Sooner or Later Someone Had to Open It

Saturday, May 29 2010 @ 03:50 AM JST

Contributed by: Y.Yamamoto

Mizuho Fukushima,
head of Social
Democratic Party
Apparently it's Obama who first opened Pandora's Box. On its lid I see a fingerprint that looks like his.

Thus far so many unmanageable things have been unleashed from the Box, such as the immense buildup of nuclear arsenals in the five-plus-four Nuclear Weapon States (NWS), unstoppable proliferation stemming from the utter hypocrisy inherent in the NPT, and yet another quagmire in Afghanistan.

Obama has been digging out these problems, one by one, in an arbitrary sequence and haphazard way. It looks as though we can't expect the guy to understand they are inseparable from each other.

These things you find inside the Box are so entwined that you can't disentangle them unless you address the whole issues at a time using a comprehensive and systematic approach. That is something the cherry-picking president will never think about doing.

For one thing the chemical weapons possessed by North Korea and many other countries still remain to be dredged up from the bottom of the Box presumably because Obama thinks the issue is too sticky to be listed as his pet subject.

This way he is doomed to fail to identify, let alone solve, a single issue.

Or, perhaps, the U.S. president, himself, is just one of those unpleasant things that came out of the Box opened by someone else.

Yukio Hatoyama, famously dubbed the loopy prime minister of Japan, did not hesitate to follow suit although the two leaders are quite different personalities.

Hatoyama's maternal grandfather was the founder of Bridgestone Tyre Company. At the age of 63 he is still receiving from his mother a monthly "child allowance," as they call it, of 15 million yen, or $170K, free of tax at least until the recent revelation of the fact. When compared to the scion of the Bridgestone founder, Obama is a pariah who even has difficulty establishing his identity in an honest way.

And yet both men have one thing in common; they have the guts to open up Pandora's Box without caring too much about the consequences. It only takes first-rate arrogance and ignorance like Obama's to think about lifting the lid of the black box so casually.

On the other hand, Hatoyama can't do this without shedding tears over the series of nightmares from the past because he is not so arrogant as the U.S. president. But that doesn't really matter; he is ignorant enough to think his predecessors, including his paternal grandfather Ichiro Hatoyama, have done basically the right thing.

Actually, as recently as early this month, the Japanese people were taken aback when Hatoyama admitted that he had promised the Okinawans to relocate the U.S. Marine Corps' "helicopter" unit to somewhere outside of the prefecture simply because he was completely in the dark at that time about why it should remain deployed there. He added that as he looked into the subject of deterrence, it dawned on him in hindsight that it should stay there in Okinawa.

In fact, though, defense experts keep saying in concert that the prime minister still remains a geopolitical novice. Retired admiral Timothy J. Keating, for one, has told Japanese reporters that Marines don't necessarily have to be stationed in Japan from a purely military point of view.

In August Hatoyama's Democratic Party of Japan won the snap election on the campaign pledge it had borrowed from the Democratic Party of America. Hatoyama said he would play the role of a change agent as if he hadn't known the Japanese people are totally change-disabled.

After the fuss over relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station, and many other ill-defined issues in the last eight months, the prime minister announced last evening, in between his signature apologies to everyone, that earlier in the day Tokyo and Washington had reached an agreement that was supposed to supersede the 2006 accord on the relocation plan.

He had to do that before the weekend simply because the defense budget deliberations in the U.S. Congress are scheduled to start in early June.

At the last minute, he looped back, like a boomerang, to a plan that is almost identical to that of the 2006 accord only after further entangling the problems with the U.S.-Japanese "strategic alliance."

Although Hatoyama could meet the deadline, he had a lot of reasons to sound apologetic.

As he almost admitted himself at the press conference following his announcement, the "new" plan would now be utterly unworkable in the wake of the recent upsurge of anti-American sentiments in Okinawa.

For one thing all these structures, including the V-shaped runways, need a Governor's permit which he says he would never give to the Hatoyama government.

Yet you can tell for sure that in his telecon with Obama earlier in the day, Hatoyama boldly said, "Trust me," for the third time.

It's small wonder the only sane person in his cabinet, Mizuho Fukushima from the Social Democratic Party, flatly refused to sign the cabinet resolution. Reportedly a tearful Hatoyama reluctantly gave her a pink slip.

Afterward the SDP chief, ex-humanrights lawyer, said before the press corps to this effect: "I cannot betray the Okinawans. When the prime minister chose to put the U.S. interests before everything else, he abandoned the people of Okinawa. When he sacked me, the prime minister actually ditched us altogether. I have no regrets over what I did this afternoon."

In fact, though, Fukushima does have regrets because the die-hard socialist still believes that as state minister in charge of consumer affairs, food safety, social affairs and gender equality, she could accomplish many things which she could not have done outside of the Hatoyama administration.

It's a shame Fukushima is getting nowhere despite her admirable adherence to the cause of freeing the Okinawans of their second-class citizenship.

With her left-leaning political posture, she still remains under the influence of the outdated way of thinking from the Cold War era. After all, she is yet another old dream that Hatoyama has produced from his Pandora's Box.

Maybe for now, the 54-year-old lawmaker deliberately confines her role to that of a catalyst, not an agent, for change. But just the same, she doesn't have a clear vision of the future. That is because like those loopy guys such as Obama and Hatoyama, she doesn't have the guts to thoroughly inventory the entangled issues stuffed in the Box.

Across the Pacific, Obama still reamains a hero in his adopted country, but actually he looks more like a junkie whose enemies are mostly pink elephants. Only fools such as Hatoyama can visualize them. Fukushima does not seem to share the same delusions, but her problem lies with the fact that she can't visualize anything at all.

One of the alarming events she fails to notice is the fact that these days Obama is expressly saying he expects more and more U.S. allies to shoulder fair shares. But fair shares in what duties? His answer: duties to defend their own countries. But defend their own countries against what enemies? He is just talking about his own enemies, not theirs.

Even after the tumultuous Friday here, the Japanese still don't show the guts to look into the bottom of the Box where lies this gut question: "Do East Asians, perhaps with the exceptions of the Taiwanese and the South Koreans, really need the U.S. military presence in this region as an effective deterrent against anything really threatening to them?"

For now it looks as though no one can take care of the outcome from the half-opened Pandora's Box. It's a long way to go until the Pacific-rim nations become ready to fully open it up to bring the whole issues to light.

Only by doing so, they would be able to emancipate themselves from the closed circuit where any apparent solution always brings them back to the point where they have started.

Postscript: These days this Pandora's Box analogy has been used by many, including The Japan Times staff writer, presumably because there's nothing else to which to liken the current situation in the U.S. and Japan.

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