Michael Ubaldi, August 2, 2004.
When we last left off with Japan's debate on completing its sixty-year journey towards democratic normalization by asserting its right to offensive military action, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi himself was calling for the reconsideration of Article 9, the pacifist keystone to Japan's American-authored postwar constitution. Before the definitive rise of Islamist terrorism in 2001, a decade of post-Cold War geopolitics quickly transformed Pax Americana into an undertaking of disproportionate military responsibility favorable to lesser democratic nations that was suddenly followed out of habit and comfort rather than necessity. Three years into the war on terror and dictatorship, the reluctance of many free countries — legal or cultural — to use the force of arms for the greater cause is now a direct impedence to international security. Japan's conversation has been proceeding for months, and even the pragmatists from Foggy Bottom are applying a combination of encouragement and pressure:
Officials in the ruling coalition as well as the opposition camp clearly were caught off-guard by U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage's remark last week that war-renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution is becoming an obstacle to strengthening the Japan-U.S. alliance. Since it was uttered by a senior Bush administration official known for his deep understanding of Japan, they fear it may negatively affect Japan-U.S. relations and ongoing debate in Japan on revisions to the Constitution.
Armitage also told Nakagawa that while Washington supported Tokyo's moves to become a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, any nation with that status must be ready to deploy military force in the interests of the international community. Unless it is prepared to do that, Armitage said it would be difficult for Japan to become a permanent member.
Article 9 is interpreted to mean that Japan is banned from exercising the right to collective self-defense, which the ruling Liberal Democratic Party wants to change.
It is also the LDP that has resisted Japan's political tendency towards benign fence-sitting — Article 9 was originally intended to etch Japanese postwar shame into law to help prevent a resurgence of militarism. Supreme Commander of Allied Powers' lesson worked almost too well: pacifism directs Japanese inaction almost as strongly as ambivalence and nihilism has left much of Western Europe largely defenseless. How would the free world benefit from each democratic nation assuming a truly corresponding share of military responsibility, instead of relying on the eternally dutiful United States? Immeasurably. The Yomiuri Shimbun offers a rebuke to reactionaries:
Article 9, after all, is the reason Japan gives for not being able to defend the United States from attack, even though the United States is obliged to defend Japan. Article 9 is the reason why Japan cannot take part in international contingencies by exercising collective self-defense. And Article 9 is the primary reason why Japan cannot stand shoulder to shoulder as an equal partner of the United States in the bilateral alliance.
If such restrictions are not impediments to the alliance then what is? More importantly, if Japanese lawmakers do not see the inherent problems of constitutional restrictions on the bilateral security treaty, then the alliance really is in peril — it cannot be sustained if the constitutional status quo lasts forever. If Armitage's comments had any deeper meaning, it was surely to drive home that point.
...Clearly, Japan's security debate continues to be mired in self-imposed taboos--even though the nation has in recent years loosened the pacifist grip on discussions of defense issues. But in order for Japanese lawmakers to transform Japan into a more "normal" nation — with a greater role in the U.S.-Japan alliance and international security affairs — they will have to confront the issues headon. If Armitage's remarks spark such a candid debate, then it will have been worth all the trouble.
We're best to remember what John Stuart Mill said about those who enjoy freedom at the "exertions of men better than [themselves]." There is no substantive reason why Japan — or any other free country — shouldn't equip and conduct itself to match the relative strength of the United States. Global security isn't a contest. Americans prefer able colleagues to lackeys, reserving their respect for the efficacious.
Michael Ubaldi, July 29, 2004.
Michael Ledeen walks us out of the circus tent and away from the spectacle for a moment:
I know all the political addicts are od'ing in Boston, but has anyone asked any top Dem what about Iran? You probably aren't permitted to read the news up there, but Iran has resumed production on a gas for the centrifuges that make enriched uranium, and has also broken the seals the IAEA placed on some of the equipment.
The Dems are demanding that the administration adopt the recommendations of the 9/11 commission. But the commission report speaks of close working relations between Iran and al Qaeda. So do the Dems accept those parts too? Or only the parts that want even more intel bureaucracy?
Why don't you ask them?
I know it's only the survival of the nation, but surely there are five spare minutes in the day...
Bush and his host had better gird their loins for some honest Republican National Convention talk about solid plans for an endgame with Iran — otherwise the Democrats have nothing to be measured against, sacrificing an issue for the administration and consigning the world to watch from the upper deck as Tehran goes nuclear.
Michael Ubaldi, July 29, 2004.
Old habits die hard in Japan:
The head of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's tax commission has said the Japanese government could move to increase the tax burden on individuals as early as next year as a broadening recovery boosts the economy. Hiromitsu Ishi, who is also president of Hitotsubashi University, said tax cuts introduced by a previous government in 2000 had to be repealed or mitigated and "maybe in a year or so. .. discussion of this will come from the political side".
Tax on consumption, income and inheritance should be raised, he said, as part of broader reforms to boost tax revenues. Any plan to raise taxes levied on individuals would be met with political and economic controversy.
Some voters are likely to resist paying more taxes, particularly if companies do not appear to be sharing the burden. The timing of a tax rise would also be crucial, as a consumption tax increase in 1997 was criticised for being too hasty and choking off an economic upturn.
Let's hope the Japanese electorate smothers any hopes in Tokyo of dipping into the free-market bounty enjoyed by the country for nearly a year. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi responded to public queries by reiterating his pledge not to raise taxes. It's difficult to say whether the rest of Koizumi's Liberal Democratic Party will respect the prime minister's wishes; to make matters worse, opposition leaders in the Democratic Party of Japan favor tax increases. Those of us who know better understand the tax dance: rates go up, revenue streams that might briefly increase stutter and fail as the economy chokes up — though often after legislators have shifted their priority from debt-bailing to pork barrel-lining. The economy falters, revenues trickle, debt soars; the state returns to the decision of whether to cut taxes and let the private sector free again, or play by the rules of the bureau and raise duties and squeeze a few more dollars out of taxpayers.
The Japanese were doing well. It'd be a shame to see them ignore free-marketeers' advice and go back to square one.
Michael Ubaldi, July 27, 2004.
Michael Ubaldi, July 21, 2004.
And you thought we'd forgotten: Saturn probe Cassini-Huygens is still taking pictures of the ringed planet. Meanwhile, Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity, working far beyond their anticipated operational cycle, continue to troll about the Red Planet. Opportunity spied some clouds.
Michael Ubaldi, July 10, 2004.
Yesterday I was indeed thinking about Iranians and the fifth anniversary of their pro-democracy uprisings. Though I had nothing to put into words, President Bush did:
There are people inside of Iran who are watching what's happening — young, vibrant, professional people who want to be free. And they're wondering whether or not they'll have the opportunity. ...We see the struggle in Iran, where tired, discredited autocrats are trying to hold back the democratic will of a rising generation.
...The rule of free peoples will come to the Middle East. ...[Americans] will do all in our power to help them find the blessings of liberty.
According to Iranian expatriate Pejman Yousefzadeh and Google News, not a word was said about the Iranian struggle by the president's opponent.
Michael Ubaldi, July 2, 2004.
What's the best way to show totalitarian China that the free world means business? Send seven American aircraft carrier strike groups on a little exercise within arm's reach of the mainland. Throw in some joint operations with the Taiwanese. It's a smart move, and a message the Red Dragon won't forget.
Michael Ubaldi, June 27, 2004.
I've watched the rethinking of a pacifist constitution work its way up through Japan, from pols to the public. After several months, the question of the fifty-two-year-old democracy's military defense and assertion has settled at the top:
Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said Sunday Japan's war-renouncing Constitution should be revised to enable self-defense.
Koizumi said such an amendment is necessary to carry out joint actions by the Self-Defense Forces with the U.S. military, based on Japan-U.S. security arrangements, Kyodo News Service reported Sunday. He also said the SDF's existence as a military force and its role in international activities should be stated in the Constitution.
"It would be strange for SDF troops not to take joint action with U.S. forces at times when the U.S. forces are being attacked. This should be straightened out in the Constitution," Koizumi said.
Koizumi's Japan is on the cusp of an incredible season change; one that, as I've explained in the first two links, leaves the free world richer at no better a time. America has protected and expanded freedom since the end of the Second World War, often single-handedly. Our unique global philosophy aside, it's no wonder the United States has been able to do so — nations that were free before 1945 spent decades recovering in the shadow of the Soviet Union, and nations democratized thereafter have trod the long path to stability and normalcy. But the difficult task of continuing defense against and elimination of authoritarianism is made easier with regionwide help from allies; American Cold War garrisons should be replaced with native troops, continuing the mission but correctly reassigning the burden. While Continental Europe seems to lack interest in its ability to protect regional interests against tyranny, Japan has made concrete steps to become a true regional power. We can only hope this trend continues.
Michael Ubaldi, June 24, 2004.
Let's not forget the horrors we leave behind when just wars are suspended without total victory. For more reality checks on Number Three of the Axis of Evil, North Korea, spend a little bit of time reading, seeing and learning at the Chosun Journal.
Michael Ubaldi, June 24, 2004.
My latest forward from Banafshah Zand-Bonazzi is a flyer advertising peaceful demonstrations for action against Iran's Islamofascist regime to be held in the United States, Canada, Germany, England, Sweden and Denmark. Here are details for the American dates:
Place: The Western Side of the Capitol Building
Time: Thursday, July 8, 2004 from 11 a.m.
Organized by The Committee for Tir 18 Demonstrations
Place: The Federal Building at 11000 Wilshire Blvd. (Westwood area)
Time: Wednesday, July 7, 2004 – from 5 to 8 p.m.
Organized by The Committee for Tir 18 Demonstrations
Place: In Front of Arden Mall
Time: July 4th at 7:00 PM
Organized by Hormoz 916-213-6944
It's a shame that regular protests have become, at least in public perception, the domain of anti-capitalist and crypto-Stalinist groups that scream about peace and justice but through their muddled, contradictory statements, end up supporting — implicitly or explicitly — the designs of tyranny. [A little moral equivalence goes a long way.] Here we find demonstrations run for and by Iranians, inviting their friends and allies to call for "Freedom, Secularism and Democracy." That's a protest. That's the moral authority.