Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Question

MR. SCHIEFFER: Ambassador Paul Wolfowitz is over here.

Q: Hi. Paul Wolfowitz, AEI. This has sort of been addressed, I guess, with the last question, but I’m curious whether any of you think that the desire to improve relations with China might push Japan to do something more than just fewer visits to Yasukuni Shrine. It’s striking, when you compare Japan and Germany, what a great job the Germans have done in addressing their past and what a poor job the Japanese have done. And they talk about improving relations with China and yet, this always comes up as an issue with China. Do you think there’s any possibility, with all the other issues they have to address, that they might do something more than, just, not too many visits to Yasukuni?

MR. GREEN: Joe Nye said, in the early ’70s, that this history issue would take at least three generations to reconcile. And I’ve never known how long a generation is, but I don’t think we’re there yet.

MR. CAMPBELL: Twenty years.

MR. CLEMONS: Twenty years.

MR. GREEN: Twenty years? Well, not too long from now. The difference, obviously, I think between Japan and China and France and Germany is that the Chinese have not done what France obviously could do, which is internal reconciliation about their own history and the history of the Communist Party. And in my view, until China can reconcile internally, it won’t happen with Japan – not to put all of the burden on China, but that’s one big obstacle. On the Japanese side, the more taboos fade and the more debate there is, the harder it is to keep people quiet and the more voices will come out on history issues that make it difficult. But as I was saying earlier, I think we are entering a period where, at least, there will be some thawing, and maybe we’ll sort of ratchet it down for the longer term. Or maybe we’ll be in for a roller coaster a little while.

The above question was offered at the CSIS program on September 2nd examining the Japanese election. There is so much wrong and discouraging with the above one does event know where to begin.

The exchange begins bizarrely with a question from a man who has his own issues with war responsibility. Maybe, Amb Wolfowitz can be interviewed on the issue of shame vs. guilt?

Generations? Well, most scholars who study Japan's history issues believe that the critical change for Germany to confront its history was the shift from the conservative Christian Democrats to the more liberal Social Democrats. This now appears to have finally happened in Japan. Is a Hatoyama kniefall next? On the technical issue of what is a generation, scholars generally say it is about 30 years.

France has reconciled with its own history? Since when? It has only been essentially within the last decade that the French have admitted that not everyone was a noble resistance fighter. And the infamous Holocaust transit station Camp des Milles is only now being restored as a museum and research center. A major contributor to this is the building materials giant LaFarge. This is the same company that now owns most of Aso Mining and the mines which employed Chinese and POW slave labor.

China has to confront its own history? Well, sure, but since when does that have to happen before there is a frank and honest discussion in a Japan that is supposedly an open, free, and democratic country. Green's statement is a near quote from so many Japanese ultra-rightist polemicists. These are the same guys who think the U.S. tricked Japan into the war, believe the Rape of Nanking never happened, and threaten people with bodily harm if they disagree. But these are the same Japanese who work with American administrations to secure the alliance, advocate for a strong military, and keep a hostile attitude toward China.

The fact is, the DPJ understands that if it is to move closer to Asia it needs to reconcile with Asia. The equivocal responses and defensive denials no longer are effective. The stock 1995 Murayama apology is stale and can be stretched only so far. It is my understanding that the DPJ leadership wants to make right by everyone: the slave labors, the comfort women, the Korean prison guards, and many others who were harmed by Imperial Japan's aggression and democratic Japan's denials.

It is sad, even alarming, that American Alliance Managers cannot see their way toward encouraging the DPJ in its promised efforts of war reconciliation. Cementing the peace is the prelude toward regional cooperation. Keeping Japan hostile-looking and slightly irrational seems counter-productive, if not a bit too cold waresque.

1 comment:

  1. Not completely unrelated, but a colleague at work recently tried to tell me that 1 in 4 Germans under 25 or some such belongs to an ultra-rightist group, some with symbolic Nazi elements. Now, I do not usually indulge "some guy at the pub said" kind of anecdotes, but even if this is half, or even a quarter true, I am not sure if we can Germany is the model for "having dealt with its history". Yes the targets are different (anti-European, anti-Turkish etc - well, not completely different really I guess!!), but one does get the impression that "something" is lingering there.....and it may well be deeper than that "lingering" thing in Japan - which from my experience with ordinary Japanese people seems to be confined to a certain elite and/or dying cordon of society (and some crazy otaku).


If I am unamused, your comment will not be posted.