You know, I used to have a lot of respect for Observing Japan, which is the blog by an Asian Studies Ph.D. student named Tobias Harris who has the kind of connections to get articles published in places like Newsweek and the Wall Street Journal.
But the more I read what he has to say, the less objective he sounds, and the more like a mouthpiece for the Democratic Party of Japan he comes across.
Someone had commented once, at one of the news sites, that Harris used to work for a DPJ member of parliament. Perhaps, in the interest of full disclosure, that should be in the tag line of whatever he writes in traditional media or posts online. [Oops, I see he does mention it over on the right at his blog site.]
Lately, he has focused on the Futenma Air Base controversy and the Obama Administration’s position. His “analysis” is pure excuse-making of the DPJ’s actions in the matter.
With most bloggers, the impression that it’s opinion, what they write, is right out there. The worst are these pseudo-academic bloggers who want you to take what they are saying as if there is something more than academic, or some other career-focused self-promotion, behind it. Are you really telling me what you think, or are you putting ideas out there with some other aim in mind, in which case I will just read the politicians’ blogs?
Last year, when it wasn’t so clear to the outside world that the LDP was a spent force, what Tobias Harris had to write was fresh and interesting. The assumption was that he was in fact writing as an “Asia Hand”—someone who actually had studied the Japanese political situation and could be relied upon to report accurately what the situation was.
Seeing the most recent stuff, however, just makes Harris look like an apologist for the DPJ right down the line.
Futenma is 99% to 100% a screw-up of the DPJ government. Not simply that they miscalculated any American response, but that it was used as cover for the fact that they didn’t have any political program to resolve Japan’s domestic problems—just rhetoric and false promises to win votes.
The sad fact in Japan is that “blame a handy foreigner” is more often than not a good excuse for not delivering, and probably has been for the last 150 years. That’s Japan.
No doubt when Footnote 51 was stuck in there, in the “Manifesto”, a manipulator like Ozawa realized that it would be handy way to back away from promises that were being made to the everyday Japanese who were actually trusting these guys. And, short-term strategists that most Japanese with power are, it seemed to him and his little clique to be a masterstroke of brilliance.
However, it left the whole U.S.-Japan apparatus, and the power-people league wondering what the hell was going on. It didn’t build trust among that group, and in turn, this meant that trust would be eroded in Washington. And with the multiple serious problems that the Obama Administration faced—even before coming into office—this sort of contrived politics was not going to go down very well.
Hence the “what about trust me?” comment of the President. Anyone reading about the account can only but see that the President was saying, hey ally, I don’t need this shit.
This wasn’t about “more equal” relations or anything like that. This was about handy excuse for expected failure to deliver on a whole host of other problems.
I know some people say this is the ghost of Tanaka Kakuei sticking it the eye of Uncle Sam once again, (even after the U.S. accidentally “made” Tanaka when his lumber business was outside the target range of the B-29’s in the Tokyo bombing.) But I don’t think Ozawa works that way. I just think he bit off more than he could chew.
The plethora of minor parties splitting off from the LDP in recent days and months is more an indication of weakness within the DPJ than it is (the obvious) weakness in the LDP. In order to pass laws in Japan, bills must pass both the Lower House and the Upper House. The DPJ only controls the Upper House with the help of what now amount to two crackpot minor parties, one dedicated to turning the Japan Post Office back into a megabank, and the other that focuses too much on Futenma and believes the Japanese should submit to Kim Jung Ill of North Korea.
So the newer breakaway parties figure that if a Kamei or Mizuho Fukushima can garner so much disproportionate attention, why not them gather 10% or 15% of the vote in July’s election and be the real kingmakers. It makes perfect sense.
These are the minority of Japanese power people who actually know how to strategically plan. So keep watching guys like Masuzoe. They have thought it through and are smart to see a sinking ship in the LDP and gutsy enough to shake things up by trying to establish a separate power base within Japanese politics.
Seiken koutai is as popular now as it was last summer.