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2011年8月16日 (火)

戦後66年 政治の「脱貧困」をめざせ

History shows danger of politics left adrift
The Yomiuri Shimbun (Aug. 16, 2011)
戦後66年 政治の「脱貧困」をめざせ(8月14日付・読売社説)

How strongly do you feel Japan's peace and affluence have been achieved at the expense of the many lives lost in the series of wars this nation fought during the Showa era?

This question was asked in an opinion survey conducted by The Yomiuri Shimbun by mail in January and February.

An overwhelming 84 percent of those polled said they felt so "very much" or "to a certain extent."

The figure can be perceived as an indication that many Japanese still feel grateful to their forebears.

Monday marks the 66th anniversary of the end of World War II.

Our nation's postwar peace and affluence have been profoundly shaken since the March 11 Great East Japan Earthquake.

However, we believe this national crisis is exactly the time to learn many lessons from the history of the tumultuous Showa era (1926-1989).

"Fukko" (recovery)--a word spoken in relation to the ongoing post-disaster reconstruction efforts--clearly brings to mind our country's success in accomplishing what can be described as a miraculous postwar recovery.

The sentiment held by the Japanese now is in stark contrast to the sense of relief and release that prevailed immediately after the war.

Five months have already passed since the March calamity, but only slow progress has been made in post-disaster recovery efforts.

The task of overcoming the ongoing crisis for the nation requires strong leadership from politicians.

However, we are now witnessing serious deterioration in political leadership--or what can be termed "political poverty."

Common ground can be found in many respects between the current pitiful state of affairs and the political landscape in prewar times.

The early days of Showa, or the late 1920s, was marked by bitter strife between two major political parties--the Constitutional Party of Political Friends (Seiyu-kai) and the Constitutional Democratic Party (Minseito).

This resulted in a loss of public trust in government, dealing a fatal blow to the nation's party politics.

The premiership changed hands among 10 political figures during the 1930s.

The political parties in that time lost ground to the military and were unable to prevent the country from drifting toward war.


An immature ruling party

Two years ago, the people gave the Democratic Party of Japan a mandate to run the country.
The shift in power came at a time when the Liberal Democratic Party had reached the end of the line after long years in power during the postwar period.

However, the DPJ's rise to power was followed by the collapse of many policies formed by the party just to play to the gallery.
This is symbolized by the failure of the child-rearing allowance program and other dole-out policies contrived without securing financial resources for them.

The DPJ's immaturity at the nation's helm has disappointed the public, further contributing to a mistrust of government.

Particularly disturbing about the DPJ-led administration is its conspicuous lack of consistency in fundamental policies that shape the foundation of the country.

For instance, Prime Minister Naoto Kan created confusion in many quarters when he abruptly called for an end to the nation's reliance on nuclear power as a major source of energy.

It should not be forgotten that our country's prosperity and adversity have been greatly affected by the kinds of strategies it has adopted for securing resources and energy sources, both before and after the war.


In July 1941, the Imperial Japanese Army advanced into the southern part of French Indochina with an eye to obtaining oil and other resources in the Dutch East Indies (currently Indonesia).

The United States angrily reacted to this action by imposing a punitive oil embargo against Japan.

In those times, Japan relied on the United States for about 90 percent of its oil imports.

The embargo was a great surprise to our country, foreshadowing the outbreak of war between the two nations.

Postwar investment was concentrated on the coal industry to secure a domestic energy source, which laid the foundation for reconstruction.

Due to a shift thereafter to oil and the introduction of nuclear power generation as energy sources, the national economy developed by leaps and bounds.


Politics lack direction

In September 2009, then Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama pledged to the international community that "Japan will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent from the 1990 level by the end of 2020."

That he made the international promise without much prior discussion on the matter was problematic in itself, but if greenhouse gas emissions were to be decreased drastically it should have been premised on reducing thermal power generation and increasing reliance on nuclear power generation.

But it seems that the issue of greenhouse gas emissions has faded into oblivion.

This important energy issue should not be affected by the trends of time.


The cool and composed reaction shown by residents of the areas that bore the brunt of the the March 11 earthquake and tsunami was commended globally.

Foreign countries sent rescue and medical teams to the damaged areas to extend warm assistance.

The Japanese government's response to and its clumsy public disclosure of the nuclear crisis at Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, on the other hand, spawned mistrust and drew fire from the international community.

The world was left with an impression of Japan politically adrift.

The Kan administration has established a welter of task forces and teams, including Cabinet members, to work out assistance measures for disaster victims and measures to deal with the nuclear crisis.

However, the responsibility and authority of each task force and team were not clearly defined, and instruction and information were not provided in an integrated manner within the government, thereby throwing government offices into confusion.

Kan's lack of leadership, as well as his opportunistic and awkward political methods, hampered opposition parties' cooperative momentum.

The ruling and opposition parties failed to cooperate, and the political wrangling that followed hindered efforts to establish a political framework for promoting reconstruction.


Paradise of irresponsibility

In The Yomiuri Shimbun's weekly "Showa Era" series, Prof. Masayuki Yamauchi of the University of Tokyo points out: "Military men were in a paradise of very vague responsibility, in which they could evade responsibility."

For instance, in the Battle of Midway in June 1942, which marked a turning point in the Pacific War, Japan suffered a crushing defeat as the Imperial Japanese Navy lost four aircraft carriers due to the failure of its commander-in-chief and chief of staff to have a long-term perspective.

But the cause of defeat was not analyzed and the responsibility of the commander-in-chief was not questioned.

The folly of "falling into a paradise for evading responsibility" should not be repeated.

It is urgent to eliminate "political poverty" now, at a time when politicians' responsibility has been called into serious question.

After Kan steps down, the ruling and opposition parties must first and foremost join hands to establish a strong framework for promoting reconstruction from the disaster.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 14, 2011)
(2011年8月14日01時21分  読売新聞)


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