Continuing to criticize Abe for his congressional speech is futile, even counterproductive. […] Would the audience have rather heard Abe spend most of his speech apologizing for Japan’s past wrongdoings and offer very little on his vision for Japan’s future, and the future of U.S.-Japan alliance? I would think not.
Now is not the time to nitpick and parse his speech text to death. Rather, Abe should be congratulated for his successful U.S. visit and a job well done. Of course, he can be encouraged to consider stepping out further as he crafts his statement on August 15 at the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. But he needs to receive credit for his achievements first.
Tatsumi then went on to note that ‘endless criticism against Abe will make it more difficult for Abe to maneuver, providing him less incentive to make further efforts.’ So leave the poor man alone! He obviously has the history issue covered.
Unfortunately, if you are like me, you were way too busy during the actual Abe visit (late April-early May is a notoriously bad time for academics) to get any thing more than a couple of sloppy drafts prepared in an effort to look at historical aspects of Abe’s visit. Watching the actual speech might also be a good idea.
Obviously, judging from her Diplomat essay, Yuki Tatsumi obviously won’t be happy if you finally get around to updating, polishing, and submitting your drafts now, now that she’s ‘called time’ on the op-ed statute of limitations. Not only that, but don’t forget that your work would clearly and single-handedly (!) wedge Abe Shinzo, this very skillful LDP politician, into a corner in which his only option would be to become more revisionist in his views and action. (Did you know that every time John Dower writes an op-ed, a cabinet member is ordered straight to Yasukuni Shrine?) Well, I’m afraid that it’s a risk you may have to take.
Allow me to share a few prompts that may help you to get that essay off of your hard drive and into the welcoming void of cyberspace, the consequences be damned:
– The “comfort women” issue: What is Prime Minister Abe saying — or not saying — about the comfort women issue? How does he want to frame the problem? To what extent has it been consistently raised or ignored either by US media, the American Congress, or the White House (including Michelle Obama, who has talked a lot about girls’ rights both in Japan and with the Japanese delegation in the US)? Are there historians visible in the media discussing this matter in the US? Do the Korean and Chinese goals of getting an explicit apology from Abe Shinzo, or full endorsement of the 1993 Kono declaration which admitted the system existed, seem likely to be achieved? What role have right-wing Japanese women played in cementing support for Abe Shinzo on this issue?
– Other historical legacies: To what extent has Kishi Nobusuke (Abe’s grandfather, a former suspected war criminal, and Prime Minister from 1957-1960) been raised during the visit, and how? Is Japan winning or losing the battle over the popular perception of Kishi as a pro-US technocrat or unrepentant quasi-fascist? What about general memories of World War II? Which Americans, Koreans, or Chinese seem to be able to shape the public narrative about Japan during this visit?
– Security issues: How much military independence does Japan really have from the United States, and what role does wariness of China and North Korea play in expanding the latitude the US is willing to give Japan?
– Women: Before leaving Japan, Abe Shinzo wrote an op-ed for Bloomberg about “Womenomics,” and he has reemphasized those themes in his speech at the Kennedy School at Harvard and at other moments in his journey. Does Abe intend on really improving the ability of Japanese to be upwardly mobile in the corporate world, while simultaneously trying to get Japanese women to get married, have children, and solve Japan’s demographic crisis? Does his stonewalling on the ‘comfort women’ issue make him less popular with Japan’s female majority?
If you’re looking for a convenient place to start, I would say that anything written by Anna Fifield, the Washington Post bureau chief in Tokyo, would be good, since she represents a mainstream US press voice about Japan, writing for, among other audiences, policy elites in Washington. Her author page or an article on the various historical issues clouding the Abe visit could be a good place to start.