20130711

The main threat against Japan? Its own leader

On July 21, 2013, Shinzo Abe's LDP will probably win the House of Councillors elections, and the controversial Prime Minister move closer to his dreams of revising the Constitution, discarding the peaceful nature of Post-War Japan, and restoring the belligerent nature of Imperial Japan. The publication of the annual white paper "Defense of Japan" is the perfect occasion to mobilize the base ahead of the elections.

Abe has made no secret of his intentions to modify the fundamental Article 9 of the Constitution, which clearly defines Japan as a peaceful nation ("Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes"*), and prior to that, to change the Article 96, which makes it difficult to change the Constitution itself. Right now, you first need the two thirds of each of the two Houses to vote the change, then a popular vote to ratify the text**.

In order to optimize his victory in elections that vast moderate majority don't perceive as vital for the future of Japan, Abe needs a strong mobilization from his ultra-nationalist base. That's one of the reasons why his government has recently been reviving tensions with Japan's neighbors around Dokdo, Senkaku, or Kuril islands. And should uproar and anger explode across the region, they would once more be used to trick the peaceful people of Japan into believing that this anti-democratic government is actually protecting the interests of a people surrounded by hot-tempered barbarians.

Very significantly, the "Defense of Japan 2013" annual white paper issued on July 9 by the Ministry of Defense justifies the first increase in Japan's defense budget in 11 years by depicting East Asia as a region on the brink of war, where everybody's beefing up their military capacities, and where diplomacy is not even mentioned as an option: North Korea's nuclear threats got more serious than ever, "China’s activities in the sea/air area surrounding Japan involve its intrusion into Japan’s territorial waters, its violation of Japan's airspace and even dangerous actions that could cause a contingency situation", "Russia continues to intensify its military activities", and even Southeast Asian countries are forced to modernize their military forces.

Of course, the Abe Government has been pouring oil on every possible fire to make diplomacy as irrelevant as possible, and the document hints at more than just increases in Defense spendings: towards a structural revision of the National Defense Program Guidelines and the Basic Policy for National Defense, and potentially a redefinition of key concepts such as "military power", "self defense", "right for belligerency" or, why not, "control over the military by democratic political authority".

The new National Defense Program Guidelines expected by the end of the year - in other words after the elections - are expected to include the capacity, for Self Defense Forces - provided the name sticks -, "of striking military targets in enemy countries" (see "White paper echoes Abe's plans to strengthen Japan’s defense" - Asahi Shimbun 20130710).

What we'd like to hear is Shinzo Abe state loud and clear, here and now, ubi et orbi, and with all the specifics, his precise vision and his ultimate goals, how he would rewrite the Constitution, in which terms he would redefine the nation, what would be allowed and not allowed for its defense. But unlike Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, Shinzo Abe always wisely / cowardly comes short of fully speaking his mind out. And if he never leaves any room for misinterpretations, he knows how to use symbols and circular references when he's venturing into the most outrageous territories, as he recently proved during his sick tribute to the infamous Unit 731 (see "Can't top that? Shinzo Abe posing as Shiro Ishii, the Josef Mengele of Imperial Japan").

So will the right for peace triumph over the right for belligerency? With an opposition unwilling to risk infuriating the ultra-conservative minority that corrupts and controls Japan's whole political system, the population remains overwhelmingly unaware of the dangers. But one thing is sure: belligerence being defined as an aggressive or warlike disposition or behavior, Shinzo Abe himself is more than ready for action.

And in this most defining moment, the main question remains***: will the great people of Japan wake up at last, and say no to Shinzo Abe, or will it let him continue saying and doing whatever he fancies, and let the whole nation follow him along this suicidal path?


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* Note that the repudiation of pacifism happens to be the first article in the definition of fascism, as written by Benito Mussolini himself in 1932: "Fascism, the more it considers and observes the future and the development of humanity quite apart from political considerations of the moment, believes neither in the possibility nor the utility of perpetual peace. It thus repudiates the doctrine of Pacifism -- born of a renunciation of the struggle and an act of cowardice in the face of sacrifice. War alone brings up to its highest tension all human energy and puts the stamp of nobility upon the peoples who have courage to meet it. All other trials are substitutes, which never really put men into the position where they have to make the great decision -- the alternative of life or death". Note also that the last element of Mussolini's definition of fascism refers to imperialism, another key ingredient in today's Imperial Japan nostalgia: "For Fascism, the growth of empire, that is to say the expansion of the nation, is an essential manifestation of vitality, and its opposite a sign of decadence". (source: http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/mussolini-fascism.asp - long time no recycling for this definition - see "Red Blogule to neo-fascists - LET'S FACE IT THEY'RE FASCISTS" - 2004/05/27)

** see previous episodes, and on Seoul Village: "ABE forced to back down a bit. For the moment. Next PR stunt: KIM Jong-un"

*** see "Dear Japan, Say No To Fascism"

20130706

The Sand Curtain, Two Years Later (or is it 20?)

Islamists being among the fiercest enemies of democracy, you certainly can't defeat them with a permanent denial of democracy, particularly when they've claimed some level of legitimacy in elections. So if no true supporter of democracy can be fully satisfied by Egypt's sudden demorsification, one can hope lessons from Algeria have been learned.

Regional and global terrorism feed upon this kind of shell games and actually, Al Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb celebrates the merger of the islamist movement that was prevented from winning the 1991 elections in Algeria* with a global franchise whose main theorician and now main leader happens to come from Egypt. And people like Ayman al-Zawahiri loves to have enemies like Hosni Mubarak or Adbelaziz Bouteflika (not to mention the Saudi ruling family, Bibi Netanyahu or, even better, George W. Bush**).

So today, as Abdelaziz Bouteflika reaches the end of his rope, Mohamed Morsi the end of his luck, and Recep Tayyip Erdogan the end of his imposture***, the moment has come to make very clear the point that was at the core of the Egyptian revolution, before the Muslim Brotherhood hijacked it: "we reject as false the choice between dictatorship and fundamentalism"****.

And again, this should not become a debate about religion, but about politics. And again, secularism is the only way of securing both democracy and freedom of religion. One of the best illustrations is the ban of Burqa in France - a case I discussed with Egyptian journalist Mona Eltahawi back in June 2009*****.

Egypt cannot secure its democracy until it states clearly the separation of State and religion (of course the same could be said about any country, be it Iran or Israel). And ultimately, the Muslim Brotherhood will have to chose between democracy and illegality.

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* from Front Islamique du Salut (FIS) and Groupe Islamique Arme (GIA) to Groupe Salafiste pour la Predication et le Combat (GSPC) to Al Qaeda au Maghreb Islamique (AQMI)

** see "Universal Declaration of Independence from Fundamentalism":

Like fascism, fundamentalism feeds from the failures of democracy, from the intolerable gaps between peoples kept in poverty and underdevelopment on one hand, and rich corrupt regimes on the other. "Ideally", people must be fed up with their rulers, and not believe anymore in the rules supposed to hold the society altogether. An ailing dictatorship will provide a perfect background, but the fundamentalists' best moments come when self-proclaimed model democracies give the worst examples to the world.

(...) For fundamentalists from all religions, George W. Bush turned out to be the best person at the best place at the best moment. His strategy should look like a total failure to whoever considers the Iraq quagmire, the Palestinian fiasco, or the worldwide surge in terror. But to the contrary, Bush's strategy proved a complete success.

Because George W. Bush didn't act as a President of The United States of America in the interest of his country. And George W. Bush didn't even act as a Republican in the interest of his party. George W. Bush acted as a fundamentalist in the interest of fundamentalism".

*** see "Turquie : la révolution silencieuse" (20070723 on my French blogules):

Turkey: the Silent Revolution

Coupled with the rise of extreme right nationalism (14% for the MHP) and the strenghtening of Kurdish nationalism (again over 20 lawmakers for the DTP), Recep Tayyip Erdogan's triumph (the AKP claimerd over half of the votes) only leaves twenty something percent of the vote to the main republican party. And when one sees this CHP cling to a caricature of edulcorated kemalism, one can wonder if Turkey has not turned its back for good on its ideal of secular democracy.

As expected, the pressures from Western Christian fundamentalists on Turkey only beefed up islamists and nationalists, marginalizing the true heralds of a model democracy. 

Erdogan won because of his economic results and because of the irrelevance of his opponents. And if he remains hindered by an aging military clique, his islamist revolution is well under way, and time is on his side (like demographics).

Turkey is asserting itself as a new model combining economic modernity and religious archaism where woman is progressively sidelined, where the Bilim Arastirma Vakfi (BAV) can freely spread its creationist theses, and where change is implemented from the bottom up through socio-religious pressure more efficiently than through a law that will eventually be altered - if not the letter of the law, at least the acts.

Turkey's candidacy for EU membership is now taking the turn that all the enemies of democracy wanted: a forum - La candidature à l'Europe prend désormais toute la saveur qu'attendaient d'elle les ennemis de la démocratie : un forum - amplifier for all the hatred and fears they've been knowledgeably feeding for years.

European voters must reject this parody of a debate, punish those who deliberately pour oil on the fire, and refuse the 'clash of civilizations' imposture. Let's send to our Turkish friends a message of exemplary nature by rejecting as anti-democratic the return of religion in the political debate. Starting with the debate about the integration of Turkey in Europe.

**** see "Sand curtain" (2011/02)

"(...) Of course, nature abhors a vacuum, and fundamentalists would love to step in to fill the ideology void. At this defining moment, most people on the street seem to reject as false the choice between dictatorship and fundamentalism, but most people on the street prefer order to chaos, and uncertainty shouldn't last too long.

Israel nervously watches as Jordanian and Egyptian regimes falter under popular pressure. Muslim friends who could turn enemies, with the benediction of Iran, whose own corrupt regime postponed its ineluctable fall by a few years by crushing popular uprisings at home. Unfortunately, these days, Israeli leaders seem to position themselves as a corrupt regime with some ideology. Not a dictatorship, mind you, but not a bunch of nice guys either.

Barack Obama is a nice guy. Unfortunately, these days, the US leader doesn't seem to be in charge of foreign policy, so huge is the gap between what he says and what the US do. And the poor lad doesn't have one Gorbachev to call if he wants that sand curtain torn down...

So what's ahead ? Probably trouble and uncertainties, but somehow this transitional period has started after WWII and independence wars, and we're closer to the end than from the beginning. Something new will emerge and eventually, something positive. Societies freed from political and religious deviances. Hopefully, the time has come for a true Muslim renaissance.

Right now, most dictators across the globe must have gotten some kind of message. But even supposedly strong democracies should be thinking twice when they applaud successful local uprisings or self-determination processes like in South Sudan : what is a nation in this globalized world, what will be holding its members together in this networked millenium ?

More than ever, each individual will reach for the universal (as a human being), and the personal (identity)."

***** following the post "France, secularism and burqa : a political issue, not a religious one" (200906)
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