Saturday, December 31, 2005

Yasukuni. Right or Wrong: The War Shrine needs Regime Change

The Yasukuni Shrine is a controversial facility. Some people regard it the national monument to honor servicemen and women who died in the war. Others regard it the evil shrine of wartime jingoism. China and Korea use these controversies, to impose their psychological supremacy on Japan. Also, they use the Yasukuni issue to split the US-Japanese alliance.

I am against Yasukuni because this shrine retains prewar ideology, which is completely incompatible with Japan after the regime change. However, when I read debates on Yasukuni between my Japanese blogmates, named Mao and Kaku, I realized that I did not know well enough about this shrine. I thought it necessary to understand what was right and wrong with the Yasukuni Shrine, thereby making it clear why I oppose praying service men and women at this shrine.

I went to the Yasukuni Shrine on December 22 to understand its ideological background. As I arrived at the shrine, I entered the Yushukan, the museum attached to Yasukuni. This museum exhibits various items of Japanese history from the ancient period. At first, I saw some pieces of ancient materials such as poems, documents, aristocratic clothes, samurai swords, and so forth. These exhibitions were not associated with wartime fascism, and I felt them somewhat unexpectedly peaceful. I wondered whether it was really the “notorious war shrine.” But in my later thought, these displays emphasized the divinity of emperor and bushido (samurai spirit). I felt it very odd, because they are not everything in Japanese history.

In the section of first US-Japanese encounter, when Commodore Perry’s fleet arrived in Japan in 1853, I found some Shinto jingoism in the exhibits. On the board, expansion of Western colonial empires in Asia is mentioned “encroachment.” This is odd, because Japan itself became a colonial empire in latter days. I found another mistake in this section, saying that Japan decided to end seclusion foreign policy because it surrendered US gunboat diplomacy. This is not true. Japan joined the global community, because Japanese people realized that Japan could not be isolated from the world any more. In my eyes, these errors show fundamental values of this museum.

Then, I came up to the Meiji section. I enjoyed dynamic atmosphere of this era. I didn’t see anything problematic there. However, when I arrived at Russo-Japanese War (1904~1905) section, chauvinist tone had become intensified. I saw a short cinema there. I heard some chilling words in the cinema. According to the film, the war broke out, because Japan could no longer bear Russians’ arrogant behavior to encroach Manchuria and Korea. True? I believe that Japan decided to fight against Russia, because Russian expansion to Manchuria and Korea poses serious threat to Japan’s national security. It is utterly unacceptable to begin the war out of emotionalism. I found a couple of chauvinist expressions in this film. I felt ridiculous to hear that Japanese army showed generosity to Russians who surrendered to them, which was out of samurai spirit. Quite often, foreign forces are generous enough, although they don’t have samurai spirit.

Going on, I saw World War Ⅰ and World War Ⅱ section. I heard there were some displays to justify the rape of Nanjing there, but I did not see something like this. I may have missed them. What drew my attention in this section were exhibitions to advocate the Greater East Asian Community during the war. The fascist regime insisted that people in East Asia wipe away Western influence, and pursue common prosperity under Japanese leadership. In fact, Japanese fascists wanted to dominate natural resource in East Asia, rather than liberating Asians from White rule. Since Japan was one of colonial empires like Western great powers, it is utterly strange that Japan fight against the West on behalf of Asian nations. Wartime leaders should have read Samuel Huntington, because Japan and Asia are different civilizations. Alas, his book was published in 1990s.

It is true that the rise of Japan encouraged non-Western nations. They learned a lot from Japanese experience. But some countries like Turkey and Iran modeled after Japan as a secular modern state and Western great power, not Asian state. Fascist leaders failed to understand this point, and pursued a grandiose dream of establishing the Greater East Asian Community. The Japanese nation should never repeat this mistake again.

In the final section, I saw a display on criticism against the Tokyo tribunal by judge Radha Binod Pal. He was a member of judge group at this tribunal on behalf of India. He argued procedures at this court do not comply with the due process law, but they are political shows by the allied forces. His opinion is a bible to Japanese nationalists, whether radical or moderate, to question validity of the Tokyo tribunal. Although this section is the crown jewelry of the Yushukan museum, I found no board to explain it in English. I do not agree with Yushukan viewpoints, but it is quite strange that they do not send their message to the world on such a vital issue. Are they afraid of further bad reputation on the global stage?

Having seen the museum, I would like to examine what is wrong with Yasukuni ideology. The basic value of this shrine is Sonnoh Johi: to dethrone the Tokugawa shogunate, in order to revitalize Japan under the reign of divine Mikado, and expel barbarians from holy land of the Japanese archipelago. Sonnoh Johi activists were local samurais who are devotedly loyal to the emperor. Therefore, the Yushukan museum out much emphasis on Mikado and bushido.

However, Mikado is the head of kuge, or aristocrats. Bushido is not necessary. Yasukuni boasts Japanese victory over great powers as I mentioned about Russo-Japanese War section in this post. In my view, this reflects their Sonnoh Johi values. Also, the museum stresses Japan’s prestige as a great nation. This is the reason why the Yasukuni shrine extols Japanese supremacy in the Asia. No wonder, China is allergic to this shrine. Things will not change, no matter how they deal with war criminals and the rape of Nanjing.

Finally, I would like to introduce an interesting booklet sold at this museum, which is entitled “Prime Minister must pray at the Yasukuni Shrine!” (published by Meiseisha). Unfortunately, I did not find English translation of this brochure. However, it is a very helpful handbook to understand thoughts of the Yasukuni shrine. I found some questionable expressions in this booklet, like the following.

Japanese forces did their best to treat POWs…on the other hand, British forces were cruel to war prisoners…. and US forces were reluctant to accept POWs…(p.9)

McArthur…. hung General Yamashita for his “cruel behavior.” In fact, it was McArthur’s revenge for his humiliating loss in the Philippines against Yamashita. But General Yamashita was a real samurai. He accepted this unfair judgment as it was, and did not get jittery. (p. 44, cartoon)

The above comments show Yasukuni’s deep-rooted hatred against the allied forces, such as the US and Britain. The tone is very emotional. Do they reject postwar regime change in Japan? On the other hand, I agree to their steadfast attitude against continuous blame by China and Korea on Japan’s misconduct during the war. Whether you are pro or con to Yasukuni, this is a recommendable booklet to understand their viewpoints. But don’t be brainwashed.

In consequence, Yasukuni values are not compatible with Japan after the regime change. Therefore, it is not appropriate for Japanese prime ministers to pray at this shrine. However, those who died in the service must be honored. In order to find a good idea to resolve this paradox, it is necessary to make it clear what is right and wrong with the Yasukuni shrine. Whether pro or con to this shrine, don’t get emotional too much. In the end, I would like to request a regime change of this shrine. Then, anyone can visit there to honor service men and women.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

The German-American Blog Carnival

On December 11, I attended a blog carnival of the US-German relations hosted by the Atlantic Review and Mr. George M. Roper. The Atlantic Review is founded by three German Fulbright scholars. Their objective is to promote better understanding between Germany and the United States through their blog. They take up a broad range of topics on the transatlantic relationship, including foreign relations, defense, economics, US politics, and Iran issues. Mr. Romper is an American, brought up in Germany. He is a professional counselor and instructor at the University of Texas-Pan American. On his blog, he discusses various issues on American politics from conservative viewpoints.

The Carnival invited 21 bloggers from both sides of the Atlantic. I am the only participant outside the Atlantic area. I contributed my post, “Bush Foreign Policy: Improving with Europe, Straining with Asia.” In the post, I argued that Merkel as a leader from New Europe would change the transatlantic relations, and the days of De Gaulle and Adenauer had gone.

Participant bloggers focuses on new transatlantic relationship in the post Cold War era, and the effect of the Iraq War on the US-German relations. Contributors discuss such issues from various aspects and viewpoints. For further information, please read Carnival of German American Relations. You will find this event an invaluable opportunity to understand the transatlantic partnership, which is the key to world peace and prosperity.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Bush Foreign Policy: Improving with Europe, Straining with Asia

Currently, NATO foreign minister meeting is held in Brussels on December 8 and 9. Unlike the last summit between the United States and China, and South Korea, the transatlantic relation is improving.

Since the Iraq War, the relationship between Europe and America deteriorated. However, things are changing. The Franco-German alliance has been the core of European integration since the era of Conrad Adenauer and Charles de Gaulle. A Europe under the Franco-German leadership makes sense when there are only 6 members. Today, the European Union is expanding eastward, to include “New Europe”. Therefore, it is necessary to make an alternative model for the future of Europe. In a situation like this, the transatlantic relation is improving, because both America and Europe find it essential to manage Europe in transition.

Most importantly, Angela Merkel won the election to become the chancellor, and Gerhard Schröder stepped down. New German administration will put more emphasis on the transatlantic alliance than the Franco-German axis. Even France is trying to move closer to the United States, in face of the Arab riot near Paris. Both Germany and France are beginning to recognize that they keep close ties with the United States in order to defeat common threats, particularly radical Islam terrorists. US Under Secretary of State, R. Nicholas Burns says that the conflict between Europe and America on Iraq is over. He argues that both France and Germany had come to see a stable and democratic Iraq in their interest this year. There is no doubt that Germany under the Merkel administration will be more pro-American than her predecessor. Even though France resisted very hard against US attack on Iraq at the UN Security Council, it had joined US effort to restrain Syria.

How will things go after NATO foreign ministers meeting? The key person will be new Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel. The media focus too much on her as the first female chancellor in German history. But more importantly, she is from former East Germany which is a part of “New Europe”, and the centerpiece of German foreign policy is expected to shift from the Franco-German alliance to the transatlantic partnership. Former US Secretary of State, Henry A. Kissinger contributed an interesting article “A New Generation in Germany” to the International Herald Tribune on November 22. In this essay, he says that the transatlantic alliance represents hope for East Europeans, and further European integration means more solid ties with the United States. In this respect, they are completely different from West Germans who participated in the 1968 demonstration to dissociate themselves from American influence. For Chancellor Merkel, European integration means, “To learn on vacation to feel as comfortable in France as they now do in Bulgaria.” The days of de Gaulle and Adenauer have gone. Europe is evolving into the next phase.

Contrary to Europe, US foreign policy in Asia faces difficulties. On his trip to APEC summit, President George W. Bush met leaders of Japan, China, and South Korea. The meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi was very friendly. However, the talks with China and South Korea were in a strained atmosphere. What is US policy in Asia like?

China is one of the greatest challenges to America’s Asia policy, as witnessed in rapid military build-up, and territorial disputes. On the other hand, both the United States and Japan need to cooperate with China in the war on terrorists and nuclear non-proliferation in North Korea. In addition, both countries have to pioneer the Chinese market. Given these aspects, the New York Times criticized President Bush’s approach in their editorial “Cold War China Policy” on November 19, because the president uses Japan and India as counterbalances to China. Currently, the US-Japanese alliance confronts China on human rights, Taiwan, and security in the East China Sea. China is a country for cooperation and confrontation. This makes it extremely complicated to deal with China.

Dan Blumenthal and Thomas Donnelly, both of them are Resident Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, argued against the NYT article in the Washington Post on November 27. They insist that Japan is an important ally in US endeavor for global democracy, and a counterbalance against Chinese expansionism. Also, Dan Blumenthal maintains that the United States embrace Japan’s desire for a global power status in the article written with Research Assistant Chris Griffin. However, both Blumenthal and Donnelly are concerned with Japanese prime ministers’ visit to the Yasukuni shrine. Actually, Japanese people are getting more nationalist these days. Some of them defend Japan’s wartime policy, and raise cases against the Tokyo tribunal and postwar democracy. Such a warning trend will undermine the US-Japanese alliance. In any case, US policy in Asia is turning increasingly complex.

What makes Europe and Asia so different? In Europe, former communist states convert themselves to staunch allies to the United States. For “New Europe”, America is the guarantor of their security, freedom, and stability. Their loyalty to the transatlantic alliance will be of considerable help to reinvigorate the US-European partnership. The victory of Angela Merkel will change the US-German relations and Europe. To my regret, there is no “New Asia.” No wonder President Bush faces difficulties in dealing with Asia. Just wait. Mongolia may be a good candidate. Just as “New Europe”, Mongolians are liberated from communist oppression, and they deadly need American help.