Wednesday, September 28, 2005
Saturday, September 24, 2005
Friday, September 23, 2005
"For much of the past two years, Koizumi's DPJ critics have squealed about Iraq and questioned his buddy-buddy rapport with President Bush. In its recent election manifesto, the DPJ pledged to withdraw Japanese troops from Iraq by Christmas. Meanwhile, party leader Katsuya Okada signaled his opposition to America's Futenma Air Base being stationed in Okinawa.
Immediately after the Koizumi landslide, Okada resigned as DPJ boss. His replacement, Seiji Maehara, 43, is a well-known security expert and longtime favorite of U.S. Japan hands such as Richard Armitage. The new DPJ chief favors a more robust Japanese military posture overseas. To that end, he has repeatedly suggested tinkering with Article 9 of the constitution--which renounces war--to afford Japan the right of collective self-defense. Tsuneo Watanabe, an adjunct fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, reports from Tokyo that Maehara is 'a very strong supporter of the U.S.-Japan alliance.'"
I also like the Redstate article Thomas Lifson linked to, which is a spirited defense of deficit spending. Borrowing and spending until the sun burns out may be overstating the case, but he provides plenty of food for thought. Personally, I never understood the argument that China has us at a disadvantage because they're loaning us money. It sounds like a win-win to me. They get a better return, we get to use the money. And if that money goes to fight the good fight, well, at least the Chinese are being supportive in some sense. Perhaps someday the national debt will become unmanageable - but Nick Danger doesn't think it will happen.
Thursday, September 22, 2005
"In Moscow, the Russian Foreign Ministry dismissed the U.S. and European initiative to refer Tehran to the Security Council as counterproductive, saying it 'will not contribute to the search for a solution to the Iranian problem through political and diplomatic means.'"
In other words – the search for the solution hasn’t even begun - merely the search for the search of a solution (I may have skipped a few ‘searches’).
Not that the 6 party talks are progressing any better. I was skeptical about the recent statement about a deal with N. Korea, but held out some hope that it might produce something. However, when Fred Kaplan thought it was good, I knew it was completely hopeless. Sure enough, within 24 hours, N. Korea went into schizo girlfriend mode, making ridiculous demands and unhelpful accusations. And what’s with Ted Turner’s looniness?
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
Monday, September 19, 2005
"What comes next? Having turned the page on Mr. Bush, the country hungers for a vision that is something other than either liberal boilerplate or Rovian stagecraft. At this point, merely plain old competence, integrity and heart might do."
Sunday, September 18, 2005
Saturday, September 17, 2005
UPDATE: And it wasn't.
Thursday, September 15, 2005
"Everything points in the direction of a need for more time. So it would be in everybody's favor to give it some three or four weeks," a senior diplomat close to the IAEA told Reuters news agency on the condition of anonymity.
If Iran fails to take advantage of this last chance, then, presumably the issue will go to the National Security council where several dozen more last chances will be issued.
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
"But now, like Bill Clinton in his second term, Koizumi needs to turn to foreign affairs and work some magic there. At least he needs to make a better effort.
"Getting along with one's neighbors is not a sign of weakness but of strength. Without seeming to kowtow to China, this brilliant politician must work more closely with China on key bilateral and regional issues, including North Korea and Taiwan."
I suppose Plate doesn’t consider Taiwan a neighbor. Through Koizumi, Japan has taken unprecedented steps to tighten ties with this democratic island. He’s also done so with the democratic Australia. See a pattern? That’s not to say that he’s ignored China. Economic ties are increasing each year. But part of having a good relationship requires some movement from the other side.
"China is not always right in its disagreements with Japan, nor is South Korea. "
Try hardly ever. Even S. Korea has been acting immature when it comes to hot button issues with Japan.
"Getting along with one's neighbors is not a sign of weakness but of strength."
Knowing when someone is trying to use and abuse you is also important – as is standing your ground. Biting your lower lip, Clinton style, does not work on the People’s Party, which is why Clinton’s dealing with the Chinese counts as one of the lower points of his foreign policy.
"While Koizumi has demonstrated that he is a masterful domestic politician, history's judgment is still to be rendered on his performance as a world statesman."
The dye has already been cast and Koizumi will no doubt be seen positively as a major foreign policy leader. Mr. Plate should see that.
Monday, September 12, 2005
“Well then, cook; you see this whale-steak of yours was so very bad, that I have put it out of sight as soon as possible; you see that, don't you? Well, for the future, when you cook another whale- steak for my private table here, the capstan, I'll tell you what to do so as not to spoil it by overdoing. Hold the steak in one hand, and show a live coal to it with the other; that done, dish it; d'ye hear?”
He went on to order more delicacies:
“And now to-morrow, cook, when we are cutting in the fish, be sure you stand by to get the tips of his fins; have them put in pickle. As for the ends of the flukes, have them soused, cook. There, now ye may go."
But Fleece had hardly got three paces off, when he was recalled.
"Cook, give me cutlets for supper to- morrow night in the mid-watch. D'ye hear? away you sail, then. - Halloa! stop! make a bow before you go. - Avast heaving again! Whale-balls for breakfast - don't forget."
Whale balls, eh? I wonder what they would call those at Cattleman's....Leviathan fries.
Sunday, September 11, 2005
Katsuya Okada, the head of the LDP’s main opposition party, the DPJ (Democratic Party of Japan), will step down from his position after failing to win a majority. Incidentally, Okada had vowed to bring troops home from Iraq if his party gained a majority.
About half of the LDP dissidents look like they'll survive.
The Nikkei site has some different numbers than Kyodo, but those numbers are displayed in a nice table showing the primary coalitions. What's a little odd is that in a country where you'd be hard pressed to find many people who would profess an interest in politics, the voter turnout is expected to have been up around 67%.
UPDATE: The blogosphere slowly awakes. Roger Simon, who return from Japan last week (and had some good photos here and elsewhere) says that Koizumi looked like a winner last week.
Friday, September 09, 2005
Also, I've had little inclination to post on Katrina. Nothing I would have to say hasn't already been said by others at least a dozen times. After tempers wind down and the rescue efforts fade away, I might change my mind and post on it. Of course, that shouldn't stop anyone else from doing so.
Even though people continue to get killed, the numbers have fallen off
noticeably. The number of car-bomb explosions has dropped very sharply in the
past 30 days or so. The factors responsible for this good news are something of
a mystery. The passage of a Constitution gets some of the credit. If that is
true, then the details of how it came about are so arcane as to be
Something else that gets credit is the Iraqi Army. There truly are signs
that this army is starting to have some impact on events here. The terrorists
can't simply walk up to a checkpoint, kill everyone in sight, and not take a
very strong risk that they might all be killed in return.
What continues to be whispered, and what I have reported here once or
twice, is the claim that the Iraqi Army is killing hundreds of the terrorists
whom they do arrest. No trials. No niceties. Just a quick shot in the head. I
can neither confirm nor refute this persistent report. But, I hear it so often
that I do tend to believe something along those lines is happening. The victims
of the Army killings (if they are happening) are the former Saddam loyalists who
form the core of the terrorist groups.
It's noteworthy that absolutely no one is bothered by this evidence of an
army that is perhaps running amok.
He seems to have a little different take than he did last month.
On the domestic front, Koizumi has done much to push tough reforms through that have added to the long-term economic health of Japan. The more radical parties would say that he hasn’t gone far enough and that as an LDP member he's still subject to special interests, etc. However, considering the resistance to reform that Koizumi faced when coming into power, his performance has been impressive – most visibly with Japan’s banking system. Indeed, he’s met resistance every step of the way. Now he’s pushing his postal reform bill, which has been a keystone of his reform agenda. This bill seeks to privatize – more or less – an institution that is, in addition to a postal service, the largest financial institution in the world as well as an insurance company. The effects of his proposed reform, so far as I understand it, will reap little short-term benefits but will lay groundwork for future growth. When the lower house of the diet defeated the bill with the aid of 30+ LDP defectors, Koizumi quickly dissolved the parliament and set the upcoming elections. At that time it looked like he had a steep uphill battle, with victory unlikely. If he loses, he will have to resign and his reform agenda will be severely crippled, if not completely abandoned. If he wins, he will remain until the end of his term in 2006 and should be able to push the postal reform through. The boldness he displayed is rare in Japanese politics and has created a level political excitement in a country that is not very politically exciting.
On a party level, the LDP is something else. It’s managed to be the dominant party for over half a century. And it hasn’t done so in the same ways that Mubarak in Egypt has done or the People’s Party in China has done. Opposition parties have been free to campaign and try to win the people’s support. The past decade has seen some erosion of LDP support, but thanks largely to Koizumi, they are expecting a reversal in this trend. And this support seems to be coming from younger people and coming in urban areas – again, showing a reversal to recent trends.
From an American perspective – long term Japanese growth is certainly important for a variety of reasons. A prosperous Japan is good for trade, but it’s also good for a healthy diplomatic landscape in Asia. As mentioned before, it’s important for us that Japan emerge from its pacifist period and become an increasing participant in the War on Terror.
While foreign policy doesn’t seem to be a main deciding factor in the upcoming election (except, perhaps, in regards to the issue of kidnapped Japanese in N. Korea), foreign policy will be affected. Koizumi has led the way in an important transition. He’s sent troops to Iraq – to his own political detriment, he’s reinterpreted the idea of Japan’s national defense and solidified support for the defense of Taiwan, he’s also strengthened ties with Australia, and he has had our back with the 6 party talks. These stances would each suffer a blow if Koizumi finds himself on the way out next week. Inevitably, Japan’s prosperity and survival will rely on these shifts. A Koizumi defeat will make the transition that much more difficult and painful.
For an American, regardless of whether you think Bush is a unilateral knucklehead or a spreader of freedom, you would be hard pressed to justify rooting against Koizumi – unless you are also rooting for a U.S. defeat in Iraq and elsewhere. After all, isn’t it the tagline of Bush haters that we don’t have enough allies? And isn’t Japan one of our main allies? Likewise, our N. Korean strategy (and yes, there is one) would also be compromised and our leverage in dealing with China weakened without a fast friend like Koizumi. In short, no good can come of a Koizumi defeat.
The U.S. has been lucky thus far. The political leaders that make up the Coalition of the Willing have fared well in elections. While we lost Aznar in Spain, Blair and Howard both won. It seems likely that Schroeder will be out and Chirac seems to be weakening (granted, not because of Iraq so much as the domestic issues). A Koizumi victory would continue that trend. The world needs more courageous political leaders like him. Cross your fingers!