The Japan that can’t decide: Is it really indecision?

I am reading the Guardian for a bit about Kevin Maher’s new book, translated as “The Japan that Can’t Decide”. It looks like the book was only published in Japan, and I wonder what gems the tell-all has to reveal.

Recent news accounts say that Maher has been disputing the comments reportedly made about Okinawans that led to his official retirement in early March. At the time, it sounded like the accusers had embellished whatever Maher had said, somewhat. It also sounded like he was being very clear about yet other things in the Japan-U.S. relationship.

What reporters now are saying is that Maher ran the Japan desk for the State Department, so that was quite a position. I don’t remember that fact being put out there in the English-language press during March. It means that the top guy was (and is) his own one man Wikileaks of a sort, and probably more of the reason that he was given the bum’s rush in March. Since then, Maher has been saying that he hadn’t made the negative comments, but Kyodo News stands by what was reported then.

I’d like to read the book. I don’t think it’s “the Japan that can’t decide” about critical issues like the U.S. military base in Futenma or the crisis that relying on nuclear power has caused in the Fukushima area. Instead, I think it’s the Japan where the decision makers are always off somewhere else, unseen. It looks like indecision, but, in fact, there is a well thought-out process involved. Maher is tapping the “Japan that uses consensus as the excuse” not to, in these instances:

1) commit to a problematic agreement with America to help defend Japan by relying on one prefecture that historically has been put upon; and

2) cease relying on nuclear power for energy, which pushes its risks onto relatively weak economic communities in Japan’s hinterlands.

It isn’t indecision. It’s a deliberate course of getting a benefit while misleading the other party(ies) into thinking the matter is one that is in search of a consensus. Only when, as we say, push comes to shove, does anything really happen in these sorts of standoffs, and then the other party is made to look like the aggressor who is asking for too much.

Kevin Maher made a career in Japan (or had one made for him by the trans-Pacific military/political elite), so he probably knows better than I do. But observing Japan for quite a bit of time myself (more than most Americans), I think he is off the mark. Indecision is a tactic, just like non-responsiveness. It’s aggression, and needs to be seen that way.

Maybe he has said this, but I haven’t read the book.

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