- all with the expected disastrous results. Japanese students used routinely to score high in International math and science tests; now they're way behind China and Korea. Teenage pregnancy and crime rates are skyrocketing... all the joys and wonders that modern liberalism infallibly delivers!
And now, modern Japan, which has always been controlled by the Left, is seriously flirting with the idea of importing from the United Nations the notorious "Human Rights Commission," as found in Canada and England. You know the ones I mean: The Canadian one that is currently prosecuting Mark Steyn for daring to speak out against militant Islam (in a column in Macleans Magazine) and prosecuting Ezra Levant for daring to speak out against militant Islam (by republishing the Danish Mohammed cartoons); and the British HRC that caused that country to issue an arrest warrant for British blogger Paul Ray, a.k.a. "Lionheart," for, well, pretty much the same crime.
Does anyone detect a pattern here?
On top of this, the Japanese media are very liberally biased and lazy, even more so than here: Their "news" about the United States is generally a word for word translation of American major network news or the New York Times. And of course, that comfort women condemnation initiative that the Democrats pushed through Congress last year didn't help, either; Japanese conservatives were frothing at the mouth that "we" (EuropeAndAmerica) condemned Japan for making sex slaves out of Korean and Chinese (and Japanese!) women... but "we" didn't condemn China for its much more horrendous mass murders and violations of fundamental rights under Mao and his successors, nor North Korea for leaving its millions of citizens huddled in the dark and starving to death.
Don't get me wrong; the Japanese Left hates us, too. The United States is a symbol of military power; and Americans would be astonished how much the Left despises any military, even their own. But on the one hand, they criticize our "war-mongering" ways; while on the other, they worship "us" (EuropeAndAmerica) for our liberalism. Perfectly sensible, yes?
The problem is that every time Japanese conservatives turn around, they're confronted by these radical, new policies and values, which are utterly foreign to traditional Japanese religious and social values. They're shoved down conservatives' throats, and always in the name of ohbei. If that were happening here, wouldn’t we develop an ohbei allergy ourselves?
Oh, wait: It is. And we have!
Since Japanese in general cannot distinguish between Europe and the United States, nor between left-leaning and right-leaning Americans, they look at the narrow slice of the West that the Left presents them -- and they conclude the whole of Western civilization is one big, undifferentiated blob. They lump us up all together; and then they think “that's America,” since we're the largest and most powerful of all gaijin nations. (One Japanese blogger flatly stated that the United States is “too far to the left” for his liking; this from a country that refuses even to fight for its own territory when seized by South Korea!)
I don’t know if there is anything we Americans can do to change their minds. Our media is not helping, oddly enough. And if the next president is a Democrat, we're going to further isolate Japan from us; I can feel it in my bones.
This leads us to the Prime Directive of American foreign relations: Our rivals are never going to like us; they will always find reason to despise us, even if they must conflate us with France and Sweden to do so; therefore, America must cease trying to be liked -- and focus on being respected.
In my Japanese language blog, In the Strawberry Field, I do my darnedest to convince Japanese readers that we're not what they think we are, that we are ourselves and not Europe. Sadly, I seem to be flying solo.
December 13, 2007
The Men on the Wall
I recently had a conversation with a Japanese-American who calls himself "Asean-Peace." He is a regional director of an NGO on an island in the South Pacific, and I know him through online correspondence. We argued about maritime safety in Japanese waters and the dangers that face Japanese merchant and naval vessels in international waters. When I complained that the United States Navy often has to protect the Japanese because the Japanese ships cannot defend themselves (not even from pirates in Somalian waters), he said something profoundly disturbing.
But before I get to that, let me detour to a great work of literature; don't worry, it will all make sense in the end. Trust me.
One of my favorite novels is J.R.R. Tolkin's the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Overall, I was extremely pleased with Peter Jackson's movie adaptation. However, he disappointed me when he decided to cut a critically important chapter near the end of the trilogy: "The scouring of the Shire." A subsequent interview with Jackson, in which he referred to this chapter as an "anticlimax," led me to believe that Jackson never fully appreciated the importance of the return to the Shire and the final war. In fact, this chapter, not the destruction of the ring and the war against Sauron, is the true climax of the entire story.
The Lord of the Rings begins and ends in a land called the Shire ("shire" is a British word similar to county or parish); the Shire is where live the main characters of the novel, the "hobbits."
The Shire has been a peaceful place for generations. It is said that there once was a great war in which many hobbits fought and died; but that was so long ago that even ancient memories had long since forgotten it.
Except for a few hobbits who live in a city called Bree, hobbits don't venture out of the Shire. Occasionally, the Shire hobbits hear rumors of approaching war; but war always means "bad things happening in faraway places" to them... nothing to do with the Shire! The Shire is peaceful, and that is all that matters.
But what the hobbits don't realize is that their beloved Shire has been protected night and day by a group of raggedly dressed but impeccaby captained warriors called the Rangers. The Rangers -- led, in the story's era, by Strider, also called Aragorn -- have fought many, many battles over centuries to prevent evil forces from advancing into the Shire.
Hobbits occasionally see Rangers, but they think of them only as dangerous and unseemly folk to be avoided. The Rangers' bravery and blood are not only not appreciated, they are not even noticed.
Bear all that in mind; let's return to my online acquaintance from Japan.
Asean said that Japan is paying "a lot of money" to the U.S. for protection. What he meant was that Japan allows the United States to maintain military bases in Japan, mostly free of charge; and that Japan even pays some of the operating costs and the expenses of moving to new locations... for example, when we had to relocate our base from Okinawa to Guam because of protests by Japanese leftists.
Also, the Japanese government buys a lot of U.S. savings bonds, which (insisted Asean) keeps the American economy afloat. I was told by a number of Japanese that if Japanese taxpayers stopped supporting our economy, it would collapse. Frankly, I think that is a bloody bunch of... but I digress.
Since the US military is the only entity capable of policing the world, why shouldn't Japan totally rely upon them? That is how my online correspondent sees the situation: Japan pays enough to buy its protection, so what are Americans complaining about?
I told Asean that paying others to protect your own country is a sure way to lose face. He shrugged; most Japanese think merely losing respect is a cheap price to pay for never having to fight. Japan suffered so much from the last war -- in which Japan was the imperialist aggressor -- that many Japanese simply refuse to fight again, ever... no matter what the provocation. They won't to fight even to protect their own interests, land, or culture; they are content to outsource national defense in a way that Americans cannot even imagine.
Is this a position worthy of a once-proud nation of Samurai warriors? How can they face their ancestors, who would have fought bravely and died rather than surrender?
Aside from the craven and disgusting nature of this attitude, their strategy of self defense by proxy is doomed to fail. It has several problems:
Refusing to fight does not let you avoid war; rather, it invites war.
Why did radical Iranian students keep American hostages for 444 days, rather than the three or four days which they initially planned? Because then-President Jimmy Carter made it very clear that he would not initiate any military action against Iran to get the hostages back.
Why did Sadam Hussein openly defy UN resolution after UN resolution following the Gulf war? Because then-president Bill Clinton was utterly unwilling to fight an open war with Hussein.
And why did al-Qaeda launch the 9-11 attacks? Because Osama bin Laden passionately -- and wrongly -- believed that Americans would not fight. America is weak and corrupt, he said, and they will run if we are bold. The perception of weakness invites attack; the perception of strength deters attack.
Mercenaries are not loyal to you; they always have their own agenda.
Americans will protect Japan only when it is necessary for American defense. But if we have to choose between Japan and our own interests, the choice is clear.
- Americans cannot be everywhere; we're not omnipotent: It's impossible for the United States to fully protect Japan even if we wanted.
- Finally, the most likely reason outsourcing national defense will fail is the "men on the wall" syndrome: Just like the hobbits of the Shire, the Japanese have not fought a war for a long, long time. They have forgotten how to fight, and even that there is any need to fight.
Because Japan has let someone else do the fighting for them, they have forgotten that the war currently raging between Western civilization and radical Islam involves Japan, as well. They have forgotten the need for the men on the wall, as Col. Nathan R. Jessep (Jack Nicholson) puts it in the 1992 movie a Few Good Men. I think this is a good time to revisit that speech, the only honest scene in Rob Reiner's movie:
We live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Whose gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinburg?
I have a greater responsibility than you could possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago, and you curse the Marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know: That Santiago's death, while tragic, probably saved lives.
And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives. You don't want the truth because deep down, in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall.
We use words like honor, code, loyalty; we use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punchline.
I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said "thank you," and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon and stand a post.
Either way, I don't give a damn what you think you are "entitled" to.
Since Tom Cruise -- and Rob Reiner -- are unable to answer Nicholson's point, they find a way to destroy him using a stupid pet trick. But the points still stands, right up there on the wall with the Marines; Reiner cannot cannot answer because there is no answer.
The reason Japanese are now bitterly complaining about American bases being in Japan, about having to pay the cost of relocation -- a relocation Japan itself demanded -- is that they have forgotten why Americans are there in the first place.
Who are these people spending our tax money and staying on our land for free? they demand to know. Well, it isn't "free": Americans are there to protect Japan, and the risk we incur is the price we pay for having our own bases in Asia. A fair deal, position for protection... remember? People who once thought the price was well worth it now decide they're paying too much.
This is only natural, because two whole generations of Japanese have never seen war. It doesn't exist to them, and they don't remember why those men were on top of that silly wall in the first place. (There's an old American expression: Never tear down a fence until you know why someone put it up.)
And that is the reason Peter Jackson is dead wrong, and "the scouring of the Shire" is so important: war finally comes to the Shire itself. The Rangers are long gone, Gandalf is elsewhere, and even the elves have left. There is nobody else to defend the Shire but the hobbits. If they want to take back their land, they must themselves fight against the occupiers. A couple of hobbits who had ventured out of the Shire and fought in alien lands, Merry and Pippin, lead the battle. They've seen war; they've learnt how to fight.
Maybe as more and more Japanese work closely in peacekeeping operations with Americans and other fighters -- even if the Japanese work in a non-combat capacity -- they will rediscover war, the common heritage of all humanity. Then they can return to Japan and explain to Japanese civilians about the wall, the men, and "punchlines" like honor, duty, and a code. (We even have a word for that already: Bushidō (武士道). Too bad Japanese youths have never heard of it.)
This is not just about Japan. Europe suffers from the same syndrome. In fact, it's even worse in Europe, since the war has already reached their lands. How many terrorist attacks and riots do they need before they finally wake up?
It is time for both Europe and Japan to scour their own shires.
December 3, 2007
Japanese Ship Sails Dangerous Waters
Recently, I had the opportunity to talk to a naval officer in the Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force (JMSDF). The conversation turned to the Japanese role on the war on global hirabah, as Dafydd calls it (the global war on terrorism, GWOT, as everyone else calls it).
You might not know that under Japan's pacifist constitution, the JMSDF is not legally allowed to engage in any aggressive war, regardless of its merits. However, as our ally, they are allowed (and obligated) to help our war effort in a limited, non-violent capacity. .. which they used to do by refueling American naval ships in the Indian Ocean, among other tasks.
But this effort was halted at the insistance of the opposition parties in the Japanese Diet (parliament); by refusing to support the anti-terrorism bill that fostered such cooperation, the opposition effectively made sure it would expire:
Japan's government ordered its ships supporting U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan to return home Thursday, after opposition lawmakers refused to support an extension of the mission, saying it violated the country's pacifist constitution....
It was an embarrassing retreat for Japan's new Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, who was a strong advocate of the six-year mission and had vowed to pass legislation that would let Japan take on at least a more limited role in fighting terrorism in the region.
The order also reflected the growing power of Japan's main opposition party, which made significant gains in elections in July and is pushing to scale back the country's role in international peacekeeping efforts that involve military operations.
Many Japanese do not understand the urgent need to protect their own country. They think the GWOT is something Americans are doing which does not affect Japan at all. Some members of the Diet argue that cooperating with the US will unnecessary endanger Japan; and the Japanese "mainstream media" openly criticize the JMSDF for becoming almost a part of the United States Navy.
But the fact is that Japanese commercial ships are routinely attacked on the high seas by terrorists and pirates. Yes, pirates -- in 2007. And we're not talking Captain Jack Sparrow here: A Japanese blogger (probably female, but bloggers in Japan rarely have "about me" pages on their blogs) called Usagi ni Kaze (兎に風) reminds us of an incident that occurred three years ago. The link is to an English translation; I have left it mostly uncorrected:
April 24, 2004. British Navy assigned to Persian Gulf in part of multinational forces noticed dubious 3 high-speed boat approaching to the Japanese tanker ”Takasuzu” that was piered to the oil-loading port near Basra. Apparently 3 small boats were the self-exploding terrorist attacking the tanker.
The British Norfolk operation log reported that oil-loading port terminal became a target of terrorists. One of the high-speed boats exploded about several hundred-meters off from Takasuzu tanker. The bullets were biting into body of the Tanker making a big hole, and iron-wraught door blew apart. Unfortunately 2 US Marine Corps and and 1 Coast Guard died. Terror was blocked but 3 lost lives.
I think she (or he) means the terrorists were shooting at the tanker before setting off the explosives on the small boat.
My Japanese officer acquaintance reports that Japanese combat ships are not allowed to patrol the area, not even to protect Japanese shipping. Even if a naval vessel happened to have been there, it's not likely they could have done much, because of their overly restrictive rules of engagement.
"Even if we are attacked, we can only fight back with the equivalent power," my acquaintance said. "That means if the terrorists use pistols, we cannot shoot back at them with machine guns. What happens if a boat filled with explosives approaches? Which weapon is the Japanese destroyer allowed to use? Who knows?" He sounded quite frustrated.
Usai ni Kaze and other Japanese bloggers point to this much more recent attack on a Japanese ship to show that the situation is not improving:
A Japanese chemical tanker with 23 Korean, Filipino and Myanmar crew on board has been hijacked off the coast of northern Somalia, a piracy watchdog and officials said Monday. The vessel, believed to be carrying oil products, sent out a distress message on Sunday which was picked up by a rescue centre in Norway and relayed to the International Maritime Bureau's (IMB) Piracy Reporting Centre here. "We tried to establish contact with the ship but we failed to get any response, so we than contacted coalition warships in the area," IMB spokesman Noel Choong told AFP. The coalition naval forces informed the IMB that the ship then entered Somali territorial waters, meaning no rescue could be initiated, he said.
Acccording to CNN Japan, two American destroyers, the Arleigh Burke and the Porter, chased after the pirates. As several Japanese bloggers have pointed out, the Japanese media barely even reported this attack; they're so quiet that the details of the attack are very sketchy.
The Somalian ocean is notoriously dangerous due to rampant piracy; it's the Tortuga of the twenty-first century. Last March, two U.S. Navy warships, the cruiser Cape St. George and the destroyer Gonzalez, exchanged gunfire with pirates off the coast of Somalia:
The battle started after the USS Cape St. George and USS Gonzalez, which were patrolling as part of a Dutch-led task force, spotted a 30-foot fishing boat towing smaller skiffs and prepared to board and inspect the vessels.
The suspected pirates were holding what appeared to be rocket-propelled grenade launchers, the navy said. When the suspects began shooting, naval gunners returned fire with mounted machine guns, killing one man and igniting a fire on the vessel.
(I have some personal knowledge of this incident; a current co-worker of mine (American) was aboard the Gonzalez during the firefight.)
The reason Japanese media is silent about these incidents is that they want to play down the real danger Japanese commercial ships face on the open ocean. They know that if Japanese realized how dangerous maritime activity had become, they would demand that the "Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force" become an actual blue-water navy... which would require the constitution be changed; Japan is an island nation that lives by the sea trade, and Japanese know how vital that is to their own livelihood.
For further evidence of Japan's need for a real navy, and the weakness caused by its lack, see also our series about South Korea, Japan, and the island of Takeshima:
Some concerned Japanese bloggers are very frustrated by the fact that the Japanese government, by law, currently keeps its ships defenseless against terrorists and pirates. "Don't forget," Usagi ni Kaze writes in another post, "three Americans have lost their lives protecting our ship." She (he) thinks it's disgraceful that Japanese purposely allowed the anti-terrorist resolution to lapse, thus forcing Japan to cease protecting the freedom of the seas -- or even its own shipping -- while still giving "plausible deniability" to ministers and members of the Diet who don't want to be seen as endangering Japanese merchant vessels.
Today's AP story addresses the growing problems in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean off the coast of Somalia, the follow up to the seized Japanese tanker incident:
The U.S.-led coalition working to secure sea lanes beset by pirates believe skiffs like the ones used in the attack on the Japanese ship must have come from elusive "mother ships...." [They mean a larger ship that launches the small skiffs and other boats that carry out the actual attack; the larger ship would be the "base" which must be destroyed to stop the pirates or terrorists.]
The International Maritime Bureau has recorded 31 attacks off Somalia this year but believe many more go unreported.
The 31 includes the seizure a month ago of a Japanese tanker carrying as much as 40,000 tons of highly explosive benzene in the Gulf of Aden.
Initially, American intelligence agents worried terrorists from Somalia's Islamic extremist insurgency could be involved and might try to crash the boat into an offshore oil platform or use it as a gigantic bomb in a Middle Eastern port.
When the Japanese vessel was towed back into Somali waters and ransom demanded, the coalition was relieved to realize it was just another pirate attack.
The more recent attack on a separate Japanese vessel occurred some 85 nautical miles from Somalia in the busy lanes used by boats entering the Suez Canal -- too far for the two small boats carrying pirates to have come from shore. Some attacks are even farther from land, as much as 250 nautical miles, Hasham said.
The pirates boarded the Japanese vessel before their skiffs were destroyed and remain aboard. The U.S. Navy has in the past persuaded pirates to abandon ships they have boarded and still hoped to do so in the case of the Japanese vessel -- though that might be complicated now that the pirates no longer have skiffs on which to leave.
No warship has located a mother ship yet, although that could be due to the continuos radio chatter they put out to warn pirates that they are patrolling the area in an effort to deter attacks. However, numerous ship captains have reported seeing the bigger pirate vessels.
Thanks to blogs and other media outlets, the Japanese people are slowly waking up. I am hopeful that the resolution will be re-approved, and that refueling in the Indian Ocean will resume; just as Democrats here in America will be forced, in the end, to approve funding for the Iraq war without an attached date for America to surrender to the terrorists. In America, sanity usually prevails; I am not so sure about Japan, though.
In any event, the pace at which the Japanese are navigating this water is agonizingly slow and nerve-wracking.
July 26, 2007
Korean Hostages Threatened by Taliban; America Blamed
According to Robert Koehler of the Marmot's Hole, the Korean press is all set to blame America if the Taliban makes good its threat to kill the 23 (now 22) Korean Christian-evangelists currently held hostage.
The Korean press reasons thus: Kabul is reluctant to negotiate with the Taliban only because of pressure from the West... i.e, the United States and our "lapdog," Great Britian. Since Afghanistan relies upon foreign aid, the press concludes, Afghan President Hamid Karzai dares not offend America or our allies. So it's all America's fault.
But Koehler points out that if Karzai is reluctant to listen to South Korea's plea, it's not necessarily because of the United States: South Korea is simply short stacked, due to the insignificant contribution it has made in the Afganistan war:
Of course, what Yonhap doesn’t say is that, perhaps, Kabul is ignoring the Taliban’s demands because a) it doesn’t want to turn kidnapping into a lucrative business, and more to the point b) Korea’s contribution to the fight against the Taliban has been next to nil, and its 200 non-combat troops will be withdrawn by the end of the year anyway. Kabul has absolutely no reason whatsoever to free enemies of the state who, upon their release, will go about attacking schools, hospitals and other infrastructure, killing Afghan civilians and attacking both its troops and the troops of allied states, all to rescue a bunch of highly irresponsible individuals who should have never been in the country in the first place and were probably engaged in activities [Christian evangelism] even the Karzai government deems illegal. When Kabul freed five Taliban terrorists to save an Italian journalist earlier this year, it didn’t do it out of the kindness of either Karzai’s or Bush’s heart -- it did it because Italy threatened to pull out its 2,000 troops. Influence is earned, and Seoul -- so sorry -- hasn’t earned any.
So what is Korea to do? Koehler suggests that instead of blaming the US, Korea should offer to provide more troops, real combat or police troops, to Afghanistan.
If South Korea wants to have some influence, it must earn it. Yes, such an act could anger the Taliban, and they might very well retaliate by killing all the hostages. But they've said they're going to kill them anyway -- and evidently have already killed one. Even without Korea offering new troops, the fate of the hostages seems grim.
But if Korea were to respond to the kidnapping and threat with force instead of appeasement, at least they could show the Taliban (and the world) that Korea is a force to be reckoned with. After all, there are still more than 150 Korean evengelists still living in Afghanistan. If South Korea wants to avoid future kidnapping, they had better start showing some spine now.
Dafydd adds: Sure, the South Koreans may be weenies. But what about the Japanese? They're being whupped by weenies!
July 11, 2007
Worlds of If...
Apropos our post below about erstwhile Defense Minister of Japan, Fumio Kyuma -- who was forced to cut his (career) stomach for saying, in essence, that the cost of America not dropping the two atomic bombs on Japan in 1945 could have been far worse than the cost Japan actually bore -- we offer up the following cautionary tale, as Rod Serling might have said...
Back in 1998, the History Book Club ran a contest: Members could submit essays about alternate histories, or alternate-history essays.
Friend Lee decided to take a poke at it; and as luck (for us today) would have it, he picked that very subject. (Either that, or the whole contest was about the a-bombs, and there was no luck about it, and this entire lousy intro is a murder of crow droppings. What do I care? I get paid the same either way.)
In any event, here it is, straight from the tremulous hand of Friend Lee... who is reputed to be the first mainstream Caucasian-American, who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy, ever to post on Big Lizards. I mean, that's a storybook, man.
So without frittering away any more of your valueless time, here is Friend Lee's contribution to the worlds of "if." Oh, one more thing: You have to remember that this essay is written from the point of view of a world where we never did drop the bombs... a world that looks very, very different from our own. Herewith...
Computer modeling of alternate World War II scenarios, which began in the academic world, has begun to generate considerable controversy in popular opinion. In one much-discussed simulation, Harry S. Truman made the immense, irrevocable decision to use the atomic bomb against Japan. To the relief of a war-weary world, this hastened Japan's surrender. But relief swiftly gave way to doubt and fear -- doubt about whether the use of such weapons had been justified, and, when the U.S. nuclear monopoly ended, fear that America had created the instrument of her own eventual demise. The simulation, however, produced a surprising result: the grim warning of the destroyed cities, together with stockpiled nuclear weapons as a strategic deterrent, ensured that the leaders of a multi-polar nuclear world, in future international crises, never pushed brinksmanship across the final threshold. A sort of "cold war" ensued, but catastrophe was averted. Deterrence worked.
Readers are doubtless aware that this scenario is also the basis for a popular board game simulating the politics of an imaginary twentieth century. What actually happened, of course, bore no resemblance to a "cold war".
First you must remember that in 1945, the President of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was gravely ill but did not die. At Yalta and Potsdam, FDR's condition left him no match for Stalin, and he continued to deteriorate. Vice President Truman was obliged to make some difficult decisions, but whether to use the atomic bomb was not one of them. The military did not inform Truman of the successful Trinity test, because the extent of FDR’s infirmity was concealed by the President’s staff. By default, use of the bomb against Japan was never authorized.
More than 2.5 million American, Russian, and Japanese lives were lost in an invasion that many theoreticians now argue should never have happened. In the think-tank scenario, Operation Downfall (the plan for the invasion of Japan) is a minor footnote.
The divergence between history and the simulation widens. As we know, Japan was partitioned after the Allied victory. The Soviets demanded sovereignty over the Kurils, Sakhalin, and Hokkaido; the northern third of Honshu and an enclave in Tokyo comprised the Soviet Occupation Zone. The remainder of Japan was under U.S. occupation. Before FDR’s death in late 1946, the ailing President bowed to the Russian and Chinese demand that Hirohito stand trial as a war criminal. When the Emperor was sentenced to hang, MacArthur refused to recognize the war crimes tribunal’s authority. A newly-sworn President Truman relieved MacArthur of his duties.
There is a photograph which haunts the memory of every historian. An angry crowd is outside the building where the tribunal was convened. A young man waves a sheaf of political pamphlets. Many hands reach for the proffered tracts. His face is unmistakable; he is Yukio Mishima.
In the simulation, Mishima has an important place in twentieth-century literature, but in a prosperous, non-partitioned, postwar Japan, his politics are completely marginalized. In history, Mishima’s Emperor-worship, his fanatical hatred of Russia, and his willingness to threaten nuclear war to regain lost territory became dominant themes in South Japanese politics. The forever-demonized image of Mishima is inescapably linked to that day thirty years ago when everything changed forever, the day that the Hokkaido crisis exploded in a nuclear exchange involving Japan, Russia, China, America, Britain, and France. Today we remember over two billion dead.
The theorists have created a scenario in which the destruction of two cities allows the world to be spared. The public is obsessed with this alternate history because it does not approach the horror of the truth.
July 3, 2007
Even in the "West," Myths Live Free and Die Hard
Today, the Defense Minister of Japan, Fumio Kyuma, was forced to resign following remarks he made about World War II. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe earlier defended Kyuma for his remarks; but when various factions in the Diet began to complain, including members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party -- elections coming up, you know -- Abe dumped him like a dead rodent.
All right, big deal; PMs and presidents dump cabinet members all the time for various reasons. But what I find remarkable is what exactly Kyuma said that got him canned... and let me recap a bit of history for those of us educated in government-run schools.
By the end of the war in 1945, both America and Japan had suffered horrific casualties during the fierce jungle combat, the firebombings, and through starvation and disease in Japan. But the Japanese continued to resist until a few days after the atomic bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. (These were swiftly followed by the Soviet invasion of Manchuria, which may also have played a role.)
Americans were in no mood for a negotiated settlement or a stalemate; we had just crushed the Nazis, and we had lost hundreds of thousands of soldiers. This was the country that had bombed Pearl Harbor us in a dirty, underhanded sneak attack: There is no way we would have accepted anything short of unconditional surrender. And even if we had, Tojo would have considered anything less than that a "victory" for his side... and he would have built up his forces and launched more attacks in a few months.
Thus, Americans believed -- and not without good reason -- that anything but unconditional was unacceptable. We would have invaded the Japanese "mainland" (the four central islands); the Japanese would have resisted to the last man or child; and casualties would have been staggering, even by the standards of World War II.
In addition, the Soviet invasion of Manchuria, and the likelihood that they would enter the war, invade Japan, and force a partition à la Germany, terrified the Japanese far more than the prospect of American conquest. And now at last, we come to the dreadful words that Defense Minister Kyuma said that eventually ended his political life today:
In a public appearance on Saturday -- the unofficial start of the campaign for the upcoming election -- Mr. Kyuma said that dropping the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 “ended the war,” adding, “I think that it couldn’t be helped.”
Otherwise, Mr. Kyuma said, the war would have dragged on and the Soviet Union would have ended up occupying northern Japan.
And that's it! Sachi has read the transcript in Japanese, and she reports that he said nothing more or worse in the original language than is translated here by the Times. But few scholars, even including Japanese, would object to either of these two claims... so why did such a hue and cry erupt over them?
Here is the sad answer:
The comments by Mr. Kyuma, who himself represents Nagasaki in Japan’s lower house, caused widespread anger by apparently treating lightly Japan’s status as the only country ever targeted by nuclear arms.
Although the debate over the use of nuclear arms is not the taboo it once was, Japan’s self-image as a special victim of World War II remains deeply rooted, even as revisionist politicians like Mr. Abe have tried to minimize Japan’s militarist past.
There you have it: Many Japanese consider themselves the real victims of World War II. On the Left -- the bitter, anti-war, pacifist, anti-nuclear, Japanese Left -- they imagine themselves victims of the atomic age. And on the Right -- the militarist, xenophobic, neoimperialist, Japanese Right -- they're still furious that we wouldn't allow them to have an empire like the British and Soviets had. As much as the Japanese Left and Right hate each other (and they do, and not at all cordially), like Sunni and Shia, they can always cast aside their petty differences for the greater cause: burning hatred of America.
Kyuma ran smack into the circular saw of "America derangement syndrome" in Japan; while neither extreme Right nor extreme Left can agree on either prescription or diagnosis of Japan's ills, they both emphatically agree that America is somehow the culprit. Thus, anything that any politician says that justifies the atomic bombings that ended the war -- even as innocuous as what Fumio Kyuma opined -- will cause activists on both sides the aisle to rise up and demand he cut his stomach.
Add to that ire the fact that neither extreme is ever happy with the LDP, who are relentlessly moderate: Each imagines that in elections against a crippled LDP, the extremes can make major gains (and both are probably correct). Thus, anything to damage the ruling coalition is a dream come true for the Communists and the Fascists who still duke it out in the peanut gallery of Japanese politics.
With close elections looming, the leaders of the Liberal Democratic Party (especially Prime Minister Abe) decided that cowardice was the better part of valor: Rather than educate the Japanese population about their own militarist history (which the current government is in the process of denying anyway), they kow-towed to base tribalism and ran Kyuma off the reservation.
Anything to avoid shattering myths of moral and military superiority that, like a bonsai tree, have taken many decades to grow, twist, and shape into a form that raises Japanese self-esteem... and avoids dealing with the ugly reality.
Kyuma's words were a mirror; and as the good book* says, "when a monkey looks in, no acolyte looks out."
* The Principia Discordia, or How I Found Goddess and What I Did to Her When I Found Her, by Malaclypse the Younger and Lord Omar Kayyam Ravenhurst.
June 22, 2007
China's Growing Pains
Recently, we have started to hear one disturbing story after another coming out of China:
All of a sudden, we started to notice that one of our largest trading partners was not living up to the standard we demand. But in fact, China’s sloppy business practice has been noticed by many businessmen all over the world who have dealt with them over the years. Only recently, however -- when their products started to kill us (and especially our pets!) -- have we started to pay attention.
Decades ago my father, a patent attorney in Japan, was engaged as a business consultant to a Japanese company dealing with a Chinese manufacturer. As you probably know, patents and copyrights are foreign concepts for the Chinese. After a few months of frustrating and fruitless negotiation, the Japanese company, disgusted by the “unprofessional, and childish behavior,” terminated the contract. In my father’s opinion, the Chinese were not ready for real world business.
For years, I have heard bits and pieces of news about the terrible pollution and lethal food in China. I heard that the soil of southern China was so contaminated that northern Chinese would not eat any vegetables coming from the South; they called them “poison vegetables." I even heard that some Chinese started bringing their own cooking oil to restaurants after they discovered the chefs using industrial oil to cook food.
However, not until I started reading Japanese language Chinese blogs few months ago did I realize just how serious the situation has become.
Contaminated lake bed in China
I honestly do not think that China is unusually unethical or uncaring a country. After all, the western world went through the exact same phase of industrial innovation vastly outstripping resource management and pollution control. The very reason we have a Food and Drug Administration today is the careless or ignorant misuse of chemicals in food, particularly diethylene glycol; DEG was used extensively in the late 19th century as a cheap substitute for non-toxic, pharmaceutical-grade glycerin.
It was used in our tooth paste, just as China does now; and many children's toys were painted with colors containing lead... just as many Chinese toys are today. We made such practices illegal precisely because the toxic materials killed and harmed thousands of Americans in the past:
[diethylene glycol] has been responsible for a number of mass poisonings:
The most infamous incident was the 1937 Elixir Sulfanilamide disaster in the USA, in which 107 people died after taking sulfanilamide dissolved in diethylene glycol. This episode was the impetus for the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938.
The reason today’s air is cleaner than yesterday is that most individuals realized, somewhere along the road, that it's not a good idea to pollute the environment we live in. We figured out that killing consumers with unsafe food is, shall I say, fatal to marketing.
The distinction is that we did not know the bad effects at first, and nobody else did either. The industrial revolution was new then; we had to learn from our mistakes by trial and terrible error.
But China does not. China need not make the same mistakes we made, because they have the West as an example. They study our experience and do the right thing from the beginning. Even though it may cost more money initially, when you take the long view and consider lost business, law suites, and so on, clean and safe manufacturing of products will save billions of dollars.
Eventually, China will learn... because it must. Their survival depends upon it.
But meanwhile, how many people are going to be poisoned or killed by their products? We cannot wait forever for China to grow up.
May 14, 2007
Does Our Own Military Understand We're at War?
Speaking of loose lips sinking ships...
In recent months, several disturbing security breaches occured involving the United States Navy and the Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force (MSDF -- the Japanese "navy"); these cases appear to be deliberate acts of espionage on the part of Red China, rather than the foolish mistakes by blabbermouthed Pentagon staffers I talked about in my last post. In both cases, sensitive information was believed headed for China and may or may not have been intercepted before getting there.
- Last Thursday, a naturalized, Chinese-born electrical engineer, Chi Mak, was convicted of spying for China.
This one hits close to home, because I once had a naturalized, Chinese-born co-worker who had a position of access to classified material and who acted very peculiarly. He disappeared from the job one day, and we never found out why; management seemed very tight-lipped. But we all wondered...
A Chinese American engineer was found guilty Thursday of conspiring to send information about U.S. Navy technology to China that would make it easier to detect U.S. submarines.
Chi Mak, a naturalized citizen, was convicted of conspiracy to violate export control laws, attempting to violate export control laws, acting as an unregistered agent of the People's Republic of China, and lying to the FBI.
Mak was a very long-term, deep cover agent who began his espionage career in the 1960s, moving to Hong Kong -- then still controlled by the British -- to make it appear he was not connected to Red China.
The next two cases both involve Japanese sailors with Chinese wives or girlfriends who have a peculiar interest in highly classified American military hardware:
- According to Japan Times, on March 29th 2007, several floppy disks which contain secret sensor data were found in the house of a Japanese petty officer second class (PO2) who has a Chinese wife.
This is even creepier, because I have, in the past, been responsible for handling disks and tapes used to record classified data:
Kanagawa Prefectural Police found floppy disks containing data on the Aegis destroyer's radar system and transmission frequencies in the home of a Maritime Self-Defense Force sailor during a probe of his Chinese wife on suspicion of violating the immigration law, investigative sources said Friday.
When I read this, my first thought was, who gave him access to the disks? Here, at least, non-commissioned officers are not allowed to handle such data media; only the technician (usually civilian) doing the recording and the engineers who analyze the data are supposed to touch the disks or tapes.
Clearly, in this Japanese navy case, one of two things happened: Either the person in charge of the disks was an accomplice, or else he was incredibly careless handling highly classified material.
The unnamed MSDF petty officer is also suspected of having taken home data on other destroyer radar systems that may have been provided by someone higher in the MSDF....
As the petty officer second class is not in a position that gives him access to Aegis data, police suspect another MSDF member gave him the information, the sources said. [Yes, but deliberately or stupidly?]
Since I work in a similar environment with sensitive data, I know how such material can be stolen if those charged with handling such disks or tapes are careless... or worse, if they're part of the gang.
And didn't anybody notice the disks were missing? Or did he make copies? The latter would be much more serious, because it would show a clear intent to deceive. Unfortunately, we're not given answers to many questions that arise.
Finally, from the same Japan Times story is this throwaway line:
- "In August, police found another MSDF sailor had copied data on foreign submarines from an MSDF base onto a compact disc and brought it home. He also made trips to Shanghai to visit a Chinese woman who worked in a karaoke bar he frequented."
I don't at all blame the People's Republic of China for stealing American technology (from us or from our allies): Although we're not exactly enemies, as we were with the Soviet Union, they are still a Communist country. And they are, at the least, strategic competitors. Since I'm happy that we spy on China and North Korea (and I think we should do more spying), I can't complain about them spying on us.
What is disturbing is how many American and allied military personnel are willing to cooperate with Chinese spies -- usually for trivial rewards: for sex or for small amounts of money; most traitors make only a few tens of thousands of dollars for betraying their country.
But the most astonishing point is that simple, off-the-shelf technology -- in use in the private sector for as long as I can remember -- can prevent much of these kinds of theft from happening; but few military bases or ships bother to use it!
When a disk or tape is finished recording, whether on a ship on at a military base, it is supposed to be logged by the person in charge of the physical recording; if at that point, it were immediately slipped into a "drop safe" -- a safe with a one-way slot for inserting materials -- then theft or copying could only occur with the connivance either of the recording operator, who is responsible for dropping the media into the safe, or of a single designated person who is the only one with the combination to the safe.
Whenever an analyst needs to work with the materials, he would have to get that designated person to open the safe and log the fact that so-and-so checked out the data; but when the analyst finishes, he himself can put it back using the drop slot.
Drop safes can easily be purchased from any safe manufacturer; restaurants and retail stores have used them for decades to secure excess cash. Anybody who has worked retail probably knows about them. While a drop safe is not a "magic bullet" against espionage, but it's a simple solution that can make it much, much harder for unauthorized personnel to get hold of such sensitive data.
The fact that such a cheap and obvious security measure has never occurred to the Navy points to a problem that is much more serious than a few Chinese agents running around loose: the complete lack of security consciousness found in so many American and allied military bases. I get the impression that many base commanders in our own services -- and even more so base commanders in allied countries -- don't truly understand that we're at war.
I see this lack of security consciousness all the time: security guards not checking employee ID cards, airport security "screeners" too busy chatting to notice suspicous item on the screen, and unlogged classified data tapes and disks carelessly tossed in a box with no real clue how many there are (making it nearly impossible to tell if one is missing).
Unknown people knock on doors of secure buildings and are let in by "helpful" employees who don't know them from Adam. Passwords that are never changed from the day they were issued -- or worse, passwords changed to something "easy to remember," like the user's name, birthdate, and so forth. Each of these lapses can be prevented by civilian management or military commanders who themselves take security seriously... you know, like were at war or something.
We must be vigilant in guarding our secrets; if they are stolen, the fault is not with the enemy agent... he is only acting as a patriot for his own country. And while the moral guilt may reside with the PO2 who took the classified data home to his Red Chinese wife -- what about that "someone higher" in the military food chain who either intentionally handed over classified military data... or at the very least, left it lying around where it could be grabbed?
Security consciousness applies not only here but in any other country which purchases American technology or cooperates with us in security operations. It can be especially difficult for a country like Japan, which has not seen a real war for over 60 years, to understand the concept. But what is the U.S. Navy's excuse?
May 1, 2007
Honda's Chinese Accord
The recent visit of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Washington D.C. has raised, yet again, the tired issue of the Korean and Chinese (and yes, Japanese) "comfort women"... another meaningless cause celebre for Democratic outrage, like the Armenian genocide and reparations for distant descendents of African slaves:
Abe’s first U.S. trip as prime minister comes as Congress considers a nonbinding resolution that urges Japan to apologize for its role coercing women to work as “comfort women” for the Japanese military. Abe sought to explain to U.S. lawmakers Thursday a comment he made last month that seemed to minimize Japan’s role in forcing thousands of Asian women into sexual slavery during World War II....
People across Asia and the United States, including conservative supporters of Japan in Congress, were infuriated at Abe’s suggestion in March that no proof existed that the military had coerced women into brothels.
Abe should have taken Big Lizards' advice. As we said back in March, the proper answer is not to deny that such sex slavery existed; of course it did. The correct response is to point out that the government that carried out that grotesque policy has not existed for 60 years!
The Japanese military dictatorship was obliterated more than three generations ago; nobody who was in any position of authority, from Tojo on down, is still alive... and in fact, we hanged many of them ourselves, including Prime Minister Hideki Tojo himself in 1948.
If only Abe had listened to us! Here is what we suggested, in our previous post, that he say:
To the American Congress, we thank you for illuminating the atrocities and war crimes, committed by the National Socialist dictatorship that occupied Japan for a number of years in the early part of the last century, against the innocent people of Korea and China. That same socialist tyranny committed equally horrific crimes against the Japanese people, and we join with you in expression our abhorrence of all such totalitarian systems.
The current governments of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and the People's Republic of China must surely be familiar with the horrors that mass, coercive socialism can inflict: each has plagued its own people with even more murderous and torturous atrocities since World War II ended. And each, unlike Japan, still has the same government that perpetrated those crimes against humanity: Mao's so-called "cultural revolution" and his murder of seventy million of his own countrymen; and Kim Il-Sung's unprovoked invasion of South Korea in 1950 which precipitated a war that killed 2.5 million... and the more millions who have died from starvation under the government of Kim's royal successor, Kim Jong-Il. Not to mention the deprivation of liberty under both those Communist systems.
We extend our sorrow not only to those who suffered under one form of totalitarianism, we also extend our sorrow to those who have suffered under another form of totalitarianism. But we cannot apologize or accept responsibility for crimes that none of us in the government today, nor the government itself, had any hand in committing.
So we thank the American Congress for its interesting history lesson; but as to apologies or reparations -- bite me.
Japan has repeatedly and unnecessarily apologized for past wrongs committed by the military dictatorship. They have paid tens of billions of dollars in reparations to several Asian countries, and are still paying them, mostly to Red China, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, and the Republic of Korea. China alone has received $30 billion over these many years. Despite this -- or more accurately, because of this -- the issue is brought up over and again by China and both Koreas.
Now the United States Congress, which has no other business to discuss other than the forty or sixty investigations of the Bush administration they're currently running, is weighing in on the issue. A House resolution demanding Japan's formal apology currently squats in the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The resolution is sponsored by (Japanese American) Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA, 95%) and is co-sponsored by a bipartisan corruption of more than 100 congressmen and congresswomen.
Recently, I found an illuminating interview on PBS that touches on this issue -- and upon another possible motivation for Rep. Honda. On Foreign Exchange, Fareed Zakaria interviewed Yoshihisa Komori, Washington D.C.-based Editor-at-Large for Japan's Sankei Shimbum (Sankei Newspaper).
Sankei Shimbum is definitely right of the center, and Komori himself is quite right wing. Thus it was hardly surprising that he tiresomely insists that the Imperial military had no official policy to forcibly bring in women for sex slaves. In this, Komori treads the same needlessly disreputable path trodden by Abe himself, as we reported in our earlier post:
Abe is right to resist this nonsense... but the poor sap is right for all the wrong reasons. He is trying to defend Japan against the charge by denying that there were any comfort women in the first place; or failing that, by insisting that the Japanese government and military had nothing to do with it... all the coercion was carried out by private contractors.
...Who were merely hired by the Japanese government and military. So you see, there's no connection!
But in the course of Komori's interview, he levels some very serious charges -- almost Clintonian charges -- against the resolution's main sponsor, Rep. Honda:
Note that we have no independent verification of what Komori is saying; we simply rely upon his appearance on PBS. It's possible Komori is completely wrong. But on the other hand, he is an editor on a major Japanese newspaper; he is based in Washington; and he may very well have solid sourcing on his accusation.
Besides, it's hardly out of character for Honda's party to be remarkably chummy with the People's Republic of China.
So take what he says with a dollop of soy sauce... but I say it still demands an answer.
What follows is transcribed by Sachi from the PBS video; the transcript for the April 28th show is not yet available, but when it is, you should be able to find it here. In the meanwhile, here is Sachi's transcription; this section begins about 7:00 into the segment (when the countdown timer hits 5:40 remaining) and continues to the end (Sachi omits unessential parts):
Look at what's going on [in the] House of Representatives in the U.S....
So we... criticism now coming is from the United States. New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Boston Globe, are bashing Japan and Japanese leadership as if there is something wrong in the Japanese DNA. None of us was around when these things happened....
"So our question is, why do they have to bring up this issue now...?
[E]ven behind this current move against Japan, there is a Chinese move. Congressman Mike Honda of California has been receiving a huge amount of political donation from the Chinese, Chinese activists who associated with the Chinese organization [Komori likely means "Chinese authority"] And so interestingly, there's very little supportive actors from Korea.
So, I see this as a diplomatic maneuver on the part of certain countries [China and the Koreas] to keep Japan in a emasuculated way or inferior way, just portraying Japan as if something. the country or the people who are sort of genetically wrong or something inferior. That's how strongly I feel.
Komori is not just talking about the "comfort women" issue. The Chinese and Koreans (both North and South) have been escalating their complaints to Japan and the world community about a great many issues:
- A few years ago, it was Japanese history text books (which did actually minimize Japan's role in atrocities).
- Then the countries complained about former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's visit to the war shrine of Yasukuni Jinja.
- Then just a year ago, the South Korean navy forcibly seized the island of Takeshima from Japan, despite the fact that there is no international dispute that Japan owns it... only in the mind of South Korea's anti-Japanese (and anti-American) President Roh Moo-hyun.
Everything Japan does, the PRC, the DPRK, and the RoK denounce; they were particularly steamed when Japan sought a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council. They accuse Japan of insensitivity, racism, human rights violations, and of not abasing themselves sufficiently -- kow-towing to the Chinese, you might say. Japan has never done enough; and inevitably, the plaintiffs demand more money from Japan.
But this time, I don't think it's about money alone: Communists -- and the rabid President Ro of South Korea -- hate the fact that Japan and the United States have a good relationship. They want to drive a wedge between us.
And of course, the anti-American American left hates pro-America Japan; which is why Rep. Honda has introduced his resolution. What Honda has against Prime Minister Abe is simply that he is pro-America, and even pro-Bush. That, obviously, is quite enough for the Democratic leadership!
But the last thing the Bush administration wants to do is accuse Japan of a "new" war crime. So far, Bush had acknowledged Abe's most recent apology and moved on.
Sadly however, I see many Japanese conservatives -- who should be siding with Bush and the GOP -- becoming more and more anti-American, in response to what seems to them as a growing anti-Japanese fervor in the government. (It's almost impossible to tell Japanese conservative bloggers that congressional Democrats are actually enemies of the Republicans and especially the president, because modern Japan has always had one-party rule: They literally don't understand the idea that one party controls one part of the government, while the other party controls another part.)
The Japanese right would be foolhardy to wreck the relationship between the United States over this silly, meaningless resolution: That is exactly the response the Communists in Red China and North Korea desperately want... just as the terrorists in Iraq desperately want us to enunciate a timeline for surrender.
Isn't it amazing how often the Democratic Party finds itself on the same side as America's national enemies?
March 6, 2007
I must apologize for the title; I could not resist. Anyway, I'm not talking about "Abe," the diminutive of Abraham; I mean Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe -- and the family name is pronounced "Ah Bay," with both syllables stressed equally.
Here we are, with yet another non-binding resolution from the Democrat-controlled House (do they ever pass binding resolutions anymore?)
Note: I have steadfastly resisted using the term "the Democrat Party," instead of the Democratic Party, because I think it's a silly and insulting affectation.
But just a couple of days ago, I heard, with my own ears (not a loaner pair), Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 100%) refer to "the Democrat majority in the Senate."
Taking my cue from the senior Democrat in the upper body of Congress, I shall now have no compunction about using the adjective "Democrat" instead of Democratic. If it's good enough for the senator from Searchlight, it's good enough for me!
Anyway, we have yet another non-binding resolution -- from the House, not the Senate, naturally; the latter won't be able to overcome the fillibuster. This one is really a lollapalooza: the Democrats demand yet another apology from Japan for the use of Japanese, Korean, and Chinese "comfort women" -- sex slaves -- by the Japanese Army before and during World War II... though you wouldn't know there were any Japanese forced into prostitution by reading the New York Times article (that doesn't fit "the Story," you see).
Abe has already announced that if the Congress passes such an offensive resolution, Japan will reject it out of hand:
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said today that if the United States Congress demands that Japan apologize for his nation’s use of foreign women as sexual slaves during World War II, his government will refuse to comply.
So this is yet another Democrat exercise in legislative futility; they have turned the Congress of the United States into the Elves, Leprechauns, Gnomes, and Little Men's Chowder & Marching Society. Cushlamocree!
Abe is right to resist this nonsense... but the poor sap is right for all the wrong reasons. He is trying to defend Japan against the charge by denying that there were any comfort women in the first place; or failing that, by insisting that the Japanese government and military had nothing to do with it... all the coercion was carried out by private contractors.
...Who were merely hired by the Japanese government and military. So you see, there's no connection!
Speaking in Japan’s parliament, Mr. Abe reiterated the position of conservative scholars here that Japanese soldiers and government officials had no hand in forcing women into brothels during the war; they say that private contractors hired by the Japan’s military were to blame.
Former comfort women have testified before a House committee that they were kidnapped by Japanese soldiers to serve in military brothels. But Mr. Abe said that any such testimony was “a complete fabrication.”
He also criticized the proposed House resolution, which holds Japanese authorities responsible for the coercion, saying that it “was not based in objective fact, and does not consider the Japanese government’s measures so far.”
That last sentence demonstrates the real problem here: for years and years, the two Koreas (and to a lesser extent China) have been demanding more and more demeaning apologies; it's not just bullying, however. There is method to their meanness: the ultimate goal is to force Japan to pay billions of dollars in "reparations" to the Republic of Korea, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, and the People's Republic of China.
And so far, whatever Korea wants, Korea has gotten. Japan has a terrible guilt complex, and the Japanese Left hates and despises Japan even more than the American Left hates and despises this country.
So why is Abe actually right to refuse yet another apology? And why, then, are his reasons wrong?
First, let's start with a few admissions against interest. Here are some facts that really are not in dispute:
- There is no question that some Korean and Chinese women -- and Japanese women -- were forced to serve as sex slaves for Japanese soldiers in the 1930s and during World War II;
- There is no question that it was the Japanese government that ordered such slavery... and no question that the Japanese military carried it out. Whether they worked directly or through "private" proxies is irrelevant;
- It's irrelevant because there were no truly private companies at that time in Japan: Japan was a Fascist dictatorship... which means the party of Tojo controlled every business, every company, every transaction. Nothing moved without the government allowing it to move.
But it that's true -- then why shouldn't Japan apologize? And even more, why shouldn't they have to pay reparations for the terrible wrong that they did? For a simple reason that is just as undeniable as the facts above:
- The Japanese government that did these horrible things ceased to exist on September 2nd, 1945, when Japan formally surrendered -- unconditionally -- to Allied forces, signing the surrender documents on the deck of the U.S.S. Missouri in Tokyo Bay.
- The current government of Japan did not come into existence until May 3rd, 1947, when it adopted its current constitution; or perhaps in 1952, when we formally turned over all remaining control to Japanese elected officials; or maybe even 1956, when the U.N. recognized the new nation of Japan;
- Thus, the current Japan did not even exist at the time these crimes were committed;
- In fact, neither did the current countries of the Republic of Korea, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, and the People's Republic of China: All are post-war creations.
Neither the perpetrator (Imperial Japan) nor victims (united Korea, pre-Communist China) still exist, and all members of the perpetrator government (the military dictatorship) are dead and buried.
This makes complete nonsense out of virtually this entire article, which espouses a theory that can only be called "racial guilt" -- the racist idea that all persons of Japanese descent who happen to live in the modern nation of Japan are racially guilty of the crimes of completely different persons who also happen to have been of Japanese descent and who lived in the same geographical area as modern Japan, but before modern Japan was created.
Yes, you read that correctly: the New York Times is espousing a racist theory of propagation of guilt through the DNA, solely in order to benefit two Communist countries and a grubby, greedy capitalist one. Let's read the Times article carefully:
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said today that if the United States Congress demands that Japan apologize for his nation’s use of foreign women as sexual slaves during World War II...
Abe's nation did not exist during World War II, so it could not have used foreign women as sex slaves.
Japan has already lobbied hard against a resolution now under consideration in the United States House of Representatives, which would call on Tokyo to take clearer responsibility for the Japanese army’s enslavement of about 200,000 women, mostly Korean or Chinese, who were euphemistically called comfort women.
How can present-day Tokyo "take clearer responsibility" for what other people did under the previous regime -- a regime that enslaved and brutalized the Japanese people as well, making them the first and worst victims of its totalitarian National Socialism?
It is not morally possible: If a man commits murder but then dies himself, do we send his child to prison?
Japan has apologized over the matter before, including in 1993. But there are widespread concerns that Mr. Abe and other conservative Japanese lawmakers may try to water down or reverse such public admissions of guilt, as part of a broader push to change the way the nation regards its wartime history.
"It" doesn't have a "wartime history," because "it" didn't spring into existence until a minimum of two years after the war ended (not with a whimper, but with a pair of big bangs). And on and on.
Here is the correct way for Abe to reject this spurious charge:
To the American Congress, we thank you for illuminating the atrocities and war crimes, committed by the National Socialist dictatorship that occupied Japan for a number of years in the early part of the last century, against the innocent people of Korea and China. That same socialist tyranny committed equally horrific crimes against the Japanese people, and we join with you in expression our abhorrence of all such totalitarian systems.
The current governments of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and the People's Republic of China must surely be familiar with the horrors that mass, coercive socialism can inflict: each has plagued its own people with even more murderous and torturous atrocities since World War II ended. And each, unlike Japan, still has the same government that perpetrated those crimes against humanity: Mao's so-called "cultural revolution" and his murder of seventy million of his own countrymen; and Kim Il-Sung's unprovoked invasion of South Korea in 1950 which precipitated a war that killed 2.5 million... and the more millions who have died from starvation under the government of Kim's royal successor, Kim Jong-Il. Not to mention the deprivation of liberty under both those Communist systems.
We extend our sorrow not only to those who suffered under one form of totalitarianism, we also extend our sorrow to those who have suffered under another form of totalitarianism. But we cannot apologize or accept responsibility for crimes that none of us in the government today, nor the government itself, had any hand in committing.
So we thank the American Congress for its interesting history lesson; but as to apologies or reparations -- bite me.
Imagine, a head of government talking like John Bolton (Japan has no "head of state"). Now that would be something to hear!
January 23, 2007
On Wednesday, China successfully tested a satellite-killer missile:
The anti-satellite test was first reported late Wednesday on the Web site of Aviation Week and Space Technology, an industry magazine. It said intelligence agencies had yet to “complete confirmation of the test.”
The Chinese test, the magazine said, appeared to employ a ground-based interceptor that used the sheer force of impact rather than an exploding warhead to shatter the satellite into a cloud of debris.
There are many ways to respond to this test; the most direct response would be to use our own laser-based ASATs (anti-satellite weapons), not to destroy an American satellite, but merely to "blind" it. This would demonstrate a much more sophisticated approach than the crudity of hitting a large satellite -- falling in a fixed orbit known in advance -- with a medium-rang ballistic missile, technology the Russians were deploying 30 years ago).
Besides, blinding a satellite would not produce a debris field that could disrupt other satellites, both military and civilian.
In the 1980s, we conducted our own tests of using missiles to destroy satellites; but we fired the missiles from a moving platform, an F-15 Strike Eagle... again, far more impressive than the Chinese launch from a ground-based facility.
Our own ballistic-missile defense (BMD) systems are far more advanced than the Chinese satellite killer: both the Ægis and THAAD (Theater High-Altitude Area Defense) systems fire interceptor missiles that locate the incoming missile and crash directly into it at high velocity, destroying it. The ability of our missiles to determine their own trajectories "on the fly" (to hit an incoming missile) puts them lightyears beyond the klunky Chinese demonstration last week.
The instant reaction from the usual suspects -- pacifist groups, from the Stimson Center to the Union of Concerned Scientists -- to this eye-roller of a "threat" is to (wait for it) sign a new treaty!
Treaties are panaceas; they solve everything, as Neville Chamberlain can surely affirm:
Michael Krepon, cofounder of the Washington-based Henry L. Stimson Center, a private group that studies national security, called the Chinese test very un-Chinese.
“There’s nothing subtle about this,” he said. “They’ve created a huge debris cloud that will last a quarter century or more. It’s at a higher elevation than the test we did in 1985, and for that one the last trackable debris took 17 years to clear out.”
Mr. Krepon added that the administration has long argued that the world needs no space-weapons treaty because no such arms exist and because the last tests were two decades ago. “It seems,” he said, “that argument is no longer operative.”
In the first place, Krepon cites no attribution to this alleged argument by the Bush administration; we have no verification that they ever said such a silly thing. (And "space weapons" of the type China used last Wednesday have existed since the 1970s.) More important, however, there is a much better argument why we absolutely do not need a new "space-weapons treaty."
The most serious objection to any proposed space-weapons treaty is that it would be virtually unenforceable... even more so than most other treaties, since external inspection would be impossible -- unless we built a Space Shuttle for the U.N. It's unenforceable precisely because... it's so easy, even the Chinese can do it!
Rocket science made easy
In the first place, as we just saw, all you need to shoot down a satellite in LEO (low-Earth orbit, up to 2,000 KM, 1,240 miles) is a medium-range ballistic missile or better. You can shoot from a fixed site, a ship, or an airplane. Such missiles are indistinguishable from any other type of medium or intermediate-range missile.
How do you prevent China from simply pointing them at our satellites? There is no way we would know -- until the launch, that is.
Faster, satellite! Kill! Kill!
Second, the technology of space-based "killer satellites" (satellites that can match orbit with another satellite and destroy it) is available to anyone who can launch a satellite. Once launched, they look just like any other satellite... until they match orbits with the target and go boom. They don't even need to get that close: once in the target's orbit, if the killer-sat just blows itself up, it can leave a lethal debris field right in the path of the target. Except for certain highly maneuverable military satellites, the target will just blunder on in, and we can do nothing to stop it.
The technology is relatively easy; it should be obvious that if you can launch a satellite with a payload, an instrument package, e.g., you can make the payload explosive. Killer-sats don't require much testing, and there is nothing that we could tell from a ground test of the killer-sat that would allow us to distinguish it from any other explosive.
Thus, we can never know how many are already up there today; and God knows we can't stop North Korea, Iran, or China from launching suicide-bomb satellites (unless we attempt to interdict every launch they make, which is probably beyond our capablities right now).
The level of sophistication you need to launch a satellite is not great: Iran has its "IRIS" program to build a satellite-launching rocket; North Korea has the Nodong-2 and (despite the recent splash) the Taepodong-2 under development, either of which could likely launch small satellites. You don't need much of an explosion to destroy a satellite in orbit (or damage it beyond repair).
Reach out and touch someone
Finally, the United States and the erstwhile Soviet Union -- at least -- have or had very active programs to use directed-energy weapons to destroy satellites from the ground almost instantaneously. And with the interest Vladimir Putin has shown recently in reviving Russia's ASAT warfare programs, it's likely they have considered this method as well as kinetic-kill and explosives.
The primary "directed energy" weapons we use are lasers and masers. Lasers and masers are functionally identical to each other; they only differ in the wavelengths used. Lasers use electromagnetic wavelengths from X-ray (nanometer range), through ultraviolet light (.1 micrometer range) and visible light (micrometer range), up to infrared (milimeter range).
An emitter using a wavelength from microwave (centimeter range) to radio waves (meter range) up through long waves (ten meters and up) is called a maser. (The terms are acronyms: Light Amplification through Stimulated Emission of Radiation; Microwave/Molecular Amplification through Stimulated Emission of Radiation.)
We, the Russians, and the Chinese have already demonstrated using lasers to blind satellites; add power, and you can destroy them, as well.
Fundamentally different are particle-beam weapons; these are directed beams of particles that actually have rest mass, such as protons, electrons, and neutrons. While they're harder to control and direct than is a laser or maser, they have more destructive power. They also take more energy.
We extensively tested particle-beam weapons at Lawrence Livermore during the 1980s, as part of research for the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI). But we don't know how far we got, whether we're still continuing to work on them, or whether we abandoned them. In any event, scientific breakthroughs happen all the time; and such a breakthrough in particle-beam weapons could happen tomorrow -- or may have happened five years ago and been kept out of the newspapers.
Everyplace to hide
But the upshot of all this should be clear: there are so many ways to shoot satellites out of orbit, many of which can remain undetected until the moment of impact, that "signing a treaty" outlawing AST is as foolish as signing a treaty outlawing cheating on treaties: such a treaty lasts simply as long as nobody sees an advantage in breaking it by attacking a satellite.
But if nobody sees an advantage in attacking a satellite, then nobody will attack a satellite, even without the stupid treaty. The only purpose of a treaty is to give the illusion of progress, to satisfying the "do something!" mantra.
Doing something lame and foolish is generally worse than doing nothing, especially where Congress is concerned... a point that should also be made to those desperately trying to cobble together a statement of defeatism that could garner bipartisan support: sometimes the best resolution is to resolve not to enact a resolution.
Or not to sign another useless, unenforceable treaty.
December 7, 2006
Blast From the Past Repost: Remembering Pearl Harbor
Sachi wrote this piece last year on Pearl Harbor Day. Since the post is, alas, even more true today than it was 365 days ago, we decided it was worth revisiting. Once again, we're in danger of forgetting who lurks beyond the gates...
When 9/11 happened, many people compared it to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor 64 years ago today. We Americans of Japanese ancestry felt a little bit uncomfortable with the comparison. My father, who still lives in Japan, thought “remember Pearl Harbor” meant “never forgive the Japanese.” But I know better. "No Dad," I told him, "that’s not what it means."
The commonality between the Pearl Harbor attack and 9/11 is its unexpectedness. Both attacks happened when our (American) world was seemingly at peace. What angered us was the enemy’s cowardly and dishonorable attack, the savage disregard for innocent lives. But we were more angry with ourselves for letting our guard down. We were angry at the enemy, sad for our loss, but worse yet, humiliated.
How could mighty America, my adopted country, which has the strongest military and economy in the world and is the most moral nation on the planet, let an enemy attack on our own soil? How could we miss the signs that militant Islamists had been plotting against us for years? How could we have been so complacent?
“Never again,” Americans of 64 years ago swore, “will we allow a savage enemy to attack us on our own soil.” And yet 60 years later, we made exactly the same mistake. Why?
For exactly the same reason: because we forgot. We forgot who was out there beyond the pale. And we forgot how we felt that day December 7th, 1941.
The enemy are not the Japanese. The enemy are not the Moslems. The enemy are the faceless, cowardly savages who are always lurking in the shadows around us, looking for an opportunity to strike at our most vulnerable spot, which usually means innocent women, children, and other civilians. We must never forget that such an enemy exists.
So when we say “remember Pearl Harbor,” Dad, we're really saying "remember that, even when there are no bullets or bombs flying, we are always at war against evil. We have to become like Terminators against barbarity. To paraphrase James Cameron, we can't reason with it, we can't bargain with it, we can't feel pity or remorse or fear... and we absolutely must not stop, ever, until it is dead.”
So, let’s not forget what we felt on Dec 7th and Sept. 11th. Because the minute we forget, it will surely happen again... and another terrible disaster will be forever known only by a date.
October 10, 2006
Vote for Dems to Beat North Korea!
The funny part is, I think the Democrats have started to believe their own bullroar. In their unintentionally hilarious hysteria, they blurt out arguments the GOP has made for years:
Democratic Sen. John Kerry, the president's rival in 2004 and a potential 2008 candidate, assailed Bush's policy as a "shocking failure," and said, "While we've been bogged down in Iraq where there were no weapons of mass destruction, a madman has apparently tested the ultimate weapon of mass destruction."
Hm... who was it who mocked the inclusion of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) on the list of the "Axis of Evil?" Democrats said then that President Bush included North Korea only to prevent the list from being entirely filled with Moslem.
Previously, for six years under Clinton, the Democrats snoozed, confident that tossing a few tens of billions of dollars (and a nuclear reactor) to Kim Jong Il would placate the "madman."
Then when Bush initiated his policy of trying to line up allies for sanctions against the DPRK, the Democrats (especially including Sen. John Kerry, D-MA, 100%) fought it hammer and fang, every step of the way. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight Ashbury, 95%) hooted at the preposterous idea that we would ever need ballistic missile defense, and she led the fight -- successful during the Clinton Go-Go 90s -- to zero out the research on it.
So, Mr. Kerry and Mrs. Pelosi... do you finally, at long last, support missile defense? If so, then at least one good thing has come out of this piffle of a detonation.
"The Bush administration has for several years been in a state of denial about the growing challenge of North Korea, and has too often tried to downplay the issue or change the subject," said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.
"We had the opportunity to stop North Korea from increasing its nuclear power, but George Bush went to sleep at the switch while he pursued his narrow agenda in Iraq," added Sen. Bob Menendez, a Democrat in a tough campaign in New Jersey.
Wow, tough stuff! I presume Sens. Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 100%) and Bob Menendez (Temporary D-NJ, 100%) can point to a long history of pushing for much harsher treatment of North Korea... for example, by conducting direct, face-to-face negotiations with them so we can settle how much tribute to pay and how many more reactors to send to appease that failed Stalinist state.
Reid is of course "changing the subject" from his obsession with the internet peccadillos of former Rep. Mark Foley, which have occupied about 137% of Reid's always-limited attention span since September 29th.
The Democrats' main argument seems to be that North Korea's now suspect claim that they have detonated a nuke actually helps the Democrats in the upcoming election... after all, Democrats have long been known as the party of cold warriors who come down hard on Communism.
(The nuke announcement really is producing some major-league skepticism. Bill Gertz reports in today's Washington Times:
U.S. intelligence agencies say, based on preliminary indications, that North Korea did not produce its first nuclear blast yesterday.
But remember... you read it here first!)
My worthy co-conspirator, Brad Linaweaver, informs me that he just saw Dr. Helen Caldicott on some screamfest -- anybody besides me remember that energumenic refuge from Bedlam? She opined that the North Korean nuclear (?) explosion leaves America with but one option in response: we must unilaterally disarm our nuclear arsenal!
Freeze now! The survivors will envy the dead! (Probably so, for they don't have to listen to Helen Caldicott speak.)
Let's see what happens to the polls, which jumped from 0 to a 65-point advantage for Democrats in 3.4 seconds (want to buy a slightly used Dyson sphere?) But that may flip right back, now that the conversation is no longer about Gary Condit.
Oh, wait -- my mistake. That was the last congressional sex scandal, which was front-page news in every newspaper and TV broadcast in America... on September 10th, 2001. (So I reckon at least one Democrat actually cheered when the twin towers were struck.)
September 6, 2006
Are Fascists Seizing Control of Japan? Or Has Leftist Rhetoric Run Amok?
The leading candidate to replace ourgoing Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi is Shinzo Abe, a hawk who is currently chief cabinet secretary and Koizumi's right-hand man. Abe is pro-American and has vowed to strengthen Japanese ties to the United States.
But what's remarkable about him is that he is openly discussing revisting the pacifist Japanese consitution, the third rail of Japanese politics.
“Japan will follow a foreign policy that makes firm demands based on national interests,” Abe told ruling Liberal Democratic Party members. “The security treaty with the U.S. forms the center of Japan's foreign and security policy. We must work to strengthen that stance”....
Abe favors expanding the security alliance with the United States, giving Japan's military more freedom to join peacekeeping and other international operations, and taking a tough stand with China and North Korea.
In speeches and a recently published book, Abe has vowed support for revising Japan's postwar pacifist constitution and creating Japanese versions of the National Security Council and Central Intelligence Agency.
“We need a new constitution that fits better for how Japan should be in the 21st century,” Abe said in his speech Friday, vowing to win passage of a law allowing a referendum on the constitution by the end of his term.
This kind of talk upsets liberals and leftists of both Japan and the United States (Japan is far more leftist than the United States), and they are not shy about expressing their opinions. But now at least one American claims that the Japanese climate is such that leftists can't even speak up against "right-wing" rhetoric for fear of being murdered by Fascists.
In his column at the Washington Post, Steven Clemons states that "thought police" are threatening free speech in Japan [all emphasis added]:
On Aug. 12, Yoshihisa Komori -- a Washington-based editorialist for the ultra-conservative Sankei Shimbun newspaper [Sankei Shimbun is similar to the Wall Street Journal] -- attacked an article by Masaru Tamamoto, the editor of Commentary, an online journal run by the Japan Institute of International Affairs. The article expressed concern about the emergence of Japan's strident new "hawkish nationalism," exemplified by anti-China fear-mongering and official visits to a shrine honoring Japan's war dead. Komori branded the piece "anti-Japanese," and assailed the mainstream author as an "extreme leftist intellectual." [It's important to note that the original article, attacking the Japanese government actions as "hawkish nationalism," was a government publication -- paid for by tax money.]
But he didn't stop there. Komori demanded that the institute's president, Yukio Satoh, apologize for using taxpayer money to support a writer who dared to question Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's annual visits to the Yasukuni Shrine, in defiance of Chinese protests that it honors war criminals from World War II.
Remarkably, Satoh complied. Within 24 hours, he had shut down Commentary and withdrawn all of the past content on the site -- including his own statement that it should be a place for candid discourse on Japan's foreign-policy and national-identity challenges. Satoh also sent a letter last week to the Sankei editorial board asking for forgiveness and promising a complete overhaul of Commentary's editorial management.
The capitulation was breathtaking. But in the political atmosphere that has overtaken Japan, it's not surprising. Emboldened by the recent rise in nationalism, an increasingly militant group of extreme right-wing activists who yearn for a return to 1930s-style militarism, emperor-worship and "thought control" have begun to move into more mainstream circles -- and to attack those who don't see things their way.
Clemons of the Washington Post goes on to say that "militant" right wingers -- like the ones who assassinated Prime Minister Inukai in 1932 -- are now rising in Japan, threatening any critic of the administration via death threats and bombs.
I don't know who Clemons is. However, if he considers Sankei Newspaper to be "ultra-conservative," that tells me an awful lot about him. Sankei is as mixed and mealy-mouthed as the Wall Street Journal's news pages: if anything, tilted a bit towards the status quo, which is more liberal than here.
That aside, Clemons' description of Komori's protest is quite misleading. Clemons claims that Komori's only objection is that Satoh "support[ed] a writer who dared to question Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's annual visits to the Yasukuni Shrine." Komori must be a wild-eyed extremist, if merely questioning the PM is enough to rouse his ire!
But what did Komori really complain about? Here are a few excerpts from his letter to Satoh, translated by American Embassy in Japan (they spell the name of the president of the Japan Institute of International Affairs as Sato, rather than Satoh; it's a transliteration anyway):
[O]n reading some of the essays, I was astonished by the contents. The essays unilaterally condemned the thinking of the government and ruling camp, as well as a majority of views in Japan as dangerous, and categorized the attacks on Japan by China and other countries as proper....
The thrust of the essay rejects moves in the direction of Japan becoming an "ordinary country" from the aspect of its national security, which can be said to be the majority view in Japan, rejecting and denouncing them as dangerous "hawkish nationalism."
The English-language essay is filled with biased words such as calling those who support paying homage at Yasukuni Shrine the "cult of Yasukuni." The word "cult" is a derogatory term used to mean a fanatical religious group such as the Aum Shinrikyo believers in Japan. [オウム真理教, a.k.a. "Aum Supreme Truth": in 1995, they carried out a Sarin gas attack in the Tokyo subway. Fortunately, they botched the operation; but even so, they killed twelve people and injured over a thousand.]
The essays contains much too many sensational, emotional and insulting words of the kind frequently used generally by the Western left or by China to bash Japan, such as calling the thinking of Japan's pragmatists "ahistorical imagination" and claiming "selective amnesia" regarding the war by the Japanese people. In that sense, the essay can be called "anti-Japan."
The Japan Institute of International Affairs or JIIA is a public institution that is operated by subsidies from the Japanese government. Its current director is Yukio Sato, a former diplomat who once served as ambassador to the United Nations. The opinions in JIIA's international dispatch could be taken as the official views of the Japanese government, ruling parties, and majority of Japanese....
[T]he author was Masaru Tamamoto, the English editor at JIIA. Tamamoto* is a long-time [resident] of America and is well known as a radical leftist scholar who has often attacked the policies of the Japanese government. In a Washington seminar in 2003, I myself heard him say such comments as, "The abduction issue with North Korea has already been resolved, but the Japanese side is using it as an excuse to keep a hard-line foreign policy stance"; and, "Japan should never dispatch the Self-Defense Forces to Iraq; such a dispatch will never occur."
That does not sound like threats or intimidation to me; perhaps Clemons has a more expansive definition. He is careful not to libel Komori, but he clearly implies Komori is egging on the extremists:
Sankei's Komori has no direct connection to those guilty of the most recent acts, but he's not unaware that his words frequently animate them -- and that their actions in turn lend fear-fueled power to his pronouncements, helping them silence debate.
In fact, what "silences debate" is exactly this kind of talk: Clemons' intent is to shut up conservatives by accusing them of instigating hate crimes -- exactly the tactic leftists use here in America: if you disagree, you're a Fascist, racist, sexist, homophobic bigot. I have seen such dirty tricks before; in fact, I've been targeted by them on Japanese websites.
If anybody deserves blame, it's Yukio Satoh, Director of JIIA, for letting such a paritisan as Masaru Tamamoto run the on-line journal in the first place; and then, upon a single complaint by Komori, shutting the site down without any explanation. This falsely made it appear as though Komori himself, a mere editorial writer (say, just like Steven Clemons!), was somehow able to shut down Commentary, leading to Clemons' nutty conspiracy theories.
If Satoh had any principles, and if he thought the essays were appropriate, he should have stuck to his guns, no matter what kind of protests he received. But if he agreed with Komori that the journal Commentary had gone too far and was not appropriate for JIIA, then he should not have published it at all.
At the very least, he owed readers an explanation why it disappeared; and he should perhaps have sought a less drastic step, such as simply replacing Tamamoto as editor. It was Satoh's wishy-washiness, not Komori's complaint, that caused the whole problem.
And if Japanese left wingers don't have the grits to speak their mind for fear of a few death threats -- which, sad to say, are common dangers faced by every public figure these days on both sides of the aisle -- then they have no business prattling on about "freedom of speech." The American Founding Fathers faced far worse.
August 15, 2006
Japanese Prime Minister Defies Asian Pressure
On Monday, Japanese Prime Minister Juichiro Koizumi paid his respects to the war dead of many different eras at a controversial Shinto shrine, Yasukuni Jinja. The controversy arises because the shrine was a symbol of imperial Japan; like Bitburg Cemetary in Germany, a great many Japanese soldiers are buried there... including some notorious war criminals:
TOKYO (AP) - Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi made a pilgrimage Tuesday to a Tokyo war shrine reviled by critics as a symbol of militarism, triggering a further erosion in Japan's ties with its neighbors just a month before he leaves office.
The impact of the visit to Yasukuni Shrine, Koizumi's sixth as prime minister, was heightened by its timing on Aug. 15, a date viewed with sadness in Japan as the anniversary of its World War II surrender, but celebrated as a day of liberation from Japanese colonial rule elsewhere in Asia.
The early morning pilgrimage prompted protests in China and South Korea, which suffered heavily under Japanese occupation [though not anywhere near as heavily as both suffered from Communist aggression in the 1950s and 60s]. The countries view the shrine, which honors war criminals among Japan's 2.5 million war dead, as a glorification of imperialism [as opposed to Tiananmen Square, which is a glorification of... oh, let's not go there].
As usual, China and South Korea are upset:
South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun called on Japan to "prove it has no intention to repeat" its past aggression as his government summoned the Japanese ambassador to issue an official protest.
In Beijing, flag-waving protesters gathered outside the Japanese Embassy, as Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing condemned Koizumi for "obstinately" visiting the shrine. He also summoned Japan's ambassador to issue a protest.
Although it is not mentioned here, I am sure North Korea has something to say about that too. They usually do. It has become an article of faith for many Oriental people that Japan has never apologized or paid compensation for the aggression of the military dictatorship of the 30s and 40s, which was utterly destroyed in 1945.
Japan never "repented," they say; Japan has never abandoned the ambition to conquer Asia. Given an opportunity, it will rearm and start attacking its neighbors. This visit to Yasukuni shrine is just another slap in the face.
But considering the human-rights track record of Communist China and North Korea, they hardly have standing to accuse Japan of anything. And after the recent insulting behavior by South Korea at Takeshima (see A Rock And a Hard Peace, No Samurai Spirit Here!, and Wanted: Real Samurai!), I am not exactly filled with tears if their feelings were hurt.
But having said all that, their claim that Japan had never apologized is simply wrong. In fact over the years, Japanese leaders, including the current emperor, have apologized to the neighboring countries over and over again:
- [South Korean President] Roh returned today from a three-day trip to Japan, during which Emperor Akihito expressed regret for the occupation of Korea from 1910 to 1945. Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu of Japan extended ''honest apologies.''
Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi’s statement to visiting Chinese president Jiang Zeming:"Painfully feeling its responsibility for inflicting grave suffering and damage on the people of China by invading China at one period of history, the Japanese side expressed deep remorse for this," the declaration said.
- Japan's prime minister apologized Friday for his country's World War II aggression in Asia in a bid to defuse tensions with regional rival China....
When Japan points out the facts to these countries, especially China and the two Koreans, they invariably shift from saying Japan has "never apologized" to saying the apology (which they never mentioned before) was not "sincere." Talk is cheap, they preach, and Japan needs to walk the walk: actions, not words!
But what do they mean by “actions,” I wonder? It is definitely not about the stupid shrine; the motive for making such a fuss is a lot more sinister. If you push them hard enough, they will tell you that Japan needs to compensate them for the destruction of 50-60 years ago. Japan has never done anything for China or Korea to show that Japan is really, really, really sorry.
That’s right. Compensation. Money. That’s what this is all about. But if you think Japan has never given them any compensation, think a second time.
Japan is one of the biggest donors of foreign financial aid in the world, second only to the United States, and has ben since the early 1980s. They call it Official Development Assistance (ODA); and the second largest beneficiary of this aid is none other than Red China.
Japan extended more than $1.22 billion in aid to China in 1999, making that nation the second-largest recipient of Japanese aid after Indonesia. In contrast with Indonesia, China is using loans actively to expand its presence in the world community.
But the panel, composed of economists and other academics, urged the government to rethink its ODA policy in light of the fact that China is spending a large amount to fortify its already powerful military.... Then-finance minister Masajuro Shiokawa said Japan plans to reduce ODA to China and other nations with nuclear weapons. "It makes no sense to extend assistance to a country that might attack Japan with atomic weapons," he said.
Is it possible current surge of Chinese anti-Japanese movement is somewhat related to the fact Japan is thinking of reducing ODA to China?
As for South Korea (from the Asia Times link above):
To promote peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula, Japan should provide a comprehensive package of official development assistance that covers the entire peninsula, says Kim Young-ho, economist and former minister of commerce, industry and energy of South Korea. Japan should compile an official development assistance plan for the Korean Peninsula like the US Marshall Plan for Europe after World War II.
For those keeping score, the Marshall Plan (1947-1950) spent $13 billion... which would be equivalent to over $100 billion in 2005 dollars. (Say, if Japan creates a $100 billion development assistance plan for the Republic of Korea and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea -- can Japan have Takeshima Island back?)
In addition to all the above demands, Japan has already been sending humanitarian aid to the Stalinist hellhole of North Korea for many years. God only knows what they're doing with it.
These countries are engaged in simple extortion, nothing less. They know the Japanese people are fed up with paying for the sins of their remote ancestors -- and not even being thanked for doing so. Oriental countries are afraid that Japan will stop giving them money, since both Chinese and Korean governments teach their children little about Japan except how evil it is, and how it has never apologized or paid any compensation for the crimes of a previous regime that was annihilated by American forces and two nuclear bombs sixty-one years ago. The children are never told that most of their roads and bridges are built by Japanese reparations.
Japan has nothing left to apologize for. They have no obligation to keep paying these ungrateful global moochers. The prime minister of Japan should be able to pray for Japan's war dead whenever he pleases.
Japan is a free country, unlike two of the three regimes launching the criticism.
August 12, 2006
Good News from Iraq
Recently, I found myself getting too discouraged to write about good news from Iraq -- simply because I hear too much about bloodshed everyday. But then it got me thinking: hasn't it always been like this? Wasn't this the very reason I decided to start reporting good news in the first place?
Yes, folks, there is plenty to report. Just because we don't hear much about it in the elite media doesn't mean there isn't any.
First, some news from Samawa. Don't bother following the link -- it's all in Japanese! I'll translate it for you:
Orphanage Completed With Private Donations
August 9, 2006, Asahi.com
In Samawa, in southern Iraq, an orphanage was completed using private donations collected from Japan....
The facility is 360 square meters and can hold 240 students. The Lions Club in Saitama prefecture collected the "lion's share" of the 23 million yen building cost ($200,000)....
According to Mr. Ohno [of the Middle East Research Institute of Japan], Iraqi orphans were normally raised by their tribes. But due to the lengthy war, the economical situation had gotten difficult. "It is not safe in Iraq. There are too many deaths. I wanted to help people who are trying so desperately to live," Mr. Ohno said.
On another front, it was widely reported that after three years of deployment, the Japanese Self-Defense Force withdrew from Iraq. However, the Japanese Air Force is still there, still transporting supplies and wounded. Japanese forces have not left Iraq! Not yet, at least.
Meanwhile in Baghdad and Ramadi, US and Iraqi forces captured 60 Shiia militiamen and killed 34 Sunni insurgents. From Reuters :
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - U.S. troops rounded up 60 suspected militants overnight in a security clampdown to stem violence in the capital and killed 26 insurgents in a rebel Sunni stronghold west of Baghdad [they mean Ramadi -- the Mgt.]....
The sweep through the southern Baghdad district of Arab Jabour targeted a suspected bomb-making cell linked to attacks across the city of seven million.
"The group has been reported to be planning and conducting training for future attacks, like the attack in Mahmudiya July 17 that killed 42," the U.S. military said in a statement.
In a separate operation in a south Baghdad district called Um al-Maalif, Iraqi soldiers killed eight militants.
Beefed-up U.S. and Iraqi forces this week began a systematic operation to claim back Baghdad's most dangerous rebel strongholds in an attempt to restore security and shore up confidence in the new Shi'ite-led government.
We are completing a lot of great jobs in Iraq... let's keep it up! Murtha or no Murtha, we won't cut and run. "No retreat, no surrender."
July 5, 2006
Wanted: Real Samurai!
Back in April, Japan faced a crisis over a little rock island which the Japanese call Takeshima: when Japan said they would send a survey ship to the area near Takeshima, staying within Japan's own "Exclusive Economical Zone" (EEZ), South Korea reacted with fury.
Since the 1950s, the Republic of Korea (RoK -- please don't confuse with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, DPRK, which is North Korea) has claimed ownership of Takeshima, which they call Dokdo, in defiance of the international community, which recognizes the island as belonging to Japan. Even so, the Japanese survey ship was not sailing into Takeshima's waters; its planned route kept it entirely within Japanese waters. Yet the RoK warned Japan that if the Japanese ship so much as left the port of Japan, the RoK would respond with military force.
As South Korean Coast Guard (Navy) ships were already interdicting Japanese fishing vessels near Takeshima and seizing and holding the crews (and had even killed one captain when a boat failed to surrender), Japan took this threat very seriously. The crisis was apparently "resolved" when Japan backed down and canceled the survey:
Japan and South Korea reached an agreement Saturday that says if Tokyo cancels a planned maritime survey near the Takeshima islets, Seoul will not propose naming seafloor topography around the disputed islets at an international conference in June.
I was furious at this so-called "compromise;" but my Japanese friends told me it was "a victory for diplomacy and for Japan." The RoK government -- which had refused to discuss the EEZ question for years -- finally agreed to "talk about it" in June 2006.
I was not convinced, and I predicted the talks would produce nothing.
They avoided a shooting war for now, but it's only a Band-Aid. The fact is that South Korea still surrounds Takeshima island [with warships] and considers itself legally and morally justified to threaten any Japanese ship -- fishing boat or scientific survey ship -- that comes near to "their" island. Besides, South Korea did not permanently give up renaming in Korean the seafloor topography around the disputed islets; they only posponed it.
However, being fair-minded, I decided to suspend judgment until the June talks. Well, June has come and gone; and yes, they did indeed "talk" about Takeshima. It turns out my prediction was wrong: the talks did not produce "nothing"... they produced something much worse.
South Korea did not formally propose Korean names for seafloor topography at the international maritime conference. Instead, they joined the topography naming committee, an obvious preparation for a future action.
For all the talk about the EEZ and Takeshima, all the RoK did was confirm their earlier rigid attitude: they announced that they would send their own survey ships whenever they felt like it; and (they threatened) if Japan tries to prevent it, South Korea will respond with naval force.
In fact, the survey ship just sailed yesterday, timed if not consciously then at least conveniently to coincide with North Korea's (DPRK) failed launch of the Taepodong 2 missile that hit the drink 40 seconds after launch. While Japan (and the rest of the world) watched the humiliating missile malfunction, the RoK sent their survey ship into Japanese waters.
A South Korean ship departed on Sunday on its way to survey waters near Seoul-held islands claimed by Japan, an official said, in a move that threatened to raise tensions with Tokyo.
South Korea announced last week its plan to conduct a survey of waters near islets known as Dokdo in Korean and Takeshima in Japanese, despite Tokyo's protests. The survey was to start on Monday and last until July 14...
Yonhap news agency reported the South Korean coast guard planned to escort the ship on the survey, presumably to ward off any Japanese interference. The coast guard did not immediately answer phone calls to confirm the report.
So, what have we got here?
- South Korea used the threat of military force to prevent a Japanese survey ship from entering Japan's own EEZ.
- But now a South Korean ship provacatively sails freely, not just into the waters around Takeshima, or even just the Japanese EEZ, but into Japanese territory itself... and backed by military force.
No English-language papers are reporting this, but for those who can read Japanese, here is the Yomiuri Newspaper account:
The [South Korean] survey ship sailed the Japanese territorial waters and the Japanese EEZ for 14 and a half hours and surveyed the area. Evidently, the survey inside the Japanese EEZ is limited to [July] 5th. According to the Japanese Coast Guard [Navy], at 6:41 AM Monday, the Korean survey ship entered the Japanese EEZ from west-north-west of Takeshima then headed toward Takeshima.
After passing Takeshima's north shore, the ship changed direction to south, then continued heading south-west. After confirming the survey ship had left Japanese waters, a Japanese Coast Guard ship accompanied the survey ship south-west.
So how exactly is this "a Japanese victory?"
Frankly, I do not believe that South Korea is really looking for a military conflict with Japan. Since the RoK is clearly in the wrong -- they're dictating not only what happens around Takeshima, whose ownership is not even in dispute, but around Japan itself -- South Korea certainly does not want to attract the attention of the international community. However, they are betting, quite reasonably, I'm sad to say, on continued Japanese inaction in the face of blatant provocation and intimidation.
And why should they not? Why should South Korea be afraid of the mighty Samurai spirit?
Japan has always backed down. Japan did nothing when Japanese fishermen were harassed, kidnapped, and even killed in their own ocean by South Korean Coast Guard vessels. Japan did nothing when their own survey ship was prevented from sailing in their own waters.
So why should anyone expect Japan to do anything when a South Korean survey ship invades Japanese territory, sailing waters that even the RoK recognizes as Japanese? (Or maybe they don't; maybe tomorrow, they'll give the Japanese mainland a new Korean name.)
I am disgusted. If Japan's response is another one of those calm, level-headed, adult attitudes of tolerance and forebearance, I'll be reaching for the Pepto-Bismol. If Japan has no Samurai spirit left to protect even a small rock from the RoK... then they don't even deserve to have a country.
June 20, 2006
What Goes Up Must Come Down... But How?
So here is the syllogism; you supply the conclusion:
- North Korea insists that it has "the right" to launch a test of its new ICBM, the Taepodong-2.
The Democratic People's Republic of Korea has no intention of abiding by any treaties it may have signed against the proliferation of missile technology; and they are known to be working hard on a nuclear warhead (with a lot of help from the mad Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan) and may indeed already have a few. Now they say they have a right to missiles that can carry those warheads thousands of miles:
North Korea declared Tuesday it has a right to carry out long-range missile tests, despite international calls for the communist state to refrain from launching a rocket believed capable of reaching the United States.
The bristling statement from North Korea to Japanese reporters in Pyongyang came as France and the U.N. secretary-general raised the alarm over what are believed to be the reclusive nation's preparations for a test of the Taepodong-2, with a range of up to 9,300 miles.
In a totally unrelated move, the United States has decided to make a minor change in our defense posture:
- The United States has just activated our ground-based ballistic missile defense (BMD) system, in addition to the sea-based Aegis BMD system.
We have tested the Aegis extensively, and it has been considered fully operational for a long time now... despite not having been used yet in actual combat, so far as I know:
Two Navy Aegis warships are patrolling near North Korea as part of the global missile defense and would be among the first sensors that would trigger the use of interceptors, the officials said yesterday.
The U.S. missile defense system includes 11 long-range interceptor missiles, including nine deployed at Fort Greeley, Alaska, and two at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. The system was switched from test to operational mode within the past two weeks, the officials said.
All right, so they launch; but where do they launch? What direction, and over what countries?
- The DPRK is not likely to launch an ICBM -- even as a test -- west across China or north across China and Russia; that leaves only east over Japan (which they have done before) or south over Taiwan and the Philippines, all three strong and vital American allies.
So put the three together, and what conclusion do we draw about our course of action? You guessed it:
One senior Bush administration official told The Washington Times that an option being considered would be to shoot down the Taepodong missile with responding interceptors....
White House spokesman Tony Snow declined to comment when asked if shooting down a launched missile was being considered as an option.
I suspect the only real question here is how likely we are to succeed: attempting to shoot down the Taepodong-2 and missing would be much worse than not trying in the first place; but trying and succeeding might reap huge dividends, as the generals behind North Korean leader Kim Jong Il probably think our BMD system is "all chopstick and no rice" (much like the DPRK food supply).
Proving beyond any shadow of a doubt that we really have it and it actually works might shock them out of their nutty idea that they can threaten us with nuclear missiles and back into at least a working definition of sanity.
But it's a gamble; let's not kid ourselves. Our tests so far have been controlled, in that we've been shooting at American missiles launched by American troops as part of a controlled engineering experiment -- as we should be; that's the correct way to develop a new weapons system. But making the shift to knocking down an actual enemy missile is a whole 'nother layer of complexity.
I believe it will work, so we should do it; still, none of us has access to all the classified data the president does.
But jeepers, would I love to see the collective gasp of a billion people if the NoKos were to launch -- and we were to swat their Taepodong out of the sky like it was a slow-moving fly. It would make my decade!
Sometimes the best thing to do in a "no-win" situation is to give the box a vigorous shake and see how the pieces realign themselves.
April 24, 2006
No Samurai Spirit Here!
The crisis is over -- at least for the moment. But the problem still festers, like an open sore. According to the English-language Japanese newspaper Daily Yomiuri:
Japan and South Korea reached an agreement Saturday that says if Tokyo cancels a planned maritime survey near the Takeshima islets, Seoul will not propose naming seafloor topography around the disputed islets at an international conference in June. [Note: they don't promise never to bring it up; just not in June. -- the Mgt.]
Administrative Vice Foreign Minister Shotaro Yachi and Yu Myung Hwan, South Korean first vice minister for foreign affairs and trade, reached the agreement to settle the row over the islets in Seoul after their two-day meeting that started Friday...
The two officials agreed to three points:
-- South Korea will not propose Korean names for the seafloor topography around the Takeshima islets, which Seoul calls Tokdo, at the international ocean mapping conference to be held in Germany in June.
-- Japan cancels the maritime survey for the time being.
-- Japan and South Korea will resume by the end of May negotiations by ministry bureau chief-class officials to finalize the borders of their exclusive economic zones.
What I don't understand is why Japan itself doesn't bring up this issue at the maritime conference. It seems to me that Japan should just have let Korea propose renaming the seafloor topography, just so that Japan could protest and bring the whole matter out into the open. Send the survey ship and see whether Korea really has the guts to try such a blatant land-grab in the sight of a million eyes.
My Japanese friend thinks this is a wonderful resolution. He insists that South Korea never had any intention of physically attacking the Japanese survey ship (even though the ROK has in fact seized Japanese ships, taken sailors hostage, and even killed Japanese in that area over the past fifty years).
Republic of Korea President Roh Moo-hyun is facing re-election, my friend says, and he just wanted to talk tough because of the extreme anti-Japanese sentiment in Korea. Japan's truce offer gave Roh an excuse to back down, says Mr. Japanese Friend. This was settled as a result of the level-headed actions of Japanese politicians, and he is proud of Vice Foreign Minister Shotaro Yachi.
I say "baloney!"
I totally disagree with this assessement. In this negotiation, South Korea lost nothing; they just agreed not to do something they hadn't done yet anyway. It was Japan who suspended the survey ship that was already en route. And why shouldn't Japan be able to survey international waters? Whatever happened to "freedom of the seas?"
They avoided a shooting war for now, but it's only a Band-Aid. The fact is that South Korea still surrounds Takeshima island and considers itself legally and morally justified to threaten any Japanese ship -- fishing boat or scientific survey ship -- that comes near to "their" island. Besides, South Korea did not permanently give up renaming in Korean the seafloor topography around the disputed islets; they only posponed it.
It seems to me that the only side backing down here was Japan. Japan has a very strong Navy... but the biggest gun in the world is only as strong as the will to pull the trigger.
Japan has lost its will, its spirit, and any moral claim to any territory at all. If you won't defend it -- you don't deserve it.
April 22, 2006
A Rock And a Hard Peace
A standoff has developed over the past year between Japan and South Korea (there is another one between Japan and China, but that is a subject for another day). Each claims possession of a small, rocky, uninhabitable island that the Japanese call Takeshima, and the Koreans since the 1950s call Dokdo.
Takeshima Island, garden spot of the Sea of Japan
(The island is also called Liancourt Rocks; you can read all about it here.)
Neither country really wants the rock. What they want is the surrounding sea, which is teeming with shellfish and seaweed, and is also rich in natural resources, including natural gas potentially worth billions of dollars.
Japan has been backing down and kowtowing to the Koreans and Chinese for decades now; but they simply cannot allow South Korea to formally absorb Takeshima Island without completely losing their face. If they are to get any respect in the world, they must stand up to Korea, even to the point of exchanging gunfire with the South Korean coast guard, if that's what it takes.
Obviously, I have a personal bias, since I was born a Japanese. Maybe the Koreans have a much better argument than I've seen so far. But even in that case, some neutral party must adjudicate this; the Republic of Korea cannot simply say "it's ours, now," and take possession.
Japan has sent a survey ship towards the island; but South Korea threatens to seize the ship and hold all the personnel hostage if it comes anywhere near Takeshima. They have also driven away Japanese fishermen whose families have fished there for literally centuries. Yet not a single international body has ever recognized South Korea's right to the area: the Koreans simply took it by force.
First, some background:
Ever since Japan lost the war back in 1945, countries such as South and North Korea and China have been using Japan's past wrongs -- committed by different people in a completely different government that was destroyed in 1945 -- as an excuse to kick Japan around. They long-ago realized that Japan is too cowardly to stand up for itself. It's hard to blame the Republic of Korea; if a person or a country is too afraid to fight for his own property, then he doesn't deserve any.
Historically, Japan and Korea have had a lot of bad blood between them. Japan tried to invade Korea many times over the past millennium; and of course, Japan's terrible occupation of Korea during WWII thing didn’t help, either. However in recent years, the relationship between the two countries was warmer, because of trade, sports, and most significantly -- Korean entertainment.
The popularity of Korean TV shows and movies in Japan has exploded in the last five years. Just watching TV in Japan, it seems like 20% of all daytime soap operas are actually made in Korea. Korean heartthrobs have mesmerized middle-aged Japanese ladies (like my mom!) Korean actors, such as Bae Yong Joon (affectionately called "Yon-sama" or Prince Yong in Japanese), make personal appearances that literally pack a baseball stadium.
In South Korea, the locations used for Korean movies have become Japanese tourist Meccas. This whole phenomenon is called Hanryu-boom, which I would translate as "Korean fad." (Notice that in Japanese, "boom" means fad; that is because it's another American word that was incorporated into Japanese.)
Unfortunately, the Korean people and their government have become so obsessed over these stupid islands that they've forgotten all of this in the wink of an eye. The bad blood is boiling over again.
Takeshima was undisputed Japanese territory for several centuries. It's not known when exactly Japan first made a claim; but back in 1656, the new Japanese shogunate issued some Japanese subjects a travel permit to the island. By World War II, Takeshima had been under Japanese sovereignty for almost three hundred years.
In 1905, Japan incorporated Takeshima into Shimane prefecture; this was internationally recognized at the time. Until very recently, not even South Korea disputed this historical fact.
The problem began in the aftermath of Japan's defeat in the war. The Allies' General Headquarters/Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers suspended Japanese territorial control over many of the small islands surrounding the Japanese "mainland" (which actually consists of four islands -- Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu). Takeshima was one of the islands suspended.
But those islands were never given to any other country; the Allies simply prevented the Japanese from exercising authority over them for several years. In particular, they certainly were not handed to Korea (as it was called until the 1948 partition). Most of the islands included in the suspension list were later returned to full Japanese control, though it's not clear whether Takeshima was one of them.
However, in 1954, the South Korean navy took Takeshima by force; two years later, the first president, Syngman Rhee, declared "Dokdo" to be theirs... and therefore also the surrounding ocean’s fishing rights. Since then, the Republic of Korea has physically controlled Takeshima. Japan has protested the annexation as "Korean aggression" ever since; they consider Takeshima still to be part of Shimane prefecture. But Japan has not been able to get a hearing.
The current blowup started in 2005. For the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of Shimane prefecture’s incorporation of Takeshima, Shimane passed legislation declaring February 22nd to be a “Day of Takeshima.” This made South Korean officials irate. They increased the number of Coast Guard ships and started intimidating Japanese fishing boats, sealing off the island and the nearby waters from any Japanese.
In response, the Japanese government decided to send a maritime survey group to the international waters near Takeshima in the Sea of Japan. This stirred up South Korea like a typhoon.
The reaction to this survey was nothing short of hysteria. Korean "sister cities" to Japan denounced their friendship; soccer matches were cancelled; and President Roh Moo-hyun declared that the Republic would not hesitate to use force to stop the Japanese survey group.
South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun has said Seoul does not view the survey as an isolated event but rather a part of Tokyo's refusal to show contrition for harsh colonial rule over the peninsula from 1910 to 1945.
Korean activists burned Japanese flags... then stood in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul and cut off their own fingers as a protest.
A South Korean official said Seoul expected [Japanese Vice Foreign Minister Shotaro] Yachi to convey a pledge from Japan not to conduct the survey while the two countries sought a diplomatic solution, Yonhap news agency reported.
"We are trying to avert a physical confrontation, but we can't run away from the problem," Yu [Myung-hwan Vice Foreign Minister of South Korea] was quoted as saying by Yonhap.
Tokyo has offered to call off the survey if South Korea drops a plan to register Korean names for seabed areas near the islands at a June international maritime conference.
President Roh's threat to use force to prevent the Japanese from approaching an island still technically theirs -- and in international waters anyway -- veers close to "casus belli." Ownership of Takeshima has been disputed since 1954; the Republic of Korea has no authority to rule the matter closed without even a trial in some international tribunal; they cannot be both a litigant and the judge at the same time.
Neither do they have any right to prevent Japan from fishing or surveying in international waters; this is a matter of "freedom of the seas." The simple dispute should be resoloved in some international court, not by force of arms.
If the ROK continues this blockade, Japan must respond in a similar manner. Since South Korea threatens to use force, Japan should send a military escort along with the survey group and call their bluff.
This is a sovereignty test for Japan. If they want to regain international respect, they are going to have to stand up for themselves. If they back down here, the Republic of Korea is going to start "naming" every island between them and Japan with Korean names.
In order to resolve this territorial dispute without a war, Japan should file suit in some international court. But time is running short; South Korea has already started calling the Sea of Japan by a Korean name. If Japan does nothing, then before they know it, Korea will have a Korean name for Honshu, and Japan will literally be wiped off the map (like those Arab maps that don't even show Israel).
It's time for Japan to finally show some backbone.
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