View Full Version : Generalising from the particular - Abe and resurgent imperialism

Rising Sun*
07-20-2013, 10:12 AM
Kamikaze veteran upset at retreat from Japanese pacifism

Updated Sat Jul 20, 2013 10:19am AEST

As Japan heads to an election tomorrow, a former kamikaze pilot fears the expected win by the conservative government will reverse Japan's commitment to pacifism.

Mark Willacy


ELIZABETH JACKSON: He volunteered to fight and die as one of Japan's feared kamikaze.

Now, 93-year old Tadamasa Iwai is warning that the country's prime minister is trying to take Japan back to its imperialist past.

Tomorrow, Shinzo Abe's conservative forces are expected to romp to victory in Upper House elections, giving the prime minister control of the parliament and boosting his chances of revising Japan's pacifist constitution.

North Asia correspondent Mark Willacy reports from Tokyo on one old soldier's struggle to stop his country lurching further to the right.

MARK WILLACY: They were the kamikaze, or the divine wind; the squadrons of suicide attackers that rained death from the skies.

They sank dozens of ships and killed nearly five-thousand sailors, in a last ditch attempt to slow the allied advance in World War Two.

Tadamasa Iwai was one of those who volunteered for martyrdom; although, unlike many of his comrades, his desire was not to die for emperor and country.

TADAMASA IWAI (translated): I wasn't happy about volunteering, the now 93-year-old tells me. But I knew I was destined to die in the war. So I thought why not die instantly rather than suffering. That's why I volunteered for a suicide mission he says.

MARK WILLACY: But the young Tadamasa Iwai would miss his chance for martyrdom; because he would be struck down by tuberculosis towards the end of the war.

Not that he feels any guilt, quite the contrary.

The 93-year-old is now living peacefully with his wife in the Tokyo suburbs, fully aware of the futility of war.

He's also keenly aware of the folly of tampering with Japan's post-war pacifist constitution...

"The Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wants to amend the constitution to take Japan back to the old imperial system" warns Tadamasa Iwai. "Abe is trying to change the self-defence forces and turn them into an army. This is the most dangerous government since the War he tells me."

The prime minister Shinzo Abe has certainly not hidden his desire to revise the ultra-liberal constitution.

Many like political analyst Jeff Kingston from Tokyo's Temple University says the right-wing leader wants to rewrite history.

JEFF KINGSTON: I think he wants to present a glorifying, vindicating narrative that shows Japan's War time actions in a positive light. There's so much in post-War Japan to be proud of, why try to glorify a shabby past?

MARK WILLACY: Particularly, the prime minister would like to change Article 96, which stipulates that any amendment to the constitution requires a two-thirds majority in both houses of parliament, plus a majority in a public referendum.

If Shinzo Abe does well in this weekend's Upper House elections, as expected, Mr Abe could then move to water down what many see as the most important article of the constitution.

For kamikaze volunteer Tadamasa Iwai, this weekend's election represents the biggest challenges to pacifist post-war Japan...

This is Mark Willacy in Tokyo for AM.


Rising Sun*
07-20-2013, 10:17 AM
Another view, from one economic perspective.

Japan's 'kamikaze' economics are threatening to cause an Asian debt crisis that could spread like a virus to the rest of the world, according to Satyajit Das, a former banker and author of "Extreme Money."

If the dramatic efforts by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to revive Japan's long-sagging economy fail, the impact may in fact only start at home.

A failure would mean Japan would be forced to sell off its overseas investments to repatriate capital, and the selling pressure would fuel financial market volatility for a wide range of assets internationally, Das wrote in a MarketWatch commentary.

At the same time, Japan's aggressive monetary policy and devaluation of the yen, an effort dubbed "Abenomics," could cause a stampede of private capital from Japan.

The devaluation of the yen against other Asian currencies would help Japanese export competitiveness, but at the expense of Japan's neighbors, Das noted.

"Facing a reduction in competitiveness, China, South Korea and Taiwan may intervene in foreign exchange markets to reduce the appreciation of their currencies. Trade restrictions may be introduced to reduce Japanese exports."

Das suggested Abenomics could be part of Japan's effort to restore its past sense of a glorious imperial empire. The prime minister's agenda includes overturning Japan's Western-style constitution and increasing defense spending.

"The kamikaze attacks of World War II reflected the samurai and Bushido code of conduct, where death is preferable to the shame of defeat. Abe's current policy initiatives have a kamikaze element. This too is unlikely to succeed in changing Japan's trajectory," Das concluded.

Japan has managed to devalue its currency by 25 percent this year, but exports have failed to rise, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Abe's last remaining option may be to impose structural reform on the Japanese economy, but in order to do so, his party will need to win the looming Upper House elections, The Journal reported.

Abenomics has coincided with a rise in Japanese consumer sentiment, as property transactions in Japan rose 50 percent in the first half of 2013 to $20.9 billion, the most in five years, Bloomberg noted. Emphasis added.


Rising Sun*
07-20-2013, 10:25 AM
And there are lots of other views, but there is a disturbing consistency in the neo-imperialist / historical revisionist / denial views of the Abe camp.

Which, I suspect, are energised by the rise of China and a well-deserved fear that what goes around, comes around.

07-25-2013, 05:56 AM
Regarding "Abenomics", there is an alternative - or at least complementary - view that since the Japanese economy has been in the doldrums for so long, the use of monetary stimulus/monetary easing, or whatever one wishes to call it, is worth a try as an effort to break the negative cycle in which Japan has so long been trapped. An objection to this view may be that, by itself, this form of manipulation does nothing to address the outmoded economic and financial structures (vertically integrated enterprises, and so on) that served Japan so well up to the 1980s, but which are now outmoded and badly broken. As a result, Japan's ability to take advantage of Abe's approach remains distinctly questionable.

A more worrying point is that there is nothing unique about Abenomics in the current economic system - it is so remarkable in the main because it is new coming from ultra-prudent Japan. Filing it down to its bare essentials, it is little different from what the Fed in the USA and (to a more modest extent) the European Central Bank are doing. In the US and the EU, the central bankers have reacted to the realisation (that began to dawn about 5 years ago) that a lot of the money in their economies at the time did not really exist (in terms of a linkage to real economic activity) by ... er ... creating a lot more fake money and stuffing it into the banks in order to prevent a 1929-'34 style banking collapse, and all that this would entail. The tricky bit is that this involves a bet that the new, government-created fake money can be leaked into the real economy at a very slow rate, or that, in time, it may be possible to wipe it out as economies recover. Seen in the light of fundamental principles of political economy (as enunciated from Adam Smith on), this approach involves an enormous risk, and may in the end result in a huge, inflation-fuelled crash in the longer term. It also casts an interesting light on the insistence of many of the politicians involved that the whole idea of "monetary easing" is to "get the banks lending again". It is not really surprising that the same politicians have, in fact, moved to prevent their funny money from leaking out of the banks by insisting on much tougher rules about bank reserves. Hypocrisy ? Never !

Abenomics appears to be a mere addition to this process. Abe and friends probably realise that, given the vertically integrated nature of the Japanese banking system, there is a much greater chance that their funny money will, in fact, leak out through de facto subsidies to industries with which their banks are vertically integrated. This is, in fact, an additional worry for the world, since it poses some risk that it will trigger a competitive process that could result in the huge volumes of artificial money now rolling around the world's banks leaking out at a rate guaranteed to produce a huge inflationary crisis. I am old enough to remember the last one of these, and it was not pretty. If taking risks like this is the price of empire, give me small, damp islands any day. Unfortunately, the small damp islands are brought down by crises of this sort, same as the would-be empires. Yours from the Frankfurt Omnibus, JR.

08-02-2013, 02:55 PM
TOKYO (AP) — Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso has retracted comments suggesting Japan should follow the Nazi example of how to change the country’s constitution, following protests by neighboring countries and human rights activists.

But on Friday, Aso said he stands by all his other remarks in the speech and refused to resign as Cabinet minister or lawmaker. He also refused to offer an apology over the remark.

“I have no intention to step down,” Aso told reporters.

Aso drew outrage for saying Japan should learn from how the Nazi party stealthily changed Germany’s constitution before World War II before anyone realized it, and for suggesting that Japanese politicians should avoid controversy by making quiet visits to Tokyo’s Yasukuni war shrine.

Aso said Thursday that he was misunderstood and only meant to say that loud debate over whether Japan should change its postwar constitution, and other issues, is not helpful.

“It is very unfortunate and regrettable that my comment regarding the Nazi regime was misinterpreted,” Aso told reporters. “I would like to retract the remark.”

Aso, who is also deputy prime minister, made the comments about Nazi Germany during a speech Monday in Tokyo organized by an ultra-conservative group.

Critics of the ruling Liberal Democrats are uneasy over the party’s proposals for revising the U.S.-inspired postwar constitution, in part to allow a higher profile for Japan’s military.

Japan and Nazi Germany were allies in World War II, when Japan occupied much of Asia and Germany much of Europe, where the racial supremacist Nazis oversaw the killings of an estimated 6 million Jews before the war ended in 1945 with their defeat. Japan’s history of military aggression, which included colonizing the Korean Peninsula before the war, is the reason its current constitution limits the role of the military.

According to a transcript of the speech published by the newspaper Asahi Shimbun, Aso decried the lack of support for revising Japan’s pacifist constitution among older Japanese, saying the Liberal Democrats had held quiet, extensive discussions about its proposals.

“I don’t want to see this done in the midst of an uproar,” Aso said, according to the transcript. Since revisions of the constitution may raise protests, “doing it quietly, just as in one day the Weimar constitution changed to the Nazi constitution, without anyone realizing it, why don’t we learn from that sort of tactic?”

Government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said that postwar Japan has consistently supported peace and human rights.

“Cabinet ministers should fully understand their role and make sure to avoid misleading remarks,” Suga said Friday. He said Aso has already retracted the Nazi comment and doesn’t have to resign.

Aso often speaks in a meandering style that has gotten him in trouble for off-the-cuff remarks in the past. He has apologized previously for accusing the elderly of being a burden on society, joking about people with Alzheimer’s disease, saying the ideal country would be one that attracts “the richest Jewish people,” and comparing the opposition Democratic Party of Japan to the Nazis.

On Thursday, Aso insisted that he was referring to the Nazis “as a bad example of a constitutional revision that was made without national understanding or discussion.”

“If you listen to the context, it is clear that I have a negative view of how the Weimar constitution got changed by the Nazi regime,” he said.

“This is a constitution for all,” Aso said. “I just don’t want (the revision) to be decided amid a ruckus.”

The Nazis’ rise to power in the early 1930s amid the economic crisis brought on by the Great Depression was facilitated by emergency decrees that circumvented the Weimar constitution. So was Adolph Hitler’s seizure of absolute power after he was made chancellor in 1933.

It was not a matter of revising but of abusing the constitution.

Opposition leaders condemned Aso’s remarks, saying they showed a lack of understanding of history and hurt Japan’s national interest. Some demanded Aso resign.

Aso’s comments “sounded like praise for Nazi actions and are totally incomprehensible,” said Akihiro Ohata, secretary general of the Democratic Party.

“Minister Aso’s ignorance about historical facts is so obvious,” said Seiji Mataichi, secretary general of the Social Democratic Party. “I also want to remind him that praising the Nazis is considered a crime in EU nations.”

The Simon Wiesenthal Center, a group dedicated to keeping alive the history of the Holocaust, urged Aso to “immediately clarify” his remarks.

“What ‘techniques’ from the Nazis’ governance are worth learning? How to stealthily cripple democracy?” Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, said in a statement.

“Has Vice Prime Minister Aso forgotten that Nazi Germany’s ascendancy to power quickly brought the world to the abyss and engulfed humanity in the untold horrors of World War II?”

In South Korea, Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho Tai-young said Aso’s remark “will obviously hurt many people.”

“I believe Japanese political leaders should be more careful with their words and behavior,” Cho said.

In China, which also suffered invasion and occupation by Japanese imperial troops before and during the war, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said the comments showed that “Japan’s neighbors in Asia, and the international community, have to heighten their vigilance over the direction of Japan’s development.”

Hong also objected to Aso’s comments on visits to the Yasukuni Shrine, which commemorates Japan’s 2.3 million war dead, including 14 wartime leaders convicted of war crimes.

Aso urged lawmakers in his speech to visit the shrine at times other than the closely watched anniversary of the end of the war on Aug. 15 to avoid diplomatic flare-ups.

“We demand that Japan seriously contemplate history, remain committed to promises it made on historical issues, and take concrete actions to win the trust of its Asian neighbors and the international community,” Hong said.


Rising Sun*
08-03-2013, 07:31 AM
Curious how Abe, Aso and Co go out of their way to piss off the neighbours they already antagonised beyond belief in Japan's various colonial expansions in the 45 or so years to the end of WWII.

It suggests that the arrogance which took Japan to war 1933-45 had not abated in certain quarters, which is all the more reason to view those quarters with concern and dismay.