Abe leaving

To expand just a little on my “screw that guy” analysis:

I hope he gets well soon. August 2007 was probably the hardest month in Abe’s life – his government fell apart, the economy tanked, and his precious close US-Japan ties were placed in jeopardy. After all that, I would want to spend a few days recovering with an IV drip myself. Still, he was a conservative wannabe authoritarian hack and I hope this paves the way for a quick general election.

A comment on why he is quitting:

1. First, health reasons – it had been clear for a couple weeks that Abe started looking pale in his public appearances (though it’s kinda hard to tell)… I don’t think that it was JUST health problems that made him quit. But the timing may have been affected by his health (and he may have just figured it was time to go before intense Diet questioning began on issues like I am about to mention)
2. Anti-terrorism bill – Basically, I think Abe was sort of telling the truth and this was the main reason for his departure. He had made a big promise to Bush about continuing the activities and had counted on some kind of compromise from the DPJ (they had made some indications that a compromise could be reached), and failing that the tedious business of going through the entire Diet deliberation process to force passage of a new more restricted law by a 2/3 vote in the Lower House. However, the morning that he quit the Asahi front page article was the revelation that the SDF’s “Indian Ocean” refueling activities are used by the US for Afghanistan AND Iraq, despite the claim that they are used only for the more-palatable Afghanistan mission (pointed out by GlobalTalk21 a little while ago). I think Abe wanted to meet with Ozawa to work on some compromise without having to go through all the painful explanations of what exactly the SDF is doing and how exactly the government hasn’t been basically lying about it. But Ozawa, much like Phil Leotardo in the Sopranos, knows he’s in a strong position and is willing to say screw you at any moment. Ozawa is confident in his election strength and that a general election is the only thing he wants and he wants it now (I mean his health isn’t so great either).
3. Abe-bashing in the media – In August, especially after the cabinet reshuffle, the media never let up on Abe, in part because they never ran out of ammo. It has come out (via pro-Koizumi author and Tokyo Deputy Governor Naoki Inose’s mailing list, and I also saw it in Gendai which is maybe where Inose saw it) that the information that brought down MAFF Minister Takehiko Endo was based on a three-year-old Board of Audit report that was never talked about the the kantei despite the fact that “Kasumigaseki” knew about it. I think another big reason he quit was that he realized that in his weakened state there was no way he could withstand any more such attacks.

Also, I just want to take this opportunity to mention that my prediction for how Japanese politics will play out is still pretty much intact. The DPJ did use a symbolic bill (anti-terror special measures law) to force Abe out and now the heat is on to call a general election.

With the two houses controlled by different coalitions who cannot cooperate on anything, there is no hope for any meaningful governing from the Diet – the upper house will just delay and investigate every little detail until nothing gets done — it’s the ultimate filibuster power over the lower house. And we are stuck with the upper house for another three years. There are only three real ways it can work: A grand coalition (never gonna happen), revise the constitution to abolish or limit the upper house’s role (also unlikely in this situation), or for there to be a general election that places the DPJ-led coalition in power (it would be a roll of the dice but it would produce the most easily-run Diet). This comes as a by-product of Japan’s long history as a rigged one-party democracy brushing up against modern day political reality. The LDP always had a lock on the upper house and it never did much anyway, so 6 year terms and the right to hold every bill for 60 days sounded good enough.

The only reason this next race for who succeeds Abe matters is for internal LDP reasons… basically there’s not much any successor can do to be successful in the Diet or carry out any meaningful governance, so a general election will be called soon since Ozawa will just not let the issue wait.

The LDP race seems to be shaping up as Aso vs Fukuda… Aso has the PR on his side but apparently most of the factions are lining up against him including the Koizumi children. If he wins it will be more Abe-style bumbleheadedness and will divide the LDP even further, but he probably appeals to some for his media savvy (such as it is) and leadership credentials. Fukuda would be better for party unity as someone unconnected to the Abe bungling, but like I said the LDP needs to just get it over with and call the election already.

35 thoughts on “Abe leaving”

  1. Abe’s health is a symptom, not the reason.

    I think more than anything else, Abe was not ready for the position. Due to his lineage, he never had to fight for anything, everything was given to him, even the PM position. When the road got rough, he didn’t have the fight in him.

  2. I generally don’t like to talk about whether Abe has the cojones because those are the kinds of issues that remind of the Republicans “lactating organic food eating hippy traitors” rhetoric and, more relevant, the LDP’s rationale that it must stay in power because they are the only party with any experience in the positions – equally laughable claims.

    But it is true that Abe never went on the offensive in quite the same way as Koizumi – in the Koizumi years you had counter-bashing of bureaucrats using their own friendly media contacts, defamation lawsuits against the weeklies (Abe did try this but I guess it wasnt enough) and even behind the scenes threats and that was in addition to Koizumi’s already strong positive media presence. Im not saying Abe should have started threatening people, but he did piss off the wrong media in the beginning of his administration and he never seemed to get back in their good graces – not even endless glowing Yomiuri coverage could cover his ass since they also have to report on the scandals that other media are constantly scooping them on.

  3. I guess “the LDP’s rationale that it must stay in power because they are the only party with any experience in the position” also folds on the grounds that the leader of the major opposition party was an LDP fixer for years. In any case that logic seems to be behind behind a growing momentum (according to the Asahi) to replace Abe with Fukuda.

  4. Re Curzon’s pic – it’s a bit surprising that Japan’s space programme is not more advanced. Even behind China now. Bit like the Japanese plane industry – dominated by Western companies. Where are the Mitsubishi 747-0s? Too badly pounded in the war?

  5. “It’s the economy, stupid.”

    Loosing 50 million pension records, and having no clear domestic policies other than promoting the wrong (right-wing) brand of patriotism just didn’t sit well with the average Japanese taxpayer. It seems many want a leader who will have a clear plan to restore the quality of life similar to the Bubble Economy-era that was idealised in “Bubble Fiction: Boom or Bust”.

    I do feel bad that Abe suffered a great deal of stress, but then again he brought most of those problems on himself. Under his watch, his ministers were allowed to act stupid in public, he angered Okinawans with his government’s plans to excise all references to domestic atrocities, and and he continued unpopular policies to support the US in their War of Terror.

    Based on foreign policy, although I commend Abe for restoring functional ties with China and South Korea, he really screwed up with the comfort women remarks. Though I heavily disagree with America’s decision to pass a non-binding resolution condemning Japan, Abe’s stupidity gave them credence for the passage and it brought greater awareness of the comfort women’s exploiting (something Abe wanted to avoid).

    It comes as no surprise that his party was hammered through protest votes earlier this summer. Bush’s pressure on Abe to deliver free fuel and transportation for his War of Terror only made it worse. In any event, he should of resigned sooner (around the July elections) instead of dragging it out at the expense of his own health.

  6. Jade, I think after the war there was actually a strategic decision made to divert the industrial resources that had gone into airplanes towards automobiles instead. I believe since the war Japanese industry has tried to avoid, or at least be very quiet about, manufacturing weapons and things like airplanes that were highly associated with war.

    I have a vague feeling Fukuda might be more acceptable than Aso, but I haven’t read enough about him yet. Maybe time to start looking around and put together a profile like we had for Aso.

  7. Japan is still reeling in debt and lingering problems from the post-bubble economy. I am sure Japan would have made space shuttles or crude power suits at this time if they had the resources to fund such programmes.

    An objective profile on Aso and Fukuda would be a good start since this ties into Japan and the economy as a whole. Having Aso take power would be a continuation of Abe, restoring Koizumi would bring reform at the cost of regional ties, while Fukuda is questionable since there isn’t too much about him.

    BTW, I think it would be a good idea to start looking into Nintendo shares when the next financial scare occurs…

  8. Interesting point about postwar ideas of planes as war-associated. Just looking up Wiki-J (“日本航空機製造”), and apparently SCAP banned the aviation industry after WW2, and it was only after the Korea War that the UN relented (though they did make planes under licence before then). However the years of the ban had pretty much ruined local expertise in aircraft manufacture, nor were the LDP and the Treasury that keen. However the YS-11 was rolled out in 1962, but suffered problems in its first few years. By 1969 they had sold to 7 countries. However as a govt-owned enterprise it was subject to govt mismanagement and amakudari, leading to financial difficulties. The YS-11 was sold at below cost, and the Diet cancelled manufacture in 1971, the last being completed in 1973, and the parent company finally closing its doors for good in 1983. YS-11 maintenance is now carried out by one of the affiliates, Mitsubishi. The last of the domestic-route YS-11s was retired in 2006.

    There’s a truly massive article on Wiki-J at “YS-11”, a classic example of the way Wikipedia is a nerd/otaku outlet, since this entry is longer and more detailed than many more ‘conventional’ entries.

  9. I interviewed Fukuda in December. He came across extremely genuine and didn’t try to mince his words much. I see him as a fixer: someone who can clean up the LDP’s problems without creating any. He is incredibly unassuming. I remember watching him on TV when he was trundled out as the LDP front man for the war on Iraq. The journalists could get nothing out of him. I thought he was great as Koizumi’s straight man, and he’ll probably make a decent prime minister in the casual non-hubristic fashion that characterised Obuchi.

    One thing though. We’ll hear a lot from the western media about how Fukuda is a “dove”. Although he isn’t a balls-to-the-wall nationalist like Abe and he doesn’t approve of Yasukuni visits, he is not opposed to constitutional revision and the notion of collective self-defence. He is not a pacifist – or even a chounin-kokka shugi-sha – in the “classic” post-war Japanese sense of the word.

  10. I am glad you were able to speak to Fukuda and learn that he is a pragmatic individual. The New York Times and other international media are already calling Fukuda as the new PM in light of greater factional support against Aso.

    He is not exactly a dove but more of a moderate who wants to present the country with a friendly image and adjust foreign policy by giving Asia greater if not equal attention as the United States is receiving. It would make sense to get a sane man to lead the interim government and to make Ozawa look like the loose cannon.

    So let’s say Fukuda takes power. He would compromise with Ozawa to not renew the current law but pass a new version that allows for deployments under UN mandates. Currently there is a UN mandate in Afghanistan which would allow the SDF to help out in some capacity, but at the same time keeping out of Iraq to help Bush’s War of Terror. In any event, Fukuda is the better choice compared to Aso.

  11. Interesting how the NYT has changed it’s tune. A few years ago they quoted Fukuda out of context to position him as a hawk on nuclear armament.

  12. Japanese aeronautic and space industry:
    So the wiki on YS-11 didn’t tell you that chief engineer of the plane is son of Tojo Hideki(who then became the president of Mitsubishi Auto),Jade?

    The conventional wisdom says it was the American congress’s “super 301″that had halted Japanese industry in the late 80’s.Added to the intervene to jeopardize SDF’s Japanese FSX plane project.

    I don’t think J-air industry is in the sorry state .Actually it embraces renessaince
    age now.Take Boeing.the 767 (first build in’82)used 15% of its parts made by Japanese industry,in the 777(first build in ’94) that became 21%.in the 7E7 that will start to fly next year it will be 35%.21 Japanese company is participating in building Airbus 380.And Mutsubishi Heavy Industry is going to build small sized business aircraft of about 100 sheet.Currently the market is being occupied by Canada’s Bombardier and Brazil’s Embraer.There has been series of accident and malfunction in Bpmbardier plane(two in just the last 4days).Mitsubishi is expecting prospect in their MRJhttp://www.mrj-japan.com/
    MHI is going to do all the H2 rocket launching starting today’s launch.And other industry like automaker Honda is planning HONDA JET for private jet market.So the commercial aeronautics is doing just fine.

    “Japan is still reeling in debt and lingering problems from the post-bubble economy. I am sure Japan would have made space shuttles or crude power suits at this time if they had the resources to fund such programmes.”

    There had been a project of J-space shuttle called HOPE and they did build some test craft.But eventually the budget was being cut in 2004,because no one in the government is interested in manned space craft.There is a group of volunteers organized from unversity and engineer in JAXA lobbing for Japanese manned program,but GoJ is more interested with working with NASA and sending J-astronaut as joint U.S-Japan project.

  13. Aceface – Thanks for the clarification though I am still saddened that Japan slashed the budget from their space programme officially due to disinterest but I still think its partly related to the economic problems.

    What troubles me more is that Japan is increasingly dependent on America for their innovations and projects such as their space programme in this case. I still stand by my assertion that Japan could have done much more if it did not have to face the destruction of their Bubble Economy.

  14. Interesting about Tojo’s son, but I wouldn’t hold that against him. Also, I’m not sure that just providing parts for Boeing can really compare to actually building your own planes. Bit like GM or Ford supplying the aircons for Toyotas rather than building their own cars….

  15. I wouldn’t hold against anything on Tojo Jr either,Besides YS-11 was a good plane.

    By the way making airplane is one thing,selling is another,Jade.If you are making parts,you could bargain with bothe camps,either EU or the U.S.

    Like you said Mark,economy does have effect,however Japan was never interested in massive space program due to the prohibitation of military use of space technology(it was release a bit for telecommunication,weather forcast and of course spy sattelite)and like I said lack of manned project.
    And I can’t say “cooperating”with America is all that bad.The reason I don’t say “depending to america” is because Japanization of space project is underway too.H2 rockets are 100% designed and made in Japan unlike Chinese rockets have various Soyuz technology in it.Problem is it’S damn expensive,but when it was originally designed nobody was thinking about doing business with that rocket.Anyway we build rocket of our own and build some sophiscated sattelite including spy and lunar expedition,nationalist like me is already satisfied.

  16. I prefer Japanese nationalism that involves promoting positive images of Japan and innovations that help the world rather than the brand promoted by Abe, Ishihara, Aso and other assorted nuts in the LDP.

    I understand it’s damn expensive and I am sure Japan, as the second largest economy in the world, can afford it if they were not bogged down by the Lost Decade and related issues. Besides, I don’t think it would be too difficult for Japan to become signatories in agreements or treaties restricting space exploration/development to non-military purposes.

    Japan isn’t truly independent until it has reduced it’s dependence on America. Hell, even the South Koreans are ahead of Japan in reducing American dependence.

  17. Wow. Check it out. The Terrorism Special Measures Law officially has the longest formal name of any existing Japanese law:


    I guess that indicates that it’s pretty flexible.


  18. “I understand it’s damn expensive and I am sure Japan, as the second largest economy in the world, can afford it if they were not bogged down by the Lost Decade and related issues. ”

    Well,Japan can afford H2A no matter how much it costs,but that wouldn’t make them Toyota of space industry,does it.J-rocket is can not compete Russian and Chinese rockets in commercial basis.

    And financial power is not the real reason for the blast off of national space program.Neither the Russian,Chinese nor Indian have more financial power than we are.But they have more weight on space program.Simply because they have political will of their government behind them,which is non existant in Japan.
    And even during the bubble days space related government branch was divided in three organisation,National Space Development Agency(NASDA),National Aeronautical Laboratory of Japan(NAL) and Institute of Space and Aeronautical Science(ISAS) and their total budgets were only the tenth of NASA.Because NASDA and NAL were belonged to Science and Technology Agency and ISIS was associated with Ministry of Education.Both are politically powerless organs.Naturally the total budget of the three were tenth of NASA.
    These three organizarions were united in Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency(JAXA) only in 2003.But now they have outsourced launching to Mitsubishi Heavy Industry and effectively using budget than before and by being one organisation they are gaining more political power.

    “Japan isn’t truly independent until it has reduced it’s dependence on America. ”

    And truly achieve that Japan must revise it’s constitution,something that said to be no good Abe was putting on the top of agenda.

    “Hell, even the South Koreans are ahead of Japan in reducing American dependence.”

    Yes.Because they don’t have to count resistance from the pacifists and true left wings there.South Korea can boom the defense budget as much as they can and even beyond.Pyongyang is not the only one who is punching above the weight in the peninsula,You know.
    But Wait and see how things turns out in coming Korean presidential election,Mark.The most likely candidate,Lee Myung Bak had public discussion with the chief editor of Asahi Funabashi Youichi on Thursday in Seoul and Lee said “both bilateral relation with China and Japan are important,Our conuntry’s top diplomatic priority should be the U.S,our one and only ally.”They may change the course and come after us.

  19. I was having trouble posting to responses. I hope it was a server error and I am not IP banned from my home computer.

    Aceface – I agree that Constitutional reform is a worthy goal as the American-styled government imposed on Japan is not working. It does not help that the CIA meddled in Japanese political affairs for many years during the Cold War, causing much of the problems experienced today.

  20. You aren’t banned, we just have spam filters that occasionally catch legit comments (especially if they contain URLs). We don’t seek to keep anyone out because no one has ever been a problem.

    Was CIA involvement in Japan even that effective? I remember reading that it basically extended to throwing money at a few preferred politicians for some period in the 60s and 70s. What problems did they cause exactly?

    Speaking of US control of Japan – When the US controlled Okinawa from the early 50s until the early 70s, the “7th Psyops Group” published magazines and broadcast radio shows that were moderately effective in instilling a “Ryukyu identity” among the local population as an effort to separate the culture from Japan’s. I just saw a sweet documentary about the publishers of “Shurei no Hikari” (the official US propaganda magazine) that I hope to profile later.

  21. Mark, I just looked through the spam and saw two comments by you, which I de-spammed. The filter is a sever based one so I don’t have access to a list of rules or banned IPs, but hopefully marking your spam-marked comments as not spam will help it learn.

  22. Ok, Thanks for the clarifications guys.

    These below articles detail CIA involvement in Japan from the postwar era


    Much of the focus was on undermining the Socialists and favouring politicians, usually from the LDP, who would work against communist and American interests.

  23. That’s rather an old news, Mark.These activities were acknowledged by the declassified documents in 2006,but had been known by many researchers and there were testimony made by retired CIA officers and ex-ambassdor Alexis Johnson.

    There is even an extented research written by Kyodo reporter,Haruna Mikio.

    This is something new.Ex-PM and Shinzo’s grand pa,Kishi Nobusuke was under CIA payroll.

    But I wouldn’t blame neither CIA for corrupting Kishi,Because

    a)Kishi had also been financially supported by World Anti Communist League,Funded by Chiang Kai Shek and the Taiwanese Intelligence.

    b)He was also being supported by the Moonies,undercover body of the South Korea’s KCIA clandestine operation in Japan.

    So CIA was not all alone.and the opposition is no exceptions.Kyodo’s Haruna had also uncovered KGB had financially supported Japanese civic protest groups of anti Vietnam war movement,Beheiren.

    and more.
    The Socialist who work against LDP and in favour of Soviet Interest.

    I couldn7t trust every thing written here,but this is the memoir of Soviet KGB officer named Ivan Kowalenko who was believed to be controling Japanese VIP’s including Nakasone’s advisor and trading house giant,Itochu honorary advisor,recently deceased Sesima Ryuzo瀬島隆三.

    Let’s just say those were the days.

  24. Yep.But in the mean time,we have to work one by one.First strengthen our ties with Washington and then we change the constitution.And we may be ready for a deal or two with the region,but until then,we are in a geopolitical coma.

  25. Technically, not yet. In theory the Diet could always not vote for him- of course any LDP members who did that would probably get kicked out of the party like some people we know.

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