Abe’s Departure May Help “Healthy Japanese Nationalism”


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The political demise and fall of Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is the best news from Japan I have seen in some time. While Abe was down in the polls, it is the rejection of him inside the Liberal Democratic Party and his own personal frustration with his party leadership that gives me hope that a healthy, rather than strident, Japanese nationalism may yet emerge as Japan’s defining national personality.
I’m glad that Abe emerged, got the top post — and now essentially has been tossed out (though yes, I know, he resigned).
Abe’s brief tenure — and his obsession with the most strident, history-denying edge of Japan’s war experiences and nationalism — will most likely chasten any politicos that try to exploit these issues again.
I share my thoughts on Abe’s resignation on Chicago National Public Radio’s Worldview.
— Steve Clemons


7 comments on “Abe’s Departure May Help “Healthy Japanese Nationalism”

  1. focus says:

    I would be very interested in knowing what defines “healthy nationalism” — not only for Japan but also for, say, Iran, Russia, Venezuela, and the United States.


  2. YY says:

    One of the problems is that the generation/s that can or should have cleared the collective political conscience, the generation before Abe (or for that matter the entire cabinet), did not do a complete job and are now mostly dead. Atonement is probably not a realistic expectation for those that were not born at the time of the crimes. However, that really does not excuse revisionist history.


  3. Joe S. says:

    I don’t believe that Japanese nationalism has grown up. Until the Japanese acknowledge what they did in the 1930’s and during WWII, nobody in Asia is going to trust them. The sane part of the LDP issues weasel apologies, and the crazy part is unapologetic.
    Much of the reason that China tolerates the huge US forces in Asia is that they bottle the Japanese in as much as they protect Japan from China. This is increasingly significant with the far more aggressive Japanese military posture of the past few years.
    If Japan ever gets some healthy nationalists, their first order of business will be to put WWII behind Japan: real apologies, reparations, a clarified historical record, and whatever else it takes to have Japan seen as a responsible reformed power, like Germany. Then they can work on the muscular stuff.


  4. Bill R. says:

    Steve, I wonder what your thoughts would be about a healthy vs. strident U.S. nationalism. This at at time when we are experiencing the demise of the neocon (post cold war)imperial dream. It occurs to me that a new vision of an America that takes care of its responsibilities to its own citizens and participates as a world citizen without attempting a hegemony on the world would be a healthy nationalism.


  5. Greg Diamond says:

    I live in Japan, and consume various forms of Japanese media rather voraciously. I hate to have to disagree with you, but from where I stand it seems like Abe’s demise was mostly a product of domestic politics and scandals. His remarks denying the existence of comfort women received little-to-no media play here, and were not at the top of many voters mind in the run-up to the July elections or the shaky aftermath.
    Far and away, the biggest source of dissatisfaction is the ongoing scandal in the Social Insurance Agency. That, combined with the scandals that have caused one farm minister to hang himself and two others to resign, the remarks of the Defense Minister saying the atomic bombings were “unavoidable”, and other lesser scandals that have cost mid-ranking party officials their jobs have been leading the news nonstop since the spring.
    I’d be very, very surprised if any of the foreign policy hawks feel the least bit chastened.


  6. YY says:

    I’d agree if and only if Aso does not succeed him, at which point they’ll be back at the same spot. Somehow I can’t really see that there is all that much of general awareness or consciousness about how right wing their nationalism is.


  7. Tom - Daai Tou Laam says:

    I wish I had your optimism on this. I don’t think Abe’s failures will make right-wing nationalism into “the third rail” of Japanese politics.
    The loss of the upper house of the Diet should have been the clue stick for the LDP leadership to get back to handling the pressing issues that the public needs to see addressed: domestic financial and retirement/pension security.
    GDumbya may have conned some global leaders in to believing that they’d go down in the history books as brave war-time leaders, but the political bounce from war is short-lived compared to the power of pocketbook issues.
    So once the LDP refocuses on the domestic issues and sorts through them, my guess is that the right-wing ultra-nationalists will rise to the surface once again.


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