This week, Yukio Hatoyama resigned and took Ozawa with him making him the latest in a string of Prime Ministers that couldn't survive more than a year since Koizumi privatised the largest savings fund in the world (Japan Postal Savings) and pushed away from China with repeated visits to Yasukuni Shrine. He was very popular in the States.
Hatoyama, not so much. He was so promising; the massive swing election last year overthrew 50 years of almost uninterrupted Liberal Democratic Party of Washington sock-puppetry, he vowed to sweep out corruption and bureaucracy and take a more Asian-centric stance to foreign policy which included the relocation of American bases on Okinawa. But poor Hatoyama moved too fast, and within months the Americans were complaining of a breakdown in communication (read: all their LDP cronies and bureaucrats were no longer in the loop).
Soon after the election, Okinawa Base rumblings came from the US.
August 2009 - "Unfortunate"
September 2009 - "Won't dictate to Japan"
October 2009 - "Japan urged"
November 2009 - "USA warns Japan"
Late December 2009 - "US concerned about Hatoyama"
Back in October, the US started stinging Japanese exports with a Toyota "acceleration problem" that turned out to be people jamming their mats to the pedals. The president of Toyota was made to answer pointless, inarticulate questions at a congressional hearing...
Honda too was hit by a recall.
Then North Korea apparently sunk a South Korean Navy vessel. Only China didn't quite believe the story, but it was reported endlessly on Japanese news. A reporter for Russia Today said exactly what I was thinking on this, but much more eloquently.
(The US (and S.Korea?) staged a false-flag attack to put pressure on Japan to maintain their presence in Okinawa and the region)
And Hatoyama collapsed, announcing the base will only move to another part of Okinawa as per a 2006 agreement that was already in place. The Social Democratic Party, in coalition with Hatoyama's DPJ, split over this backdown. Next month, upper house elections begin and with Hatoyama's approval rating supposedly down from 70% to 20%, a quick leader swap was in order for the DPJ to minimise the damage from trying to screw with America.
Now I like to draw parallels with fiction, and the Japanese made animation Ghost in the Shell (2nd series) covers an almost identical narrative. The plot goes, following non-nuclear World War III and the 2nd Vietnam war, Japan has a massive population of Asian refugees that are causing civil unrest. The crime of the series is perpetrated by a member of the Cabinet Intelligence Serivce, Gouda, who orchestrates a series of proxy and false-flag attacks to incite a refugee uprising that has supposedly acquired a Russian nuclear bomb. Actually, they didn't, but in the ensuing conflict between refugees and Japan's Self Defence Force Gouda arranges, via the CIA, for the American Empire to launch a nuke from a sub to detonate over the refugee's city, thus the authorities can claim they mishandled the bomb and set it off themselves (a false-flag attack), thereby resolving the issue and pushing Japan into a more economic and militarily subservient position with the American Empire. The heroes of the story, Public Security Section 9, prevent the sub's nuclear attack, thereby saving the refugees, and kill Gouda before he can defect to the US.
In reality, the US is, I think, remarkable in its pragmatic willingness to actively create situations, to create news, to create war in order to control events, manipulate players and provide a context for its own desired course of action. Most countries can't hold a candle to the kind of resources the US puts into controlling their governments, and Hatoyama has learned this the hard way by being attacked from within and without, militarily and economically and politically; arguably all orchestrated at some level by the US. The poor chap is now in a situation where his choices have indirectly lead to economic damage to Japan's core industries, unemployment, military action and loss of life, the dissolution of his ruling coalition and his own resignation. If the effects weren't so bad, one might call his stand against America admirable, but really it was just terribly ill conceived.
Going back to the Ghost in the Shell story, one might be tempted to say that Japan needs a better intelligence agency. One that doesn't have 75% of its staff come from other countries. If they had an organisation like Section 9, or better press control, they might have been able to minimise the US/South Korean scaremongering, and ultimately save Hatoyama, perhaps? But this is reactionary, and it wouldn't dramatically change the political landscape.
Japan needs to improve its bureaucracy. From the drones sitting doing nothing at city hall, the five people it took to issue me with a new bank book, to ludicrous nepotism and bribery at the top levels of government, there needs to be the kind of reform Hatoyama promised (not least for the economic waste). And I think this can only happen if they establish a strong multi-party democratic system rather than the virtual oligarchy that has just lost power and seems to be rather quickly clawing its way back. Specialization breeds weakness that can be controlled, diversification creates flexibility and resilience. One party systems can be controlled as easily from within the nation as from without, but always become oppressive when threatened. So...
The DPJ needs to make itself into a viable second leadership, not an opposition, and this means playing along with America, at least for the time being. Hatoyama has blown his chance, and possibly that of the DPJ in this term if they can't secure a majority in the upper house elections.
Here is the next chap, Naoto Kan. I hope he has more political skill and a more realistic vision of Japan and its place between America and China. And that he can stay in power for longer than it takes for a dried senbei to go bad.
Here are the three musketeers of the DPJ; Hatoyama, Ozawa and Kan. Mr. Kan is the last one standing...