Friday, January 18, 2013

Japanese Prime Minister is a World War II Denier – Makes a Good Situation Worse

What’s Wrong with the Japanese?

Because they seem to have an endless supply of mediocre politicians Japanese voters have returned Shinzo Abe to the office of Prime Minister, despite the fact that in a previous incarnation he was a terrible leader.  Having been given a second chance it appears Mr. Abe wants to inflamepassions in a region where the last time passions were inflamed in led to WW II.

In foreign policy the government looks even more alarming. Calling the cabinet conservative misses its revisionist obsessions (see article). It is far from meritocratic, with half the positions going to MPs who inherited Diet seats from their families. Worse, its members are gripped by a backward-looking, distorted view of history that paints Japan as a victim. The great majority of cabinet members favour visits to Yasukuni, the controversial Tokyo shrine that honours war criminals among the soldiers, and reject Japan’s “apology diplomacy” for its wartime atrocities. Almost half of them want school textbooks (which already downplay Japanese atrocities) to be rewritten in ways that obscure the militarism still further. Mr Abe is, alas, steeped in this stuff: his grandfather oversaw occupied Manchuria’s development in the 1930s.

The revisionists’ real argument over perceptions of Japan’s wartime conduct is that their country was treated to victor’s justice. They reject the pacifist constitution that America imposed. Japan was cast as a junior partner, they maintain, and neutered at home and abroad. The education minister, Hakubun Shimomura, says that the years since the war have been a “history of Japan’s destruction”; he and Mr Abe talk about overturning a despised “post-war regime”. 

Really, this is what they apparently think.  Japan’s atrocities during the War are legendary and well documented.  The post war recovery of Japan, made possible by a benevolent and helpful West is what created a peaceful and prosperous society.  And now the Japanese have a Prime Minister and government that tries to re-write history.

This is a baffling portrayal of the economic miracle—overseen by the LDP, no less—that brought peace and prosperity to the region.

The modern Japanese people are citizens to admire, unless of course they revert to the characteristics of the less modern Japanese people, in which case the current and coming economic downturn is what they will have deserved.

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