Postmodern classic?

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Koizumi, War Criminals and the Warrior Code

I visited Japan a few years ago, as I went into the entrance of Yasukuni Shrine I took this picture, a Shinto temple dedicated to the warriors of Japan. Let's just say I wouldn't tell my Chinese friends I went there.

Yes, Yasukuni is in the news again. The outrage of Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi visiting the Yasukuni Shrine has started again. It could be a month, a week, or even a couple of days from now, but the shrill moralistic farce that is international politics is gearing up for it.

Howard French of the IHT is a very informed observer of Asian politics, so I'd recommend reading his article as a first stop for an explanation of Yasukuni's place in Japanese politics. It echoes the drumbeat of other Asian countries that felt the sharp edge of Japanese Imperialism not so long ago. The Japanese did some awful things, no doubt- and 14 of these Class 'A' war criminals are interred at this place.

Both my grandparents fought in the Pacific. I try to be an informed reader of history, and as such I know pretty well what happened. Yet warriors should be treated as warriors, something I think even of the Nazi's.

Why is this?

Admittedly, part of this is my Westphalian conceit- the idea that decisions of war are the politician's realm, the soldiers duty is to obey, and the civilians support this or change the government. This doesn't apply to Japan at the time of the 2nd World War, as we know it was members of their military who initiated some of the hostilities- ie the infamous 'Manchurian Incident'. But we have some controversial people in Arlington as well- no war criminals, but I know many Southern people who consider William Tecumseh Sherman a 'war criminal'. No one is saying war doesn't bring out the worst of some people, and that it's not horrible. But we must still uphold the Warrior Code. This is not a 'moral equivalence' copout- they were in the wrong, they lost. But now that the war's over, we have to move on. And a healthy country will defend itself with it's own citizenry. Therefore we shouldn't fall prey to this pedagogic manipulation and criminalize their whole martial ethic by tarring this cultural shrine. The point holds true to my inner core. Don't blame their military, it was the nation that made them fight.

For a glimpse at a possible result of a society lacking these principles, take a quick look at the cancer that Europe has become. Their impotent faith in the UN is laughable, especially in light of France's recent 'contribution to world peace'. Who could they protect? It's hard to imagine something like this happening (if you need a smaller example of martial ethic) in Brussels or any other city there. They've grown fat, lazy and complacent on the security provided for them from outside. Such is life. They epitomize the rot that occurs when the martial ethic slowly fades away, as it has been for most of the past century... if they fight again, it seems more likely that it will be as miserly cowards. I can easily see bloody purges of 'unwanted' elements of their countries. Besides, most of those who would be warriors and not worriers or whiners have already come here to the US.

The martial ethic of the Warrior Code aside, who let's others direct their 'sovereign' issues anyhow? It looks like naked political opportunism to me. Weak governments that have to find external enemies to galvanize their countrymen to confirm their legitimacy. This was the primary reason the Soviet Union and other Communist organizations supported anti-war groups almost from the time they were found- not because they believed in the end of war, but they wanted to subvert and undermine their opponents will to fight in preparation of the conflict to come. No conspiracy theory here, it's all in the Venona files and other very credible sources. I didn't believe it myself, until I confirmed it in more than a few places. This was a conscious effort- part of the struggle to make the individual conform to the collective. An assertion of individuality worth dying for is an obstacle for those who want to destroy it. There lies the martial ethic, which is not the capitalist framework of exploiters (to borrow Marxist-Leninist dogma) manipulating poor and uneducated proles to fight for them 'against their interest'. Stop me if you've heard that one before, or one of it's more recent variants like 'Bush manipulated them to go to Iraq to die for oil'. The Code of the Warrior, epitomizing responsibility and duty, is fundamentally opposed to the primacy of the victim and accompanying blame, that socialism and communism feed off. There's something there, even if we do recognize our necessity to acknowledge the warriors of Russia who we fought against, along this line of thinking. For a more recent example, I think the rebuilding of Iraq is centered on instilling this code of duty and loyalty to the servants of Iraq in the military, along with ensuring that they are a source of pride to their citizenry.

But to come back to Yasukuni, there is one question that strikes me the most. What is Japan now, if not a loyal ally and faithful friend? Are we to sit aside and let others shame them? If I was a person of importance, I would visit the shrine as an American warrior- honoring the warriors there, supporting the Japanese people together. What a symbol that would make! I think MacArthur would appreciate it. Let the rest of them wallow in victimhood.

However, that wouldn't make me too popular. Jeesh, how many Koreans would threaten my life.... I'd be John Bolton of Asia, minus the 'tache. Ah yes, that's why I'm not a politician. I have much to learn...


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