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"America has two great dominant strands of political thought - conservatism, which, at its very best, draws lines that should not be crossed; and progressivism, which, at its very best, breaks down barriers that should never have been erected." -- Bill Clinton, Dedication of the Clinton Presidential Library, November 2004

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Thursday, August 23, 2007


Japanese activist gives PM the finger

posted by Aziz P. at Thursday, August 23, 2007 permalink View blog reactions
A Japanese political activist has been arrested after he cut off his little finger and posted it to PM Shinzo Abe's ruling party, according to police.

Yoshihiro Tanjo said he was protesting against Mr Abe's refusal to visit a war shrine, on the 62nd anniversary of Japan's surrender in World War II.

The Yasukuni shrine is the one in Tokyo that honors all the Japanese war dead - including those later convicted of being war criminals. Personally I think that while cutting off your finger is extreme, there's a pretty cogent critique of Shinzo Abe to be made here. It's worth noting that the previous PM, Junichiro Koizumi, made a point of visiting the shrine despite the outcry of protests. I think that it's appropriate for the PM to do so, for the same reason that Confederate soldiers are buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington DC - they were soldiers who fought for their nation, and even if there are a handful of genuine criminals buried alongside there, it dishonors the rest more by eschewing them altogether.

Shinzo Abe campaigned on a national pride platform for Japan; he was considered a hawk who pledged to rewrite the pacifist nature of Japan's constitution. And Abe has visited the shrine before, and argued forcefully in favor of doing so. It is possible that his reticience this time is driven by concerns about offending China, which may threaten his attempts at building economic ties. Abe has made a big play to build separate economic links with both China and India, as a hedge against both. A massive Japanese business delegation just went to India:

Kamal Nath, the Indian minister for trade and industry, said Wednesday that the two countries would sign a comprehensive economic agreement by the end of the year.

Already during the visit, Japan and India have agreed on a currency swap, Mr. Abe said, allowing them to deal with a short-term liquidity squeeze.

In a series of banquets and buffets, featuring plenty of Indian food but few concessions to Japanese cuisine, Japanese executives and politicians have been gathering with their Indian counterparts to discuss everything from open skies agreements to Buddhism. Implicit in the discussion of cooperation is the notion that an allied India and Japan could help hedge against China’s growth.

I think that the shadow of China weighs heavily indeed on Abe's mind. His first official trip as PM was to Beijing, after all. It's hard to see his refusal to visit Yasukuni this time in any other light.

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About Nation-Building

Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.