Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The fantasies of "true conservatism"

For a glimpse into the twisted thinking of the Japanese right — the revisionist right — in the aftermath of the downfall of Abe Shinzo, there is no better place to look than the conversation between Sakurai Yoshiko and Hiranuma Takeo published in the January 2008 issue of Voice.

The bizarre, distorted facts and outright fictions published in this article brought me to the point of laughter on more than one occasion, although I didn't laugh nearly as much as the discussants apparently did, judging by the little parenthetical laugh marks that followed all too many of their remarks.

The discussion did, however, give me another reason to be glad that Mr. Abe was forced to resign (for whatever reason — these two think that fault for Abe's resignation lies not with Mr. Abe himself, but with his secretary, Inoue Yoshiyuki, who Ms. Sakurai describes as being "like [Koizumi secretary] Iijima," apparently a bad thing). It's not that their ideas are especially dangerous, it's that they're so irrelevant. They continue to insist that what they know what the Japanese people want, and that is the abductees brought home and the constitution revised. Ms. Sakurai at one point castigates Prime Minister Fukuda for failing to act on constitution revision, which, she reminds us, has been one of the core principles of the LDP since its founding in 1955. True, but so what? Why should a government in 2008 by following an agenda formulated before 1955 when it has to deal with the problems of 2008 and beyond?

How many elections does the LDP have to lose before they recognize that the Japanese people don't share their priorities? Did the July 2007 defeat not register?

Of course, the discussion inevitably turned to Mr. Hiranuma's planned "true" conservative party, because both the LDP and the DPJ are rotten (even if, they say, there are capable individuals within both parties). When asked about the timing of its formation, Mr. Hiranuma was reluctant to say whether it would occur before or after a general election. Undoubtedly he will have to make that decision with the cooperation of his friends within the LDP, who I suspect would prefer to wait until a general election before acting. Instead of forming a new party, it seems to me that the ideological right is starting to hope openly for an LDP defeat in a general election that will take down Fukuda and give them an opportunity to retake control of the party, purging "fake" conservatives in the process.

Towards the discussion, Mr. Hiranuma very nearly veered into relevance when he broached the question of economics, but it turned out he only wanted to castigate the Finance Ministry before directing the conversation back to more familiar ground, puzzlement over the reaction to Nakagawa Shoichi's 2006 calls for a debate about the acquisition of nuclear weapons.

I don't want to linger too much longer over this, but there was one more nugget worth mentioning. The two of course talked at length about the US about-face on North Korea and had a good laugh about Christopher Hill. Mr. Hiranuma also spoke about his recent trip to Washington along with other Diet members and the abductee families, where they spoke with members of Congress about resolutions in the House and Senate calling for a linkage between the abductions issue and the removal of North Korea from the state sponsors of terror list. For some reason, these ideologues really take congressional resolutions seriously. Mr. Hiranuma spoke with pride about how Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL-18) and Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) promised to push for these resolutions, and was impressed that the House resolution already had a whopping twenty-eight co-sponsors.

That said, they acknowledged the shortcomings of Diet members' diplomacy, thanks in part — wait for it — the influence of the Chinese in Washington, whose embassy has ten times more political specialists in their embassy than Japan's and who have significant numbers of Chinese-Americans whose support Beijing can apparently mobilize at will, as in the case of the comfort women resolution.

You would think from reading this interview that Japanese society was healthy and that there was not a long list of problems facing the government for years to come. And you would be wrong, just as the ideological right is wrong. The decisions made by the Japanese government in the coming years will determine whether Japan remains influential regionally and globally, whether it remains an economic power with a voice in shaping East Asia. Its power will not rest on a new constitution that enables Japan to send its robust military to fight abroad. It will not rest on its children being proud of being Japanese. It will depend on Japan's becoming a country that is more open to the world, more willing to take risks, better able to provide security for its aging citizens, and better able to educate Japanese children for the world in which they will live.

The vision of Mr. Hiranuma, Ms. Sakurai, and their compatriots in the mass media and the Diet is a vision from 1950. (I guess that's what they mean by "true conservatism). Too bad it's 2008.

2 comments:

Bryce said...

"The vision of Mr. Hiranuma, Ms. Sakurai, and their compatriots in the mass media and the Diet is a vision from 1950."

Or even the 1930s. Until very recently people like that were considered the vestiges of what was known in the 1950s as the 戦前派.

The formation of a new party would consign the "true" conservative to oblivion. I wonder who would be stupid enough to join.

In any case, don't you think that the possibility of a Fukuda election defeat and a subsequent conservative backlash would play into the hands of Aso Taro? With the right getting all uppity, Aso can posit himself as a "true" conservative that nevertheless is working to keep the LDP united.

cheruchan said...

Great blog, thanks!