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Michael Ubaldi, May 5, 2004.
If Japan's renunciation of Article 9's non-offensive dictates is uncertain, its intent to expand its work towards democratization is not:
Japan is considering sending ground troops on a non-combat, humanitarian mission to Afghanistan where a US-led force continues operations to stamp out extremist militants, according to a newspaper report. The daily Yomiuri Shimbun reports Japan wants to contribute to the reconstruction of war-torn Afghanistan ahead of the country's general elections, which are scheduled for September.
Michael Ubaldi, May 4, 2004.
The swelling crescendo towards Japan's sovereign rite of passage is a story that has made headlines for months, one stretching back decades. With celebration and public debate, the country approaches an incredible decision:
Supporters of Japan's existing Constitution and advocates of constitutional revision held rallies Monday in Tokyo to mark the 57th Constitution Day, with proposed revisions focusing on the war-renouncing Article 9 amid ongoing operations involving Japanese troops in Iraq.
Michael Ubaldi, May 3, 2004.
Diplomatic authorities from Taiwan and Japan signed a pact on Friday to increase the number of Japanese cities included in Taiwan-Japan bilateral weekly flight services, according to a report by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA).
Michael Ubaldi, April 17, 2004.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to combat?
Michael Ubaldi, April 12, 2004.
Never expect a diplomat to propose a solution: know that he'll negotiate a compromised settlement between any two parties he can. Motive and disposition are secondary concerns to the agents of the United States Department of State, who have often singlehandedly resisted efforts of Washington lawmakers and executives to depart from convention and gamble on democracy. The department has a rich history of choosing the comfort of status quo over the great unknown of progress, from opposing General Douglas MacArthur's breathtaking transformation of Japan from military dictatorship to capitalist epicenter between 1945 and 1952 (they preferred a governmental "reshuffling") to inventing euphemisms for rogue states in 2000 ("rogue states" itself a euphemism for "brutal, openly hostile dictatorship"). If you're a murderous autocrat and want to be treated as a perfect gentlemen, phone up Foggy Bottom. The department is a favorite foil of progressive rightists - and admittedly, an enjoyable scapegoat.
Which makes a report entitled Iran: Voices Struggling to Be Heard an oddity to have come from the agency whose current undersecretary, Richard Armitage, referred to the theocratic police state as a "democracy." (PDF format here.) [Normally State's reports on despots' human rights abuses are more detached.]
The Iranian people have a long and sophisticated tradition of expressing their views and their feelings, whether through art, literature, film, news media or the political process. Today the courageous voices of the Iranian people are being stifled as they call for their rights, beliefs and needs to be respected. In response, the non-elected elements of the Iranian Government hierarchy are rebuffing these calls and attempting to extinguish the voices. Recent experience shows an upswing in repression by the regime, but also a determined resilience by the Iranian people as they struggle to define their own future and exercise all their human rights. For every voice that is silenced, more call out for freedom.
Michael Ubaldi, April 9, 2004.
Yesterday I referenced Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi's statement of resolve in the face of Iraq's continuing challenges. That statement is part of a developing national antiphony. The socio- and geopolitical transcendence of Japan is something I've been watching for a few months, now. Known well for decades as a culturally callow, pacifist nation that has relied on greater powers for protection, Japan has not only found balance on its own two legs but confidently so:
The Japanese public has traditionally had a low tolerance for involvement in areas of geopolitical conflict, particularly if there is a risk to Japanese lives. But despite the kidnapping of three Japanese civilians on Thursday, public opinion has so far supported the firm stance of Junichiro Koizumi, prime minister, that the government should not bow to terrorist demands to pull its forces out of Iraq. ...[T]he overwhelming public response has been that Japan should not cave in. An online poll conducted by the left-leaning Mainichi newspaper on Friday, showed that 70 per cent supported the government's decision to keep the SDF in Iraq, while 26 per cent thought it should leave the country.
The consensus is that the Japanese public has become much more realistic about the threat of global terrorism and more willing to accept that Japan needs to play a role in preventing acts of terrorism. "Japan has become considerably more mature" in its view of the world, says Mr Nakatani. "The Japanese public is becoming much more internationally-minded. The North Korean situation is discussed daily on talk shows and even the US election have become a topic," says Mr Toshikawa.
Michael Ubaldi, April 9, 2004.
Glenn Reynolds has begun a rolling entry trading thoughts and links about the observed scale and significance of military action in Iraq against al-Sadr's gangs and the Sunni terrorists in Fallujah.
As the situation progresses, one question remains very relevant: now that the shock of open combat has subsided and Allied troops are only gaining ground, was this indeed a spectacular strategic failure of the authoritarian forces once latent in Iraq? This is not Tet; this is neither "anarchy" nor "chaos"; the perpetrators are not popularly supported. Allied troops are in fair control of the tempo of events. Most importantly, they have a undeniable justification to do militarily what has been difficult politically for nearly a year. At its inception, the Coalition Provisional Authority gave all those in and around Iraq the chance to contribute to a life better than anything a collective people in the Near East had ever known; it was expected that the old guard and fresh opportunists would resist but in the least free part of the world, where rule of the strong is still tradition, that final rejection has been a spasm of violence. By conspicuously embracing violence, the enemies of Iraq have invited military reprisal. Moqtada al-Sadr has forfeited any pretense of cooperative intent, and the Saddamite throwbacks in Fallujah have marked their wolves' den for a smoke-out. If the Allies are determined and thorough, these remnants of Iraq's bestial will won't have much longer to mock the rise of Iraqi liberty.
IRAQIS WEIGH IN: Zeyad's been near despair for days, though in his skepticism lies some wisdom we ought to consider. Alaa recognizes this as the inevitable battle of cultures: one of peaceful liberty and one of forceful compulsion. Ays echoes Alaa's condemnation of the insurgents as "thieves" and "idiots." Omar, as usual, shares my optimism. God bless him - bless them all.
APPLIED SCIENCE: Wretchard is optimistic, too, and offers some solid reasoning as to why:
We are seeing hostage taking tactics plus a few symbolic types of seizures by the Madhi Army. Painful to see, but objectively it is greasy kid stuff. The only really sustained fighting is in Fallujah involving a Marine brigade. So this gives you the measure of the enemy combat power. They have to find some more. Therefore their basic hope is to start a panic, get a bandwagon going. Ergo this hostage routine and symbolic seizure routine. Raise up all Iraq. Uh, huh. That's easier said than done. That fits in just fine with intel and planning cycle, to get the Mahdi Army in a self-identifying process. Knowing what to hit is, with the US forces available, 95% of the problem. The rest is relatively straightforward.
Michael Ubaldi, April 8, 2004.
How's this for a politician? He'll head out the door when his work is done:
Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said on Thursday he would complete the rest of his term to September 2006 but wanted to step down then if his economic reforms were completed.
Michael Ubaldi, April 2, 2004.
Back in September, I noticed reports of Japan's economy reversing years of stagnation and decline. Obstacles remained, principally that of the will of Japanese lawmakers to enact market-friendly reforms or at least not strangle the private sector with tax hikes. Seven months later, Japan's economy is playing virtuoso. The Nikkei recorded the highest fiscal gains in 31 years on Wednesday, household spending is up while unemployment is down, Boeing is deepening ties with Japanese suppliers, and analysts believe the good times will not only continue but broaden to affect the entire market. And reform is still on Tokyo's mind:
Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's government has promised to overhaul the world's second largest economy by slowing the expansion of public debt, abolishing regulations and accelerating the disposal of 31.6 trillion yen ($303 billion) in bad loans held by banks.
Michael Ubaldi, March 30, 2004.
What's better than freer trade with a foreign country? Freer trade with the second largest economy in the world:
Japan and the United States signed a revised tax treaty Tuesday aimed at encouraging trade and investment between the world's two largest economies.
EDUCATE YOURSELF: Not sure about jobs coming from and going to countries abroad? Ask Pejman.