OPPOSITION AND HOSTILE MEDIA OUT TO DESTORY JAPAN
US, British, and French forces bombarded three chemical weapons facilities in Syria with 105 missiles at 9 p.m. on April 13 (10 a.m. April 14 Japan time). The air strikes were in response to an alleged chlorine gas attack by the Basher administration that killed more than 40 citizens in the rebel-held town of Douma near Damascus on April 7.
A year ago, President Trump had acted alone in retaliation for a similar attack, ordering 54 cruise missiles fired into a Syrian base. What action America would take this time around drew international attention as it would indicate whether or not Washington would live up to its responsibilities as the leader of the free world.
The international community was also keen to find out if Washington was resigned to allowing Russia and China to assume global leadership under a different set of values.
By leading the allied attacks, Washington demonstrated its determination to remain the leader of the free world. How did America reach that decision?
According to the Wall Street Journal (the WSJ) and other major American dailies, the Department of Defense offered Trump three options to strike:
1) a narrow set of targets contributing to Syria’s chemical weapons capabilities; 2) a broader set of Syrian regime targets, including suspected chemical weapons research facilities and military command centers: and 3) more expansive targets to cripple the military capabilities of the Assad regime, including Russian air defenses in Syria.
Trump approved the action melding options 1) and 2). He avoided the most ambitious of the three options, refraining from any move to topple the Assad regime itself but still dealing a decisive blow to Syria’s chemical weapons manufacturing capabilities.
The WSJ in its April 16 edition reported that Trump initially was leaning toward option 3), and so was UN Ambassador Nikki Haley. But Defense Secretary James Mattis warned that a more expansive strike against targets, including Russian bases, could “trigger a dangerous response from Moscow and Teheran.”
Former UN Ambassador John Bolton, named Trump’s National Security Adviser four days before the attack, on April 9, is a known hardliner who last February declared in an interview with the WSJ that US forces had the right to preemptively attack North Korea.
When he met with Bolton for the first time on March 28 at the Defense Department, Mattis jokingly told him he had been looking forward to meeting “the devil incarnate”—proof that Bolton does indeed have an image as the toughest of America’s hawks.
Prospects of US-North Korea Summit
But Bolton this time is credited with having worked to forge “a difficult compromise” by avoiding the most aggressive options as America succeeded in delivering a concrete blow to the Assad regime. Some quarters now feel that Trump is aided by some able advisors who are tough but sensible.
And yet, Trump’s ideas are full of contradicting impulses on overseas entanglements, according to the Journal, which noted: “…he remains eager to withdraw troops from the Middle East, for instance, but was adamant about a quick and forceful military response in Syria last week.”
Trump readily goes ahead with punitive attacks in retaliation for the use of chemical weapons—an egregious crime against humanity by any state—but is reluctant to confront Russia militarily. It would be fair to regard the latest attack as strictly a humanitarian gesture aimed at deterring any future use of chemical weapons by Assad, not a plot to topple the Assad administration or restructure the power relationships in the Middle East. Whether this is how Trump actually sees the situation remains uncertain.
Of course, views like those of Senator Lindsey Graham introduced below are persistent within the Republican Party:
“Assad has likely calculated a limited American strike is just the cost of doing business. Russia and Iran will view the limited action as the US being content to drop a few bombs before heading for the exits…It’s not the type of sustained, game-changing strategy that will lead to Assad, Russia, or Iran changing or reevaluating their strategy in Syria.”
Japan must seriously heed the senator’s point about the US attack not fundamentally changing the Syrian situation, as America’s policy toward Syria is closely linked with its policy toward North Korea.
Trump and Kim Jong-un are slated to rub elbows with each other sometime in May or June. Unconventional and often viewed as detached from common sense and reason, both leaders appear quite capable of making snap decisions without heeding the advice of their aides at this first ever US-North Korea summit. In these circumstances, it would not be surprising to see Kim outmaneuver Trump.
It is difficult to predict the outcome of the projected summit. However, how should Japan respond if Trump and Kim were to agree that the US would recognize the North’s possession of nuclear weapons in exchange for a pledge to forsake Pyongyang’s ICBMs capable of reaching the US, without resolving the vital issue relating to the North Korean abduction of Japanese citizens?
What Prime Minister Abe will discuss and agree to with Trump in Mar-a-Lago April 17-18 will be crucial not only to Japan on the whole but to the many abduction victims still detained in the North. Now is the time for every Japanese politician, from Abe down, to concentrate his efforts on resolving this critical diplomatic issue—the victims’ immediate release.
Against such a backdrop, I was absolutely stunned by the nature of the “Sunday Talk Show” on NHK TV this week. In the wake of the US-led attacks, the public broadcast program still focused single-mindedly on the school scandal allegedly involving Abe. What on earth is on the minds of our media and the members of the opposition? Disgusted, I soon turned off the TV, but this incident made me wonder if the opposition parties and hostile anti-Abe media are really trying to destroy Japan.
Making A Certain Neighbor of Ours Happy
Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera appeared as a guest on my regular “Genron” Internet evening television news show on April 13 to discuss an on-going scandal rocking the JSDF. The scandal involves the belated discovery of daily logs of the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) covering the activities of its troops dispatched to Iraq 2004~2006. The ministry had repeatedly denied the existence of the logs.
More than ten years ago, when JSDF personnel were dispatched to Iraq as part of the UN Peacekeeping operations, daily logs covering their activities were expected to be kept for up to a year. The JSDF troops were under the impression that “daily logs that old would not exist, as they were assumed to have been disposed of after being read by the parties concerned.”
The JSDF, staffed by close to 250,000 men and women, maintains over 300 bases and stations across Japan. Onodera noted that the authorities unexpectedly found out that some of the personnel had kept the files on their computers, or that old logs were by chance left undisposed of in the filing cabinets of various stations. Onodera said their existence should have been disclosed to the public in January when the discovery was made. The JSDF’s failure to do so has led to suspicions that the JSDF was hiding some inconvenient truths about its operations in Iraq, such as the troops having possibly operated in combat zones.
If the media had reported the story accurately in this way, I am certain that most people would have viewed the “missing logs” issue quite differently, preventing any unnecessary confusion.
Over the past few years, the Ministry of Defense has reportedly responded to more than 5,000 requests for disclose of information annually. The number of such requests itself is appalling, but even more so is the nature of these requests; instead of asking for information on specific happenings based on specific dates, many requests are extremely broad and unfocused, such as “requesting any information pertaining to the dispatch of troops to Iraq.” Naturally, the ministry is compelled to provide an incredibly voluminous reply for such a request.
When the ministry finally manages to identify the proper material, its contents must be scrutinized next and checked for clearance with the agencies and ministries concerned. Through such operations, the ministry determines which part of the material must be redacted before being released. Having to go through each of the 5,000 requests in this way is extremely exhausting work for the ministry staffers concerned.
Every hour spent on such tasks means another hour that the true mission of the ministry—Japan’s defense—is being neglected. This must make a certain neighbor of ours quite happy.
Incidentally, military logs are basically treated as classified documents throughout the world, except in Japan. It is highly likely that only in Japan are military logs positioned as no different from ordinary administrative documents which are subject to disclosure if requests are made.
If what the JSDF has done with its Iraq daily logs is truly problematical, then every effort must be made to make up for it. However, this incident freshly convinced me that what is taking place in Japan today is an all-out effort by the hostile anti-Abe media and opposition parties to ruin this nation.
(Translated from “Renaissance Japan” column no. 800 in the April 26, 2018 issue of The Weekly Shincho)