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Japanese Whitewashing of the Past

[ 72 ] May 9, 2015 |

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187 of the world’s most prominent historians of Japan have written an open letter to Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe, urging that he stop whitewashing the atrocities committed by the Japanese during World War II. You can read the letter here. Of course, Japanese right-wingers refuse to allow this to happen, denying horrors ranging from the sexual slavery of comfort women to the depredations at Nanking. Abe has been pretty awful on these issues:

Earlier this year Japan took the unusual step of requesting the US textbook company McGraw-Hill to change its account of Japan’s wartime practice of rounding up women in occupied nations and providing them as sex partners for its soldiers. Abe himself has been part of an effort to suggest the women behaved in a voluntary manner in nations like Korea, and that local Koreans organized the military brothels, not Japan.

The 187 historians took exception with that revision:

“The ‘comfort women’ system was distinguished by its large scale and systematic management under the military, and by its exploitation of young, poor, and vulnerable women in areas colonized or occupied by Japan,” their letter said.

Incidentally, I just watched this documentary on Nanking earlier this week and I highly recommend it, disturbing as it is.

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Japanese Flying Fortresses

[ 19 ] September 10, 2014 |

This is a fascinating picture:


Some more information here.

The first B-17 to come under Japanese control was an B-17D which was pieced together from the remnants of other destroyed B-17Ds on Clark Field in the Philippines. The same thing was done to to two B-17Es on Bandung Field on Java. At the time, this was the newest model of the B-17 available. The Japanese were impressed with the simplicity of the cockpit for such a large aircraft. One of the B-17Es was used for a test bed for a captured Norden bombsight, coupled to the Sperry automatic flight control system. Also of great interest was the B-17’s gunnery equipment, especially the Sperry automatic computing gunsight. The May 1943 issue of Koku-Asahi was devoted almost completely to the captured B-17s. Nearly every major component was shown in photos and drawings. Since the Japanese also had instruction manuals for the aircraft, no detail was overlooked.

Japanese Air Warfare Footage

[ 94 ] November 14, 2013 |

More Farley’s beat, but this footage of air warfare from Japanese archives in 1945 is pretty amazing to watch.

The Japanese Counter-Insurgency Experience in China

[ 11 ] January 12, 2013 |

This week’s Diplomat column takes a look at COIN in the Second Sino-Japanese War, based on the Murray-Mansoor edited volume Hybrid Warfare:

Yamaguchi suggests that elements of the Japanese Army and a variety of hybrid civil-military organizations took the problem of COIN quite seriously from a strategic point of view, appreciating that the only way to victory in China was the establishment of a self-sustaining, pro-Japanese Chinese government.

However, the Japanese Army suffered from problems of focus and resources.  Rather than concentrating on counter-insurgency operations, the Army needed to prepare for conventional operations against Chiang Kai Shek’s Nationalist Army, defensive operations in jungle and island theatres against British and American forces, and finally the long-anticipated Soviet invasion of Manchuria.  These threats all posed radically different challenges, making training haphazard and incoherent. The Japanese also faced unity of effort challenges, with civilian and military agencies organized around pacification and institution building losing out in intra-agency battles against conventionally oriented officers.

Long story short, the history of Japanese operations in China was more complicated in process, if not in effect, than the “Kill All, Loot All, Destroy All” that has come to characterize the war*.

*Standard caveat: I trust that readers are bright enough to understand that this does not constitute an apology for the Japanese Imperial Army.

And Medicare is like a mini Japanese-American internment program

[ 0 ] August 5, 2009 |

Well, this pretty much beats the shit out of anything Juan Williams has said recently. Given Liasson’s record on Katrina itself, one supposes she ought to avoid mentioning the subject altogether. Is NPR offering its reporters funnel cakes for making stupid on cable TV?

So Why No Fortune at Japanese Restaurants?

[ 0 ] January 18, 2008 |

It seems that the fortune cookie originated in late 19th century Japan:

There is one place where fortune cookies are conspicuously absent: China.

Now a researcher in Japan believes she can explain the disconnect, which has long perplexed American tourists in China. Fortune cookies, Yasuko Nakamachi says, are almost certainly originally from Japan.

Her prime pieces of evidence are the generations-old small family bakeries making obscure fortune cookie-shaped crackers by hand near a temple outside Kyoto. She has also turned up many references to the cookies in Japanese literature and history, including an 1878 image of a man making them in a bakery – decades before the first reports of American fortune cookies.

The idea that fortune cookies come from Japan is counterintuitive, to say the least. “I am surprised,” said Derrick Wong, the vice president of the largest fortune cookie manufacturer in the world, Wonton Food, based in Brooklyn. “People see it and think of it as a Chinese food dessert, not a Japanese food dessert,” he said.

Japanese Defense

[ 0 ] July 23, 2007 |

There’s a good article in the NYT today about Japan’s increasingly aggressive defense posture. In addition to slight increases in defense spending, the deployment of assets farther away from Japan, and the purchase of new weapon systems, the Japanese Self-Defense Force is carrying out more aggressive and realistic training exercises.

For a few reasons, this doesn’t bother me a bit. First, the dichotomy between “offensive” and “defensive” weapons is and always has been nonsense. Almost any weapon (including a wall, or even a missile defense system) can be used for both offensive and defensive purposes. The inter-war arms agreement negotiators tried to ban offensive weapons, but failed to come to any plausible determination of what constituted offensive and defensive. Political scientists have played around with the “offense-defense balance” concept for years, with few sound results. The idea, therefore, of a military organization built around “defensive” weaponry suffers from some serious conceptual problems.

In the specific case of Japan these problems are exacerbated by Japanese dependence on foreign trade. While Japan remains under the US security umbrella, it doesn’t need to worry too much about attacks on its supply lines. If that umbrella ever weakened, or if Japan wished to contribute more, defense would necessarily include deployments well outside Japanese waters. Similarly, an attack on Chinese, US, Korean, or Russian missile or air bases capable of striking Japan could plausibly be defined as “defensive”. Long story short, the idea of a “defensive” Japanese military makes no sense whatsoever outside the context of American military hegemony. As long as the US conducts all of the distant operations for Japanese defense, we can pretend that Japan has a Self-Defense Force instead of a military, but that designation amounts to little more than a charade.

Of course, all things military are also political, and Japanese defense re-organization (Japan is already heavily armed, so re-armament doesn’t make any sense) has political effects at home and in the region. Rightist politicians have long argued for a more substantive military profile, but such arguments don’t weaken the case itself. China and the Koreas have expressed a lot of concern about Japanese revanchism, and could meet a more aggressive Japanese military posture with additional spending of their own. Since China is already increasing its defense spending (and orienting that spending around Taiwan, rather than Japan), and North Korea is pretty much tapped out, this puts South Korea on the spot. Call me a sap, but if Japan and South Korea go to war again in my lifetime, I’ll buy every reader of TAPPED and LGM a Coke. Nationalist politicians in China, South Korea, and Japan have become remarkably adept at playing off one another for domestic political gain over the past twenty years or so; re-organizing or re-titling the Self-Defense Force isn’t going to change that, or even affect the dynamic very much.

Cross-posted to TAPPED.

. . . and somewhere in Omaha, the Chunichi Dragons are the lords of Japanese baseball

[ 0 ] February 4, 2007 |

I’m not sure why I found this article so irritating and compelling at the same time. I’ve known for years that the losers of major sporting events have their “championship” t-shirts swiftly dumped on Romania or Thailand, so the substance of the piece isn’t really surprising. What struck me, however was the degree to which the NFL wants to flush the offending apparel down the proverbial memory hole.

By order of the National Football League, those items are never to appear on television or on eBay. They are never even to be seen on American soil.

They will be shipped Monday morning to a warehouse in Sewickley, Pa., near Pittsburgh, where they will become property of World Vision, a relief organization that will package the clothing in wooden boxes and send it to a developing nation, usually in Africa.

This way, the N.F.L. can help one of its charities and avoid traumatizing one of its teams.

There’s a side of me that loves counterfactuals, and so I would probably pay decent money for a 1997 Cleveland Indians shirt or a 1980 Los Angeles Rams Super Bowl hat. I would pay even more for New York Yankees’ shirts from 2001 or 2003, or Atlanta Braves merchandise from 1991 or 1992 — though my motives there would be of a purely spiteful nature.

There’s also a side of me that thinks this is one more reason that terrorists are correct to hate our freedoms. Post-championship marketing is so aggressive that we can’t wait a few minutes to see the MVP in his victory paraphernalia? How long can it possibly take to silk screen a fucking pile of t-shirts?

Of course charity is the big winner here, obviously. If we didn’t send our losers’ gear to the third world, what on earth would they wear? Nice of us to send them our ships and broken computers, too.

The Times didn’t mention whether Larry Summers is behind this, but I have my suspicions.

Japanese F-22

[ 0 ] February 25, 2006 |

Ryan at Capital Cadre highlights this story on the F-22:

Momentum is building within the Air Force to sell the service’s prized F-22A Raptor — which is loaded with super-secret systems — to trusted U.S. allies, with Japan viewed as the most likely buyer, service and industry officials tell Inside the Air Force.

A Lockheed Martin official heavily involved in the Raptor program told ITAF Feb. 14 that a proposal to alter course and sell the Raptor to Japan is working its way through the Air Force. Lockheed is leading development and production work on the service’s newest fighter.

Several interesting things are going on here. Obviously, it’s no surprise that Lockheed and Boeing like the idea of selling the F-22 on the international market. It’s a little bit more puzzling that Air Force brass like the idea. The notion of selling the most advanced aircraft in the US arsenal even to a committed US ally would seem to make them mildly twitchy. However, given that so many different countries are part of the Joint Strike Fighter research, perhaps this isn’t the case.

Another way to think of this is to interpret it in terms of the more general expansion of Japan’s military role, and of the slow redefinition of the US-Japanese military alliance.

Japanese Normalization

[ 0 ] September 13, 2005 |

I disagree with John Ikenberry. I don’t believe that Article 9 of the Japanese constitution serves any further purpose, and I think it should be abolished.

Ikenberry’s case is built around three arguments. First, the Japanese ought to resist normalization because normalization is being strongly pushed by the United States. The United States is pursuing this in order to make Japan a more useful military ally, and presumably to free up forces that could more profitably be used elsewhere in the world. Ikenberry’s second argument is tied to his first. Rather than becoming “normal” by establishing a set of regular military institutions, Japan ought to fulfill its global responsibilities through more peaceful means, thus setting a good example for the rest of the world. Finally, Ikenberry suspects that a remilitarized Japan will destabilize East Asia. I find all of these arguments uncompelling.

[Japanese] feel pressure from the United States to “step up to the plate” and be a more fully capable ally. Even before September 11, the U.S. has been urging Japan to breakout of its old postwar straightjacket. The so-called Armitage report – a bipartisan group of Japan foreign policy specialists and diplomats – called for the U.S. and Japan to transform their relationship into something akin to the U.S.-British special relationship.

I don’t see a problem here. Why is it a bad thing for anyone if one of the world wealthiest states, and one that has a deeply vested interest in maintenance of the political and economic status quo, takes more vigorous military steps to maintain that status quo? Why, exactly, would it be bad for the Japanese to become a military power on par with Britain or France (or, likely, even stronger than that)? Ikenberry does not present a compelling argument, but seems concerned that a stronger Japanese military will simply become a pawn in some neoconservative fantasy. This is absurd; whatever foreign policy goals Japan could be imagined to have, invading countries and installing liberal democratic governments can’t possibly be one of them. Japan is never going to be a driver of US military adventurism, and I doubt very much that it will even be an enthusiastic participant. Neocons are idiots, and just because they think that a re-militarized Japan will enable them to further pursue their fantasies doesn’t make it a reality. Indeed, I would expect a re-militarized Japan to be less amenable to US hegemony, rather than more. If the Japanese military can solve problems on its own, it will need to rely less on the United States. Moreover, I’m not really even sold on how strengthening the hand of the United States in hegemonic maintenance is a bad thing.

Ikenberry is concerned that international responsibility is being defined to narrowly by advocates of re-militarization:

I agree that Japan ought to be a “responsible” power. But I think it is incorrect to simply equate “responsibility” with the ability to use force. Is Japan being responsible when it alters its constitution so that it can more fully join the Bush administration’s war on terrorism – or is it being responsible when it engages America on its own terms and articulates its own vision of security and international community?

It seems to me that this is rather a question for the Japanese to answer. I am uncompelled by the argument that Japan ought to pursue some kind of pacific form of responsibility while it is obviously dependent on the military force of other nations for the maintenance of the global economic system on which its prosperity is contingent. Sure, there are plenty of ways to influence world politics without using military force, and certainly the Bush administration would be well advised to learn at least one. There are also lots of ways in which military force is a useful tool of statecraft. I see no reason why Japan should eschew this tool while Britain, France, Germany, China, Russia, India, and the United States do not.

Finally, Ikenberry uses a form of the old argument about Japanese war guilt:

I am not convinced that Japanese national identity – particularly as it is manifest in military/constitutional terms – is strictly an internal matter. Nor is Chinese, Korean or American national identity, for that matter. As is international politics more generally, national identity is profoundly relational. In Japan’s complicated historical case, this is all the more true. The revision of Article 9 is a major “regional event” – and Japan is headed for trouble if its leaders say:

It’s true that Japan has not evaluated its behavior in World War II as clearly as, say, Germany. It’s also clear that the Japanese have done a much better job of assessing their responsibility than, for example, the Russians. Yes, I am certain that the abolition of Article 9 will disconcert many of the Asian countries that suffered from Japanese imperialism sixty years ago. I am just as certain that Japan has no interest in reasserting the imperial project, and doubt very much that it could even if it wanted. I suspect that the abolition of Article 9 will arouse a fair amount of indignation at first, and will then be largely forgotten. I doubt that the Chinese, for example, put much trust in the argument that a constitutional clause will restrain Japanese imperialism in any case. Because Chinese defense policy is oriented around the conquest of Taiwan rather than defense against an outside aggressor anyway, I’m unconvinced that the Chinese leadership view Japan as a genuine threat, rather than as a useful sounding board for nationalist rhetoric.

Again, I see no further use for Article 9. If Japan wishes to build a more powerful military, capable of foreign intervention and hegemonic maintenance, then it ought to be able to. To be quite honest, I think that the world will benefit from a more militarily capable Japan.

Now That I’ve Primed the Pump…

[ 77 ] January 21, 2016 |

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After a couple of Bernie Sanders post that are currently at something like 750 comments, I’m sure I’ve prepared readers for an in depth discussion of the problems with the Trans-Pacific Partnership, about which everything is terrible.

But the worst feature is an international tribunal of lawyers from a variety of countries that’s empowered to override some laws of member countries and even to overrule the U.S. Supreme Court.

This means attorneys from Japan, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, Chile, New Zealand, Peru and Brunei might someday help strike down United States — and California — laws on anything from clean air to labor conditions and movie copyrights.

This has happened before and it’s happening right now. The most prominent previous case involved a Canadian company called Methanex, based in Vancouver, British Columbia, which made and marketed a gasoline additive called MTBE that aimed to cut smog. But MTBE turned out to have noxious odors and taste when it leached from gas station storage tanks into ground water. It also was associated with a higher risk of some cancers.

When California, under ex-Gov. Gray Davis, banned MTBE, Methanex sued in NAFTA’s tribunal and the case was heard in Washington, D.C., far from affected Californians. It took years, and eventually Methanex lost because of MTBE’s health effects, but that case made it clear the day would come when American environmental laws would be overruled by foreign lawyers in the interests of profits for a foreign company.

Canadian lawyers are at it again now, using NAFTA to challenge President Obama’s right to cancel the planned Keystone XL pipeline project because it might cost jobs in Canada.

All this represents a major loss of sovereignty for the United States, a loss likely to be felt more sharply in California than anywhere else, because this state’s smog rules are the toughest in the world. What happens when Japanese auto companies tire of adhering to California smog standards and take their case for loose rules to the Trans-Pacific judicial panel? If their lawyers don’t care much about lung disease and premature heart attacks — both associated with dirty air — we can guess what might happen.

Say this for Sanders, I would absolutely expect him to veto the TPP if it passed through Congress. And that would be a positive.

Is Nikki Haley Lying or Ignorant?

[ 70 ] January 17, 2016 |

640px-Sikhs_aboard_Komagata_Maru

Above: Sikhs forced to return to India from Vancouver, British Columbia, 1914

The answer is probably both.

Nikki Haley is ignorant of the American history that most deeply affected her family.

At a press conference Wednesday, the South Carolina governor made a breathtaking comment: “When you’ve got immigrants who are coming here legally, we’ve never in the history of this country passed any laws or done anything based on race or religion.” Haley’s comments were somewhat unfairly attacked by Gawker, which wrongly argued that she was saying Jim Crow segregation and other racist laws didn’t exist. Haley’s comments were more focused on immigration law—but she was wrong even there.

As the historian Kevin Kruse noted in a Twitter essay, American immigration law has a long history of excluding people on the basis of race and religion, such as the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, the “Gentlemen’s Agreement” to limit Japanese immigration in 1907, and the Johnson-Reed Act of 1924 (which effectively made immigration difficult for anyone who wasn’t a Northern European Protestant). Writing in Mother Jones, Kevin Drum argued we should “give Nikki Haley a break” since this history isn’t well-known. “It’s not especially common knowledge these day,” Drum says.

That’s a very Drum thing to say. And no, we shouldn’t give her a break. Is the Chinese Exclusion Act common knowledge? Well, it’s common enough. And she’s the governor of South Carolina! I think we should at least expect a basic knowledge of American history there, to the point of not making yourself a national embarrassment at your own press conferences.

And of course it does matter that Nimrata Randhawa (now Nikki Haley) is Asian. There was not a lot of immigration from India to the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, largely because of the British colonial system that encouraged that immigration elsewhere, including to Canada where you had sizable numbers of Indians working in logging camps, whereas this was rare just over the border in Washington and nearly unknown in Oregon. But had there been large-scale Indian migration to the U.S., there certainly would have been organized movements against it, as there was toward the Chinese, Japanese, and Filipinos. And then her ancestors wouldn’t have been allowed to move to the U.S. between 1924 and 1965 anyway because of the Immigration Act of 1924.

Of course, Haley has no interest in asserting anything other than race doesn’t matter in this country and her own ignorance of the past only assists her in that task. It doesn’t make it less shameful and embarrassing.

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